What is Choreography?


Choreography is the art of putting movements or sequences of movements together to form a dance. It is a fundamental requirement of classical ballet and choreographers are held in high-esteem.

At the Royal Ballet School choreography is encouraged and developed from an early age with classes and competitions to foster and showcase emerging talents. Whilst at White Lodge Miss Vanessa was in the same year as the now world-renowned choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon whose very first choreography was based on the board game, ‘Scrabble’ when they were both in their first year age 11!

Choreography Comp 2019 RBS 2.jpg

Matthew Bourne, Christopher Wheeldon, Liam Scarlett, Wayne Mcgregor and Merce Cunningham are just a few of the hugely talented choreographers creating works today. Those who are no longer with us such as Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Dame Ninette de Valois have left an incredible legacy - their ballets remain in the Royal Ballet’s repertoire and are still performed regularly to this day.

All choreographers work in different ways and have different styles, some rely heavily on inspiration from their dancers, others have a much more fixed approach. Some like to work with a ‘muse’ (Kenneth MacMillan spotted Darcey Bussell at an early age and was insistent that she dance the principal role in his revival of ‘The Prince of the Pagodas’ - she was only 20 years old at the time).

Many choreographers have a motif step which is repeated in a number of their works, Sir Frederick Ashton’s (a series of steps forward and back, pas de bourées and pas de chats) is affectionately known as The Fred Step. A choreographer can spend hours fine-tuning a very small section or changing an entire piece because he/she is not entirely happy with it.

The choreography of a new ballet is recorded using notation, a combination of dots and lines on a stave that denote a dancer’s movements. A notator will work alongside the choreographer as he/she is setting the piece on the dancers. Complete accuracy is of paramount importance if the ballet is to be preserved and passed down from one generation to the next in it’s original form, videos are not 100% reliable as every dancer’s interpretation is slightly different and there is room for human error!

We at The Ballet School are trying to encourage our pupils to try their hand at choreography and last year held our very first Choreography Competition. It was such a success that we have decided to repeat it again this year and so are calling on all budding choreographers to source their music, rally their dancers and start the creative process. We are also going to hold a Choreographic Workshop over half term to help the children choose their music, develop their ideas and give them the confidence to experiment with different styles.