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Tag: choreography

What Not to Do When Choreographing Your First Dance

What no to do when choreographing your first dance

Congratulations! You finally are given the chance to choreograph your own dance. However, choreographing isn’t as easy as it looks. While you may have watched your dance teacher choreograph your performances with ease for several years, it can be scary to get started on your own. Many dancers experience the same pitfalls when choreographing their first dances. Consider these tips to avoid those issues.

Don’t Over-Choreograph!

When dancers think of beginning to choreograph something, they may get worried about walking into a room full of people who are looking at them for guidance. As a result, they plan out every single step and movement to a tee before even entering the room. While this might seem like a good idea, usually it’s not. When dancers aren’t following your direct lead and mastering every move and breath right away, you may get angry and become over controlling. This could lead to disarray among the group instead of making the practice about having a fun time, which is most important.

Many dancers forget how critical it is to go with the flow when choreographing a dance. As this is such a creative act, people need to listen to their changing thoughts and alter the dance as they go. Otherwise, it might not be as great of a collaboration as it could be.

Don’t Forget About the Audience

Some choreographers tend to be a little narrow-minded when starting out. They might be eager to start and choreograph, but only have interest to create a dance that pleases them, not anyone else. This is a seriously faulty mistake. When crafting a dance, it’s important to think of the audience along every step of the way. What do they want to see? What music would excite them and cause them to really pay attention? How can you draw them in?

Understanding and answering these questions before you begin creating your dance is critical. If you go into the dance only looking to please yourself, you may create a dance that isn’t interesting to anyone and essentially wastes the audience’s time when they’re watching it.

Don’t Forget About the Learning Curve

You might be the kind of dancer who can pick up a new dance within a day. However, not every dancer is like you. Others need a few practices before they can really nail down a whole song, and even then it might not be perfect. As a choreographer, it’s important to understand the learning curve that comes with dancing.

Even if you’re working with a group of advanced, experienced dancers, not everyone will pick up the moves as easily as you created them. Have patience with your dancers and help them along the way to allow them to understand certain moves better. Don’t get frustrated or upset with your dancers, which can only make the whole process worse for everyone.

Don’t Copy Someone Else’s Dance

Of course, as a dancer there were most likely some dances you watched that you loved, and probably some others that you hated. However, when you look for inspiration, it’s important not to mimic those beloved dances to a tee. While you can pull some moves from them, use your creative spirit to come up with a few new moves or reframe them in a new, refreshing way. You don’t want your audience to see the dance and believe that they’ve seen this routine before.

Instead, you want to wow them with pizzaz and originality and think a little bit outside the box. Look at several dances you like and pull from those to make sure you don’t end up reverting back to one performance you love. If you’re having a creative block, ask your dancers what they think. They might have a favorite dance too that they want to pull from or will suggest a new move they saw that helps take the dance in a new direction, instead of a familiar one.


How to Perfect Your College Dance Audition

college dance audition

You’ve finally narrowed down the list of schools you’re going to apply to, and have been daydreaming about life after graduation and all the excitement that comes with growing and maturing as a dancer in a college program. Big things are on their way! But first, you have to get through the college dance audition process. The pressure is tough and the competition can seem intense, but there’s a better way to think about auditions. They’re a chance for your unique personality to shine and for you to get a better sense of whether the school is the right fit for you.

A typical college dance audition begin with a ballet class and is followed by solo performances, improvised performances, classes in other styles like jazz and contemporary and even an interview process. While nervousness is natural, don’t let your anxiety get in the way of showcasing all you have to offer as a dancer. Extensive research and preparation and a positive attitude are key to making the best impression and helping you stand-out from the rest of the pack.

Follow our tips below to perfect your college dance audition.

Do Your Homework

Every college dance program is unique, and judges want to see that you’re a good fit for their program. Spend time in the weeks leading up to your audition learning all you can about the college and its program, the types of courses it offers, the styles of dance it performs and its values and mission. Think about how you can contribute to the program, and which of your personal and dance qualities line up with its values. Having these kinds of answers ready will prove useful in the interview phase.

