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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 others. Above all, it must communicate. What it communicates is your vision. You may want to tell a particular story or present the life of a character or group of characters. You may want to create a certain mood or quality. You may want to break new ground in terms of the art form. It is possible, in fact, that you may 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 finished work will look or sound like, how long it will be, or its shape or structure. What you do need to be clear of as soon as you can is 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 obstacles that confront you as you make your work. It will help you to decide what is right and what is wrong with your work.


However, the wonderful thing about making art is that, no matter how clear your intention or specific your ideas are, 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 your 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 an idea. You struggle with it, you 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 work needs to have an idea to start off. It may be a story or a dramatic situation. It may be about another work of art like the paintings of a particular artist or era, a film, or a piece of music. It may also be about a movement idea, qualitative technique, or a specific lighting or stage atmosphere that offers up an idea. Some of the most usual starting points for a dance work are themes, stories, visuals, and 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 are somehow related. 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).


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


“A common theme for us is definitely about exploring the human form in the landscape. Most of our work has 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 in specific situations and their interaction and developing relationships with other characters. 

The stories you may 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 from your imagination.


Typically, stories have a clear sense of beginning, middle, and end, although not necessarily presented in that order. In a dance work, 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 a more surreal and abstract story, about unique, unusual, and bizarre movements for its own visual movement's sake.


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