Thoughts on Choreography

Thoughts on Choreography by Susan Reid

I have always loved learning choreographies right from my first encounter with belly dance 20 years ago, when there were no teachers on our Island. Our club “Jersey Jewels” would all learn a dance from a visiting teacher and then flog it to death! Eventually though, we got hold of a new video or one of us travelled to a workshop to excitedly bring back new material to share.  (Picture Yasmina teaching – Susan Reid centre)

I teach a weekly class and generally our focus has been around learning a new dance to perform at a Hafla or other performance opportunity.  I work in blocks within a term so a dance could be worked on between 6-10 weeks.

This term I decided to delay working on one dance all term, as I was concerned that not everyone wants the pressure of performing or can commit every week for the whole term.   I also wanted to work on different props in taster sessions before committing to a longer choreography to see how they feel.   The sessions have “mini” choreographies so its not just technique and we are improvising at the end of each session.  The girls can then decide if they would like to turn one of the sessions into a dance they can perform at a later date.

I have to admit this has been a lot harder for me in terms of planning than having one dance to work around over the weeks! And I am itching to get going into one dance in more depth!

As a teacher one dance per term is so much easier to plan for in advance and it gives the girls the opportunity to get to know the music really well and in turn develop their musicality, flow and technique within the context of a particular style.  Quite often at the beginning they think they will never learn it all in time, but it’s amazing how quickly it develops each week and before you know it we have reached the end with a great sense of achievement.

I switch from creating my own choreography from scratch to adapting a choreography I have learnt from a workshop or inspiration from UTube.  If I use another teacher’s material, however small, I always give reference to it to the students at the time and if it’s performed.  I like it when the girls offer up their own ideas to be included and am not precious about changing it to work.  I have learnt that technical ability is important to those who want to achieve it, but that its more important that every one enjoys the dance and is challenged to within their own ability.

I love to improvise in my personal dance, but as a teacher my brain definitely works better planning around choreography and have come to appreciate how I enjoy developing a dance for a longer period.  My body and soul may hear the music and be able to express it through dance for myself, but to pass that on to my students I really need a framework of a planned choreography and research to give my students the best experience.

Susan Reid, Jersey Channel lslands, JWAAD Teacher & Mentor
Susan has been the sole JWAAD Teacher based on Jersey for several years (soon to be joined by another) and helped develop the dance scene there.  Susan completed her Mentor training last year so can now mentor students through the Personal Development Programme.

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