Do you want to become a better choreographer? I think for most us, the answer is a resounding YES! No matter what stage of our choreography career we are at, we know that we can always tap into greater creativity to become a better choreographer. But for many of us, we just might now be sure how, exactly, to make that happen.
The truth is that choreography is a skill we have to practice actively. When we don’t take the time to practice our skills and express our creativity regularly, it is impossible to become a better choreographer. I think most choreographers would agree with this sentiment, but too often, our choreographic processes are rushed. We don’t feel like we have the time to spend setting choreographic goals, developing a plan to see them through, or reflecting on our process. We have to spend a disproportionate amount time on the administrative aspects of choreography, from scheduling rehearsals to securing funding. We have to create choreography in a hurry due to complicated schedules, limited rehearsal time, and pressure from too many other responsibilities. Our choreography is rushed to stage before it can be properly refined, edited, and polished. It can all feel incredibly frustrating!
To become a better choreographer, we have to prioritize creative practice in our lives. Fortunately, this does need to be time intensive or take too much focus away from all of the other necessary aspects of our careers. Simply carving out a little time and space to create good creative habits will go a long way in helping us become better choreographers – even when our rehearsal process feels rushed or less than satisfied.
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Here are a few of the creative practices I’m resolving to adopt this year:
1.) Create regularly. Even if you don’t have any major projects in the works, make it a point to choreograph something on a regular basis. This keeps you in the habit of making dances, however small, and holds space in your schedule that you can use to work on larger projects when needed. Plus, you can develop a “reserve” of informal choreography that you can adapt for future projects as needed. Do you need some inspiration to keep you creating on the regular? Check out my #ChoreographyAdventures, prompts to inspire short, informal “dancettes” that will help ignite your creativity and keep your skills sharp!
2.) Keep a journal. The most creative time in my life was my final year of graduate school, while I was working on my thesis concert. Of course it is easy to be inspired when you are surrounded by a talented cohort and incredible faculty all the time, but I think the major thing that helped me turn that inspiration into actual creative work was journaling. As directed by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, I wrote three stream-of-conscious pages each morning, and was amazing by the ideas that emerged! Whether you follow a prescribed method of journaling or just wing it, taking the time to express your creative impulses in written form can have major benefits for your choreography as well!
- For inspiration, check out The Holistic Guide to Journaling for Choreographers, a list of 52 prompts to help choreographers and dance composition students reflect holistically on their creative practice and growth as dance makers.
- Find The Artist’s Way at your local indie bookstore or at Bookshop.com: Shop your local indie bookstore
3.) Ask for feedback. As artists, we are often our own worst critics. We project our negative opinions of our work in process onto others, and often the mere thought of inviting them to give feedback can be nothing short of paralyzing. Having an outsider weigh in throughout your process can be transformative, however. They bring a fresh perspective, affirming your best impulses and helping you work through rough patches. Dance is a performative art, after all, and the audience’s reaction is important to consider throughout the creative process. Find a trusted friend or advisor who can be the audience for your works-in-process, reviewing and giving feedback on your work at various stages of it’s creation.
- I’m happy to provide thoughtful, comprehensive feedback to choreographers at affordable prices through my Online Adjudication services. Learn more and book a session here: Online Adjudication
4.) Give yourself one major creative goal to meet this year. Having a tangible goal (and a plan for it’s accomplishment!) is an important way to keep you focused on your creative work throughout the year. Your goal could to be submit a completed piece to a festival, or to rock your students’ recital dances, or to share a dance video on social media each month. Whatever you choose, be sure that it is manageable and that you have a plan for its completion – otherwise you’ll set yourself up for frustration.
- Use The Holistic Dance Teacher Choreography Planner to find creative inspiration, organize their choreographic ideas, and strategize ways to bring their vision to the stage, site, or screen, while learning how to improve your choreographic skills, communicate your vision more clearly, or advocate for yourself as an artist, this guide is for you!
5.) Get support. The idea of the solitary artist is pervasive in our culture. But I’ve found the most successful choreographers are often the ones who surround themselves with a supportive team. Hopefully, there are other dance artists in your local area with whom you can set up a solid mutual support system. If you haven’t found this yet, check out National Choreography Month (NACHMO). This “choreographic kick in the pants” is an amazing resource, with plenty of opportunities for encouragement from other choreographers nationwide. You can also join me on Facebook at The Holistic Dance Teacher, where you are always welcome to post videos for peer review, crowd source music or costume inspiration, or just discuss the triumphs and challenges of being a dance artist today!
Visit my Resources page for tools that support a holistic teaching and creative practice. Keep in touch by signing up for my quarterly newsletter, or join me on Facebook at The Holistic Dance Teacher.