Once you register for the audition, you will receive a packet detailing the schedule and specific requirements of the audition and what will be expected of you. Pay attention to this document and refer back to it frequently, noting the requirements for your clothing, costumes, makeup and shoes, and whether you need to bring photographs of yourself, an audition tape or a dance resume. If you have a better idea of what to expect you will feel more confident, and following the requirements carefully shows you pay attention to the details, which is a quality of any great dancer.

Devote Time to Preparing Your Solo

The solo performance is usually only 90 seconds long. In this short time you have to show the judges who you are as a dancer, which can be overwhelming! To make sure you’re truly showcasing all that you have to offer, prepare and practice your solo far in advance of the audition. Heather Guthrie, the dance coordinator at Southern Methodist University, told DanceSpirit Magazine that she recommends starting to practice your solo at least two months in advance.

It’s fine to choreograph the dance yourself, or have a coach or instructor do it for you. Even if you do it yourself, make sure you’re practicing the dance in front of teachers and receiving feedback on it so you can make it the best it can be. Focus on showing your personality in the dance, and not the number of high-flying tricks you can do, since coaches want to see your spirit and style more than flashy skills. Make sure both your technical precision and presentation skills are as well-developed as they can be. And when the time comes to perform, take a deep breath, smile and go for it, knowing you’ve prepared as best you could.

Practice in Multiple Styles

A typical feature of a college dance audition is being asked to perform in a style other than your primary one, for example having to participate in a hip-hop or jazz class when you’re trained in ballet. This is because judges want to see that you’re versatile and can adapt quickly and confidently to new choreography. Prior to audition season, add a class or two in a different style to your schedule so you can get more comfortable dancing an unfamiliar genre and also get better at learning new skills and memorizing new routines quickly.

“Focus on personality in your solo dance, not your tricks.”

However, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to learn every style of dance on the planet. These tests are more to see how you dance and act in uncomfortable situations. “Our predominant technique is Graham,” said the dance chair at SMU Patty Harrington Delaney in an interview with DanceTeacher Magazine. “A lot of people have never done Graham before, and we know that. We’re looking for their openness to the direction, their attentiveness and spatial quality.”

Calm Your Nerves

Being nervous on the big day is normal, but it’s important to keep your nerves under control so they don’t impact the quality of your performance. Don’t think about all eyes being on you, but instead think about how you are talented and have prepared to the best of your ability. Remember why you dance – for the passion, the excitement and the ability to tell a powerful story through movement. Focus on the moment you are in, and not the next test or whether you are going to be accepted or not.

Follow these tips, then take a deep breath – you’ve got this!


Choreography Tips: Overcoming Choreographer’s Block

Choreography Tips

Just like writers and painters, dance choreographers hit artistic blocks once in a while. If you’ve experienced this lack of inspiration while creating a performance, you know how frustrating it is! It can be especially stressful to have choreographer’s block if you’re on a tight schedule with a recital or competition coming up. However, there are a number of ways that you can get those creative juices flowing and start planning plies and box turns again. Here are a few choreography tips and tricks to help you create newly inspired choreography.

Find New Beats

If your jazz students do a final number to “All That Jazz” every year at the recital, chances are you’re going to lose momentum while choreographing after a few seasons. After all, how many different routines can one person come up with for the same song?

When this type of block hits, the easiest way to overcome it is to simply pick new music. Try not to choose a song that you’ve done before. Instead, look for something fresh that you’ve never worked with. You’ll be amazed at how naturally the steps flow when the music inspires you.

Get a Fresh Pair of Eyes

Sometimes the moves seem disjointed because you’ve spent too much time in your own head. When this happens, ask someone to give you feedback on your progress.

“I have people come in throughout the process. Friends, colleagues, some who aren’t even dancers,” Amy O’Neal, a dancer and choreographer, explained to Dance magazine. “It helps you get out of your own head, whether you agree with their opinions or not.”

You may want to turn to other dance teachers or even advanced students. A fresh pair of eyes can help you see why the steps aren’t working and get you back on the right track.

