Choreographer Corner: Tapping Into the Hidden Talent in Your Studio Can Rejuvenate Your Creativity
Updated: Apr 25, 2019
If you are a dance studio owner, teacher or choreographer then this post is for you!
Do you ever find yourself blocked creatively?
Do you sometimes find yourself in the middle of teaching a piece but have no idea what your next 8-count is going to be?
Do you worry that you’re creatively tapped out and now all of your recital routines look the same?
If you can answer “Yes!” to any of the following questions, then keep reading.
There is one small thing that you can do to help you get through/over/ around that rut you find yourself in, and that is to simply tap into the talent of your dancers.
You may very well have a choreographer in the making right there in your orbit. And I’m not just talking about the teachers you may have working for you. There are many great teachers who are not choreographers. I’m talking about your dancers!
Not only the obvious “Superstars” that jump to the front line of your classes. Look to those Dark Horses that hang out in the back of your class. The shy ones who absorb everything you are teaching, and then go home and practice on their own, and create dance routines in their bedroom, basement, or kitchen (Kitchens are made for dancing. Fight me.), dreaming of the day when they can bring their creation to life.
They can be your saving grace. Collaborate with them. Bring them into your piece and your creative process. Do not let your ego get in the way of the possibility of turning the tide and unblocking your creativity.
From a very young age I was creating. I was not aware of where it would lead, but I just knew I had a deep-seeded need to get everything in my head, out. I was always creating dances to show my friends and family. Performing them in my driveway, or in living rooms or basements. My sisters and I would create dances to perform at Filipino American Association events. Ohhhh, you should’ve seen those costumes!
I remember one night after dance class when I was maybe eleven years old. I wanted to show my dance teacher a lyrical piece I had choreographed. I was nervous, and terribly shy, but SO excited to show her! I don’t what I was hoping to accomplish, except that maybe she would see me and encourage me to keep going. Maybe give me some advice. What actually happened broke my heart.
She completely blew me off.
She allowed me to show her, but didn’t actually watch what I was doing. She began tidying up the studio, putting things away. When I finished dancing the piece, without even looking at me she said, “Okay, hun. I’ll see you next week.”
I was CRUSHED. I didn’t do it again. I went back to being the dancer in the back who went home after class and created in the privacy of my bedroom and kept that part of me away from the dance studio. How crazy is that?!
I implore you to please not be that teacher.
It is vital for the art of dance that we, as teachers, encourage dancers who show an interest in choreographing. Build them up! Allow them to contribute. Talk to your students. Create an improv class, or incorporate improv into an existing class. Then, observe your students. Truly observe them. Create a safe space for them to express their individuality. Listen to them when they suggest a movement or step. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that even the most shy of dancers have a natural ability to create. Help them harness that power.
I encourage it in class. I welcome it! There have been many times when I will be working a piece with my dancers and one of them will pipe and say, “Ms. Ann Marie, what if we did this?” Or, “OH! I have an idea!”
Nothing makes me happier than being able to say, “Yes! Let me see it!” Or, “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
At the very least, listen to their ideas. You may have just found the answer to what you were struggling with. And you never know, you may have the future Mia Michaels in your midst!
“What is not shared, is lost.”