Choreographing a piece is extremely challenging. Initially, one may struggle with selecting a song, making movement that matches the tone of that song and even after completing the choreography, may not like the end product and leave it half undone.
Read how these accomplished dancers/teachers routinely create choreographies for their students as well as for themselves and get inspired to start your own.
Benjamin Jacob has been dancing professionally for 7 years. He is a principal dancer and a senior faculty member at The Danceworx. His areas of expertise are Jazz, Musical Theatre, Classical Ballet and Modern Contemporary.
He has worked with several international artists and choreographers from US, UK, Germany, France and Netherlands. In June 2017, he did an intensive study of Contemporary dance in one of the finest Universities of London and was also part of a short dance film that will be premiered at the International Film Festival, 2018.
Photography credits: Meghna Bhalla
“We as humans, go through a journey in our life that makes us feel a certain way. My choreography totally depends on how I am feeling or how I have felt in the last 3-4 months. It can be happy or sad, a memory, experience or some form of interaction with someone. Accordingly, I choose the music. Selecting music is the most important thing. There must be a complementary relationship between your feeling and your music. It’s easier to interpret instrumental songs but with lyrics, it becomes difficult since what the lyrics say might not be what you are feeling or what you want to express.
The second step is when the movement starts flowing as you listen to the music again and again. I listen to it 30-40 times, over and over again, getting every single musicality and catching every single beat. I am a big fan of vocabulary. I love seeing vocabulary when I see any kind of dance performance. Even as a choreographer, I put a lot of vocabulary in my dance.
I don’t set the whole thing in one go. After laying out the first phrase, i.e., 15-20 seconds of the choreography, I know where the movement is going since sometimes in my head it might look a certain way but when I look at the dancers moving, then it might say something else. The choreography and the movement also depend on the dancers and how they perceive it. The first fifteen counts of eight are extremely important since that’s the opening and I know how the dancers are feeling and now, I have a thread and I can keep pulling that and adding other phrases.
If I have 10 classes, I like to finish the construction of choreography in 5 classes and then have 4-5 drafts because sometimes after laying out the choreography, there may be a technical issue, as in, I’m demanding something that dancers can’t deliver so I need to change it or if it’s not coming together with the music or if I just don’t like the movement now or I think that I can push the dancers even more.
I also want dancers to personally interpret and be completely independent as artists and really feel and think. What I am feeling may be different from what they are, since we all have undergone different experiences. Although, there’s a very clear narrative and character and a definite journey from the start to the end of the piece.
Once I’ve laid out everything and briefed the dancers, then the choreography is not mine at all. It belongs to the dancers as they take over and express themselves. Even I don’t want to see my story. I want to see what they’re feeling and what they express. I change my role towards the end. I watch as an audience and enjoy rather than being picky since as choreographers and teachers, we will never be satisfied.”
Photography Credits: Sagar Hasija
Devasmita Sharma has been dancing professionally for the past 5 years and is a principal dancer and a senior faculty member at The Danceworx. She has been trained in Classical Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz, Modern and even styles such as Funk and Hip Hop, under Indian as well as International faculty. She has performed in various events like The Delhi Contemporary Arts Week and Jhumroo and judged various inter-school competitions.
In June 2017, she was selected by the British Council to be a part of the first 360-degree film on dance, shot in Cardiff, England. She is currently in dance leadership, teaching and training at the Danceworx Delhi as well as exploring her quality of movement and process of choreography.
Photography credits: Meghna Bhalla
“Dance is what drives my soul and my life. Like any other artist, I love, respect and am immensely grateful that I was born with a potential for it. Most importantly, it's something that is completely mine. I get an equal of what I give into it.
For me, the most important thing is to have fire that boosts your passion and to work on it every single day, building on it consistently. You surprise yourself with the physicality your body can achieve. Persistence, hard work and fearlessness help dancers build a strong and unshakeable skill in this field. Adding fuel to this fire leads to growth and allows them to break barriers as artists.
When I started dancing, I couldn't imagine myself as a teacher or a choreographer. I couldn't translate my emotions and thoughts into movement for other dancers or even for myself. Being a versatile dancer is good, but I preferred performing since I couldn't figure out what my strength was and what form to exactly choreograph in. Eventually after training I realized, that taking up uncomfortable and challenging things is a prerequisite for growth. It's vital to struggle and I took on the challenge.
I started with improvisation and loved connecting wholly with the music, feeling as deeply as possible and translating it into movement. For me, creating on-the-spot works like a charm rather than constructing a piece beforehand. I listen to a piece of music that I connect to a million times and the moves just come to me while I'm in the process of dancing and creating. Reflecting on my personal experiences or experiences of others helps me create a narrative. Tapping into an emotion like rage, ecstasy, passion, confusion or love, despite of me not having felt it myself, helps me in expanding my imagination and creativity.
I love experimenting with unusual concepts, props and characters. I believe in saying something with every single move and nuance and focusing on the technique as well as the skill to perform it out. The key for me is to believe that I can do it. One must be a greedy learner and seek more knowledge about movement.
I keep working on the quality of my art.
The whole process of choreographing is like drawing a picture of thoughts and feelings which are otherwise too complex to express.
While teaching, I stay open to interpretations from my dancers as it helps me widen the horizons of my movement. Accepting change and progressing in terms of physicality, vulnerability and maturity but still coming from a deep source of feeling and reality is very important.
Lastly, my 101 tip to all dancers is that keep watching videos and shows or reading books for inspiration. Do not over think, and let things flow naturally while keeping it unique!”
Photography credits: Meghna Bhalla
I hope that reading how these brilliant choreographers create a piece and what their process is, motivates all the readers to make a piece from scratch or pick up the one they left incomplete.
Submissions are open for ‘How to make a dance choreography’ series.
If you're a choreographer and would like to share your process of making a choreography with us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org