Clear Your Mind

Sometimes you just need to step away from the studio, especially if you’ve been working for a long time.

“Take personal time, even if it’s just 20 minutes,” teacher and choreographer Rhonda Miller suggested to Dance Teacher magazine. “Have dinner, read a book, get a cup of coffee – anything that has nothing to do with dance.”

Don’t think about what you’re working on while you take a break. After you’ve relaxed a bit, return to the studio with your fresh mindset and jump back into choreographing with a new perspective.


Dance Recital Tips: 6 Ideas for Planning a Great Show

6 Dance Recital Tips for Planning a Great Show

It may be January, but May is on my mind. For those of us living in “dance-land,” New Year’s means more than resolutions—it means recital is coming faster than we think! Costumes have been ordered, dates have been set and themes have been announced.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real recital planning is about to begin and January is the best time to do it.

So come on! Let’s get ahead of the game and plan our best recital yet! There’s no time like the present.

Here are 6 Dance Recital Tips to help you plan a great show.

  1. Make it a date. When I am coaching dance studio owners, I am known for the following phrase, “Plan the work and then work the plan.” The job of putting together a recital may involve hundreds of decisions, but if you sequence the decisions, it will be a lot easier to stay on top of the work. Put deadlines on Google Calendar to hold yourself and your team accountable. For example, at our studio, recital music is due January 1. Parents have until February 1 to submit special requests for recital (school conflicts, etc.). On March 1, rehearsal information and show orders are released. Teachers know that choreography must be complete by April 1 and so on. The beauty of making a calendar is that you can roll most of it over from year to year as well as train your clients to be aware of predictable dates and deadlines.
  2. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Remember the old saying, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, I don’t agree. Practice makes habits (which can be good or bad). Perfect practice makes perfect. If you want to make sure your dancers are actually practicing the right steps, start early by providing access to practice music, notes and/or private YouTube videos. Not every dancer will take advantage of it, but every dancer that does helps makes for a better performance in the end.
  3. Music matters. Spend the time and money necessary to get quality edits of your recital music. If you don’t have the tech skills or software, it’s worth paying to have your music professionally edited and balanced. Even the most well-rehearsed dances will look off to the audience if the music is cut poorly or if the songs are not balanced for highs and lows. Give your students an advantage by cutting your music now so they can practice to the actual cuts of the music from day one.
  4. Service what you sell. Wow your parents by hosting a Costume Construction Day where you make alterations available for no cost to parents. Jazz up the event by inviting your senior dancers to hold a hair and makeup clinic for little ones while they wait for their costumes to be serviced. We have been doing this for over ten years now and it has become one of the most appreciated events of the year for our families.
  5. Step up your production value. Now is the time to identify one specific way you can step up the quality of your production over last year’s show.  Maybe you want to run a smoother rehearsal or feature a new check in/check out system for backstage. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to do a printed recital program or include business ads in the program book.  Whatever it is, every new recital is a chance to sharpen your production skills. Pick one aspect of your show and make a memorable improvement.
  6. In the spirit of over-communication….say it again. I didn’t fully realize how important it was to remind parents about important dates and events until I became a parent myself. I used to really wonder how some parents could miss obvious dates like recital ticket sales and picture day. But now that I have five kids between the ages of 5-13, I understand that keeping up with notices from school and events is a part-time job. Use all means possible including an e-newsletter, printed handbooks and social media reminders to keep parents abreast of important dates and information. Informed parents are happy parents. ☺

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The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

More Than Just Great Dancing


Should You Use Comedy in Your Dance Routines?

When you’re choreographing a new dance routine for an upcoming recital, you might ask yourself, “Should I try to make this funny?” You’ve probably seen some hilarious performances that thrilled the audience, but also some comedic routines that fell a little flat. There’s definitely value in adding humor into a recital – it’s a fresh experience for the audience and your students – but it can be pretty intimidating. If you decide to take the plunge and choreograph comedic dance routines, use these suggestions to help make them a success.

Get the Dancers On Board

You could create the most hilarious dance routines known to man, but if your dancers aren’t invested in the piece, they won’t go the way you planned. Before making a commitment to a comedic performance, talk to your students about it. Make sure they’re comfortable with the idea of a funny routine and are willing to commit to it.

