Choreography Tips from Melissa Barak

If you get strong images in your head just from listening to music, or if you can visualize a whole dance piece, it may be a sign that you have a knack for choreography.  Here are some tips for exploring it further:


  • Try improvising alone to the music first. Once you are working with your dancers, you can build on the ideas you found in solo work, but keep improvising with the group…choreography often evolves from the dancers.
  • Don’t feel you have to approach a piece from start to finish. You can also select passages of the music that originally grabbed your attention and refine those first, then put the finishing touches in later to create an organic piece. Another tip for the beginner choreographer is to work backwards, so that you resist the tendency to burn up all your great ideas in the beginning.
  • Surf the web! A quick search online will yield tons of small dance venues you can network with.

  • Constantly expose yourself to a wide variety of music. Even if you find music you’d like to choreograph to, listen to it over and over until it’s ingrained in you.
  • Be open to ideas from unconventional sources: Newspapers, books, travel, other cultures, poems and paintings all apply!
  • Keep a journal by your bed and/or in your bag to write down any dance ideas that you come up with.

  • Get together with a couple of fellow dancers and videotape a piece that you’ve created (it doesn’t have to be long). Then send it out to small companies that are open to guest choreographers. You’ll start building a “choreographic resumé” that you can show people.
  • Offer your skills to community theater, churches/synagogues, schools, youth programs, camps, charities, fairs, cheerleading squads, etc. It’s a great way to build skills, credentials and a name. Make sure you videotape anything that could be worth showing to a company.
  • Be on the lookout for any choreographic opportunities in your dance school or programs. If there aren’t any, start something of your own!
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

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Amblin Entertainment

Steven Spielberg's much-anticipated remake of West Side Storychoreographed by Justin Peck, and starring a bevy of very good dancers—is in production, hooray! And that means it's finally time for us to get a look at the film's cast members in character. Let's break down the first photo from the project.

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