Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a big sucker for dance surprises! I’m fortunate to have played a variety of roles in flash mobs and other unexpected performances. As a spectator, flash mobs have brought me to tears. There’s something about the love behind the unexpected gift of dance breaking up an otherwise normal day that gets to me. As a participator, I’ve experienced the adrenalin rush of a flash mob. It’s different than any other type of dance performance. Again, there is something special about the beauty of dance erupting in an unexpected environment affecting strangers instantly in a positive way. As a flash mob organizer, I have a good understanding of all the planning that goes into coordinating choreography for a group of people, keeping it a secret, and scouting out all the finer details like location, time, and music projection.
My recent move to Southern California brought me the opportunity to teach at Bella Ballroom studio where I help create and choreograph dance surprises for students every week! This summer I enjoyed teaching dance with the intention of surprise for several Orange County weddings. I gained a lot from the experience and researched some more fun ideas surrounding wedding dance surprises including elaborate proposals, fundraising flash mobs, and more… Read on!
Most of us may remember a time long, long, ago, when MTV actually played music videos, and young adults we’re inspired to imitate the choreographies danced by their favorite pop stars. I’m willing to bet that some of these music videos and choreographies made a lasting impression in your mind. Go ahead. Think back. What dance scenes impressed you so much that will you remember them forever? How about Michael Jackson’s untimely “Thriller”? Maybe it was Janet Jackson’s “If” that left you dancing in your living room? And then there’s Beyonce. Just about everything Queen B has touched has given viewers “Sweet Dreams” of “Irreplaceable” attitude and impressionable footwork, undulations, and body pumps.
So, what makes a choreography foreverful? What is the secret sauce to creating a dance that will leave an eternal mark on the mind of its viewers? Let’s discover 4 professional secrets that top choreographers consider when transforming moves into masterpieces.
1. Popping Personality
Choreographers often start by determining the character of the piece. They take what is unique about the song and express it throughout the dance. The theme, emotion, and unique story of the piece must be creatively told through movement. Choreographers consider who their audience is going to be and what it will take to keep them interested.
2. Delicious Dynamics
Contrast is one of the most important elements of a foreverful choreography. Choreographers work with different dance elements including varying textures, levels, speeds, tension, transitions, sequences, shapes, timing, spacing, formations, focuses, directions and more!
3. Master Musicality
A developed awareness of musicality separates the professionals from the rest. It is well known that audiences share a primal enjoyment of seeing a connection between music and movement. Top choreographers express all the intricacies of music including rhythm, melody, lyrics, accents, breaks, crescendos and other musical details.
4. Go Big or Go Home!
The most groundbreaking choreographies are those that take risks, think outside of the box, and ultimately revolutionize dance. Creative choreographers have the ability to avoid boring clichés and go where no other choreographer has gone before!
It’s never too early to start planning that perfect performance. Read on for helpful hints to snag your sizzling solo for this fabulous event.
1. Choose Your Music
Find a song that speaks to you and that naturally makes you move. (See last month’s blog for tips on how to find Arabic Dance Music.)
Once you’ve decided on a song, find out what type of song it is and what cultural significance it holds. For example, folkloric music, cabaret music, and fusion music are all very distinct from one another and should be interpreted differently. If you’re not sure what type of music you’re working with, ask your teacher.
2. Map Out and Memorize your Music
Once you’ve decided on a song, it’s time to map it out. You should know your music well enough that you could hum even it if it wasn’t playing. Understand what instruments are being used, and what rhythms are backing them up. What time signature is your song in? Does it have lyrics? If needed, translate and use the words to fuel your dance’s story. If you’re a visual learner, map out the song by drawing out the way the music sounds. Sketch the changes in the music and note at what time they happen during the song.
3. Create Movement
For the new performer, I suggest you choreograph your routine or at least create a strong outline for your performance. When starting to choreograph, try freestyle dancing to your song and see what comes naturally. When you perform a move that sticks out to you, keep it! Pay attention to what the music is doing. Does it slow down? Speed up? Change in tone? Is it a sad song or a joyful song? Match the music with your movement. Consider the emotion behind the song and what the intent of your piece is. What kind of impact do you want to have on your audience? When you get choreographically stuck, take a break or think of moves you’ve used in class recently. Youtube and Arabic Dance DVDs are great sources of inspiration. Incorporate contrasting moves to keep your piece visually interesting. Avoid standing in one spot, and make good use of your stage. Consider if you will start on-stage or need to choreograph an entrance. Don’t forget to enjoy the creative process instead of focusing on your end goal. J
4. Practice. Practice. Practice.
A well-prepared performer is a confident one. Set up a schedule for yourself as if you we’re training for a marathon. Video tape yourself practicing so you can see what you look like. Show your choreography to a friend and practice making eye contact with them while you’re performing. If it feels right, ask your friend for feedback. Remember to practice in the costume you are going to perform in. Costume malfunctions are much better performed at home than in the company of others. J
5. Go get ‘em tiger!
It’s game day. This is what you’ve been waiting for! Arrive early enough that you can polish off your make-up and get into costume without feeling rushed. Create your own personal mantra to pump yourself up. “I’m going to rock it!” You are your own cheerleader. Accept that things may not go quite as you have planned, and commit to enjoying the experience no matter what happens. Remember, we dance because we love it, and we perform so we can share this love with others. When the time comes to shine, take a deep breath and know that you are a star.
Ziva Emtiyaz is an award winning International Dance Artist excited to share her knowledge and life experiences about the big world of dance!