Setting dance choreographies can be extremely daunting and challenging. It may also be accompanied by creative blocks or inhibitions and self-doubt.
Always wanted to choreograph but never knew where to begin? Started a piece but got stuck and left it half undone?
Here is your solution!
Read how these accomplished choreographers create a dance piece and get inspired to start/finish your own.
Rohan Pal is a professional dancer who trained for 8 years in various styles including Urban, Popping, Jazz, Contemporary and Ballet. He started his journey with Hip Hop and still lives the ecstatic culture with Urban. In 2010 he trained with The Danceworx and worked there professionally till early 2018. His aim is to bring a change in India’s dance scenario and to get India to the international star line. He has performed in various national and international shows and competitions. He also trained in Tokyo under Ian Eastwood, Chris Martin, Larkin Poynton, Keone and Mariel Madrid, S**t Kingz and Lyle Beniga amongst others.
He is currently carving the finesse he aspires for in Urban dance and wishes to travel around the world for the same.
Photography credits: Sagar Hasija
“Living in today’s choreography industry is a blessing. With so many artists working towards getting their style out with a set line of steps, it is always inspiring to watch a choreography. For me, it's not only about the steps but a whole set of emotions and stories. Especially with a dance form like urban which has been ever-evolving, you have to be at your best game if you want to look different and special, focusing on each musical dynamic possible.
When I started choreographing, it used to be more about dance and musicality rather than a whole picture that the audience demands. With time, I carved my own style in dancing by portraying what I desire with the musicality still being my focus.
The whole process of setting a choreography starts with selecting the music. Music, for me, varies from time to time. I set it when I want to set it, specifically, to certain beats which captivate me more than any other music track at that point of time. After selecting the music, I like to study it before starting to work on it. Studying the music starts from listening to it again and again to writing down the counts to the parts I select for the choreography to define where the different music notes come and where they change, keeping in mind the bass and the snare very specifically as they are the main drivers of the track, along with the lyrics (if any). If there are lyrics in the track then the story is already set, all I have to do is modify it for it to look they way I want. The same track can be danced to in different dance forms. If there aren’t any lyrics, then I focus on the highs and the lows in the music to capture my idea of the story that I wish to show through my movement. The next part is probably the toughest part for a lot of people as I’ve been encountered with this question the most “How do you fix the moves?” or “How do you think of those steps?”. Well, honestly, it all depends on your foundation which you update daily rather than just learning something once and forgetting it day after. Dance depends on one thing primarily – Groove. If you know the groove, you can play with it however you want to. But you gotta have a solid foundation before playing with it in choreography. Choreography comes later, foundation comes first. My foundation is primarily on popping, house and Chicago footwork and maintaining lines which I acquired from training in jazz and ballet for 8 years. Moves came pretty hard when I started but there’s a way and it works perfectly if you are dedicated.
For a lot of people, choreography is formed by freestyling. I used to do that earlier but I changed because I wanted to create something new every time. If I get stuck somewhere I leave the choreography for a while and then come back to it with a fresh mind. Freestyling to music is important to know what groove can come where. But once you know it, don’t be blind to the music. Listen to parts of it, stop it, think about it and create something spectacular rather than just moving to the music without any aim. Do this again and again till you build that puzzle from scratch and then hit the music and go all out.
With a lot of choreographies I make, it's more about the challenge of catching what I had in my vision rather than doing the choreography to linear counts. This is the challenge I give my students every time I teach. For everyone to get challenged with the choreography so they go home and know that they need to work to get this style. All I want from my students in return, is their presence both physically and mentally in the class.
Lastly, I’d like to tell all of the artists striving out there with choreography, just create something you know is straight from the heart rather than the mind. Create something which will make others want to dance when they see y’all. Cheers!”
Photography credits: Karan Batra
Manas Yellapantula started dancing at the age of 7 and decided to pursue it professionally at 22 when got trained at The Danceworx Performing Arts Academy, in various dance forms including Hip Hop, Funk, Classical Ballet, Jazz and Modern Contemporary, under both national and international faculty. He was screened in Imtiaz Ali’s movie 'Tamasha', in the hero 'Youth Anthem' choreographed by Shohini Dutta and a Hot Jazz production that toured two cities. He has performed in the Kingdom of Dreams Musical, Jhumroo.
Recently, he was a part of a full dome 360 degree film produced by 4Pi productions, Wales-India collaborators, British Council and Coreo Cymru which was nominated and awarded at various film festivals and will be touring next year.
Currently, he is a Dance Leader at The Danceworx, Delhi, advancing international dance in India.
“When I started choreographing, I used to stay blank for a good 1 hour, 2 hours or sometimes even 3-4 days. But I work better under pressure so the closer a deadline or a performance gets, the faster I choreograph. It's very important for me to start off with a clean slate and for my mind to be extremely blank, almost in the state of tabula-rasa so that I can listen to what my body is saying. When I start moving, I feel like I need to be liberated sometimes before I even think of what music I want to play. If that means moving in silence, I would do that. The story only gets made as I am choreographing. I don't come with a fixed perception unless someone else is choreographing on me and I've to communicate their story.
As far as music is concerned, I don't think that plays a very major role. Generally, I engineer my sound. So, I put music to my moves. I don't compromise on my moves because the music is telling me something else but that's different for different dance forms. If I'm choreographing a hip hop or a jazz piece then I'm quite particular about musicality but if it's not commercial and is artistic instead, then I depend on the process to tell me about the music I should select.
For commercial pieces, I think about different grooves and classical movements that can be incorporated into the choreography. Like for Hip Hop, a toprock or a downrock will always be there and I make it as popular as possible. But if it is an artistic piece, I purely rely on the process and at times, come up with moves that I didn't think I could. I love improvising and even on stage, I have at times improvised my movement.
But when I choreograph for a batch, for my students, I've to constantly think about who I'm teaching. I choreograph the way I want and then add certain elements that teach them a particular way of moving. I emphasize on the quality rather than the quantity. For commercial pieces, I demand musicality and performance from them but when it comes to contemporary, I have zero expectations since it's not about aesthetics for me but about the flow of energy. Sometimes, students teach me so much while moving because of the rawness they have that I like learning from them.
Making a choreography is always a process. To those who want to choreograph a commercial piece, I would say please listen to the music and it will tell you what to do. Play a song, dance like no one is watching, take a video of it and try to replicate it. It's important to listen deeper and not just remain on the surface of what you hear. For artistic pieces, I think it's best if your music is choreographed to your movement.”
We hope that reading about the process of these two amazingly talented male dancers and trained professional choreographers, helps all readers wanting to choreograph a piece, tip off that edge of just wanting to create something and actually try their hand at choreographing.
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. You can also reach us on Instagram @thedancebible_ and drop a message and we shall revert back as soon as possible.