I often work alone in the studio and because I juggle my training around work and other commitments I am really interested in finding ways to maximize time and rehearsal efficiency. I looked at the process of other choreographers and then combined my past experiences of working with choreographers in order to generate a few ideas. My research, dance experience and weekly solo practice have led me to the strategies listed below. However, before anything else, the most important contributor to a smooth rehearsal or a fresh creative process is a relaxed, stress free mind. This post looks at how dancers / choreographers can actively make choices that will enhance the efficiency of rehearsal time.
Write a Clear List of Aims and Prioritize What Is Important
It seems obvious, but it important that you have a reminder that you are demanding something of yourself or that of your dancers in that set period of time. There might be one point, or their might be ten. If you have many, you should circle 3 of them as priority and work on them first. Yes, there may be other things on the list; create a new combo for the end, clean up the beginning, remove the jump section in the middle… the list goes on, but sometimes the smaller things are irrelevant and on our list in order create a distraction from the real tasks and are therefore a source of procrastination. Be brutally honest with yourself and prioritize the most challenging point first.
Practice Purposeful Repetition
Whether you are a dancer or a choreographer you will always have to do some sort of warm up to settle your body into the space. A great way to preserve creative brain energy is to repeat the same warm up, stretches and cool down weekly. This frees up a lot of thinking space that could be used for choreographing something new. Also, repetition of movement and exercise will make you or your dancers stronger at the movements that are packed into the warm up. If you really find that you have a preference for a new warm up, change it a bit less often, maybe once a month.
Acknowledge, Change Course and Continue
Oftentimes, rehearsals don’t go to plan but it can’t stop the process. For instance, there was a time when I was mid-way choreographing a pole piece and at one of the rehearsals, there was a delay with the studio because people were running late. I acknowledged that the time didn’t allow for me to set my pole up and take it down. So rather than leaving the rehearsal altogether I imagined the pole was there with me and I used the space anyway and began working on my floor sections. If I would’ve allowed myself to become stressed I probably would’ve just walked away and complained that I couldn’t rehearse a pole piece without a pole. The ability to continue without the pole and without getting stressed allowed me to get so much done in that session.
Like me and many other dancers / teachers you might use your iPhone to play music. If this is the case, my advice to you is to put it on flight mode so that the numbers of distractions are limited. No notification, no calls and no texts. One single notification from your phone might be enough to take your focus somewhere else when your focus should only be at the rehearsal. This is particularly important when you’re creating something new that has a real direct intention. You’d be surprised how easy the first line of an email could sway your mood and stress levels.
Always End with a Smile
After a sweaty, painful rehearsal, sometimes we have to remind ourselves why we do what we do. Like you would give your dancers good feedback at the end of the class, also give yourself a pat on the back. Even if it didn’t go to plan, you showed up and ticked a few things off your list. That is an achievement in itself. Furthermore, if you actively choose to feel good about the rehearsal, you will probably be more eager to get to the next one which will then, in turn, allow for increased efficiency.
What is it that makes your rehearsals efficient and smooth running? Share in the comments below.