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Making Dance

The Choreographer's Toolbox

Dance Composition

Professional choreographers create their work on dancers in a studio setting, for performance onstage or at specific indoor or outdoor sites. Some, like New York 's Merce Cunningham, use computers to generate or enhance their movement ideas.

You, too, will have an opportunity to use a computer to compose choreography. After following the steps in the Choreographer's Toolbox, visit the Virtual Dance Studio, where you can choose pre-animated movement phrases to create your own dance.

Later, take the ideas you've explored about composing dances into a studio to develop work on live dancers.

Getting Started

You have an idea you want to explore. It might be in response to something you have seen or something you have felt - something that words alone cannot express. The idea inspires you to move - it motivates you to act.

How do you begin to transform your thoughts and feelings into physical action?

The choreographer's instrument is the dancer's body. Using one or more dancers, the choreographer designs a series of actions. These are linked by one or more transitional movements to create a dance phrase, or basic unit of choreographed movement. Then these phrases are arranged into longer sequences to form a dance.

How does the choreographer come up with interesting movement ideas? Sometimes they come from his or her imagination, from a feeling or from a striking visual image; other times, from watching dancers improvise movements in response to a theme, a story or a piece of music.

It is the choreographer's job to express these ideas in physical form.


The dance animations used here were created by Rhonda Ryman using DanceForms software from Credo Interactive Inc. (