Choreography Structures Mini Course


Welcome to the Choreographic Structures Mini Course!


This is the first mini course that Melinda Phillips has created. Please feel free to provide feedback to and Thank you!

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Overview and Purpose

All types of dances exist or will be created for all types of purposes, by all different types of people. This is a mini course on choreographic structures. Why are choreographic structures important in dance? They are "basic to certain timeless universal expressive needs" according to Elizabeth R. Hayes in her book, Dance Composition and Production (2nd edition). Additionally, as stressed by Modern Dance pioneer Doris Humphrey in her book, The Art of Making Dances , "All composers, both young and experienced, would do well to inquire into the craftmanship of choreography." This course may be taken by students, while also serving as a resource for Dance Educators.

Are you still unsure if this is for you?

Have you ever attended a dance performance, concert or recital and left feeling confused by what you saw? Perhaps the piece/s looked disjointed, mismatched, or did not communicate what you read about in the program. What about you as a choreographer? Would you like to learn to create pieces that flow? If so, this course can support you in your journey of creating structures that communicate the concepts that are important to you!

Course Overview (How This Course Works)

This mini course can be useful for aspiring choreographers and dance educators alike. There are 3 units of study for this mini course. The units provide definitions, selected viewings, quizzes, journaling, choreography studies and opportunities to share insights, examples and give and receive constructive criticism with other course participants. All of these actions will move you towards a greater understanding of choreographic structures and devices.

Test your recall- Complete a Quizlet flashcard review, and a "ThatQuiz" matching activity.

View and analyze samples of each choreographic structure by following the links in Unit 2.

Reflect on your progress- Journaling will allow you to reflect on what you do or do not understand, so you know where to focus your efforts.

Complete choreography studies- Movement problems, exercises or studies will be provided with guiding questions allowing for self reflection.

Compare and contrast- Work to identify similarities and differences between structures as well as when they are best utilized in choreography.

Finally, participants may share discoveries- new examples, clips, choreographic studies etc. with one another via padlet and a shared google classroom and continue to grow collectively. Contact information and links to useful resources will be included for you to pursue further study.

Performance Objectives

Learning outcomes (goals) vary slightly for dance educators and students and include:


Educators will learn about or review the selected choreographic structures and devices and their uses.

Educators will create and perform choreographic works that accurately demonstrate the function of various choreographic tools, structures and/ or devices.

Educators will assess footage of choreographic works and accurately identify which structures are utilized.

When creating instruction for their students educators will identify appropriate uses for each of the selected choreographic tools, structures and/ or devices for their students, focusing on cultivating their artist voice and process.


Students will explore the choreographic process and use several different choreographic tools, structures and/or devices.

Students will understand the difference between the selected choreographic devices.

Students will begin to identify and match the best use of each of the selected choreographic devices with the intention behind their choreographic concept.

Applicable standards include (but not limited to):

NYSED Learning Standards for the Arts- The standards stress the importance of learning about choreography structures. Included in these standards are exploring, identifying, and experimenting with choreographic structures to expand choreographic possibilities, and support and clarify artistic intent.

Anchor Standard 7 focuses on the ability to "Perceive and analyze artistic work." Choreographers understanding how dance is structured is akin to authors understanding how sentences are structured.

Anchor Standard 2 focuses on the ability to "Organize and develop artistic ideas and work." It states that "the elements of dance, dance structures, and choreographic structures serve as both a foundation and a departure point for choreographers." The essential question asks what choices choreographers make to create a dance.

Course Units- Begin HERE!

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: What is Choreography?

What does the term choreography mean? What do choreographers do, and why? How is choreography created? What does the process entail, and is it the same for everyone? All of these questions will be answered, and this mini course will then go on to highlight one area of choreographic structures for you to explore more deeply.

Unit 2: Structures, devices, tools and differentiating between them

What are the different choreographic structures, tools and devices? How are they different or similar? Answer these questions and more in Unit 2. Test your knowledge of choreographic structures with a simple quiz.

Unit 3: Best uses of Choreographic structures, and cultivating the artist voice

How do choreographers know when to use each of the choreographic structures? What makes one more appropriate than another? Consider these questions as an artist and potentially as an educator.

M. Phillips instructing onlookers at Memorial Art Gallery

References and Extended Resources

Dance Composition & Production second edition by Elizabeth R. Hayes

Dance About Anything by Marty Sprague, Helen Scheff, Susan McGreevy-Nichols

Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World- Part II: Culturally Relevant Teaching, Critical Dance Pedagogy by Nyama McCarthy-Brown

Dancers Talking Dance by Larry Lavendar

The Art of Making Dances by Doris Humphrey

Bodystories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy by Andrea Olsen

TEACHING resources

NYS Learning Standards- Dance