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Commercial Art

If you did not grow up studying or being involved in the performing arts, then it may seem strange that there is such a thing as a choreographer. Dancers and students are often surprised when I expect a fee to create a dance for them. They think that teaching, performing and making dances requires the same skill sets. A dancer is a dancer is a dancer, so, she creates a dance – what’s so special about that?

Think of it this way: when a producer creates a project (a movie) they need music – right? The movie has to have music that fits the story line and enhances the scenes – music that will elicit the mood(s) during the action. They don’t hire a musician – they hire a composer. That is, a musician who can create a musical composition for film, A composer follows a formula to create music for film.Which has nothing to do with performing or teaching music.

When an agent searches for someone to take a part in a play they search for an actor. An actor is trained to create personality traits and emotions that work unison to become a person other than themselves, and be believable. Actors learn formulas for developing characters, which they (usually) go to school to learn. It takes a lot of work.

When a film producer creates a movie they need a story written as a screenplay, (a very tough thing to do, BTW). They don’t hire an English teacher who teaches writing – they hire a screenwriter. A screenwriter goes to school to learn the formula's for writing for film. The skill sets for film writing are peculiar to film and are very different from writing for the theater or novels. And, they have nothing to do with teaching writing.

The same is true for creating dances – there is a very specific science to the art of making dances and this takes training, time and effort. That’s why, when a Broadway producer mounts a musical they hire choreographers to create the dances – not dance teachers. Bottom line- performing, teaching and creating are three entirely different activities and skill sets.

Any invention requires the knowledge, skills and formulas to create something from nothing. This is what is meant by the creative process. Talent is certainly a critical element in this but definitely not enough. Consider the creative process in making software: creating software involves training in HTML and computer science. It is very different than using software or teaching someone how to use it. So what does it take to make a dance? Here are five of about twelve elements:

  • Music – A choreographer is first and foremost a musician. She has to know how music is composed. How melody, rhythm and orchestration are interpreted through movement. How they influence the emotional expression of the performer. She has to start any dance by breaking down and understanding the musical composition and then uses that as her canvas to created movement and emotion content.

  • Design - Formations are created in what is called Air and Floor design- movement of a body or bodies in formations and the design of this in space and on the floor. Or, how a soloist uses the stage in formations.

  • Dynamics - The physics of how the body works in space alone and with other bodies; the G force and the energy it take to balance, leap, undulate, shake, step, kick and work in unison.

  • Motivation - What motivates the dancer? Is she motivated by a story line, acrobatics and pantomime or by music alone?

  • Technique – What movements or "stillnesses" should be used and how they should be executed precisely; how they blend together and overlay each other in a whole composition.

Art, like science and industry, is a commodity which is called Intellectual Property. And, Intellectual Property is named "Property" for a reason; it is an invention and belongs to the creator of the work. It requires training, knowledge, ability, time and effort. That is why it is protected, recognized, acknowledged and paid for.

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