When You are Juggling Choreography Assignments

What do you do when you are asked to choreograph but feel your plate is already full?

Is it okay to reuse choreography from a dance?

How do you take a solo dance and turn it into a group dance?

This year, while I have been far more silent on my blog than I would like, I’ve had the joy of being very active in choreographing and dancing, in teaching live classes,  leading an online study group, and choreographing for another church.

If I someone had presented me with all the assignments at once and asked me if I could take them on this year, I likely would have declined a couple of them.

However, with each opportunity that came my way, I felt the inner “yes” and went ahead, and for each assignment, I have been given what I need to complete it. More than that, I have experienced a synergy between the assignments that has been a joy and a delight.

So, I want to share my stories with you so and give you some tips that will enable you to, under the Lord’s leading, complete more than you think is possible. I also hope it will help you see how the Lord is constantly at work, weaving together the details of our lives into His larger tapestry.

I’ve been teaching a beginner modern dance class to teens this year. I absolutely love it. I was scared to teach it, because previously, I had not taught a technique class. I’d taught expressive movement and worship and left the technique to others. (By the way, Lynn Hayden’s Modern Dance I and Modern Dance II DVDs have been an indispensable tool in improving my own technique and also developing a structure for my class.)

The Lord really gave me the dance we ended up sharing at our winter performance with very little extra effort on my part. The choreography process was unlike all my other choreography processes. I had several assignments for my Dancing for Him Level 3 school that involved choreographing two counts of eight of music. I had fun teaching these to my students. Then I simply strung them together, and it became this dance. I didn’t even initially choreograph it for this song. I choreographed the counts and they ended up fitting really nicely with this song.

I look at the dance and marvel that He made it so easy, and I think the dance was beautiful and thoroughly worshipful. Girls with no previous dance experience and those with many  years of experience loved dancing it. Their parents were deeply blessed, as was our community and the nursing home where we shared it.

But for our spring offering, I had nothing for the first half of the semester. We played with one song, but I simply did not have a leading. Until Palm Sunday.

On Palm Sunday, I ministered a solo dance to our congregation and a sister congregation. The choreography process was actually arduous for me, filled with uncertainty and struggle. I had to keep going back to the Lord and asking, “Am I supposed to do this? What do I do next?” But in the end, He gave me a dance that ministered. When I finished it, I knew that I had my dance for my modern dance students. I could see how this solo could be bigger, more moving, and more powerful with a group. So, we are working that our right now. I look forward to sharing it with you.  Here is the solo.

For now, though, I want to share a few tips on turning a solo into a group dance:

For the introduction: Use floor patterns of movement. Where the solo dancer may just dance down the aisles, see the group coming in from different corners and moving in a circle.

For the body: Use cannon in movement. Where the solo dancer might walk for eight counts, have one dancer begin the sequence, and a couple more dancers enter every two counts.

At key moments in the dance: Don’t underestimate the power of unison movement. When your movements are simple, having everyone do the same thing at once for a sequence is very powerful.

For expressive movements: Try group shapes instead of gesturing a movement individually. Consider how the dancers as a group can embody that movement. (There is a part in the dance above when I go back to gesture to the cross. In the group dance, two dancers will form a cross with their bodies. The others will dance facing that cross.)

Turning a solo dance into a group dance is a delightful challenge. Where the dancer may be able to execute more complex choreography herself, the group together, each doing simple movements, create a sequence that is even more visually interesting.

A fantastic resource to give you more ideas is Lynn Hayden’s Creative Worship DVD. You will go away with so many ideas you’ll be looking for a dance to choreograph.

I have so much more to share on this topic, how I used the chorus of the dance I choreographed for one church in my kids praise dance class, how I’ve used so much that  I learned from leading a prophetic veils study group in both my modern dance and kids praise dance classes, and how the Lord really does know how our assignments fit together.

But I’m going to close this long article here. I would love to hear from you. Please share in the comments:

Can you share an example where the synergy between your assignments allowed you to participate in more than you would have thought possible?

Do you re-use choreography? If so, how do you make sure you are still bringing something fresh from the Lord?

 

 

 

Pasadena Choreography Workshop Recap

Adding depth and interest to your choreography is simple, but it is not easy. I think each participant at last Saturday’s choreography workshop with Marlita Hill in Pasadena would echo that sentiment.

