Choreography Notes - Why it's important/How to write down your choreography

Nov 08, 2022

     Are you a choreographer or a teacher who has to make up many routines for recital? When I first started out teaching, I didn’t think I needed notes. I would start choreographing and teaching my class choreography and then eventually the next week would go over the moves and we would all forget… I did start writing choreography notes, but I slacked… thinking the kids should just memorize it. Some did, but not all the time…

     One time I choreographed for a college dance team audition. I showed up, was doing my thang… and then forgot some of my choreo. Now at this particular point, I was not comfortable just making something up on the spot… I did pull it together and ended up remembering some of the choreography but I learned a lesson… Have backup. Have notes or video.

     I don’t like to use video because I most likely not be able to find the video or remember what I saved it as and it would get lost or take up too much space on whatever device. I do video tape my choreography if it’s a bigger project but I don’t always film my choreography.

     I think it’s important to keep educating yourself so it’s important as a dance instructor to go to workshops or conventions and work on you as a dancer or instructor. By going to several programs I did learn some great ways of taking down notes or writing down your choreography. I will be talking about how to write down your notes to make your life easier. And, what’s great is if you do a good job of this and can actually understand what you wrote, you can always use it again in the future.

     Let me state, everyone is different and we all will choreograph differently and take notes differently. I have found this way to work for me the best. The very first thing we are going to do is pick our song and then write out the counts. So for every 8 count I will write the number 8 to the side of my paper. Depending on how big you write you might need to put an 8 count every other line if you write really big or if you write really detailed.

     I know everyone is different and may not always count music and sometimes we do choreograph to words or accents in the music, but it’s always great to know what count you are on and to be professional. When listening and counting you might come across a 4 count break or maybe just a couple count break, it’s good to write it down so you know ahead of time and when you are on the spot you aren’t trying to remember what count it’s on if you aren’t great at counting the music. Let’s take the song Row Row Row your boat, if you count it out, you will get two counts of 8. I would write an 8 to the side of my paper and another 8 underneath it. I will then write out my moves on the line for that 8 count. If you can abbreviate definitely do that but if you are going to forget your abbreviations then just write it out lol… Write legibly, there’s nothing worse than going back to your notes and not being able to read your own handwriting! If there is a step that you do a lot, come up with a name for it that you will remember. Sometimes I provide my choreography notes to students if needed or if it’s for a group or for a substitute teacher. Again, it is also nice to hang on to your notes and then reuse it later if needed.

     I use to not save them, but then I would want to use the same song again… for example let’s say it’s a particular holiday song that I use once a year… So, this is definitely great to already have notes. If you are a studio owner, maybe you put on holiday shows… it’s great to have your notes… Growing up we would do our annual Christmas show at schools and around our community. Every year they would use the same costumes and reuse some choreography. When I worked on Cruise Ships, they teach the current choreography to the new dancers, they aren’t having to recreate choreography. Disney has a position called maintenance choreographer who’s job is to teach choreography for whatever show, and keep the choreography maintained… and you do this by show notes. I know other companies have this in place, this is just where I experienced notes coming in handy.

     If you have any questions you can always reach out to me or you can visit my youtube channel to see an example of my choreography notes.    https://www.youtube.com/@deannaclover

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