Choreographic Devices

Lar Lubovitch’s Choreographic Devices

The following are a few of the choreographic devices explored in today’s workshop that have been used by Lar Lubovitch to generate movement material.  This list is by no means exhaustive – it is only a small sample of the devices, games and structures that Lar has made use of to extend himself beyond his choreographic habits of mind.  Using devices such as these with students can create surprising creative possibilities, inspiring them to a spirit of exploration and discovery when composing dances.

1. Going On A Trip (accumulation and subtraction game)

The game starts with one student or group of students choosing a movement representative of an item being taken on a trip; as each student or group of students contributes a movement, it is added onto the phrase.

Accumulation section:  Each time a movement is added, the phrase is repeated as a series, with each repetition longer by one movement.  The pattern with 6 movements would be:

1, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5-6

Subtraction section:  After all the movements have been added, and the phrase has been repeated in ever-longer versions until in the last repetition all the movements are included, the movements are subtracted starting with the first movement at the beginning of the phrase.  The pattern with 6 movements would be:

1-2-3-4-5-6, 2-3-4-5-6, 3-4-5-6, 4-5-6, 5-6, 6

Alternately, the movements can be subtracted from the last to the first, as follows:

1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1

2. Abstract Drawings (group shapes device)

Students draw abstract, amorphous shapes (line drawings) on large pieces of paper.  Each group of students is given several of these shapes to work with.

Starting with one shape, they find a way to create the shape with their bodies, either as it would look if drawn on the floor, or as it would look if drawn in the air.  Their bodies fill the space outlined by the shape.

Their task is then to find an organic way to transition into the next group shape

3. Musical Response (the long line of the music)

Students are asked to close their eyes and listen to a piece of music.  They may respond to the music in several ways: with movement improvisation, with free-associated words, with drawing or painting.  This may be repeated several times with different responses encouraged, until the students become quite familiar with the music.  They are asked to identify an arc or progression in the music from beginning to end: “happy to sad to calm”, or the essence of the music, for instance “excited and jumpy”.  Their movement exploration, the words and associations they have responded with, and their visual depictions all inform their final movement choices and the theme and shape of their choreography.

4. Visual Art Stimulus

Students view an intriguing piece of visual art, such as M.C. Escher prints with their trompe l’oeuil effects.  They discuss and identify what is intriguing about the artwork, and experiment with creating these effects in group movement.  The movement explorations may lead to more intriguing dance discoveries that are not necessarily directly reflective of the artwork that served as initial inspiration.

5. Whole Body = Part of the Body

Students are taught a phrase of movement.  Students are broken into small groups.  Each small group of students is assigned to represent, with their entire body, the movement of only one part of the body in the phrase.  For instance, one group will represent the movement of the right foot, another of the right knee, another of the torso, another of the right arm, etc.  The students must work to figure out when, how, and where that part of the body moves in the phrase.  They practice moving through the phrase in unison as if they were that body part – which will result in a phrase of movement that looks entirely different from the original phrase.  Then the class is brought together and a new dance emerges from the deconstructed phrase.

6. Unsupported and Supported Partnering

Students first explore ways to move with each other without touching – moving in a unison phrase close together, moving through the negative spaces created by a partner’s movement shapes, or call and response movement conversations with the partners in close proximity.  When they have set a short sequence, they experiment with some partnering tasks, depending on age and level:

  • Connecting a part of the body at various points in the sequence
  • Finding a place in the sequence where one partner can support the other’s weight for a moment
  • Finding a way to support a partner’s weight for a moment while continuing the momentum of a phrase, and then moving organically into another weight-supported transition
  • Creating a chain of weight-supported transitions which flow one to the next

7. Seeing from a Different Perspective

Students experiment viewing and creating group movement from different perspectives.

Take a section of dance material and view it from the side instead of the front.  How does that change what we see?  Then view it from the back.  Try seeing it from a diagonal.  Encourage students to find their own unique viewing place/perspective.

What would a dance look like if it were created and viewed from a bird’s-eye view?  In small groups, students create a short dance imagining that the audience will see it from above.

8. Narrative

Students create a dance or movement phrase from a narrative.

Students read a short story or a story-board, and pick out a section that intrigues them.  Identifying the key descriptive and action words and the thematic ideas in the narrative, they create a movement phrase or dance that expresses the ideas from their selected section of the story.