Here are my strategies for putting together choreography for year end performances.
1. BEGINNER STUDENTS. These numbers can be hard to choreograph simply because you want to make these dancers look as though they have really accomplished something over the past year. This is not always easy, especially with students who take class once a week, as their knowledge of steps is pretty limited. Staging is very important as it enables you to move the dancers around to different positions, using fewer steps but putting the emphasis on steps that they have mastered. The important factor here is that everyone be seen. For those dancers whose feet do not move so well, give them lots of port de bras; for those who can move fairly well, give steps that will move them around the stage. Change formations frequently and keep the music upbeat and short in length. Especially with beginners, keep numbers short and sweet.
2. JUNIOR STUDENTS. Young dancers can get by with the “cute” factor far more easily than older dancers. If you have young dancers who have excellent technique, then it is much easier to choreograph for them. My only suggestion is that you keep the steps to ones that are suitable to their age and strength—in order for their excellence to come through, they need to be dancing in an effortless way, something that is not possible if the steps are too technically demanding for them at that age. For juniors who have a few years of dance experience but are not extremely proficient, something with a storyline always works well and gives them not only steps, but some motivation that they can relate to.
3. PRE-TEEN STUDENTS. This is an age group that is generally fun to choreograph for because they are usually really in to what you give them and think that everything is “cool,” which right away helps!! My main concern with this age group is to give them content that is not too sophisticated, either physically or mentally, for them to understand or portray what you are going for. Students of this age are often so self-conscious about their bodies that I try to give them movement that will free them from feeling embarrassed and permit them to shine. Again I always use steps and combinations of steps that I have been working on during the year. I like to use cannon sequences and changes of formation that really utilize the space. At this age, if I have dancers who are particularly proficient with a leap or turn or an acrobatic trick, I like to try to feature them in some way or another as this begins to groom them for future roles.
4.SENIOR STUDENTS. Choreographing for senior students can be extremely gratifying, especially if they are of an intermediate or advanced level. We are able to really use our creative juices and come up with all sorts of exciting ideas. We can be more demanding with the technique and showcase our ideas. I like to use more complex formations and movement around the stage that keeps the brain wondering where the next movement is coming from. Partner work is an excellent addition to choreography and will always spice up choreography as long as it is well executed and the transitions are smooth. It is terrific if you have any boys, but if you don’t there are still many types of partner work that you can use for girls. Make sure that your dancers have a good basic knowledge of partner work before you use any in your choreography.
Giving dancers choreography that they are able to do without worry helps them succeed. Also giving them an opportunity to be seen on stage and not tucked in the back at all times is helpful in building their self-esteem. Using lots of formation changes will make your numbers look interesting and keep your audiences wanting more. Most of all, have fun and look for music either with good lyrics or none!