With your classmates, brainstorm lists of locomotor (traveling) and nonlocomotor (nontraveling) movements. On your own, choose movements from both of these lists and add shapes (angular, straight, curving, twisted, symmetrical, asymmetrical), elevation steps (jump, hop, leap, assemblé, sissonne), and falls to make a dance phrase. Videotape your dance phrase.
shape • elevation • fall • facing • formation • symmetrical • asymmetrical • weight sharing • unison • focal point • tempo
Dance-making, or choreographic, elements can be divided into three categories. Certain elements can be used to organize the dancers. Others can be used to manipulate movement, and certain elements can be used to guide the audience’s attention. These tools give a dance a design and add interest and variety to the movement.
Dancers can be organized in various ways. The number of people dancing at one time can change the looks of a dance phrase. A dance (or section of a dance) can be a solo, duet, trio, quartet, quintet, and so on, or an ensemble. Just by changing the facings, or the stage directions (downstage, upstage, stage right, stage left, diagonal) to which the dancers perform their movement, a choreographer can make even the simplest phrase more interesting. Formations, or groupings (where the dancers stand in relationship to other dancers), can be either symmetrical (even on both sides) or asymmetrical (uneven). Four dancers could be placed in a square formation with two dancers on each side of center stage (symmetrical) or with three dancers separate from the fourth (asymmetrical). These two formations already bring to mind very different scenarios. Partnering and weight sharing (guiding and giving and taking weight from another dancer) can be used to organize dancers into various relationships in a dance.
Movement can be developed and changed through various methods. All dancers could dance in unison, doing the same movement at the same time. A gesture, movement, or dance phrase could either take on significance or lose meaning by use of repetition. Using different types (varieties) of movements or steps keeps the dance from becoming monotonous. Both literal (real-life) movements and abstract (movement that differs from but is still loosely based on the literal movement) can be used within a dance. Abstract movement is actually symbolic of the real-life movement. You can alter certain movements just by changing the level (high, middle, low) at which they are performed. Simply by changing the size (small or large) of a movement, you can maintain the audience’s interest and even change the movement’s meaning. Changes in tempo, or speed, can vary the look and intent of a movement. Floor patterns, and air patterns, or imaginary patterns left behind a dancer’s movements, can guide other dancers’ movements in the space.
The choreographer is responsible for guiding the audience’s attention during the performance. Two tools for this job are focal point (where the audience looks) and silence (stillness). If an ensemble of dancers is slowly moving around a solo dancer who is performing a percussive, fast-paced movement, at whom will the audience look? The solo dancer is the focal point. Likewise, silence can draw an audience’s attention if contrasted with movement (McGreevy-Nichols et al. 2001).