2 Corollaries to the LaBonde Rule

Rule: Simple and Clean. Simple and Clean.Fezziwig's Ball in A Christmas Carol. Hedgerow Theatre, 2010. Photo by Ashley E. Smith
Corollary 1: Repeat it.
Corollary 2: Layer it.

1. Repeat it.- For clarity, I’m talking about repeating within a number. I’m not saying you should repeat the same combos in every number! That said, I think many choreographers are afraid of repeating. It seems...not very creative! But, repeating serves 2 very important purposes.

a. Ease of learning for dancers.- Remember what I said yesterday? I want my dancers to be confident. Then the focus goes back to the story, and not the steps. If I don’t overwhelm them with thousands of new combos, that can happen.

b. The audience likes it.- It gives them a touchstone, a way to feel connected to the material, when they recognize something. They really do. As long as the movement is telling the story, the audience will not be bored with it. No musical numbers are long enough for the audience to get tired of seeing something. Ok, except maybe the repeat at the end of Day by Day in Godspell. I think we’re going to try to take out one set of those....

2. Layer it.- I love layers. Layers can be of your movement ideas or of your dancers.

a. They add complexity and dimension to the simple and clean repeats. For example, for Godspell, with O Bless the Lord My Soul I’m creating a very layered number. The core group starts. When the repeat it, others add in. Then, for the big finish, the entire ensemble is added in. And I have them split into 4 groups, with different movement assignments, repeating until the end. The result is a growing, building Dance Party USA scene, without traffic jams, trampled children, or other unfortunate accidents.

b. Layering movement can give the choreographer an opportunity to explore more ideas. As I keep saying, you want your dancers to be confident. You don’t want to explode anybody’s brain by giving them 55 different combinations in 1 dance. However, as a choreographer, you may have 55 combinations that you are really in love with for a number! Layering your dance can give you opportunities to do that.

c. Or, you can layer the dancers to feature your best ones. If you have an ensemble number, but your ensemble needs some help, layering can give you anchor points. Have your strong members do it first, then add in the rest. Then the ensemble gets a review by seeing it once, and the audience gets focused on your stronger dancers from the start.

Does anyone else have a “method” or “rule” for their creative process? Is it antithetical to have a rule for your creative process?