Tyler: How I Like to Choreograph

It’s Tyler Orcutt turn to share his thoughts and advice on choreography as well as a wonderful lesson at the end!

For my choreographic process, I use what I consider the “fly by the seat of your pants” model. Sometimes I go in and start with movement before anything else. Other times, I have an idea brewing and build something with that as an anchor point. For music, sometimes I’ve chosen songs in advance, other times I add music later. The order in which I choreograph also changes. Sometimes I go chronologically and sometimes I don’t. For me, this model has been perfect for me because it is less of a “model” and more of a “do what you want when you want to do it.”

Timeston by Tyler Orcutt

It’s probably best to take the above information with the caveat that I still consider myself a green choreographer, and the way I currently like to choreograph perhaps reflects the fact that maybe I just haven’t found the “perfect” method yet for myself. Regardless, I’ve found that the best work I’ve made thus far has been when I haven’t felt restrained, even if those restraints were put in place by myself. I would like to note, however, that I don’t think restraints are a bad thing whatsoever, in fact, I think they can spark new creativity when one finds themselves otherwise treading familiar ground.

So what do I actually do when I walk into the studio? Well, for my solo, Blue Sun, I’m pretty sure I repeated the phrase, “Let’s try this instead.” I made up movement on the spot, then watched it over to see if it was any good. Sometimes I liked it the first time and kept it. Often, I’d scratch it and quickly come up with something new to see if it was any better. While simple, that was basically the whole process. I like to play with different qualities of movement, and whenever I started getting bored with what I was watching, I immediately changed the quality somehow, which also meant changing the movement sometimes. Even after the solo was finished, I then had to see how the entire thing flowed from beginning to end. Was it worth watching? Did it overstay its welcome? If something wasn’t working and I didn’t know why, then I’d just change something to see if it added or subtracted anything to the experience.

Blue Sun by Tyler Orcutt

The best advice I can give is to tinker and play with your choreography. If you’re a note taker, take notes. Plan what you need to plan, but don’t ever feel like you can’t break your own plan. Sleep on it when you need fresh eyes. Most of all, enjoy the experience.

Lesson Plan

Here is a short lesson plan to try by yourself, or with someone, perhaps Zoom if required:

  1. Make up a 32 count phrase as quickly as you can.
    • Practice it a few times to make sure it’s memorized.
  2. Go through your phrase and replace the parts that don’t feel right to you. Replace it with the next thing that immediately comes to mind.
    • If it switches a transition that makes going into the next original part impossible, that’s perfect. Fix the transition.
    • Practice it a few times to make sure this newer version is memorized.
  3. Continue to repeat step 2 until satisfied.
  4. Record yourself dancing your newly created phrase.
    • Watch yourself.
  5. Go through your phrase and replace the parts that don’t look right to you. Take time to consider the new material you create and how it fits in with everything else you’ve decided to keep.
  6. Depending on how long you want a particular phrase to be, you can choose to stop here, or repeat the same steps starting from 1.
    • If you choose to make it longer and repeat the steps:
      • Decide how you want to combine the two 32 counts phrases together. The options are endless, but here are some are a few starting ones:
        1. A phrase into B phrase
        2. B phrase into A phrase
        3. Mix and match them

Feel free to share these videos, embed them for your students, or link to this page. New online educational resources are being developed every day. If you have suggestions for what you’d like to see let us know: rdt@rdtutah.org.

Tyler Orcutt was born and raised in Ohio, and began his formal dance training upon his move to Florida in 2005. He is currently a professional dancer with Repertory Dance Theatre, residing in Salt Lake City. He joined RDT in 2012, shortly after receiving his B.F.A. in Modern Dance from the University of South Florida. While attending USF, he had the privilege of dancing in works by Bill T. Jones, Doug Varone, and Michael Foley. During his time with RDT, he has performed throughout the United States in the works of Zvi Gotheiner, Molissa Fenly, Claire Porter, Danielle Agami, Ze’eva Cohen, and Andy Noble, among others. Also through RDT, he has had the distinct honor of performing in works choreographed by some of the great modern dance pioneers of the 20th century, including José Limón, Merce Cunningham, Ted Shawn, Charles Weidman, and Michio Ito.

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