Choreography: Finding Your Hook, Crafting Your Dance

March 12, 2013 Caroleeena DancehoopdancehoopdancePoiUncategorized

Betty Adorno as Monet's Water Colors

Dance tells a story through movement. When choreographing a dance, we are making decisions about which story-telling devices to include, how to order our story, where to start, and how to end. For this piece we will deal specifically with the first aspect of choreography, deciding which story-telling devices to include. In other words, finding our “hook”.

I interviewed my friend Betty Adorno, a very creative choreographer and story-teller here in Raleigh, NC, for her ideas on this. Betty has always seemed to have a special power when it came to choreography. The hook is clear to her, the arch of the story seems apparent, and she uses her tools, costumes and elements in unique and creative ways. So my first question to her was, “How do you start?”

Betty suggests three possible ways to start: Music, Character, or Tool

I. Start With Your Music – Choose it, love it, know it!
– every nuance
– every change (changes are landmarks in the music or story)
– how it begins
– how it ends

What is the piece telling you?
– is it old fashioned, newfangled, from the future?
– what does your set look like in your head

What do you look like?
– who are you?
– what is your personality or mood?
– what are you doing?
– what are you wearing?
– what is in your hands? (props)
– what does the music tell you to do?

This example is taken from a real number Betty and I did together:
– who are we? We are Jedis having a dance fight
– how does it start? In a bar
– how does it end? Darth/Betty dies
– who am I? The nice one minding my own business
– who is she? The one looking for trouble
– what are we wearing? Capes with jedi outfits hidden underneath
– what’s in our hands? Light sabers, and later, an led hoop
– what does the music tell us to do? Break into the Charleston
– what does the setting look like in your head? Star Wars cantina

Fill in the middle:
– any special moves you want to integrate?
– any special props you want to integrate?
– any special story telling devices you want to integrate?

Do it in pieces:
– beginning? I’m having a drink in a space bar when Betty comes in and wants to be starting something
– middle? Charleston, followed by matrix move
– end? Betty knocks light saber out of my hand. I best her with lighted hoop and go back to drinking

Add special elements:
– Before dance fight, take off earrings and jewelry. Camp it up

Changes in music:
– scatting: Do the Charleston with light sabers

II. Start with your Character

For example: Bearded Lady traveling with a circus
– what do you look like? Gorgeous fierce lady with beard
– who are you? Bearded Lady, 1920’s carny
– what is your personality or mood? beautiful, empowered, takes no shit, feeling sassy
– what are you doing? Sword act in a circus
– what are you wearing? Gypsy attire with face hidden prior to reveal
– what is in your hands? Large sword
– what does the music tell you to do? Modern song with old-time twist (Tainted Love remix)

III. Start with your Tool

Our tool can be a major part of theme, costume, and character
– what feeling do you want to create with this tool?
– what music fits that feeling?
– what costume fits with that music AND works with your tool?
– what interesting way can you use the tool to tell this story?

Putting Moves to Music

Compile a list of moves or steps that work with the style and song.
– If working with a partner, compile a list of shared and/or favorite moves or moves you can do together
– Jam together with a video camera recording to discover new moves or sequences.

Identify sections of the song – note choruses, phrases, and changes in tempo, style, speed, or volume. Perhaps draw a line to identify how the melody flows
– Identify moods that go with each of the sections.
– Create a basic outline for footwork, then add details such as arm movements.

This outline has helped me enormously when it comes to crafting dances. I am so grateful to Betty for sharing her process, her experience, her creativity, and her beautiful self.

Betty Adornocaroleeenachoreographyhoopdancepoi dance

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