Choreographing an Aerial Dance

Choreography 4

Creating a dance can be just as powerful and impactful as creating poetry. Just think for a moment about The Nutcracker or Swan Lake, both of which had a lasting effect on history. Think also of dances that inspired you personally, whether seen in person or on screen.

This type of creativity doesn’t come easily to me, as I admired dance but didn’t take part in any form until my discovery of aerial dance. The differences in choreographing aerial dance and another form of dance are substantial, since you have to dedicate a lot of thought and song to transitions. Then you have to make those transitions seem part of a movement that flows as flawlessly as a ballerina on the floor.

The hardest part, I think, is making it seem like a dance at all, rather than a set of acrobatic tricks. For me, this means being aware of the counts while I choreograph. Generally, any movement or transition taking less than eight counts is too quick, turning the dance into a set of tricks.

At the Steamboat Springs All Arts Festival a couple of weekends ago, I had the privilege of watching Rebekah Leach and Jocelynn Rudig at work, and both are natural, creative, and beautiful choreographers as well as dancers. I was wondering what the process of choreographing looks like for other aerialists out there, so I thought I’d share my process with you all.

Of course it starts with the song – and the song has to inspire me. The piece I’m currently working on is to the song “Stronger Than My Fears” by Shel. The song is not only beautiful, it speaks to my personal journey as a human being so far. I’ve spent years exploring my fears and challenging them. In a lot of ways, I think aerial dance has been one of the most useful tools in challenging my fears. It has caused me to know and trust my body like I never had before, and this in turn caused me to know and trust my potential in other areas of my life as well.

Next, after an improv. play session, my process looks something like this:

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I always end up planning more moves than I need though, so next I have to try out variations of my drawings and decide what goes best to the music’s ebbs and flows. My hope is to end with a dance that captures the feeling I have for the song.

I’d love to hear from you! What’s your process?

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