Inspiration can be found in many places, but just like a writer can encounter writer’s block, so can a dancer draw a blank when trying to come up with the next stunning routine.
I’ve written a lot about how to deliver a good performance, conquer stage fright and polish your technique. But how do you find inspiration to pull that next dance together, whether it be for a performance or to teaching to others?
Here are some of the tools I use to get my creative juices flowing.
Not to be confused with how to stay motivated – which you can read about here.
Music is everything when it comes to dancing, so make sure you chose a song that really stirs something in your heart. It doesn’t matter if lots of people have already danced to it. You can make it your own, or find another version, which may just sound sufficiently different so it will work.
It doesn’t need to be music specific to a certain dance style either, unless of course you’re going for something traditional. I’ve just choreographed a Samba fusion routine to a pop song, and previously done belly dance to Michael Bubble, so don’t feel restricted in your choice, as long as you have enough solid dance technique and style knowledge to carry it off.
Word of warning: if you do decide to dance to ‘basic pop song’ – make sure it has enough interesting changes in the music, lyrics, tempo etc. so your routine can be sufficiently varied. Do take time to really listen to your music before you start choreographing – you will be surprised what you may discover in the lyrics, beats etc. that you can utilise for your steps, expression etc.
The point above may come first, but sometimes it also really helps if you decide what style of dance you want to create. Will you be dancing with props? Have you got a certain costume in mind? Once you’ve narrowed this down, it may be easier to find that special piece of music.
Should you decide on your style or costume first, then make sure that it doesn’t limit your creative flow when it comes to choreographing. For example, if you want to perform with an oriental veil it’s good to consider an oriental or theatrical costume, and not expect to do it in a Baladi dress. If your music isn’t traditional, you may want to think of some modern moves and variations, as well as include some basic oriental technique. But don’t think you have to include ‘8 arabesques and a ‘cap turn” just because that’s what everyone else is doing. Be brave to follow your ideas once they start coming!
This old saying will always be true – especially when choreographing. Start really simple. You can always add more detail and refined technique later. However, keeping it simple is often the key to making really outstanding routines. It’s having the confidence to keep it simple and control the basics, which will often set the professional dancers apart. Enough said – less is more ?
Limiting your options when choreographing is also a great way to think of new and unusual combinations. So if you always find yourself going from a ‘break’ or big hip circle into a hip drop, try narrowing your options, by for example deciding to only use smooth moves such as 8s or undulations instead.
Film yourself as you’re experimenting. You may just come up with a fantastic combination, which you then forget afterwards. You only need to review your footage if you think there’s something worth looking for. If not – just stay in your choreography zone and keep experimenting. Otherwise, review and see if there was something that worked.
You may need to look for inspiration if you get really stuck. Looking inside yourself can be great if there’s something specific you want to express or show. Looking at others can be great if you don’t even know where to start – but do be careful that you don’t just end up copying someone else. It’s easy to lose hours if not days searching YouTube for ideas, but generally I find it works best once I’ve decided either on my tune or costume.
Once you find that inspiring video or song, take it in and then turn it off. Let it grow inside you and develop into your own take on the moves/music, and only go back once you feel that you aren’t purely plagiarising.
This is one of my big mantra’s and one of the true joys of dance. Never stop learning, even if you consider yourself an amazing dancer or teacher. Find workshops and other dancers that inspire you, and let them fill you with lots of ideas for future routines, as well as develop your overall dancing.
Whenever I join dance festivals or holidays like the JWAAD Summer School, I always leave with so many ideas that I end up filling entire notebooks with stuff!
I hope some of these suggestions have struck a cord with you and please feel free to share and comment so you can help inspire other dancers too. How do you find inspiration?
Happy, creative and beautiful dancing – always ?
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: How to shine on stage