“Dancers aren’t necessarily trained at making themselves appear goofy, nor are they always comfortable owning humor,” Abby Bender, artistic director of the Triskelion Arts and Schmantze Theatre, told The Dance Enthusiast. “If a performer can commit fully to whatever the ‘funny’ in the work is, be it concept or movement, then it will resonate and people will laugh… hopefully.”

Once your dancers are on board, they’ll probably have some great suggestions and be able to help you shape the piece.

Tailor Humor to the Audience

You should always consider your audience when creating a comedic routine. Grandparents probably won’t understand the same jokes as young adults. If it’s a more family-oriented performance, tailor the humor toward the tastes of parents. A piece that’s performed at a school should involve comedy that speaks to your students. You should also take care to make any humor appropriate. Any mature songs, movements or concepts should be avoided. Keep the performance family friendly so you don’t step on any toes.

Schedule a Test Run

No two people have the same sense of humor, so a performance that might leave your students in stitches could be lost on their parents. If you’re concerned about the reception the piece will have, consider inviting in a few people for a test run. Don’t use parents – you don’t want to ruin the surprise! – but instead bring in a few of your friends or other instructors. Listen for their giggles and use any feedback to tweak the performance and optimize the comedic effect.


5 Tips for Using Dance Choreographers for Hire

Dance Choreographers for Hire

If your competition or recital choreography seems a little lackluster, your studio might benefit from a fresh set of eyes. Using dance choreographers for hire is a great way to take a little bit of responsibility off your plate – you surely have enough to go around – and spice up your dancers’ repertoire. It’s a win for all parties involved, because you focus your energy on other tasks, while your dancers have the opportunity to learn a new style of dance and experience different teaching methods. If you’re thinking about welcoming a guest choreographer into your studio this year, here are some tips for choosing the best teacher for the job and being a stellar host.

1. Set a Budget

The first major consideration to take into account is how much you have to spend on dance choreographers for hire. Dance Studio Life explained that, on average, it will cost around $100 per student for a choreographed piece, not including travel and hotel costs. Naturally, you’ll find teachers who charge different amounts depending on their expertise, experience and other factors. Chances are that you won’t be dishing all that money out of your studio’s funds, so it’s crucial that you talk to the dancers’ parents about the expense. Explain why you think the opportunity is valuable for the students and what exactly the choreographer has to offer. Be straightforward about the cost and see if you can come to an agreement on a final budget.

2. Do Your Research

Once you know how much you can spend for some professional choreography, start doing research on teachers that you might like to work with. The Dance Exec explained that your first instinct might be to choose someone whose style is similar to your own, but why pay someone to do a job that you could do just as well? It’s better to choose a choreographer who will bring something new to the table. Explore different genres! It will be beneficial to everyone if you mix things up.

Once you have a few choreographers in mind, delve deeper into your research. The Internet is an amazing tool for “dance dating.” Check out the social media accounts of each teacher. Instagram, YouTube and Facebook can all give you insight into the choreographer’s style, teaching methods, personality and professionalism. You might be surprised to find a lesser-known artist who you like much more than a big name choreographer. The Dance Exec suggested that you reach out to any individuals that you think would be great for your students, even if you don’t know them. You never know if they’re available or too expensive until you ask.

3. Be Welcoming

When you’re hosting a teacher for the first time, don’t be afraid to roll out the welcome wagon. In an interview with Dance Spirit magazine, guest choreographer Lauren Adams explained that it can be nerve wracking to enter a new studio for the first time.

“It’s intimidating for us to walk into a space filled with dancers, all expecting us to create this great energy,” Adams told Dance Spirit.

It’s in your best interest to make the guest feel welcomed and comfortable in your studio. Give your students a little bit of background information on the choreographer beforehand, and encourage them to introduce themselves and be hospitable. The more at ease a guest choreographer feels, the better he or she will be able to communicate with the students and the more impressive the end results will be.

