In addition to the choreography for the young ballet dancer in our morning classes at American Ballet Theatre (see my previous two posts), some of my other classes also have it as a theme — like my production class, taught by Deborah Damast.
This class involves a broad overview of what it’s like to put on a performance, including writing press releases, lighting design, costuming, backstage management, and choreography. Our final project is to present a short piece of any dance genre in duos and trios, complete with costumes, a basic lighting design, and a press release.
It’s been refreshing to explore ideas and brainstorm with other students, and I’m rather pleased that I somehow managed to end up in two pieces. One is a duo that melds flamenco with Afro-Pop dancing to Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star,” and the other is a trio dancing to “All That Jazz.”
In the case of the duo, the two of us each picked out several songs we liked and decided on the Stevie Wonder song together. We talked about what kind of lighting effects we wanted, before even deciding what type of dance to do to it. (I knew I would dance flamenco, but my partner hadn’t yet decided on a genre). Then, after deciding on a framework, we choreographed our parts separately.
We met Monday to put it together for the first time and it was amazing to see how well both of our movements worked together. It made us think it would be an interesting experiment to send students home with a piece of music and guidelines and see what movement and interpretations they come up with — even when dancing completely different styles.
The trio was thrown together literally at the last minute. Once we agreed we wanted to recreate a musical theatre piece, we scrolled through our iPod libraries to see what song moved us the most. You can’t help but smile when you hear “All That Jazz” and costumes are a cinch – what dancer doesn’t own a sassy outfit in all black? The piece came together in a half hour using chairs, imaginary bowler hats, and shared choreographic ideas.
Next Monday, in one class period, we are holding tech rehearsals and the performance.
Since choreography is such a big focus this semester, I'd love to know how you go about designing choreographic workshops for older students. How do you lead the sessions? Are there any ideas that you’ve used that have really helped inspire creativity? If so, share your thoughts on the Dance Teacher message board.
Hannah Guruianu is a masters candidate in the NYU/ABT dance pedagogy program.