by Jasmin Jahal, April 2000 (back)

The Secret to Being a Great Choreographer

There is none! The ability to create an exciting, dynamic dance routine is possible. All you need is: mastery of oriental dance technique, knowledge and acceptance of your capabilities and limits, understanding of the oriental culture and music, a good ear for rhythm and instrumentation, and the ability to visualize the effect and feelings you wish to portray. Sound impossible? No! First, you must do all the training you can to be the best dancer you can be. Then and only then can you work on being a choreographer.

Choreography is a talent like dance which can be learned, practiced and improved. However, also like dance, choreography is an art. Few dancers and few choreographers will ever be considered great artists. To be great takes a certain natural talent.

Just because you are an excellent dancer, does not mean you will be an excellent choreographer. But you can be a good one!

Choosing Music

Select a piece of music you really like and which makes you want to move every time you hear it. Then, listen to it a lot, so that you become very familiar with rhythm, melody, accents, changes and instrumentation. If words are sung, it is nice to know the translation, but not always necessary.

When to Choreograph

Find time when you are alone, without interruption (turn off the telephone!), and feel relaxed and calm. Your mind should be stress free. Also, find a place in which you have room to move freely. A mirror is helpful. Remember: You cannot force yourself to be creative. Even if the time and the place is right, inspiration may not be there. You should then give up and try another day.

The Levels of a Dance Routine

The opening and closing should always be strong.


Phrasing of Music

Here is one suggestion that may or may not help you to understand a piece of music. Listen closely to the music and sketch what you hear. Slowly you will see a pattern emerge. This pattern will assist you to understand the dynamics of the song, to see how it uses theme and variation, which should be correlated to your combinations.


Choose a simple, short song. Work first with the rhythm. Invent some movements and combinations that come naturally. Then use theme and variation as listed above to connect and alter the movements. Play and experiment! Feel free! Enjoy it!

Then, instead of focusing on the rhythm, pay attention to the melody, or the instrumentation, and do the same exercise.

Important Note

Studying other people’s choreography is not always easy, because each person feels the music in a different way. But, it is a very good discipline and you will always learn something from it, either a new movement or a new feeling, or an idea you may never have had before. Also, once you work with choreography, either your own or someone else’s, you will be better at improvisation! To dance well while improvising (no choreography to direct you) is the hardest challenge we oriental dancers have to face!



©2000 Jasmin Jahal