29 June 2009

Choreography Epiphany

I just had an epiphany about choreographing routines. Throughout 2 years+ of choreographing classes, I had no fixed method of creating a track. It felt more like an alchemy experiment, throwing things into a pot and hoping something good comes out. More often than not (especially in the early years), things turned out mundane and unpalatable. I can easily count up to 10, the number of tracks that I dare not teach again!

But over a quiet lunch today I concluded that most tracks (I'm referring to my own cardio/dance classes here) consist of:
  1. Movement
  2. Direction

Movement is of course, the basis of the track itself. Within it, there are many parameters to tweak, most notably:

  1. Body positioning (where are your arms, feet, body)
  2. Weight transference (how does the weight move from feet to feet?)
  3. Speed (the speed in which the movement is executed)

From these 3 simple parameters it is already easy to create tracks of varying difficulty. Easier tracks have simpler body positioning (e.g. march on the spot), while difficult tracks might have higher speed (double-time).

But I find that movement itself is pretty easy to catch, until we add Direction into the mix. This is where I see a lot of beginners trip up. Their brain can only keep track of one or the other. Either you do something on the spot, or you change direction without any complex movement. Once we add any reasonable amount of the two together, the complexity rises significantly. This can easily cause a mental overload in new members and by the time they catch up we're on to the next move. Fun for experienced members, but frustrating for the newbies.

BodyJam instructors who have witnessed the evolution of BodyJam and BodyJam+ can attest to this. More often than not, Gandalf just added a direction change (usually a turn) to the exact same movement in the Base option. A good example is the jump in the Street Jazz block (BJ49). Sometimes, one of the Movement parameters is changed instead. E.g. the double-time samba in Smooze Salsa (BJ49).

Following this relevation, I think I can apply a more scientific process to choreographing future classes. Instead of throwing random moves on the wall and praying it sticks, I should break it down into its Movement and Direction components. Then I can decide what parameters will be tweaked to make a fun, but doable track.

This also applies to how a move is introduced. I should start with the basics of Movement, preferably in a slower count. Then I can start to add Direction to that Movement. Depending on how complex I wish the track to be, the type of Direction can vary (walk instead of turn). Though, I have to be careful of breaking things down too much. It's no fun learning everything from its atomic structure - sometimes the fun is in doing the move just as it is and let the members go, "What?!? I *gotta* learn that."

I hope this blog post proves useful to budding choreographers out there! If you are a choreographer and you have something to add to this, drop a comment.

No comments: