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 Post subject: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2000 5:30 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 13071
Location: San Diego, California, USA
All of us who teach dance at one time or another choreograph and cast our students in a recital or show of some kind. <P>How do you do this?<P>What criteria do you use to choreograph? <P>How do you handle the inevitable problems of casting?<P>What are your goals? <P>------------------<BR>Approach life as a dancer approaches the barre, with grace and purpose.


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2000 11:59 pm 
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Joined: Tue Sep 05, 2000 11:01 pm
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
I have just completed my first show with my own dance school (although not the first show i have ever directed or choreographed). With the dance show I try and make everyone's part equal dependant on their age, ability and how many classes they take each week - obviously those who do more classes can learn more routines.<P>If I am giving solo spots in a routine then everyone in that routine gets a solo spot according to their ability. I think choreographing to the ability of your students is the most important thing - obviously you want to challenge them but you have to be realistic - you may have a great move but if your class can't do it then don't bother - if in doubt, leave it out.<P>My situation for the dance show was quite easy (did i really say that!) - I chose different themes for each section, chose the music myself and gave each class a dance - therefore I made up the show without specific characters. If you are choosing a cast the I would first and formeost choose the person who I felt was most right for the part both ability wise and in their interpretation - that will not mean that the other candidates are no good just maybe not as right as the person chosen.<P>If their was nothing to choose between 2 or 3 candidates than I would probably look at things like loyalty to my school or group, attendance etc - but that would only be if it was two close to call.


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2000 4:54 am 
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Location: BC , Canada
I think perhaps my situation may be easier because of the kind of show I do. <P> I have done a full production for the last three years ( this year we are doing Peter Pan.) In selecting leads I make it easy on every one. Leads go to the older students and/or some younger who have been dancing longer. The reasoning behind this choice is; they have seniority ( can you tell I live in a Union town LOL). In this way as the students grow up in the studio they will each in turn have a chance at the lead (s). The only exceptance to this rule is when I have a special case. IE: I have two students (twins) new to the studio last year who have been diagnosed with scoliosis. They still do thier classes yet I have to make some changes in work for them ( some movement is limited due to thier physical problems) So rather than try to choreograph an entire group around the physical limitations of two students I have them doing small parts. One is Mrs Darling & the other is the Older Wendy. Both important parts that need casting and I can tailor the choreography to them. <P>On this line of thought (Choreography) I do not use class time.. with the exception of the last six weeks if classes - these I use to prepare for our Year End Production- to set choreography on students.... Any thing done before this, students must come in on their own time to work ( this applies mostly to festival work). I highly dislike the use of technique classes to make and practice dances. How do others work this out.

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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2000 6:59 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I, too, hate to use technique class time for rehearsal, but there have been times I have had to do it due to time constraints of the parents. <P>One of the things I see that bothers me the most when I see some school productions is when the teacher choreographs beyond the capabilities of the students and both they and the production end up looking very foolish. So, I agree very much with Joanne when she mentioned this. I think that the production should cause the students to "reach" for another level - but that level should also be attainable. The production should showcase their accomplishments.<P>Another problem I have is with productions that are about one hour too long. I would rather something be a bit short - than too long. One of the nicest compliments I ever had, I think, was when someone said my dance should have been longer.<P>I did have problems with casting. Both Joanne and Rabbit mentioned casting solos. I found that when I had a student do a solo which occurred in the midst of a group dance, I ran the risk of the student not being there - either because of a family problem, or illness, etc. and then there was this empty space!! So I learned, very quickly if I was casting a solo in the midst of a group dance, to make it a duo. That way at least someone was dancing. This becomes a real problem if you are casting character parts - then you really do need a solo person for the part. <P>As for choosing who would dance a particular solo/duo/role - I had them audition for it. If time permitted everyone would learn the part and then they would audition. <P>In corps de ballet numbers I let it be known that the students standing at the back were every bit as important as those in the front. They were responsible for keeping the lines straight - and as they moved in different directions - the back people became the leaders. The children just loved that idea - and took it very seriously - actually wanting to stand in the back so they could "lead". Saved a ton of hurt feelings. <P>How do you handle this?


