Choreography is the art or practice of designing sequences of movements of physical bodies (or their depictions) in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself. A choreographer is one who creates choreographies by practicing the art of choreography, a process known as choreographing. Choreography is used in a variety of fields, including musical theater, cheerleading, cinematography, gymnastics, fashion shows, ice skating, marching band, show choir, theatre, synchronized swimming, cardistry, video game production and animated art. In the performing arts, choreography applies to human movement and form. In dance, choreography is also known as dance choreography or dance composition.
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The word choreography literally means “dance-writing” from the Greek words “χορεία” (circular dance, see choreia) and “γραφή” (writing). It first appeared in the American English dictionary in the 1950s, and “choreographer” was first used as a credit for George Balanchine in the Broadway show On Your Toes in 1936. Before this, stage credits and movie credits used phrases such as “ensembles staged by”, “dances staged by”, or simply “dances by” to denote the choreographer.
Art whose working material is the movement of humans. It doesn´t have fixed or established movement patterns but it’s rather in a continuous search for new forms and dynamics. Therefore its dancers make use of varied modern and classical dance techniques to train. It produces performances or shows in conventional and non-conventional stages (such as theaters or public and private places), having a frequent dialogue with other aesthetic languages such as audiovisual technologies, visual or fine arts, lightning, architecture, music, circus and others.
Artist who creates with the movement of humans as material. In dance terms though, a contemporary dance choreographer is usually considered as a general director of scenic art pieces that include several aesthetic languages (music, visual fine arts, architecture…), all under his creative judgment.
When applied to dance, this word refers to choreography that does not have a narrative character. In other words, an abstract dance does not tell a story, nor is related to symbolic contents or any kind of associations with feelings, ideas or other elements than movement itself. A dance can be considered as abstract if it is seen through the frame of pure movement and/or its components (like space, time, body and so forth).
This is a word introduced by the American choreographer Trisha Brown in the 1970s. It was used by her to name a piece and it described a graduated and repetitive way in which the gestures of the choreography were built-up. As Trisha Brown’s works are so widely known, this word has spread among the dance community and it is used nowadays to talk about her way of creating choreography as a compositional method.
Placement of bones in such a way that increases physiological effectiveness and health. Depending on the dance genre, the alignment can vary according to its specific aesthetic goals. Read the definitions for ‘Correct alignment’, ‘Body placement’ or ‘Stance’ below to expand.
Position in which the whole or upper body is extended, creating the form of an arch.
The beat is the basic unity used to measure time in both the choreographic and musical language. It is the pulse that occurs repeatedly with a certain frequency. When dancing, beats are what we count… like five, six, seven, eight! (bet you know this…). Five, six, seven, eight are the last four beats of a choreographic phrase of eight beats. Visit our page for contemporary dance music to listen to some examples and expand your understanding.
This is an expression that we use in dance to talk about the way in which we carry our body (our selves), including the positioning and alignment of big bones (like the pelvis or spine), limbs and head as well as the micro organizations of muscles that are responsible for their positioning. Usually, every dance genre or style has its own body placement, which facilitates its technical execution and makes up the particular style.
Dancers use this word with the same meaning as musicians. It defines a compositional structure in which one same choreographic fragment is executed by several dancers who space it out in time (usually with regular intervals). Rudolph Laban identified four main types of canon used in dance: the regular canon (dancers start and end one after another), the starting canon (only the beginning of the fragment is stepped), the ending canon (only the end of the fragment is stepped), the simultaneous canon (dancers start at the same time but each one starts the fragment at a different point).
Clarity of line
The word ‘line’ is most commonly used among ballet dancers. It refers to an ideal shape that is created with the body while dancing, especially in certain positions like arabesques or between legs and arms. The clarity or quality of the line would be the degree of accuracy with which the shape achieved by a dancer gets close to that ideal.
Some tips to keep in mind:
1. This is a glossary about contemporary dance terminology. I will only include words that have a specific meaning among dancers or for the field of knowledge of contemporary dance. If you ask for a word or expression that you can also find in a common dictionary, I will not post its definition below. I will avoid terms from other genres of dance as well and the same thing applies if you make typos and I can not understand what you mean to ask. Consider including your e-mail address when filling the form, if you wish to allow me to contact you for any clarification.
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