Ask the Experts: Avoiding Drama in Formations

Q: How do you avoid drama when you’re putting together formations for group routines?

A: When placing my dancers into a formation, I take into account the number of dancers, height differences, dependability, confidence, performance skills, technical level and musicality. If a student’s attendance is poor or if she lacks musicality, it’s a good bet that she won’t be leading the dance.

To prevent parent drama, I close all of the viewing windows when I choreograph and don’t open them until the routine is finished. (Believe it or not, I have had moms who count how many times a particular dancer—whom they refer to as “my favorite”—is in the front row, compared to everyone else.) Generally, my stronger dancers do get the more difficult movement and special sections. If dancers or parents question me on a formation, I explain why the dancer is where she is in the formation and what she needs to do in order to get in the front line.

But remember, a group is only as strong as its weakest dancer. A group routine is a team effort, and everyone is equally important. I make sure both the dancer and her parents know that. As dance teachers, we know that not every child can handle being in the front row, but that doesn’t make her any less valuable to the piece.

Joanne Chapman is owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.

Photo courtesy of Joanne Chapman

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