Tips for Choreographing Your First Dance in College
Even if you've choreographed tons in high school, having your work seen—and critiqued—by professors and peers for the first time can be more than a little intimidating. So DS asked those who've been there how you can feel confident and creative throughout your first collegiate choreographic experience.
Chances are, the first dance you'll make in college will take one of two forms: a course assignment complete with guidelines and criteria, or an anything-goes submission to a concert of student works. If it's an assignment
for class, embrace the rubric. "We think we can't be creative within strict guidelines," says Professor Anne Van Gelder, director of dance at the University of Richmond. "But it's within parameters that we find creativity. In the professional world, you'll mostly be assigned projects—not picking out what you want to do. For example, if you're choreographing a musical, you're working with a creative team, in their concept."
If you aren't working within a rubric and you feel like you don't have anything to say, consider expanding your notions of choreographic inspiration. "Have you read a play or novel, or seen artwork that you want to respond to through movement?" Van Gelder suggests. "Or maybe something's happened politically, or there's a cause you care about. Talk to a faculty member or peer about what matters to you, confuses you, or is interesting to you."
Finding Your Process
Juilliard senior Madison Hicks says working with guest artists and choreographers has been the best way
for her to learn more about choreographing. "I enjoy observing how each choreographer's process is so individual," Hicks says. "If you look at their thought process, the tools they use, and the directions they
unexpectedly go, every experience will show you new ways to create."
(From left) Hicks rehearsing with Borowski
If you've never choreographed before, it might feel safer to prepare intensively before each rehearsal, but don't close yourself off from possibility. "Be flexible, open, and willing to see where a phrase is going—or where your dancers are taking it," Van Gelder says. "Communicating what you want through words and physicality is different than your mind telling your body what it wants."
When the Going Gets Tough
Choreographer's block happens to everyone, and stressed-out college students are no exception. "Taking a step away from the piece is always beneficial, even for a few minutes," Hicks says. "Or give a task to a dancer and watch them explore! All artists have wonderful ideas and will react differently to your guidance."
Van Gelder suggests improvising to get past the block—just not to the music you're using. "Play whatever gets you relaxed and not censoring yourself," she suggests. "If you have time, go look at something that's artistic, like visual art in a gallery, but not connected to the pressure to produce."
The Big Picture
Dissatisfied with how the work turned out? Don't stress too much. "I wish I'd known freshman year that not every little piece I created needed to be the best, and not every phrase I create will affect my future," Hicks says. "Sometimes exploring for fun with no pressure makes the most creative and enjoyable pieces. All you have to do is keep going."
A version of this story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "New Choreographer on Campus."
Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.
OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.
Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.
What do you get when a hoard of dancers collaborate to the catchy tune of "Love Somebody," by the band Frenship? The most epic dance party ever, of course! Said dance party was produced by the talented Michael Riccio, who's performed in feature films, including "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" and "Shrek Forever After."
Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:
You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.
Are you a high school senior who's been accepted to a four-year accredited college or university program? Congrats! Within the 2017-2018 season, have you competed in events run by at least two of the organizations in the above graphic? Double congrats, because the Association of Dance Conventions and Competitions, or ADCC for short, wants to give you $1,000 (!!) towards college tuition.
From dancing in music videos (including Katy Perry's "Swish Swish") to performing on reality TV shows (including "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Voice"), 17-year-old Amanda LaCount is already conquering the commercial scene. If you've ever seen her dance, you understand why: She's a hard-hitting phenom with major stage presence. But in an industry where not having the "right" look can jeopardize your career, Amanda's also blazed her own path by accepting her beautiful curvy body the way it is.
Amanda's never let body-shamers discourage her from going after her dreams. She hopes that by breaking the "dancers are skinny" stereotype, she'll give others the courage to highlight their own unique features rather than hiding them or changing them to fit repressive industry standards. She's even started a campaign, #breakingthestereotype, to inspire artists of all shapes, colors, and sizes to dance for themselves.
We caught up with this dancing maverick to get her advice on cultivating body confidence in a world that's obsessed with the "perfect" body.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
All the dancers in my level auditioned for a prestigious summer intensive—but I'm the only one who got in. Now everything is incredibly awkward at the studio. I'm really excited about the program, but I don't want to make my friends feel bad. What can I do?
Can't get enough of the dance party T. Swift throws herself in her "Delicate" music video? Take a look at the two making-of clips Taylor just shared on her Instagram, showing her practicing the vid's charmingly awkward choreography.