Going into the workshop, Marlita assured that we would learn how to turn simple movements into creative phrases that fill the space, song, and stage and communicate God’s heart. She also said we would learn how to communicate our choreography to others so that they can easily and effectively follow. We did both of those things.

Marlita walked us through a series of exercises that taught a slice of Laban’s Analysis of Movement in a way that was simpler than anything else I’ve heard before. It made complex choreography teaching accessible. But it was not easy.

We worked hard. Each exercise called us to work harder, dig deeper, and stretch further. The results were very satisfying. Each of us walked away having choreographed a short dance that told a story about who we are.

In addition, one of us had the opportunity to teach her dance to the rest of us. Marlita coached her on how to teach  dancers to turn (Who among us hasn’t asked our students to turn, and then stepped back and watched the turns go in varying directions, losing our unity at that point?), travel, and replicate timing in a way that preserved the integrity of the dance and the team unity.

So, thank you to those who prayed for this workshop. We felt your prayers and they were effective. And thank you to each woman who participated, who took risks, dug deeper, and shared their movements with us.

Watch this 3-minute video recap. Just watching this short clip, you’ll get ideas for how to take your own simple movements and add depth, interest, and power.

 

Create a Powerful Group Dance from a Simple Solo

Group shapes from the Melt My Heart DVD. Click image for more information.
Group shapes from the Melt My Heart DVD.

The Expressive Worship and Dance DVD presents and teaches a beautiful group dance that can be used for ministry and for personal devotion. You can take this dance and use it exactly as it is to create a ministry piece. Or you can take and adapt parts of it to fit your context. You can even use it as a solo or simply dance it in your own devotions, an invitation to the Lord to soften your heart and form His heart in you.

Not only do you learn a complete dance from this DVD, you get many ideas for how to take your own choreography and adapt it for a group, making it full of variety so you can minister.

Pastor Lynn shows how she takes a motif, which is illustrated in the chorus of the song and shown in the solo choreography, and creates many variations on this. In doing so, she creates a group dance that contains powerful variety. By adding group shapes, unison movement, by varying stage position and group formations, and by using cannon in the choreography, the original movements are adapted to add interest and impact to the dance. Here, I teach the solo part to the chorus: Continue reading “Create a Powerful Group Dance from a Simple Solo”

Choreographing a Dance on Short Notice

Planning a praise dance with little noticeDo you ever get a worship song just days before you need to dance to it?

Would your worship leader like you to dance more often in praise and worship than you feel your team can prepare for?

Do your team members need a chance to spread their wings and lead?

If so, you will love learning how to use what Lynn Hayden calls “planned spontaneity” to choreograph a powerful and unique dance in a very short time.

In the video that follows, I explain how I planned out a worship dance for a team of five or more dancers – planning out the props, colors, formations, and basic flow – that, with leadership from different team members, they could implement with just these simple instructions.  Continue reading “Choreographing a Dance on Short Notice”

Add Variety, Creativity and Unity to Your Choreography

Click image for more information on DVD
Click image for more information on DVD

I’m excited to share a resource for worship dancers that I love and I think you will.

The activities on this DVD will:

• enhance your team unity

• help build leadership skills

• add variety and interest to group movement, and

• stimulate your creativity and the creativity of those on your team.

In the Creative Worship DVD, Lynn Hayden explains and demonstrates a multitude of activities that can be used in praise and worship dance with groups to add variety with spontaneity. Below is a tutorial of one of my many favorite activities from the DVD: Continue reading “Add Variety, Creativity and Unity to Your Choreography”

My Seven Favorite Choreography Tips

Choreography TipsI’ve been studying choreography as part of the Dancing for Him course this past month and have compiled my ten favorite choreography tips and how I used them in the most recent dance I choreographed:

1. Begin with prayer. The Lord knows the moves that will minister to others. All creativity comes from Him. Pray about which song to use. Once you have chosen a song, spend time praying through the lyrics, asking the Lord to give you a picture of what He wants this dance to look like.

2. Keep your dance to 3 to 4 minutes, especially if it’s a solo. Unless you are very experienced and/or have a large group of dancers, it’s difficult to keep enough variety to hold the audiences interest longer than this. Continue reading “My Seven Favorite Choreography Tips”