4. Be Strict About Time

When you get down to business, be specific about how much teaching and rehearsal time you’ve allotted for the class and ask what will happen if the piece isn’t finished on time. You’re paying this professional for his or her services, and it’s your right to know what to expect. Dance Studio Life explained that sometimes a choreographer will run out of rehearsal time and the dancers might not be adequately prepared to execute the piece. Talk to the choreographer about taping the last few run-throughs if you’re concerned about time. This will at least give you a guide to work off of once the teacher is gone.

5. Build Relationships

If you’re impressed with the choreographer’s work and think he or she is a wonderful match for your students, don’t be shy about building a relationship. Talk to the guest about coming back the following season and express your feelings about the piece. The Dance Exec noted that not all choreographers will become friendly with studio owners, but personal connections can benefit both parties in the long run. If your first guest choreographer experience is a stellar one, go ahead and express those sentiments. If it’s just subpar, give the guest a firm handshake and your heartfelt thanks, wave goodbye at the airport and then try again next year.


The Latest in Dance Choreography News

Dance Choreography News

Behind every amazing dance number is a stellar choreographer! As the owner of a dance studio, you’re probably involved in the creation of each performance, so it’s important to stay inspired. Check out the latest dance choreography news from the industry as you prepare for your next big recital.

New Museum Announces Fall 2014 Theme

To honor the genius of choreographers around the nation, the New Museum in New York City announced its theme for the 2014 Fall season: choreography. The organization hopes to get the public involved in an investigative examination of the art form through numerous activities and workshops. Starting in September, choreography duo Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly, known for their exhibition Kiss Solo at the Kate Werble Gallery, will complete a six-month residency at the museum that will include a number of public programs.

Trajal Harrell’s creative process

The inspired mind behind the seven-performance series, “Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church,” recently opened up to The New York Times about his creative process. Trajal Harrell is best known for this series that stages an encounter between Harlem voguers and experimentalists from the Judson Dance Theater in 1962. His goal was to offer people a look into a “historical impossibility.”

When he works, Harrell arranges the dancers on platforms 1.5 feet off the ground. He will move the “islands,” as he calls them, around the space and have his performers improvise.

“All of a sudden the body is on a small white space,” Harrell told The New York Times. “I can see very clearly what each dancer is doing. It’s a way to sketch.”

Ryan Heffington’s big VMA win

Pop music fans probably heard that the music video for Sia’s “Chandelier” won the 2014 MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography. The strange but moving piece features Maddie Ziegler, an 11-year-old dancer who appeared on “Dance Moms,” in a grim abode and was choreographed by Ryan Heffington. Heffington has also worked on projects for Arcade Fire, New York Fashion Week and Sigur Ros.

According to an interview with The Guardian, Heffington and Sia worked together to create a piece that wasn’t too dark for the young performer.

“We didn’t want to extract so much from the narrative of the song: It’s too heavy for an 11-year-old, and it wouldn’t make sense,” explained Heffington. “We actually wanted it to feel like she’s dancing around and has no association to what is happening or where she is.”

The choreographer revealed that fans can look forward to more collaborations with Sia, as well as his own project, KTCHN, which will be shown in New York in 2015.


Last Minute Choreography Changes

In the midst of competition and performance season, you may notice parts of your choreography that might look better with this adjustment or that adjustment.

Generally, is it a good idea to implement last minute choreography changes prior to a performance?

No, probably not.

(Especially if you are working with younger or less experienced dancers.)

The dancers learned the routine a certain way and committed it to muscle memory. Changes will make them second guess themselves onstage, which will not encourage a confident performance. Granted, being adaptable and able to make quick changes is a required skill set for professional dancers, but when working in an educational environment, be sensitive to and considerate of your dancers’ age, skill set, and needs.

(The only changes I have found to be effective and beneficial are simplification of arms and/or skill replacement (e.g. a walkover instead of an aerial).)

When it comes to choreography, make sure all of your studio affiliated Instructors, Owners and Artistic Directors are on the same page about all the choreographic expectations. At the end of the day we want to make sure we set our students up for success, so that we can watch them shine on stage!