Dance numbers are a choreography

What is a dance choreographer?

By Lorraine Ansell | 19 April 2021

Week in and week out our wonderful teachers deliver dance to us. But have you ever wondered how they manage to come up with such cracking dance routines for our classes? Today, let’s take a skip and a hop with spirit fingers about what it takes to create a dance.

What is dance choreography?

When we dance, our fabulous teachers teach us a routine that they have designed. This designing of dance is called choreography. It can also be termed dance composition. At First Dance Studios we have nine teachers that conjure up classical, contemporary, cheesy and charming dance & fitness routines for us. So lucky!

How do dance teachers choreograph?

In jazz, ballet, tap, Zumba, contemporary, musical theatre, ballroom & latin, Zumba, Street and Pilates every routine and dance number is built up to work with the chosen music. Our dance choreographers use rhythmic or non-rhythmic articulation, repetition, variation, themes, movement to bring a number together.

In class you see and learn to copy the moves, either counting in your head or recalling each segment the teacher works through. What we don’t see as students is the teachers working through each routine at home or running through them in studio when it is open. This is how they do it.

Street Jazz Crew

Choreographic Challenges

Music – Our dance teachers firstly choose a piece of music. Does it inspire them? Will they and dancers like you and I feel the beat? What fun moves can be added to the beat, tempo? How does the piece of music make us feel? These are key questions that choreographers ask themselves when finding that music track.

Steps – Once a piece of music has been chosen, what steps work with it? Here our teachers work out how dance steps will be worked into the musical notes. So will a grapevine work with this double time intro? Or perhaps a pas de chat feels right with a ballet instrumental score?

To improvise or not to improvise

At times in some of First Dance Studios dance classes the teacher may have purposefully chosen a section of the dance routine for us to go full on improvisation on. What does this mean? Many routines we teach are ones that are totally fully choreographed so like call and repeat you watch the teacher and then copy. Dance & fitness routines are broken down section by section so you can learn them weekly. Sometimes our teachers might all out a section that it is up to you to freestyle to. This is your chance to dance like no one is watching like in DOAD.

Get Ready to Turn

Choreography techniques

Sometimes our choreographers add in movements to convey intentions such as a sassiness vibe to a fab Zumba track. Or a sexy arm curl with a flick in Musical theatre. At times they add in canons which is when a group will do a move, followed by another and then another. At times moves are made to mirror another dancer and as seen in the routine “Dear Future Husband” in Drop off & Dance, can lead to much hilarity! A very successful technique is to use Canon during a dance performance. In our shows canon looks amazing as dancers or groups of dancers repeat the move but a beat apart and it really is “chef’s kiss” visually amazing.  Check out some of the previous dance shows with adults here. 

How do the teachers remember all the dances?

Firstly when our dance teachers work out a dance number they note it down. All those steps for the chorus, intro and outros all go into their little notebooks. Some keep them for years and the renowned choreographer Kate Prince (Zoonation) is always seen with her red A4 books full of steps.

Secondly the music – many times it is the music that helps the teachers remember the steps. Almost like a language the music helps shapes what we are conveying through the dance. Muscle memory also aids and to this day despite not having danced some numbers for a long while, we’re pretty sure we can stick on the music and just dance!

Dance sessions in Surrey for Adults

Dance experts do it daily

But let’s check in with Vicky who leads the Musical Theatre class every Tuesday at 5.30pm about how she would describe it.  “Choreography is an art, it takes passion and creativity, in musical theatre it is about relating to the music and telling a story, it can be about sharing quality of movement from an era or designing a new way of moving to enhance the piece of theatre. Originality can be a choreographers greatest challenge, creation of a piece of choreography is about inspiration, trust from your dancers, the simple joy of dancing and taking an imaginative journey whilst blending musical style with the physical choreography.”

Painting a story through dance

So dance is like a painting where the movements tell the story and each of the dancers are like a brush. To join in with amazing cheographed dance numbers have a look at the dance & fitness timetable here. To get in touch, reach out and say hi here. 

And remember, keep moving to the FDS dancing beat!



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