Why resiliency matters in the dance studio


Dancers are nothing if not resilient. We walk confidently into classes, rehearsals, competitions, auditions, and performances, knowing that no matter how difficult the combinations or how stern the choreographer, whether we get platinum or get cut in the first round, if the audiences love us or the critics pan us – we’ll get back up and dance another day.

But right now, after 2 and a half years of COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are likely starting to question that. For a long time, we physically couldn’t get into the studio, and were separated from the students we love or the dancers who bring our choreographic dreams to life. We were worried – and may still be – about how we’re going to pay the bills. We have dealt with anxiety over our own health, or that of our loved ones. Our students have also been feeling anxious, and confused about what they are hearing in the news, on social media, and even from family and friends. They missed out on the competitions and performances for which they worked so hard for so many months. Even worse, some were separated from only place they feel safe and secure, whether that is their school or studio.

It’s clear the the trauma of the pandemic has left its mark, both for us and our students. While things are getting better, our collective recovery will be a long and challenging process. We continue to deal with uncertainty, in our schools, economy, public health systems, and beyond. It is even more important that we continue to work on the emotional skills that we need to weather difficult times – for ourselves and our students.

With all this in mind, I’ve created a series of #ChoreographyAdventures designed with resilience in mind. It is my hope that these prompts for choreography or improvisation remind you how incredibly persistent, empowered, and amazing you are. I invite you to share them with your students and use the questions provided to engage them in discussions of grit, determination, and hope for better days to come.


What are Choreography Adventures?


The #ChoreographyAdventures are short and simple choreography prompts that encourage choreographers and dance teachers to reignite their creativity through regular choreographic practice. The goal of these choreography prompts is to help choreographers make short, informal dances (“dancettes”) on a regular basis – daily or weekly if you can. With this regular practice, not only will you keep your choreography muscles strong and flexible, but you will also build a stock of movement ideas that you can use throughout the dance season for class combinations, competition or concert choreography, or recital dances.

These choreography prompts are great to incorporate into your personal creative practice as a choreographer, but you can also use with your students in dance composition, choreography, improvisation, or dance technique classes. The Choreography Adventures can be used as prompts for student informal choreography assignments, formal projects, or as dance improvisation prompts.

The focus of these choreography prompts is OVERCOMING CHALLENGES, and explorations include physical challenges, emotional check-ins, and dances to foster community. Use the prompts to create dancettes wherever you are able: in the kitchen, the backyard, the hallway, or in the studio. Share the prompts on social media with your dance community and use the hashtag #ChoreographyAdventures to connect with other artists across the country who are also participating!


Find more Choreography Adventures here, or on Instagram @shannondoolingdances.


21 Choreography Adventures to Foster Resiliency


Physical Challenges


1.) Make a dancette using only 2 body parts. Be specific! What did it feel like to move your elbow, for example, and not your shoulder or wrist? How did restraining your movement encourage you to make different choices?

2.) Make a dancette in the smallest place available, such as under a table, in the closet, or behind the couch. How did it feel to dance in this constrained space? How did it encourage you to make new, unexpected, and exciting movement choices?

3.) Make a dancette with 3 appendages (head, tail, hands, or feet) touching the floor at all times. How did having such an extreme physical challenge affect your creative process?

4.) Make a dancette using only your feet and the muscles in your face. Don’t move any other body parts! What was it like coordinating those two body parts?

5.) Make a dancette in which you repeat a difficult movement many times. Perform the dance 3 times in a row. How did it feel to keep moving even as you got tired?

6.) Make a dancette using just your arms. Then, try to perform the same movement with just your legs. How does changing which body part is moving change the quality and feeling of the dance?

7.) Make a dancette with any movement you like. Then, try to perform the same dance in a chair. What did you learn from the process of performing the movement with the physical limitation of being in a chair?


Emotional Challenges


1.) Make a dancette inspired by this phrase by Karen Bradley: Breathe and keep your knees loose. How can breathing deeply and keeping your body relaxed make you feel more calm when dancing and in life?

2.) Make a dancette inspired by a time you felt “stuck” – physically or emotionally. How did you help yourself get unstuck? What did you learn from the experience that you can apply when you find yourself feeling stuck now or in the future?

3.) Make a dancette based on the idea of rising up. Use levels, the movement of body parts, or gestures to show the theme. Does moving in an optimistic way help you feel more hopeful?

4.) How are you feeling today? There is no right or wrong answer! Whatever emotion you are feeling, show it in your body and in the movement for your dancette.

5.) How do you move when you are worried and anxious? How do you move when you feel calm and hopeful? Make a dancette that starts with worried and anxious but ends calm and hopeful.

6.) Think of a peaceful place. Why is it peaceful to you? How do you feel when you are there? What do you see, hear, smell, or taste when you are there? How do you move when you are there? Make a dancette inspired by this place.

7.) Make a dancette based on the idea of flexibility. As dancers, how can we use what we know about physical flexibility to also help us stay flexible in the rest of our lives?


Community Challenges


1.) Work with a friend via FaceTime, Skype, or social media to create a dancette together. What are the challenges and joys of working with others in this way?

2.) Spend 10 minutes watching a family member’s movements around the house, or a friend at school or dance. Create a dancette inspired by their movements. Share the dancette with them and talk about how you included their movement in your dance.

3.) Create a dancette outside. Be inspired by the sights, sounds, and smells of your community.

4.) Create a dancette using any movement you’d like, then teach it to a family member or friend. Use FaceTime or Skype if you can’t be together in person! Ask them what it was like to learn the dance.

5.) Write out directions to a dancette using words, pictures, or diagrams, and ask a friend to do the same. Swap directions and try to recreate one another’s dances by following the directions. Video yourself performing your friend’s dance and share it with them.

6.) Crowd source inspiration for a dancette by asking friends and family for action words and adjectives. You can ask those who live in your household, dancers in your class, or use text messaging or social media. Make a dancette using only the words provided. Share a video of it with the people who contributed, and ask them to see if they can find their word.

7.) Make your own  “party dancette” – a simple line dance like the Electric Slide, Chicken Dance, or Cupid Shuffle. Choose a fun, upbeat song to perform the dance to. Teach it to friends and family and perform at your next celebration!


Keep your creative spark ignited all year long with The Holistic Collection of Choreography Adventures! This collection includes 52 choreography prompts – one for every week of the year – that will help you find new choreographic inspiration and hone your dance composition skills. Reflection questions are included with each choreography prompt, to be used for journaling or discussion.


More resources for Choreographers


Blog Posts for Choreographers

Resources for Choreographers

Read the Making Dance Now Series


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