I sit crunched in a ball on the floor of the packed Studio A at the Loveland Dance Academy. The first full run-through of Act 1 of The 2017 Nutcracker Ballet is underway! My business partner, Miss Jenni, is busy jotting notes in her rehearsal notebook, pacing along the mirror line and occasionally snapping her fingers and giving verbal choreography cues as dancers in the party scene enter and exit. Now in our seventh season, production of this full-length ballet began in August and magic will happen on stage December 9th and 10th (only two weeks away!). Over the next two weeks, there will be choreography modifications, revisions and tweaks as each moving part and prop comes together. Even the transition from dancing in our studio to the performance stage can cause major choreography changes. The work is never done!
I too am currently completing my own choreography for our competitive Performance Dance Team (PDT). This point in the season becomes an exciting landmark for our dancers and myself. We have spent nearly four months rehearsing and the day you arrive at the end of the music is magical. The ending pose, the dramatic exit, the conclusion of the story. The dancers squeal with excitement as they admire their ending pose in the mirror. I too squeal quietly inside to see us at “The End”… hardly.
Between now and mid May, I will spend each rehearsal studying my students as they navigate and work to perfect the choreography I have given them. There will be timing issues that arise along with partnering quirks and formation transition problems. Adjustments to dance choreography are essential. These adjustments allow younger dancers to feel successful and older dancers to expand to great heights. Choreography changes create a clear story, layers of emotion and the building blocks of a masterpiece.
Once the piece is released at its first performance, the work of the choreographer changes into that of a technician. I will stand back at a distance to see the complete work and how it fills the space where it is performed. I will study the exits and entrances along with the onstage relationships of the ensemble. I will reflect on how the piece affects me; Was I at ease? Did I feel memorized? Did I trust the performers that they could handle the piece on their own? Did I engage in the story being told? Was I brought into their world for several minutes?
As the season progresses, my Performance Dance Team pieces will too. After each show or competition I meet with the performers and we assess how the dance choreography felt. What was successful? What problems came up? Any costume or prop issues?
Over the years I have come to embrace the choreographic process with an open mind and willingness to improve. Mistakes are allowed. I have learned that my greatest weaknesses are often my greatest contributions to my choreography. Let the process thrive and your art will follow. See Loveland & Conservatory Dance choreography in action. Buy tickets to the Loveland Dance Academy 2017 Nutcracker Ballet, learn more about Performance Dance Team or register for class today.
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