Many dancers don’t consider themselves choreographers, but self-choreographing can be an insanely rewarding experience if you’re willing to take the leap.
Choose Your Style
Jazz? Ballet? Contemporary? Modern? Lyrical? Tap? Hip hop? Musical theatre? Most dancers have a style they’re particularly passionate about, so this should be the easiest part of the process. Choose one you feel comfortable choreographing, but make sure it sparks your curiosity.
Pick the Right Music
You’ll be listening to this song hundreds of times in the coming months, make sure you like it. Line up your favourites and dance to them! Which songs have rhythms that speak to you and naturally complement your style? Which have messages and themes you want to play with?
Create a Dance to Utilize Your Strengths, But Push Yourself
This is where it gets really fun. Are you known for your flexibility? Are you a turner? Are you highly technical? Or perhaps movement and musicality is your forte? Incorporate these and show off a little. However, equally important is to challenge yourself. Can’t hit a triple pirouette? Put one in your piece. Set a goal to master it by the time you take your routine to competition.
Is There a Choreographer You Admire?
Look into their work and their training. Research their philosophies and core tenets. Recognizing what you admire about their style will inform your understanding of your own style. Maybe you come to realize you’re really interested in floorwork, or micro-movements, or classical lines. Plus, a little studying never hurts.
Feeling Stuck? Improv!
I cannot recommend this enough. At a certain point, you might feel as though you’re executing a mundane task, drudging through the chorus trying to reach the end, rather than being actively inspired. Put on the song, turn off the lights, and roll around on the floor. Forget what you’ve planned for the rest of the piece and experiment. When you give yourself that freedom, the next step will come to you instinctively.
Do the Work
Although it can feel tedious, creating blocking maps and choreography breakdowns can bring attention to what you’re lacking. Trace a line that denotes your movement around the stage. Are you mostly travelling horizontally? Are you neglecting the back-left corner? Figure out if you’re spending too much time in one spot, and if you need to diversify your blocking. While you’re at it, write out your steps. Do you have too many turning sections? Do you only have one jump? Seeing the choreography on paper can help you spot logistic and/or scoring issues you might not notice when you’re performing.
Check the Rules for Dance Festivals
Check in with the rules and regulations at your local festivals. Often, festivals and competitions need you to submit certain documentation to register self-choreographed pieces. You can ask your teachers and studio administrator if they have any tips on navigating the bureaucracy so you can focus on the creative.
The natural artistry that makes you a compelling performer is the same talent that makes you a clever choreographer. Trust yourself and your intuition. Bring your style and your point of view, and follow where the music takes you.