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2000 11:30 am 
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Mom2 - it would be great to have your input to this too - as a parent how do you handle casting joices with your daughters? <P> How do you explain it to them when perhaps they don't get the role or part they thought they should have? <P>What does it all look like from your vantage point?


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2000 12:39 pm 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
I too have had to use class time to rehearse for our show - it is bad anoung getting students to turn up for their regular classes let alone extra rehearsals - the show wouldn't have happened if I hadn't done it this way.<P>However we still spent half the lesson normally on technique and the other rehearsing our dances. The children have now come back to technique and exam work refreshed and in some cases a lot better than before we started rehearsing the show work. It may help that while rehearsing the show routines I kept on nagging about any poor technique shown - it wasn't a case of just teaching them the routines and not worrying about technique - the routines would not work unless the students had the fundamentals of technique behind them.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2000 4:46 pm 
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Location: Australia
what a lot of good comments already! i agree with these thoughts especially:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>"choreographing to the ability of your students is the most important thing" &<P>" "reach" for another level - but that level should also be attainable." <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>re rehearsals: i agree, joanne, that students in my experience have very busy lives, and cannot (or will not) add to their schedule. actually the kids would, but the parents won't or can't. this means that the class time MUST become the rehearsal time. there is no other way. no matter how much the teacher may hate it and wish it were different!<P>another issue this raises is: do they pay for rehearsals? i heard yesterday that one school here adds an extra class near concert time for rehearsals, which they do not charge for....(i find it a bit hard to believe, but that's what i heard...). one reason being so that the normal class may continue as normal, and include those kids who aren't in the recital - by choice.<P>my experience is representative of dance schools here - that the final term is given over entirely to concert work, with techniqueinevitably suffering, that is followed by the summer break. then you start fresh in february, by whichtime kids have effectively had 4 months without any technique work!!!!! awful but true, and there's really no way round it, as it's what parents expect.<P>however, i think i have just decided not to do a show at christmas anymore - parents are too stressed out by the rest of their lives. maybe i'll try for october, thus sacrificing the 3rd term (instead of the 4th), as soon as exams are done (usually end of 2nd term/beginning of 3rd term), and then use 4th term for 'open' classes (non-syllabus) working on technique areas highlighted as needy, from the syllabus work earlier in the year.<P>re casting - it would not be acceptable here to audition kids for roles - too many hurt feelings, even with the older ones. parents would not accept this. we tend toward the 'give every kid an equal amount' philosophy, with maybe one extra little opportunity for a very talented individual to shine.<P>i often get the 'that dance should have been longer' comment - as i am a firm believer in 'leave em wanting more'. many of the professional theatre dance pieces i watch drag themselves down by going on too long (for me). of course, with parents they are also letting you know that they wanted to see more of their child in that number, but any teacher knows that getting them to look halfway decent for even 2 minutes is enough of a challenge!

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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2000 5:55 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Some studios here handle the payment for rehearsal and use of the theater in a number of different ways. Some charge one fee which covers the use of the theater and some rehearsal time. <P>Some make it up in ticket prices. Either way the studio has to charge - it can't absorb these costs.<BR> <BR>As a teacher I always got paid for rehearsal and theater time.<BR> <BR>I still am interested in how you handle giving out roles - <P>


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2000 1:50 am 
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Location: Australia
it is usual practice here for each class to do a dance choreographed for them by their teacher. if a child attends ballet, tap and hip-hop, for example, they will be in 3 routines. that's ths usual school concert approach. within those dances there aren't usually any starring roles.<P>it is common for one theme to be chosen - let's say, a day at the beach, or a flower garden, etc and each class will add a bit to the jigsaw of that theme.<P>schools with a more serious-minded or vocational-training approach, may present more like a divertissments program, wherein each individual or group, presents whatever they have been working on which has reached an acceptable performance standard. an effort would be made though, not to let it appear that one person was hogging the show - no matter how good.<P>it is rare for any school here to attempt a ballet like nutcracker, but if/when they do - and there are, unusually, two this year in my city - there is usually very little scope for casting - in the sense that there is usually only really one person who can adequately fulfill each major role - & you're lucky to have enough of suitable abilities to even do that. usually you would also only have one performance of such an expensive venture, so there can only be one cast (and one understudy for safety).

