Choreography Tips from Melissa Barak

February 25, 2008

If you get strong images in your head just from listening to music, or if you can visualize a whole dance piece, it may be a sign that you have a knack for choreography.  Here are some tips for exploring it further:


  • Try improvising alone to the music first. Once you are working with your dancers, you can build on the ideas you found in solo work, but keep improvising with the group…choreography often evolves from the dancers.
  • Don’t feel you have to approach a piece from start to finish. You can also select passages of the music that originally grabbed your attention and refine those first, then put the finishing touches in later to create an organic piece. Another tip for the beginner choreographer is to work backwards, so that you resist the tendency to burn up all your great ideas in the beginning.
  • Surf the web! A quick search online will yield tons of small dance venues you can network with.


  • Constantly expose yourself to a wide variety of music. Even if you find music you’d like to choreograph to, listen to it over and over until it’s ingrained in you.
  • Be open to ideas from unconventional sources: Newspapers, books, travel, other cultures, poems and paintings all apply!
  • Keep a journal by your bed and/or in your bag to write down any dance ideas that you come up with.


  • Get together with a couple of fellow dancers and videotape a piece that you’ve created (it doesn’t have to be long). Then send it out to small companies that are open to guest choreographers. You’ll start building a “choreographic resumé” that you can show people.
  • Offer your skills to community theater, churches/synagogues, schools, youth programs, camps, charities, fairs, cheerleading squads, etc. It’s a great way to build skills, credentials and a name. Make sure you videotape anything that could be worth showing to a company.
  • Be on the lookout for any choreographic opportunities in your dance school or programs. If there aren’t any, start something of your own!