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.