Whether youâ€™re an aspiring choreographer or a pro with a portfolio of works under your belt, you probably know what itâ€™s like to be caught in a choreographic rut. Luckily, generating ideas may be easier than you think. Inspiration can come from anywhere or anythingâ€”pieces of art, ideas, memories, skyscrapers, family members, friends, current events or even the class bully who stole your lunch money in kindergarten.
Darla Johnson, who, along with Andrew Long, directs the Austin-based Johnson/Long Dance Company, finds her inspiration in poems, novels, music and from costume ideas.
â€œAnything can be a dance, and everyone is a dancer, â€œ says Johnson, who also teaches at Austin Community College. JLDC works have incorporated imagery from poems or songs, props such as lawnmowers and toasters, and texts from novels and other writings. One JLDC piece, called Walking on Water, used water as a metaphor for spirit; its movement was based on the different ways a body moves in the water. Mattresses with painted slipcovers were used to represent pools.
Expand Your Creative Limits Johnson uses the concept of choreographing â€œoutside the boxâ€ to challenge herself and her students. â€œ[Working outside the box] asks the choreographer to open up to the creative process beyond his or her own preconceived boundaries,â€ explains Johnson.
When choreographing, she relies on improvisation and exploratory methods to make dances that are more than just moving to music. For instance, an exercise she often uses involves creating imaginary spaces around her body, then exploring how these spaces affect her movement.
The aim of many of Johnsonâ€™s works is to broaden traditional definitions of what is or isnâ€™t considered dance. Whether your choreographic mission is to defy stereotypes or simply to celebrate movement, these strategies can help you push the boundaries of your own creative process. For more on JLDC, visit jldc.org.
This list is designed to inspire you to try new ways of creating dances. â€¢ Donâ€™t get so attached to the product that youâ€™re unwilling to change it. â€¢ Listen to your intuition. â€¢ If your initial response to an idea is â€œthat will never work,â€ then that is the very idea to try, because it will force you to attempt more than just the easy and obvious. â€¢ Be willing to make mistakes and to fail. â€¢ Recognize your repetitive choreographic choices. (For example, you tend to follow pirouettes with layouts.) Ask a friend to help identify them. When you find yourself about to choreograph in a familiar way, change it. Move up instead of down, use a different body part or alter your speed or phrasing. â€¢ Find inspiration from something totally unrelated to dance, such as how a newsanchorâ€™s eyes move when reading from a Teleprompter, how the apples are arranged at the grocery store or how a canal overflows in a storm. â€¢ Make dances about things you think are impossible to express through movement. â€¢ Find a piece of music that you really love to move to, then use that passion to enhance what youâ€™re trying to express, whether or not you end up using that music. â€¢ Experiment with how you use music. For instance, choreograph against the beat. Let the music be the landscape that the dance is playing on. Ride it instead of dancing to it. Donâ€™t rely on counts or musical cues. â€¢ Choose the music for the dance after youâ€™ve already started or even completed choreographing the work.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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.
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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?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.