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The Theory of Choreography
Transcript of The Theory of Choreography
By Michelle Vetland
What is "choreography?"
Choreography is a set of moves that are combined together specifically to form a dance
What is a "theory?"
A theory is a set of ideas to explain something
What is a "choreography theory?"
The theory of choreography is the set of ideas that contribute to the formation of a choreographed dance
Improv vs. Choreography
Improvisation: The process of spontaneously creating movement. It relies on feelings and interpretation
Choreography often comes from a series of improvised movements
There are 2 main methods of choreography
Improvised Choreography: Gives dancers guidelines, but allows them to execute the movements as they wish
Planned Choreography: When dancers are told what, when, where, and how to execute the moves.
Aspects to Consider
- 7 Qualities of Movement
Swing (Like a Pendulum)
Sustain (Flow of Energy
Suspend (Momentary Weightlessness)
Explode (Short Bursts of Energy)
Collapse (Releasing of Energy)
Staccato (Sharp, Quick)
Vibrate (Quick, Rhythmic Bursts of Energy)
-3 Elements of Dance
Time (Tempo, canon, rhythm, freeze)
Space (Levels, formations)
Energy (Tension, release, 7 qualities)
Squats (or layouts/hinge)
Sitting or Kneeling
-Elements that add Complexity
Relating Dances to Themes
What's the message you're trying to convey?
When images or ideas should be conveyed?
How should the audience feel?
Is the meaning literal or non-literal?
Choose a subject matter and song
Explore movement - watch videos, or others
Interpret and coordinate movements with the music
Don't act out the dance lyric by lyric
Fill spaces with random, pointless movements
Overuse contrast or symmetry
Use awkward or stereotyped patterns
When analyzing a dance, there are different features to contemplate.
Hermeneutics: The practice of taking a part dance pieces to find complex interpretations and elements.
Eg. Why are the dancers in center stage or off to the corner?
What did the choreographer intend to do by having the dancers move upstage or downstage?
Semiotics: The aesthetic (eye-pleasing) meanings
Choreology: Movement analysis and description
Sociology: The meaning of the dance regarding society and culture.
Space and the Stage
"Space is a choreographers canvas" - (Dance Composition Basics - Pamela Anderson Sofras Pg. 30)
Stage Space: The space the dancer travels through
Personal Space: The space that dancers reach around with their body without moving their feet
Flexible Space: The space without an identifiable direction that is being moved through
Generally follow themes:
1. Ego and Alter Ego
2. Game of Statues or Tag
3. Contrasting Characters
What is it that drives us to choreographing dances and what/how do we intend to achieve what we want from it, whether it's expressing emotion or something else entirely?
It's only a dance if...
"X is a dance only if dancer(s) express(es) Y via bodily movements"
"X is a dance only if the dancers' bodily movements cause the spectator to experience Y"
"X is a dance only is the dancer(s) communicate(s) Y to the spectator via bodily movements"
To make it more interesting...
Add a canon: In dance, where the movements of one dancer are repeated by following dancers in turn. Changes the dynamics of the dance.
Mirror each other: Makes the dance look clean and synchronized.
Change the tempo: This draws the audience in and re-captures their attention.
Exercise: In groups of 4, Form an interesting starting shape, and then begin the canon 2 at a time. Space the canon 4 beats apart, and then try spacing it 2 beats apart.
Use repetition: Canons are a form of repetition, in which dancers repeat the same moves but overlap the timing and beats.
Tying choreography to other aspects
Math: Beats, counts
: Complex Systems (where different components interact, but the properties of individuals don't reflect the properties of the system as a whole. They become more complex as more information or instructions are added.
The idea of "complex systems" also connects to science.
Languages: Communicating choreography - Verbal cues or through sounds (African, body percussion)
Dance Composition Basics - Pamela Anderson Sofras
Paul Taylor: Born in 1930, Taylor's choreography is distinguished by his use of gestures as opposed to regular dance moves in his dances
Martha Graham: Her dances expressed emotion by using pelvic contractions and spastic falls. Although her early dances weren't properly understood, she became founder of the Martha Graham Dance Company.
Bob Fosse: A famous jazz choreographer who's pieces were often sexy and stylish, as he grew up in Caberet nightclubs. Signature trademarks include turned in knees, rolled shoulders, and sideways shuffling.