Dance: Makers Tool Box

Different kind of approaches when making a choreography.

By: Caurena Bernabela
Position: Senior lecturer BA-DD, ArtEZ, Arnhem, The Netherlands

This is a short introduction of the research results and the product that Caurena Bernabela, senior teacher at the Bachelor in Dance Education at ArtEZ University of the Arts has produced for the Next Move project. In 2016, we started the Next Move research. I have joined some other teachers and students of the ArtEZ BA Dance in Education to do this research. The whole group was divided in pairs . Each teacher had a student as a partner. My partner was fourth year student Paula Pröbrock. We choose to take a closer look at the role of the dance maker.

The toolbox can be downloaded here


As a teacher, you have to be able to make dance for different target groups. Not only preparing your class with all the different parts but you need also the ability to make choreographies for and with your students. This toolbox is for all those teachers who have to make 5 or more choreographies each year for different groups in various styles. I started with asking students and myself some questions about the need for more knowledge for making choreographies for the amateur work field, especially teens. During the research, I came across more information not only about choreography for teens but also for other target groups. I started together with Paula with the first plans, where to start, who to speak to, what to watch and what to deliver in 2018 etc. Paula is going to make choreographies with teens in different school with different backgrounds. Her products are a thesis on this subject and three choreographies. Mine is a toolbox for makers. Especially for the making of choreographies in the work field. The first thing that I did was formulating a research question.

What does the future teacher need to make choreographies with the target group teens?’

We decided that we are going to do a part of the field research together and the desk research by ourselves. We talked to Wilja van Os from Dansbelang and Rozemarijn Schouwenaar from  Dutch Expertise Centre for Cultural Education and Amateur Arts in Utrecht We have also talked to teachers of our Next Move project partner schools DOCH and RAMA and Dutch academies during the midterm conference that we had organized at ArtEZ We gathered a lot of information to help us  continue  the research. For example about the use of the Laban principals in the composition classes. This is something that we are already doing in our own  curriculum. It gave us confidence that were on the right track. We also heard that the students need to create more material and choreographies during their study. This would help them to make different work in an easier way in the future.

I also went to visit different performances in the amateur field. All of them where in a different town with all kinds of target groups and dance style. One of the things that I have noticed in the performances was the amount of choreographies in the performances. Generally the where about 20 choreographies in each performance. That is only for the smaller schools who  multiple shows and of course a smaller stage to perform on. The larger schools with only one or two shows where longer, more than 25 choreographies. Another thing that I have noticed is that in a bigger school you have more teachers and so more differentiation in the choreographies. That does not mean that in a smaller school the choreographies where more alike because the where made by less teachers. There you could see some code coming back. For example a lot of circles, the same lighting or always an older student dancing with the younger ones. A Code can help the public to recognize the sequence in a performance, but it can also be too obvious. You could also see the differences in the way each choreographer works. You have on one side the dances for pleasure and on the other hand the Artistic work. The one is more recognizable for the public and the other is more like a question mark. How do you make dance to serve both kind of audiences? This brings us to the following question:

‘Is abstraction in dance in the working field, appreciated or understood or does the audience want to understand the choreography?

The answer to this question is not a simple one. To answer this question we have to look at the school, teacher, and neighborhood and of what they [the public] are used to see. At the end, you are making with the students for the public, and the public usually consists  of the parents. They want to see their child dancing and if possible in the front row. Conclusion is that, if possible,  the choreographer should make the line as thin as possible to serve both.

We also made a survey among students from the ArtEZ Bachelor in Dance Education. Each year ArtEZ organizes a festival for which  the students make their own choreographies for the different target groups. We have chosen some good practices so that we could see how they have been working. Some of the questions where; where did you start with your choreography; what was your inspiration? In which way did you use the tools giving during the compositions classes to create your work? If you had to make this choreography in the work field would you change is and what would you change?

We gathered a lot of information from all the things that we did. Because of the amount and different kind of information and tools is it possible to use it for different target groups and levels. Some of the tools are the different dynamics/ timing in a choreography, how to use the space, different ways to start making, the relationships between the dancers, the transition between steps etc.

The toolbox can be downloaded here