How to analyze a choreographic piece?

by Moises

Hello Maria,

I am a student of a contemporary dance’s degree in Mazatlán, Sinalóa. I just started to work on my graduating project’s draft and I need to find theoretical grounds to structure a formal analysis of a choreographic piece. I haven’t found a text that can help me. I imagine you might know in which direction I should go to get close to my purpose.

Thanks a lot for your attention.

Greetings from Mexico!!


Comments for How to analyze a choreographic piece?

Click here to add your own comments

Feb 27, 2011
Answer from Maria
by: Maria

Hi Moises,

First of all, it is important that you are clear about the perspective from which you will work. As far as I know, the widespread points of view used in dance analysis (or critique) are aesthetics, dance anthropology and sociology, or movement analysis (Rudolph Laban's or Hubert Godard's).

I guess you intend to do your work from the perspective of aesthetics, because you are in a school for arts.

Still, from this angle, you have the option of symbolic analysis (hermeneutics), or abstract analysis.

The most renowned theoretical frame for analyzing dance as something abstract is the one created by Rudolph Laban.

I guess you've heard about Laban's concepts like kinespheric space, scenic space, time, body, weight, flow, shape or effort. If you don't know these, look for as much information as you can about the whole Laban's theory. After understanding the basic concepts, you'll have a possible, theoretical frame, to ground a movement analysis of the choreographic piece you choose.

For other approaches, I believe you can find some guidelines into the following list of readings. They were provided to me by Professor Isabelle Ginot, during a course of dance critique in 2004 at the dance department of the University of Paris VIII. (I have only included texts in english and that I think you might find in libraries or in the web)

General texts:

Copeland, Roger. "Between description and deconstruction", The Routledge Dance studies reader, Routledge 1998.

Jowitt, Deborah. "Beyond Description..." Moving History/dancing cultures, Ann Dills & Ann C. Albright, ed., Wesleyan, 2001.

Siegel, Marcia. "Bridging the critical distance", The Routledge Dance studies reader, Routledge, 1998.

Some examples of analysis of choreographic pieces:

Banes, Sally. "Witch Dance" (M. Wigman) in Dancing Women, Routledge, 1998.

Foster, Susan. "The Ballerina's Phallic pointe", Corporealities, Routledge, 1996.

Franko, Mark. "Five Theses on Laughter after all", Moving Words, ed. G. Morris, Routledge, 1996.

Manning, Susan. "Ecstasy and the Demon, Feminism and Nationalism in the dances of M. Wigman (introduction and chapter "Witch Dance")", Univ. of California Press, 1993.

Manning, Susan, "American Document and American Minstrelsy" Moving Words, ed. G. Morris, Routledge, 1996.

Remember that the texts are just guidelines to know some possibilities of how you could work or get ideas.

Be clear about your perspective and define a very specific aspect of the dance to work over. Ideally, you should be able to formulate a very concrete and short question about it.

Your work will be to identify the elements that would allow you to answer that question.

And if you decide yourself to answer the question broadly, you might be on your way to writing a thesis....

I wish you a good reading!

Let us know how you get on, and don't hesitate to come back to with more questions!



Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Dance Questions About Theory and History.

Enjoy this page? You can pay it forward easily. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.


The Dance Thinker is our occasional E-zine. Fill in the form below to receive it for free and join us.


"The Dance Thinker"

Post contemporary dance announcements (workshops, auditions, performances, meetings and important news... it is free.)