If you’re a dance instructor, you’re likely going to be asked to choreograph a group routine for competition or recitals. If you’re looking to become a choreographer in high school, you might be asked to choreograph a routine for your school’s musical. There are many settings in which you may be called to choreograph a routine for a group of dancers. Here’s how to do it:
Figure out the basics.
What dance style will be featured in the routine? Ballet? Tap? Jazz? What is the skill level of your performers? What technical skills have they mastered? What is the theme of the dance? Is it part of a bigger story or is it a standalone piece? What music is going to play for the routine? Figure out these basics before you start anything else.
Get familiar with the music.
Your dancers might be performing to a track. They might be dancing to live music, in which case see if there’s sheet music for you to look at or if there’s a rehearsal track you can listen to ahead of time.
I like to listen to my songs on repeat in preparation for choreography. In the beginning, it’s just to understand the format of the song, learn the lyrics and find the climax. Once I know the song very well, I start to let my mind ponder over choreographic elements and how they might fit into the song.
Make a skeleton.
This is like building an outline for an essay. In your essay, you figure out what your introductory sentence is, what each paragraph is going to be about, and how you want to close the paper.
In choreographing a routine, I like to figure out how I want the dance to begin, how the different sections of the song are going to look, and where I want the dance to finish. I might be thinking about how the music calls for formation changes, for dancing in unison versus doing part work, where a lift might go, and where I want the most exciting part of the dance to be.
Parts of the skeleton of the dance end up more detailed than others in my initial planning stages. Over time the images in my head become clearer as necessary.
Different choreographers like to choreograph in different ways. For some, this is the part where you start choreographing before you see the dancers. For others, having this basic plan is enough guidance for you to make up the rest with the dancers in front of you so you can build on them and their abilities. There are other choreographers who might not want to do any planning ahead of time at all! There is no right or wrong way here, as long as the finished product is satisfactory.
Be ready to adapt.
When choreographers place choreography on dancers, they need to be willing and ready to adapt to what the dancers need and are capable of. This goes especially for choreographers who like to prep their work ahead of time. The dancers might need more time to change formations, the combination might be too hard for them, the movement might not be translating from your brain to their bodies properly. Adjustments will need to be made in order to create a great group routine.
- The Choreographer’s Checklist
- How to Choreograph a Dance Combination
- The Difference Between Choreographing for Dancers and Choirs
Choreographing group routines are a challenge, but can be extremely rewarding. There’s so much more room for playing with pattern work and large, impactful moments when you have more performers on stage.
There’s a freebie for choreographers called the Choreographer’s Checklist. If you’d like to have this list sent to your inbox, sign up in the box below and you’ll receive an email with a link to the printable!
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Thanks for reading!