Today's blog is inspired by a question I saw a colleague post on Twitter... how do you write down your choreography?
I am the kind of teacher that listens to a song over and over again until I have memorized every nuance and every note before I can choreograph to it. I feel that the music directly drives every piece that I do... but I've started to find that I have so many routines to do that memorizing music just isn't enough anymore!
So this year I bought myself a fancy notebook at Staples before September rolled around and I wrote in big bold permanent marker on the front cover Robin's Choreography Bible! I bought post-it note tabs to mark off pages and a soft gel pen that fit neatly down the spiral binding. Now I am a novelty kind of person, so I took very good care of this book for the first month. I didn't want any scribbles in it, or dented corners on pages so I never let it out of my sight.
I had never written down my choreography in previous years, as I believe in a very organic process of working through my routines... but I really wanted to make an effort this year to choreograph 40 completely different routines for competition that differed vastly from one another. Jotting down ideas, or noting tricks/lifts for specific dances in this book really helped me to keep track of inspired moments that I might have forgotten otherwise. I don't write down step-by-step for every routine, as that's not always effective when you're sitting on the couch, but general ideas of where the routine is going.
I even started using this book for keeping track of combos I would do for my older classes. That way I could keep track of the details that were important to me in terms of the choreography and helpful notes that I could pass along. It isn't unusual for me to be reaching for this book in the middle of teaching a combo to the Senior class, because honestly at the end of a long night of teaching I just can't remember everything any more! What I also found great about keeping track of my combos in my Choreography book is that I could easily pull from them for competitive routines. I could grab a few 8's of a combo that really worked for a student and put it in their solo if applicable. The kids even know what the book is for and have referenced to it themselves in times of desperation of forgetting what I did in the last class on their solo! They won't find scripted out counts of 8 in vast detail, but they're familiar enough with my language of dance and how I work in the studio do understand what the majority of it means.
I never used to understand why teachers wrote things down, as my brain just functioned as a dancer, so I found it easier to work organically and had no problems remembering details. Now as I get older, and just more busy at the studio, that little book, now complete with dented corners, has become one of the most useful tool in my classes. I even started making a game for myself of moving the tabs of finished routines to the opposite side of the page, so I could keep track of what was completed and what still needed work. Maybe I'm just too easily amused by those little florescent re-stickable pieces of shiny paper!
Recently, I purchased a sister book that is coincidentally titled Robin's Choreography Bible #2! I have already started keeping track of brilliant ideas for picture day and the Recital in it... and maybe I'm jinxing myself, but there are already several pages dedicated to insane ideas for competitive routines for next year... and no you can't borrow my book for a sneak peak!
I have even created a systematic language for myself in the book to remind myself to warn the kids that what's coming up will hurt! There is an almost vicious excitement I get when I am nearing that starred section on the page. It's the "I know you won't get this right away, and you will have bruises tomorrow, but trust me it will be amazing when it works"! That's probably too long to be a subtitle in my Choreography book, but it will definitely be the title of a Chapter in my autobiography one day!