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The Intimate Act Of Choreography

The Intimate Act Of Choreography

Lynne Anne Blom
L. Tarin Chaplin
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Intimate Act Of Choreography
    Book Description:

    A comprehensive book that covers all aspects of choreography from the most fundamental techniques to highly sophisticated artistic concerns.The Intimate Act of Choreographypresents the what and how of choreography in a workable format that begins with basics- - time, space, force -- and moves on to the more complex issues faced by the intermediate and advanced choreographer -- form, style, abstraction, compositional structures, and choreographic devices.

    The format of the book evolved from the idea that improvisation is a good way to learn choreography. This approach is in harmony with widely accepted dance philosophies that value the unique quality of each individual's creativity. After discussing a concept, the authors provide improvisations, and choreographic studies that give the student a physical experience of that concept. The language is stimulating an innovative, rich in visual images that will challenge the choreographer to explore new directions in movement.

    The book is for serious dance students and professionals who are interested in both the practical and theoretical aspects of the art, dancers who are just starting to choreograph, and teachers who are seeking fresh ideas and new approaches to use with young choreographers. (A Teacher's Addendum offers suggestions on how to use the material in the classroom.) It is a guide, a text, and an extensive resource of every choreographic concept central to the art form.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7131-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Alma M. Hawkins

    An unprecedented interest in dance has swept across the country during the past decade. This development has been visible in the theaters where attendance has grown substantially. The same excitement has been apparent in colleges and universities where dance has become a major focus for many students.

    Paralleling this development in dance, there has been a general and growing interest in creativity—its nature and development. Psychologists and others concerned with human development have been persistent in their search for better understanding of the creative process.

    Today we find that many teachers of dance are searching for a fuller understanding...

  2. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Lynne Anne Blom and L. Tarin Chaplin
  3. 1 Approach
    (pp. 3-7)

    Many people have beautiful, creative ideas for dances, but few of these are ever realized as choreographic entities. One of the main reasons for this is that it is hard to know how to get from the idea, the flash of insight or inspiration, to the fully completed presentation.

    You do not learn to choreograph by reading about it, hearing about it, or by watching the major companies in concert. You learn by choreographing, by experimenting, by creating little bits and pieces and fragments of dances and dance phrases, by playing with the materials of the craft over and over...

  4. 2 Essentials
    (pp. 8-15)

    Let’s face it, we should know what we are trying to say with movement. Part of this responsibility lies with the dancer, but it is the choreographer who must not only choose and create the movements, but imbue them with an interpretation, an attitude, a purpose. She is the one who envisions the piece and motivates its growth.

    There is no rule that says which comes first—theme, intention, motivation, or even a specific movement phrase. Choreography “is brought into the world in a number of ways: through the senses or the mind; through the heart or the gut; into...

  5. 3 Speaking Body
    (pp. 16-22)

    What a glorious, subtle instrument choreographers have to work with. Yes, “a dancer’s instrument is her body”—but the choreographer’s added concern is, “in how many ways can this body be moved, be shaped, speak, so as to produce the desired effect?”

    Of course, the entire body with all its parts is always involved in every exercise, improv, technique, and dance. And body parts cannot be separated any more than we can separate time from the space or energy of a dancing figure. Even when there is only one tiny part of the body moving, the rest of the body...

  6. 4 Phrase
    (pp. 23-30)

    A phrase is the smallest and simplest unit of form. It is a short but complete unit in that it has a beginning, middle, and end. Every phrase, even the shortest, contains this basic structure; it starts, goes somewhere or does something, and comes to a resolution. A phrase is to a dance as a sentence is to a book. Just as a sentence is comprised of separate words, so a phrase is made up of individual movements. But a phrase is not a simple accumulation of movements strung together any more than a sentence is a list of words....

  7. 5 Space
    (pp. 31-57)

    A body exists in space . . . moves in space . . . is contained by space. A dancer’s place and design in space, the direction and level she moves in, and her attitude toward the space, all help define the image she is creating. Her focus and the way she shapes space are integral parts of the space. Space is the 3-D canvas within which the dancer creates a dynamic image. Breaking it down into component parts brings a wealth of possibilities for movement exploration.

    Space can be considered as an active participant, an abstract partner. What beginning...

  8. 6 Time
    (pp. 58-71)

    Time as flow. Time as order. It

    evaporates during involvement, pleasure;

    stagnates during worry, waiting, pain;

    teases in anticipation;

    freezes in design (sculpture and painting);

    fragments in dreams and memories. Time as an ordering force provides a matrix within which things can be coordinated, measured, and calculated. When allowed to, it can dictate and control in an arbitrary, predetermined, nonresponsive way.

    The pulse of the people is like a barometer of their feelings; the tempo of a group reflects their drive; their rhythms often reflect their style. The choreographer has all of these as his tools. The combination of them...

  9. 7 Energy
    (pp. 72-82)

    In dance, it’s the energy that provides thego power.Underneath the airborne leap, the held arabesque, the fall-roIl-suspension is the muscle flow of the dancer’s body . . . energy.

