This can be the easiest thing about a dancing scene to explain. There’s a choreographer, a director — and, obviously, the dancer! The choreographer lays out a vision of what each dancer needs to do on the fly. The choreographer can decide whether a particular dance will have a specific rhythm or should come out as a more fluid mixture of rhythms…and what kinds of changes should occur during the course of a performance.
The director, then, is the one who tells the director about the choreography. “You need to be able to make a decision in the moment; you’re talking choreographing as you go. And each dancer has a part in creating the choreography,” explains Maren Fagan, PhD, principal and chief choreographer at the National Ballet of Great Britain. The choreography is designed to move a person. Then the director sets the stage, takes control, and directs the performers in what they’re going to do. The choreographer is the one who sets the tone. “You look at two or three scenes and think: ‘Here’s what the choreographer wants me to do next,’ and you tell them. You’re setting the stage, allowing the choreography to come.”
For some things to be effective, both performers and the choreographer need support. At a given show, there are a lot of dancers doing a lot of different stuff. They’re all taking on the roles of choreographing other dancers. They’re constantly thinking about what else they want to do and how to get the audience’s attention…and they have to know where to focus their energy and attention, particularly towards the time where everything’s being done in isolation. (The other dancers also need to be thinking about what you’re doing in isolation.) So having experienced dance students, a dance director, or a team of dancers working together to figure out what they need to do on the fly isn’t a good idea. To make sure these things are done seamlessly, dancers need to think of these choreographers as part of an orchestra; not as a conductor who says “Okay, we will move along.”
How do dancers work together to bring one character in action? A dance teacher might say that a good dancer has to figure out in the moment how the character is going to move, rather than just relying on the choreographer. And that’s important, but perhaps not as important as how the dancer’s intention is being communicated to his or her fellow performers. The dancer himself or herself
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