BREAK A LEG NETWORK proposed a question to a choreographer on the rise.
Q: How do you prepare to choreograph a show and what can your dancers and actors do to prepare for a season?
A: “The two key rules for my-self when going in to choreograph a show are always preparation and organization. I like to go in prepared with a full structure and strong foundation for myself to work off of. For me it all starts with what’s given to you: the script and the score. Through examining the script and score I can get a clear sense of the story, the style, the history of the show, and concept. As a choreographer, if I’m working on a show that’s been done before I’ll then also give a listen to the music. For me listening to the orchestrations fills me in on the style of music and mood. Much of the time the music will tell me what to do.
Choreographing is more than just figuring up some steps and putting it to music. You want the dancing to evolve out of the story, out of the scene, and out of the song. You want everyone to have reasons to dance, to have a need to dance. I’ll spend lots of time doing research on the time period that the particular show is based in as a reference and to learn the dance vocabulary for that time period. I go through all of this and much more before even laying down choreography.
The reason preparation and organization is so important is because most of the time I meet most of my dancers for the first time on the first day of rehearsal. Only 25% of the shows I’ve choreographed I have personally been able to cast myself. The other 75% are cast without me through mass auditions held by the producers.
I come fully prepared with my dance bible which holds all the choreography, charts, and notes for the production on day one. Immediately once rehearsals start I learn plenty about the dancers, about their personalities, their style, their dance background, etc. This is all an advantage for me because I then can truly build the show off of them and tweak what I had in mind. I like the choreography to come naturally to the performer and come out of them. I always end up re-shaping dances which is the beauty of true collaboration between artists. But when you have literally 8-10 days to put a full major dance musical, I definitely don’t want to show up empty-handed.
Dancers who have worked with me or know me know that I work very hard, fast, and expect the best. Many know to come prepared and ready to go on the first day. I’m known for pushing my dancers to their maximum capacity to give everything they have and pushing them to be the best they can be whether they’ve just started dancing or they’ve been dancing all their life. In the end they know that we’re not going to settle for just anything. The journey may be frustrating or hard at times but they know that they have my complete support & trust and will get them to that opening night.”
-Taavon Gamble: www.taavongamble.com –