Design is by far the more complicated of the elements. Design in dance as art has two parts: time and space. The design in space can be seen at any given moment and for this reason will be easier for students to grasp. The design in time requires the remembering of a movement sequence and visualizing the shape the movement makes throughout the phrase or perhaps the full length of the dance. This could be shown clearly with a VCR with slow motion capabilities by actually tracing the pattern and design the movement makes throughout a given phrase.
Design in choreography can be broken down into two basic areas, symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetry creates a feeling of stability while asymmetry is cause for stimulation. This can be explained clearly with examples such as passing through a symmetrically shaped doorway without hesitating to consider its safety. The same doorway with a list to one side would cause a moments hesitation and thought before passing through. Symmetry and asymmetry can also be shown with photographs and diagrams of various architecture, artwork and human form. An assignment would be to tear pages from dance, sports or fashion magazines of human figures and separate them into symmetrical and asymmetrical poses.
The two areas of design, symmetry and asymmetry can be further broken down into oppositional or successional shapes. The lines of the body are either opposed and in sharp contrast to each other such as when right angles exist or are curved and follow in succession without a visual break or interruption. This can be seen clearly in the diagrams included in this paper.
There is an opposite effect caused by these two elements and full understanding of this effect on the audience is necessary for the choreographer. Oppositional lines and shapes create a feeling of power or force. Right angles suggest energy and vitality. Successional designs cause a calming effect. When the curves or lines are not broken by angles the eye can view the design without interruption. Various combinations of these elements are necessary for contrast and the alleviation of boredom for the audience. Symmetrical succession perhaps would be too boring where as asymmetrical succession would have enough stimulation to create the desired effect while keeping the audience awake.
To solidify these ideas an assignment for the students will be to create four stationary shapes in space using their own bodies. Two symmetrical and two asymmetrical one of each demonstrating opposition and succession. These will be performed the first half of the next class and the last half will be used to combine the single body shapes into designs for two bodies demonstrating the same elements.
The students should now be ready for the next assignment which will be to create shapes that express a feeling to a set idea. These will be limited to family situations and related feelings and will serve as a lead into the interpretation of short stories into movement. Once again the ideas for choreography could change for different classroom needs. An example of this would be the birth of a child as the idea. The students will explore their own feelings and natural reactions to this occurring in their lives. Would they be angry, sad, joyful? How would they physically express their feelings? If this is uncomfortable for some students the assignment could be made more specific by giving another role to explore the idea from. How might a grandmother feel, an older brother, the father? The students should be encouraged to invent or use actual situations to fill in the blanks. Writing down their idea in short scenarios would be helpful. After researching their ideas the students will once again create a stationary shape using their own bodies which express their feeling of the given idea.
These single body shapes can than be expanded into shapes for two or more bodies using the students own scenarios. How might joy be expressed by two bodies in space? Jealousy? These shapes should incorporate all the elements of design used in the first assignment, as well as expressing the idea. There should be a clear understanding of design in space at this point and they are now ready to intelligently explore the concept of design in time. This should be kept as simple as possible. The concept that the succession of design in space causes an overall shape is an abstract idea and will be difficult for most young students to grasp. It should be touched on but not allowed to cause frustration. As stated earlier I believe the easiest method to teach this will be to show a dance phrase and have the students draw the line of the overall movement.
The designing of a phrase of movement is the next step in choreographing a dance. Every dance has a beginning, middle and end with high and low points for contrasts. The dance will be made up of phrases made up of the succession of designs in space which will contain the basic elements of design, symmetry and asymmetry. Phrases like complete dances also have a beginning, middle and end. They should also have high and low points and should vary in length for interest. Phrasing in a simplistic form can be separated into three categories: high point at the beginning, high point in the middle, and high point at the end. (See diagrams) The high point of a phrase may be caused by an increase in energy, an increase of tempo, a sudden change in movement quality or a literal interpretation of being high in space.
The assignment for this will be to create three phrases using their designs in space showing an idea as the high points. The connecting movement could be taken from the fundamental movements learned in the warm-up period of each class from social or folk dances, basic locomotive steps or combinations of all these. The length of the phrases should be assigned as in four counts, eight counts and twelve counts. Direction changes and variations in rhythm and energy should also be explored. A classroom activity will be to perform “street dances”, break them down into phrases, pin point the high points and freeze movements to show the designs in space.
Design in dance as it relates to the stage space will be taught throughout the progression of the course. This can be done with side coaching and asking questions. Where is front? Is that the best angle for the leg from the audience viewpoint? When student gives directions they should use stage terms such as, upstage right or downstage center. These can be taught with diagrams and from using the terms from the beginning of the class in the warm-up. Example: First group kicking combination from upstage right corner to downstage left corner and be on center stage by the fourth kick! Students can learn and become familiar with the weak and strong areas of the stage by viewing other students assignments. Then the student will express his/her opinion of whether it could be staged differently to increase the desired effect.