How do movement components help to communicate choreographic intention?

Updated: Dec 21, 2018



How do movement components help to communicate choreographic intention?

To understand how movement components help to communicate choreographic intention we must first understand what choreographic intention is.


Whilst Choreography is the skill of creating and arranging movements for the dancers to demonstrate to the audience, intent is the aim or purpose of a certain action or thought process. Each dance work or composition therefore has a purpose, such as making the audience feel a certain emotion, feeling or thought or to convey a message which we call Choreographic Intent.


When a dance performance communicates choreographic intent it will convey mood, meaning, ideas, themes and style from the choreographer. We tend to look at movement components in 4 categories:


1) action content

2) dynamic content

3) spatial content

4) relationship content

which all help to communicate choreographic intention.


When incorporating action, we may include uses of different parts of the dancers’ bodies; how their bodies curl, extend, twist, ripple or kick, for example. We look to use elevation such as jumps or lifts or lower to floorwork. We think about gestures and facial expression, stillness and pauses, turning and travelling patterns.


Adding dynamic content means that we use ‘light and shade’ to cause drama and effect. We vary choreography from fast to slow, sudden to sustained, we ask dancers to accelerate and decelerate, we show strong heavy movements to light effortless movements, we make the piece flow, or we stop movement abruptly


We consider spatial context first in terms of the performance piece itself and then in relation to what setting the piece will be performed. What space is available, small stage, large out door performance and so on. We consider entry and exit of the dancers, their pathway across the stage the different directions across the performance area and each other, we look at linear, circular and mixed patterns and how dancers flow in and out of these patterns. Are we working upstage, downstage, centre stage, left, or right?


Next, we must look at how the dancers’ movements relate to each other at all times.


Should they lead and follow, or should they mirror each other?


Should they demonstrate an action and then a reaction between themselves?


Should a dancer create a movement which is then copied cumulatively by each of the other dancers until they are all repeating the same movement?


How do we make the dancers complement each other and show contrast without the piece looking a complete mess?


What formations should the dancers make across the performance area?


Free form or with pattern?


As you can see, the choreographer’s work is much more complex than simply setting a series of moves to a piece of music. But everything relates back to the Choreographic intent, what is it that the choreographer wants the audience to think or feel at that moment. Once you understand this as a choreographer you can begin to tell your story. The dancers are your characters, the music is your setting and the stage your theatre. Now go create your masterpiece!




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