When I listen to music, the music tells me what movements I would need to make, in order to scribe it into dance. Music can also turn into art or writing, but the best fit is dance. When we translate one form into another, we do so through the lens with which we see the world. We explain what we see, by turning it into something visible, so that other people might understand it in the same way that we do. The process of training to dance is mostly about lots of repeated exercises, and about memorising the movements that someone else made up. The dance steps that your teacher chose; Mikhail Fokine’s “Dying Swan” from Swan Lake. As you get to grips with the movements, you can add your own style to the choreography – a positioning of the hand, a slight pause before you take a step. You dance the steps on the stage, and everyone claps. But in the end, no matter how beautiful your dancing was, you were still a dancer doing someone else’s dance.
Choreography works in a relationship with the dancers who are doing the steps, especially the first time you make them up. You learn as much from watching the dancers weave the steps together, as you do from listening to the music in the first place. Does it look right? Does it fit well? Does it flow? Your dancers can tell you what works and what doesn’t if you are open to listening to them. You can even choreograph as a group, although it’s tricky. Teaching (and planning for teaching) is about translating knowledge into meaning, in a room full of children. It’s not just dancing the dance, it’s making up the dance as you go along. You might know tons of stuff, but teaching isn’t about what you know, it’s about getting your knowing into the heads of the children so that they know as well. So you can go into that classroom, with the best lesson that anyone ever choreographed. But you’ve got to know what to do if the orchestra strikes up The Birdie Song, instead of Swan Lake.