Creativity Through Coreography
Dance has been an integral part of my life since I was young. But choreography? That was intimidating. When I got to Vanderbilt and joined Vitality Dance Company, I was nervous to choreograph for other people. But with the encouragement of my dance friends, I started choreographing regularly. And I enjoyed it more than I ever had before.
There are numerous ways to choreograph, and everyone has their own methods. Two that I was taught when I started was to choreograph based on the lyrics or based on the flow of the music. I often choreograph with my eyes closed while sitting down, picturing how I want a dance to look on stage and listening to the same three seconds of a song over and over until I am certain of the steps I want. Alternatively, sometimes I just turn on the music and film myself dancing improvisationally, and see what moves naturally seem to emerge with that piece of music.
It’s important especially in large group numbers to think about the balance you want on stage. It’s good to make sure the entire stage is used and that formations are varied in order to create unique visuals for the audience. You also have to ask yourself how you want the dance to progress. Does it build or deflate? Generally, audiences perceive dances that “build” as more exciting.
To demonstrate a few of these concepts (on a smaller scale as these are smaller dances), here are two choreography pieces I have done; the first is a duet I performed with Nicole Wright in Vitality’s Fall 2019 showcase, “Home”. We chose the song “She Needed Me” by T-Pain because we thought it was musically rich and interesting (and fun to dance to in general!). It was definitely challenging to come up with some of the more hip-hop oriented parts, but we had a great time and I grew as a choreographer. We also experimented with how to fill the space on stage with just two people. My favorite part is how we exit the stage, with us mirroring each other as I appear to push her off.
The second dance is a duet I choreographed with another Vitality member, Molly Wells, for our pandemic digital showcase, “Conquer and Prevail.” We had the chance to dance to one of my favorite songs, “Breezeblocks” by alt-j. The song talks about a toxic relationship in which one person is trying to convince the other to stay. In this, Molly (in black) represents the dependent party trying to manipulate and convince the other not to leave, and I (in pink) represent the independent party trying to get away. Having such a deep concept to build choreography on was very productive for us both, and I greatly enjoyed both creating and dancing in this piece.
Dance has been one of the primary artistic outlets in my life, and alongside fiction and poetry, has given me an excellent way to express myself (as well as exercise!). I am very thankful for it, and I encourage anyone who is interested to try out a dance class or just try choreographing on your own for a rewarding, creative experience.