Monday, February 27, 2012

Choreography = Writing

My awesome dance teacher, Lauren, is also a brilliant, BRILLIANT choreographer.

It's an hour's drive to and from the dance studio from her house, so she listens to loud music and choreographs while she drives every day. In all her 10 years of teaching, she has never once written a dance down. And yet, if you ask her to do "Stronger" from her 2007 class of 13-15 year olds, she'd be able to do it on the spot.

Right now, she is currently choreographing THIRTY. ONE. DIFFERENT. DANCES.

Good. Gosh.

How is that even possible?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! And she doesn't write any of them down?!?!?! GAH! It's freaking incredible. None of the dances are the same.

Since she choreographs in her head, sometimes when we do the dance in class, she'll stare at us for a minute and then go:

"No. Nope. Looked better in my head." And we'll do something else.

After we've learned the whole dance she always goes back and tweaks it, too. Maybe a turn didn't take up as many counts as she thought, or we need to use the other leg for a fan kick, or start with the right foot instead of the left at some point. She was trying to explain this process to the class one night.

"I just have to get the dance first, before I fix it," she said.

A comparison popped into my head, and my eyes lit up. "It's like a rough draft," I said.

"Yeah," Lauren nodded excitedly. "Exactly."

Thinking of choreography like writing has been a really exciting revelation for me. It helps me understand Lauren and dancing so much better.

The first attempt at the dance is like a rough draft.

How can Lauren remember so many dances? Well, how do I remember so many stories?

Choreographing on the go must be a lot like getting a story idea on the go.

When you see a dance in real life, sometimes it doesn't work the way you anticipated. When your characters do what you tell them to do, sometimes it doesn't feel right.

More often than not, Lauren's dances incorporate two groups of dancers doing different things. Some people ask Lauren why in the world would she make it harder on herself like that? I think I understand. When I'm writing a story, sometimes the characters do things that are completely unexpected, or react badly to something I give them, or refuse to cooperate. People might say to me, "That's ridiculous. YOU'RE the writer, aren't you? Make them do what you want!" And I just have to tell you, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Comparing choreography to writing has made me both appreciate and understand what Lauren does even more than before. It's so exciting to me when I can draw parallels like that that help me understand something else.

Isn't it cool how everything is connected?



  1. I love this. I'm no dancer, or writer. But I'm a singer. I can remember the lyrics to countless songs, even though I may not have heard them in years, and I didn't write them.
    I think it's just how we're made..
    A lovely thought.

    Love always,
    Alana <3

  2. Wow! This is absolutely beautiful! I never thought about this comparison, but it's amazing! I was thinking through most of the post that your dance teacher must be some sort of prodigy, haha, but when you connected it to writing like that it clicked! I have dozens of mental stories, and even more stories that I've got on paper or on the computer, and I could probably name every single one of them and give a full summary. This is just awesome :D

    ~Sonja Renae

  3. Alana: That's very cool! For some reason, it is always easier to remember lyrics than just regular words. It's so great how we all have such different strengths :)

    Sonja: Haha, same XD But when I thought of the writer-choreographer parallel, it became less creepily incredible XD