Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A choreographer’s checklist

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Having had a chance in five decades to make many choreographic mistakes, and having observed other people make them, too, I have compiled a short list of checks for the composer, something like a pocket set of rules for truing up a work in progress. It is all too easy to become absorbed in one part of the complex act of composition, and, while the attention is fixed on that, allow fatal errors to creep in elsewhere. A final checking up on balances is a wise—indeed, an essential—procedure. These, then, are some reminders which have been learned by painful experience and which should help the choreographer to avoid some of the commonest mistakes:

Symmetry is lifeless
Two-dimensional design is lifeless
The eye is faster than the ear
Movement looks slower and weaker on the stage
All dances are too long
A good ending is forty percent of the dance
Monotony is fatal; look for contrasts
Don’t be a slave to, or a mutilator of, the music
Listen to qualified advice; don’t be arrogant
Don’t intellectualize; motivate movement
Don’t leave the ending to the end

Doris Humphrey, The Art of Making Dances

Written by nevalalee

April 21, 2018 at 7:30 am

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