Are you interested in choreographing an original solo aerial act? Have a vision in your head that keeps coming up again and again? Performing is a very rewarding aspect of aerial arts, and it takes a lot of planning and patience. Keep reading for some insight into the process of creating an act.
Where to begin?
A common question I get from my students is, “Do you start creating an aerial choreography by choosing a song first or writing out the sequence of skills and poses first?”
My answer is that it depends. For example, you might have fallen in love with a song, and have no vision of your act or simply KNOW you want to do a splits and an angel drop in an act but you have no idea what the music will be. There is no right or wrong–start with what you do have and work from there.
Choosing a Song
Spend some time listening to your favorite music and start to take note of the ones that make you want to move (or actually get you moving). Or notice anything that really draws you in.
When you listen to music, think loosely about the atmosphere you want to create with your act. Do you want to be flowing and graceful? Aggressive and punchy? Energetic and uplifting? Sultry? Pensive? Comical? If you are open to many personas, keep different lists of songs that fit those personas.
Once you have a list of favorites, listen to them several times over and imagine what you might do in a performance. Songs that have contrasting elements like tempo changes (fast and slow) or unique sounds (ticks, chimes, water droplets) give you a lot of landmarks and cues to work with.
Designing the Choreography
Again, there is not a *right* or *wrong* way and choreography creation is usually not linear. I have outlined 12 steps to designing original choreography in my playbook Intro to Aerial Choreography. It’s a systematic and reliable roadmap for designing original choreography and I’ve watched very different aerialists have great success with it. However, we all have different learning and training styles, so I do believe that as your choreography experience grows, your own ideas and processes will begin to take shape. The roadmap I provide is the foundation that gets you started.
Be super organized. One strategy I recommend is to make a table with lyrics and/or music timing with the skills you plan to do (the book goes over how to choose and arrange skills). Students usually realize that they can’t fit as much as they expected, but sometimes there is extra time. Either way, the original idea is usually not the same as the final product and that’s okay! It is totally normal for your first outline to prove totally unrealistic once you try it out on the apparatus. That’s fine. The main point is to get an idea down first. Then you revise it as you go.
I recommend poses that a) you are comfortable with and never make a fundamental mistake in; b) you particularly enjoy; c) showcase your strengths, and d) are visually different from one another e.g., not all drops, not all footlocks, not all inversions, etc. (though if you want an interesting challenge you could try to brilliantly break this guideline…)
In the playbook I explain how to actually structure your training sessions so you can develop the piece without exhausting yourself, and how to organize the skills that will make up your act.
- Be willing to make changes, but change your mind as few times as possible. There are a million ways to organize your routine. If your idea works, stick to it as much as you can. If you come with a few adjustments that will make it better, great. But if you suddenly think a whole new set of tricks would be fun, better to save that for your next choreography.
- Choose skills that are not at your edge. If you can barely pull off a skill, even if it is your coolest trick, don’t include it. One of the greatest gifts to give your audience is the impression of effortlessness. If you are struggling to hold a box split, they’ll see the strain in your body and on your face.
- Connect, don’t attach. If you start to get frustrated, take a step back. The purpose of this is (presumably) creation and self-expression. The purpose is to enrich your own life and those of others. Let your love of what you do seep into your training and it will shine through your performance.
- Always warm-up first.
- Be discerning about room for improvement, but don’t allow your critical mind to overpower your creative mind. Don’t expect perfection. Performance, like anything else, is a practice. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Have fun and enjoy yourself–you are doing something truly amazing.
The Intro to Aerial Choreography playbook is a step-by-step guide to bring the idea in your head through its rite of passage into reality. Not only does this guide include exercises for unearthing and bringing detail to your unique creative vision, but it also offers specific guidance on structuring your choreography and practical and logistical advice to make sure your training time is used effectively. I include sections for costume ideas, performance day considerations and safety, revision, and reflections. This is what I WISH existed when I was a beginner aerialist and my mind was exploding with performance ideas.