7 Tips for


Movement Vocabulary

& Intention 

1.) Choreographic Devices: Ways of Recycling Old Movement into New Movement.
2.) Creating Choreography from
These 12 Composition Exercises

3.) Expressed Intention: We Make Choreography & Media Work to be Experienced by Others.

Our work needs to draw people in and take them on a journey. It must intrigue, fascinate, entertain, inspire, challenge, provoke, and/or move. Above all, it must communicate. What it communicates is your vision. You might want to tell a particular story or present the life of a character or group of characters. You might want to create a certain mood or quality. You might want to break new ground in terms of the art form. It is possible, in fact, that you might want to do all of the above and more.


When you start to make a new piece of work, you may not know exactly what the finish work will look or sound like, or how how long it will be, or its shape or structure. But, what is vital is that you are clear of your intention.


Your intention is the core idea of your work, the concept that holds everything together. Being clear in your intention will help you to maximize the options and negotiate the obsticles that confront you as you make you work. It will help you to decide what is right and what is wrong for your video dance.


However, the wonderful thing about making art is that, no matter how clear your intention or specific your ideas, once the work goes out into the world, you cannot control how it is understood by those who experience it. The viewer’s own life experiences will determine what he/she takes from the work.


Your role as an artist is to offer up something that merits the attention of others and which, to the best of your ability, does so with originality, honesty, and clarity.


“You go into the world and try to realize and idea. You struggle with it, your wrestle with it, you try things –it works, or it doesn’t work. You try again. That’s what I think everyone’s work should be about.” Elliot Caplan, director.


4.) Different Starting Points 

Every dance video needs to have an idea to start off. It might be a story or a dramatic situation. It might be another work of art like the paintings of a particular artist or era, a film or a piece of music. It might also be a movement idea, a camera or editing technique, or a specific location that offers up an idea. Some of the most usual starting point for video dance are: themes, stories, formal, visual, aural.


“There are central ideas or motifs that come up again and again in my work. One of them is flight and winged creatures, and that image appears and reappears in almost every single piece that I have ever done. To the point that I started to think that I must stop having winged creatures in my work.” Litza Bixler, director/choreographer


5.) Themes

The theme of a work is a single idea to which all aspects of the work relate. Choosing a theme as the starting point for your work helps you to be clear about the essence of the work, while at the same time enabling your imagination and creativity to expand and elaborate. Themes can be: emotional (loss or joy), experiential (speed, transformation, flight), symbolic (one against many, the search for love), physical (water, earth, gravity), action-based (climbing, running, falling, swooping).


A theme can be tackled in very different ways. The theme “transformation” could be represented by: a story in which frog changes in a prince (or) editing, in which one type of material is replaced by another such as a dancer performing a solo shot in close-up replaced by a wide shot with the same dancer only a different costume and maybe dancing with another dancer.


An emotional theme such as “joy” could be developed through the idea of weightlessness, which involves the exploration of gravity as represented by video dance footage that has been filmed entirely with the camera upside down. 


In a theme-based video dance, all aspects of the process, including choreographing the dancers’ movement design, filming and editing are developed to represent the theme.


Themes can be culturally specific, which means that, while they may be understood pretty much as you intended by other who share your experience of the world, they may be read very differently in another context.


“A common theme for us is definitely about exploring the human form in the landscape. Most of our films have been about solo characters and their relationship to the environment.” Rosemary Lee, Choreographer/Director


6.) Stories

A story describes a sequence of events. Most often, stories are about characters I specific situations and their interaction and developing relationships with other characters. Video dance works often when they take stories as their starting point. There are a few reasons for this…people like stories. We tell and listen to stories all the time: in the news, in the newspapers, in books, in the movies, and on TV. We even recount the fragmented images of our dreams in story form over the breakfast table.


Traditionally, film and TV have been use as the vehicle to tell stories and, as a result, we feel comfortable when we recognize a familiar approach to the medium, even if the dialogue that we might usually expect is absent.


It is often much easier to describe a story than any other type of idea and how successfully you can communicate the idea for your work to other people, such as possible funders or collaborators, is crucial in selling something.


The stories you choose to base your work on can be: taken from the world around you, inspired by fairy tales or fables, based on historical lives and events, drawn from your own experiences, and those that flow rom your imagination.


In most feature and short films, stories have a clear sense of beginning, middle, and end, although not necessarily presented in that order. In video dance, the structure may be less obvious, the resolution of the story may not necessarily be that clear, and/or the work is often intentionally ambiguous. It could be more surreal and abstract, about unique, unusual and bizarre movement for its own visual movement sake.


7.) Formal Ideas

Formal ideas are inspired by the technical and creative possibilities of the medium, the starting point is not an external subject, but rather the medium itself. How it is used becomes the subject of the work. Formal ideas can often be kicked off by a question like, “What happens if the camera is always in motion?” (or) “how do we represent speed on screen?”


Formal ideas can also be based on restrictions on, for example, how the dancers move, how the camera is used, how the material will be edited, or a combination of all three. You might set off to explore what happens if you only ever see a particular body part in the frame like faces, hands, or feet. Or, you set a rule that your video dance will last the length of one continuous zoom in and create the dancer’s choreography around that shot.