    Terminology for this, last of the three basic elements of dance, is as vague as it is widespread. In dealing with energy, people use a variety of words to refer to almost the same thing. Let’s begin then, by clarifyingourdefinitions for the purposes of this book.Energy, force, dynamics,andqualitiesare all sloppily used terms. The fact that they are used interchangeably results in a confusion...

  10. 8 Forming
    (pp. 83-123)

    Forming is as basic to art as it is to life. Form is present throughout nature, in all the forces of the universe, in all the stages of life. The laws which govern natural patterns are not arbitrary; they have a function—to keep life together—and they do so with supreme artistry, coordinating all of life and matter, from the simplest to the most complex.

    All things evolve via one of a series of forms or forming devices: cycles, progressions, stages of development. Such forming or sequencing is inherent in life, from the growth of a tree, to the...

  11. 9 Abstraction
    (pp. 124-135)

    The art of choreography is far more elusive than the craft of choreography, and it involves philosophical as well as practical aspects. Aesthetic theory and process should be no less vital a part of a choreographer’s education than the nuts and bolts. The choreographer works with a heavily symbolic art form. Since all symbols are abstractions, creating dances implicitly involves the process of abstracting. (Actually you have been abstracting in all the choreographic work you have done thus far.)

    In art, each perceiver imaginatively grasps the symbolic abstraction that the artist puts forth. The specific meaning of the art work...

  12. 10 Style
    (pp. 136-155)

    Style is the signature of an individual, group, or entire culture at a specific period in time. A movement style is a recurrent or qualitatively patterned way of moving, an identifiable manner or mode of physical expression. Movement styles are determined by many factors: historical time frames, personality, body type, cultural values. Primitive people, for example, often emphasize rhythm and time, while Wigman and Nikolais are fascinated with space, each in quite different ways and with different results.

    To help develop a knowledge and awareness of style useful for the choreographer we will consider the following six categories: (1) personal...

  13. 11 Silence, Sound, and Music
    (pp. 156-172)

    Ideally, the sound score for a dance is the sound of the movement—what the dancer-choreographer hears as she creates her dance. What would happen, then, if the choreographer was doubly blessed, having the ability to compose as well as choreograph? Such a “choreoposer” could produce a score perfectly suited to the needs of each particular dance. Unfortunately though, most of us are not so talented; yet we still must bear the responsibility, as choreographers, of choosing the appropriate accompaniment. That is why it is important to educate ourselves about the possible alternatives. Generally this means considering the three major...

  14. 12 Group Work
    (pp. 173-192)

    One of the finest pleasures in life is dancing with others—with one special person or as a part of a group. Dancing together has all the satisfactions of dancing alone plus the excitement, involvement, complexity, and contagious enthusiasm of moving with others. In it, one gives up some part of one’s individual initiative in order to submerge, merge, become part of the group.

    Group improvisation, choreography, and performance necessitate intersensitivity and physical contact. Building the trust that allows this takes time. Exercises in group sensitivity provide a warm-up for this period of familiarization. They develop trust of self in...

  15. 13 Theatrical Elements
    (pp. 193-197)

    Dance as a performing art is bigger than life. It is presentational. As such, the world of theatricality is a part of it, granting access to the use of props, costuming and make-up, lights and sets. At one extreme, this can lead to multimedia productions, using every aspect of theatricality; at the other, it results in minimally staged happenings.

    Ideally, theatrical elements are an integral part of the dance. Martha Graham refers to sets as characters, powers on the stage and not decoration. This can also be true of props. Costumes can serve another purpose—to extend the real and...

  16. 14 Performance
    (pp. 198-200)

    The dancer dances the dance . . . they are one . . . there is no separation. Thus the dance lives each time it is performed. Nuances are played with; the shading shifts; the dance deepens, grows. . . .

    The choreographer hands the dance over to the dancer, steps back, allowing her to be free within it, and in effect says, “Now it is yours—yours and the audience's-make of it what you will as a performing artist.ְ The choreographer realizes that the magic interaction between performer and audience, the subtle play between dancer and spectator, is an...

  17. 15 Tangents
    (pp. 201-206)

    The illusions about the realities of dance soon fade as the realities about the illusions become clear.

    The art of dance is spoken through not with the body.


    The obvious often goes unseen because it is obvious; but the subtle, the aside, the throw away, catches the attention, lingers, haunts, tickles.

    Jumping is to soaring as improvisation is to choreography.

    Dance is a prime example of the Taoist principle: “Each thing contains its opposite.” For dance is an illusion....

  18. Teacher’s Addendum: The Delicate Art of Teaching Choreography
    (pp. 209-216)

    And a delicate art it is—but for all the delicacy there are the practical aspects as well. Besides carefully considering what to teach (content), and how to teach it (method, approach), you need to be sure that the ideas, structures, and themes you use are specifically geared to the point you’re trying to get across, that the examples you choose are truly illustrative, and that the experiences you provide are particularly capable of being effective and successful. (If you haven’t already done so, read the Preface, Terminology, and chapter 1 which contain some pertinent information regarding the theory and...

  19. Appendix: List of Improvisations and Choreographic Studies
    (pp. 217-220)