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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2000 6:58 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
It is here also, Grace, as you describe it - usually one dance per class. However, sometimes within that dance there will be opportunities for individual performances (but I personally never made that a solo - always a duo, since illness or injury could intervene).<P>How do you determine who stands in the front of the corps? Do you do it by size? ability? effort? <P>Usually, a studio here will try to put on more than one performance - like a matinee and an evening - or even two evenings. Parents like to get some use out of that expensive costume!! So, often the children (and adults too - let's not forget them) would be taken to other venues to dance.<P>These might include a fair, street shows, malls, hosptials and nursing homes, senior centers, public schools, etc. It also gives them lots of experience in dancing under different conditions.<P>Some of those warrent a thread unto itself!!<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2000 12:27 pm 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
I agree toatlly with the concepts of solos in the middle of routines - last Sunday I had at least half a dozen children not take part in the show due to illness, 3 who forgot to turn up for one performance!?! and 1 who got back late from a weekend away!?! When parents are so inconsiderate as to the needs of everyone taking part in a performance it is very difficult to cast any solo work. Illness you cannot help selfishness and stupidity you would hope that you can.


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2000 2:20 pm 
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Location: Australia
ah, joanne! Image<P>that IS the teacher's lot, isn't it? wonder why this sort of thing is so common?<P>anyway, basheva - what a great idea - the 'other venues' one - have to remember that! Image

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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2000 7:40 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
When I spoke of "auditioning" for a part in the recital (particularly in duo parts) I wasn't particularly clear in my post. I didn't mean a formal type of audition - but I used to tell the students that every class is in fact an audition. Of course, I am not speaking here of very young children - but really of teenagers. <P>How one does in class, how one learns the dance, how one works - will all affect the possibility of getting to do a duo - within the group dance. I don't remember ever being explicit - but it was implicit. I was not explicit because I wanted them to know that being part of the group was also a very important thing. That dancing with many others is difficult and worthy of effort and reward. <P>But, I would like to ask again - how do the rest of you chose and place your students in a group dance? By size? By effort? Alphbetically?


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2000 1:51 pm 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
I try and place evryone at the front in a group dance at least once if possible. However there are always students who find it impossible to remember the routine if they have no one to follow but you do not want to destroy their confidence by having them at the back always.<P>What Basheva, I think it was, said earlier about the back line being important as they keep the lines straight etc I think is very important for encouraging your back line - i alos told my groups that although they maybe at the back I have positioned such that they can be seen as long as they keep to their positionings and patterns. I told them that for everyone to be at the front all the time would mean that all the routines would have to be set in straight lines - not very exciting for the audience to watch so that is why sometimes they are at the back. This they seemed to latch onto and understand. I think it is important to give every child their share of the limelight but you do have to consider ability and personality - some children will thrive at being up front others it will scare the life out of.


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 Post subject: Re: Choreographing for Your Students
PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2000 2:15 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I have a problem with the taller children always being at the back - either in class or on the stage. I try to remedy that by putting them in the front - but on the sides.<P>In the class work - I have them alternate quite a bit - back lines coming front - that way everyone gets a chance at the front. Not only is it good for the self esteem, but in class it is also a good learning experience - since the front people have no one to follow.<P>And, you are right, Joanne, there are some - both children and adults who prefer not to be in the front on stage. Some dancers prefer being in th corps de ballet - rather than soloists.


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