There has always been much emphasis placed on creative movement within K-12 dance education and studio training.  However, the concept of integrating formal, more sophisticated improvisation and choreography-composition classes within the private studio sector, has often been overlooked. It is important to mention the growing trend of technically-trained adolescent dancers who are finding choreography as their true calling and are often not experiencing these courses until they reach higher education dance programs. What is even more interesting is that the works of some of these young dance-makers are the most refreshing, thought-provoking and promising works I have seen throughout my time as a choreography teacher. 

            If this is an area that interests you as a studio owner or teacher, there are many interdisciplinary subjects you can incorporate into a choreography curriculum to spark the creative process. Furthermore, providing a variety of sources will allow your dancer-choreographers to find their own niche, find what inspires them most and challenge them to work with academic stimuli as well as the emotional and physical.

            Adolescent choreographers will often already be creatively inspired by music, popular trends, technique vernacular, their current life experiences, relationships, emotions and desire to assert an individual voice. However, when given interdisciplinary prompts to spark choreography, it is interesting to see their interpretations when thematic concepts are encouraged. One subject area that I have always found to be an excellent source of movement inspiration is visual art. Dancers learn to not only discuss their feelings and criticisms of artwork, but also learn to deconstruct the principles of design, (including: harmony, balance, sequence, repetition, contrast, variety, unison, transition, proportion, etc,) and translate that into movement. Visual art is also a wonderful prompt for choreography in terms of looking at line and shape, levels, pathways, mood, etc. By providing each student a copy of a print of artwork, students can either work on solos (encouraged for beginning composition classes) or develop group scores based on their interpretations.  Some of my favorite artwork that I find has worked well for students include the following:

Renaissance-Realism Period:

Davinci: Vetruvian Man, Mona Lisa,

Botticelli: The Birth of Venus,

Fragonard, The Swing

French Impressionist Period:

Monet: WaterLillies, Rouen Cathedral, Poppies

Degas: Woman Combing her Hair,  L’etoile Le Danseuse sur la Scene, Rehearsal

Mary Cassatt: The Bath

Manet: Luncheon on the Grass

Renoir: Dance at Bouvigal, Dance at the Moulin de la Galette

Seurat: Sunday Afternoon on the Island on La Grande Jatte

Modern Masters:

Matisse: Le Danse 1, Danseuse dans le Fauteuil, Icarus

Van Gogh: Starry Night, Cut Sunflowers, Church at Auvers-sur-Oise

Chagall:  La Mariee, David et Bethsabeé

Gauguin: Near the Sea


Picasso: Tête de Femme, Girl Before Mirror, La Reve

Dali: Persistance of Time

Kahlo: Self Portrait

Modern and Abstract:

Jackson Pollock: Composition Yellow, Gray, Black,

Roy Lichtenstein: Moonscape, CRAK, Finger Pointing

Andy Warhol: 100 Cans

Wassily Kandinsky: Yellow, Red and Blue

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Lite, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me


            Literature, specifically poetry is another concept idea for prompting a student’s creative process. Here, the same principles of design we used in visual art and within choreographic structure can now be applied to written word. Students will learn to deconstruct the meaning of poems, but also come to understand what resonates most with them. Dancer-choreographers will also learn how they can translate their interpretations into moving works of art. Some of the most successful prompts I have used with students when building choreography has been:

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings

Longfellow’s Evangeline

Emily Dickinson’s There is Another Sky, The World is Not Conclusion, Fame is a Bee

Richard Wilbur’s Love Calls us to the Things of This World

Langston Hughes’ Dream Variations, Still Here

Edgar Allen Poe’s Romance

Pablo Neruda’s Clenched Soul, Always

            These suggestions are just a sample of the vast resources you can use within improvisation and choreography classes within your studios. Further ideas can include personally written poetry, photography, nature, music from different eras, etc., to coincide with choreographic structure and design. Remember, these prompts can serve and creative catalysts and open up new possibilities for movement exploration to inspire your young choreographers!


Good luck to all!

See you in the dance studio,


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