2012 Song Selections

Now that the competitions and recitals are over, I’d thought I’d share my list of songs I used this past year for choreography. (Here is 2011 in case you’re curious)

All links open in iTunes, unless otherwise noted



My magic hat!
Faces obscured for privacy



What was your favorite song that you danced to this year?

Quick Choreographic Inspiration

Have choreographer’s block?  Try some of the following choreographic devices to jump-start your creative mind:

Repetition – repeat a sequence of choreography you have, but with a change – new port de bras, new formation, new facing or pattern, different timing, new levels

Retrograde – Perform a sequence in the reverse order.  Or retrograde the arms, movement pattern or timing.

Peel/Canon/Contagious – A canon in dance is when the same step is repeated by each dancer, one after each other, started at regular intervals. Perform yours side to side, front to back, one at a time, or go out of order.  Or build – start with one dancer, add two, add four, etc.

Manipulate Timing – Take a sequence and repeat it, but with different timing.  For a controlled-chaos contemporary look in a group piece, have the dancers perform the same sequence, but each with their own timing, some frantically moving at double time, others slowly moving through the steps. 

Cross-art Inspiration – look at pieces of art, read a poem, listen to a different song.  Find something about that piece of art that inspires you and create a movement sequence from that.  Turn on another piece of music and choreograph a sequence.  Return to your original music and manipulate the new sequence with that music.

Non-Art Inspiration – similar to art-inspiration, analyze your choreography – are the movements natural?  Then look at pictures or videos of nature, watch animals move, observe snow falling.  Create a movement pattern from this.  Is your choreography stiff and mechanical – look to machines for inspiration.  Look at the world around you for things that move and imitate them with your body.

Group Work – let your dancers help in the creative process.  If you are teaching children, they love to participate and make a dance “their own”.  Give specific instructions and allow them to improv to the music.  “Movements that are low to the ground and stay in one place” or “quick, sharp movements” are examples of structured improv directions.  If possible, record their improv so you can play it back and isolate movements you like.

If all else fails, walk away, do something else and then return to your choreography. Sometimes a block is really a block and you will ultimately be frustrated if you try to force out choreography.

Happy choreographing!

Need to Solve a Problem? Take a Shower!

In a world of constant connection and interruption, the best place for your creative juices to flow may be the shower!

Last week I realized that I kept discovering solutions to problems while taking a shower. In mid-shampoo, I realized that if I set-up registration in a certain way, it would eliminate hours of work for my office manager. The next day, I choreographed a brilliant combination for my tap class. The next – I got lost in imagining new lifts for my dancers to try.

Why were these moments of brilliance isolated to the shower?

Because I was “disconnected”.

No ringing phones, no email notifications or text messages. I was on my own, free to let my mind wander without consequence.

This is apparently not isolated to me – Ismene Brown writes an article about a ballet conceived in a bathtub (theartsdesk.com), Steve Palina discusses his process for exploring creativity, and Wikipedia defines this state of mind.

The ten or fifteen minutes of creative energy I experienced is often referred to as “creative flow”. It is that period where ideas are free-flowing and you are so involved in the task at hand that you can tune out the world. Choreographers or dance teachers, this may sound familiar: have you ever been driving while a song comes on and you don’t just hear the song, you SEE the choreography. Your mind is in its creative flow.

So, the next time you need to solve a problem, create some choreography or find inspiration – “unplug” from the world. Go for a walk (WITHOUT the ipod or phone!), take a long bath or just sit in your favorite room with the TV off. Find your flow.

The next problem – remembering your ideas once you get out of the shower!

Dance News – Gender & Dance Edition

While females make up about 85% of the dancing population (amateur or otherwise), there are only four female directors of large ballet companies in the United States (large meaning their budget is over $2.5 million). Here are a few articles that touch on this subject that we think are worth a read:

Where Are the Women Ballet Leaders? | Dance USA

Finally, Women Choreographers | Dance Magazine

Where Are the Female Choreographers? | Dancer Universe

Gender In Dance | Bourgeon

For more dance news – search our archives.

Choreographer’s Roots: Napoleon & Tabitha D’umo

In our Choreographer’s Roots feature, we take a quick look back at where they started to help understand where they are today. We’ve been on a SYTYCD kick lately, so today we’ll look at Napoleon and Tabitha, or “NappyTabs” as they are affectionately known.
See other Choreographer’s Roots posts here

The husband and wife team are often credited with developing the style of hip hop dance known as “lyrical hip hop”, but they started with humble beginnings until their paths met!

> Grew up in California where he learned breaking, locking & popping
> Joined the military and was stationed in Germany for a while
> Attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, studying dance (including jazz & modern) and molecular biology!

> Grew up in New Jersey
> Took jazz classes and was a cheerleader, but loved watching hip hop videos
> Attended the University of Nevada for communications, where she met Napoleon

> Began teaching hip hop classes together at the Las Vegas Athletic club
> Joined the dance company “Culture Shock” (future members of Jabbawockeez) and danced, choreographed and eventually became Artistic Directors
> Married in 1998 and moved to Los Angeles and started teaching at The Edge Performing Arts Center (where they still teach today!)
> Worked as back-up dancers for Beyonce, Missy Elliot, Toni Braxton, Timbaland and more
> Choreographed for NBA and NFL dance & cheer teams
> Joined Monsters of Hip Hop and teach master classes
> Assistant Directed Christina Aguelera’s and Ricky Martin’s tours
> Tabitha created a fitness DVD “Drop it with Dance”
> They have been supervising choreographers for ABDC and have choreographed for SYTYCD, where their choreography “Bleeding Love” was nominated for an Emmy

Now they have started their own clothing line (NappyTabs) for hip hop dancers, started working with Circque du Soleil, and Dancing with the Stars and continue to expand their brand.

Sources: Dance Plug, Wikipedia, Twitter,