When you’re starting out as a choreographer (or any type of artist), you might be able to tell when choreography is good or bad, but you might not know what makes good choreography good.
I’m here to tell you what makes good choreography so you can try to look for it when you’re watching other work, and when you’re creating your own pieces.
It contains movement that hasn’t been done before.
We are entertained by what’s new. To see something that hasn’t been done before will wow viewers and spark their own creativity.
It doesn’t contain anything too obvious.
There’s doing what the music tells you to do, and then there’s being obvious. Nothing drives me nuts like watching someone hold up one finger when the vocalist is singing the word “one”. The lyrics say one and you’re holding up one finger – not really inspired choreography.
Its transitions are seamless.
The entire routine should flow (unless the point of it is to not flow, but you’ve gotta know the rules before breaking them). It’s boring to watch a dancer walk or run or awkwardly shuffle from one move to another. It kills the flow, it stops the dance, and it takes the audience out of the experience. Instead, transitions should still feel like they’re an important part of the dance, even if they’re not the big tricks or combination.
It doesn’t make the audience fear for the performers’ safety.
There is a difference between feeling wowed or nervous about a stunt and feeling legitimately worried for a dancers’ safety.
Your audience can tell when a performer isn’t strong enough for a trick or if something hasn’t been set up right. While we love being wowed by potentially dangerous stunts, we should be wowed because they feel dangerous to us and not to the person performing them.
Again, your audience will be taken out of the performance if all they’re doing is worrying about watching somebody hurt themselves on stage.
It does its job.
Not all choreography is meant to do the same thing. Some is meant to make you think, some is meant to be a ‘wow’ performance, some is meant to be backup to a vocalist, some is meant to be part of a larger picture.
Whatever your choreography’s job is, you’ll know it’s good when it successfully does that job. Don’t have your backup dancer choreo outshine the vocalist. Don’t play it subtle if you’re trying to make a statement with your work. Do the job.
It makes us feel something.
The choreography isn’t good if the audience goes away thinking, “Oh, um… Yeah, I don’t really remember it, so I guess it was fine.”
Make people feel something with your choreography, whether that’s wow-factor, inspired, uncomfortable, questioning, tearful, whatever.
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Of course, choreography is art and not everyone is going to think the same pieces of choreography are good or bad. It’s all a matter of opinion. You might feel really proud of your work, and someone else might hate it.
Take the criticisms where you can, when you feel it’s appropriate, and when it meets your artistic integrity.
What are some pieces of choreography you loved? What made them good?
Enjoy the journey!