CHOREGRAPHY: Contrast

This Blog, CONTRAST, will be the first in a series of articles on Choreography.

Choreography, like dance is both a science and an art. And, while it may be intuitive to many dancers, there are so many elements that go into making a dance I thought I would share what I know and have studied, in this first of a multi-part series on the subject. If you would like to really delve into the subject, I am offering a series on it at Westside Dance on Tuesday evenings from 7:15- 8:30 June 6 – July 24. You can get more information on my website, www.alexandsraking.com.

Art mimics life and reflects back to us the essence of our identity in drama, music and dance. Perhaps one of the most important elements of choreography is one of the most obvious elements of life and living – contrast.

In life we see contrast when things change. Change, while often difficult, is the stuff of living. Without it, there is drudgery and sameness and a sense of death. So, when we embrace change – even if it is hard – we are living fully and we grow. When we put it in dance and music it is what creates interest and captures the audience!

As a Feng Shui practitioner, as well as a dancer, I teach the concept of change through the symbolic idea of the Tai Chi, which is represented in eight Trigrams – (Triple Lines that morph from all Yang to all Yin). These trigrams help clients to understand where the energy in their lives and homes is stagnant and needs refreshing. The evolution of Chi (Energy) is the story of the constancy of change. Pendulums swing, seasons change, people and situations come and go. In art – and in particular dance, this is seen in the contrast of movement and stillness. In dance, we moving to sound and being still in silence. Posing is the dance of stillness and silence.

The fundamental movement of a muscle is a contraction and an expansion. Learning to control this function well allows us to dance - to isolate and/or combine a variety of moving body parts in a cohesive blend of movements and steps that are splendid when done well! We also learn to use a variety of angles and levels and to move in three dimensional space adding contrast to our place in time and space, when we dance.

In music we combine rhythm and melody and work within the unified orchestration of both. Rhythm and melody are the contrast of music. One of the great things about the cabaret style is the contrast of moods and the mix of musicality in a whole composition. Back in the day when belly dance was evolving in clubs as a solo art, a soloist had to spend a lot of time on stage and had to stay interesting to the audience – which was/is no small feat (considering the usual state on mind of restaurant and club guests). So, the dancers of the American cabaret kept adding a variety of segments and props and contrasting elements to the dance which kept the audience in rapt awe!

I love this clip! The choreography is avant garde Bharata Natyam (which I studied for a few years) and is a perfect example of contrast in music and dance. As an exercise in order to understand contrast in dance, see how many movements and poses are contrasting. And, listen to the two primary musical lines to get the power of contrast in sound! Notice how the dancers use this contrast! Look for:

  • High Low

  • Movement Stillness

  • Soft and Hard Movements

  • Various Angles

  • The held note with the fast-paced rhythm.

Enjoy!

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