Shin Tip: Episode #2 – Choreography 101
For those of you who were unable to make our Choreography Forum, we have put together some requirements, definitions and examples of choreography which cover areas that you can focus on to help keep you and your group on track.
The Fire Conclave Council does not dictate the specifics regarding choreography. We want to give you artistic freedom and oversight, so the direction you take is up to you to decide. That being said, we do require some form of organization and cohesion to your dance.
We will be covering each of these topics below:
- Designing your Choreography
- Seek Inspiration online
- Create Social Media Groups for each of your groups
- Skillbuild by practicing fire spinning/dance moves and learning new ones
- Video Chats help to keep your group involved, motivated and brainstorming
- Brainstorm Costuming
1. Designing Your Choreography:
This Shin Tip is packed full of information that may help you in deciding which type of choreography works best for your group, and where to find inspiration in order to get started…
- Duet: you must open with a 90-second (minimum) duet.
- Fire: there must be fire on stage at all times.
- Transitions: smooth and well thought out transitions from one scene to the next.
- Choreographed Dance: minimum 15 minutes of “choreographed” dance
What do we mean by “Duet”?:
The Fire Conclave Council defines a fire duet as two people directly “interacting” with each other and the fire. Not just working side by side or in sync, but working in conjunction with one another as a team. Intertwined and connected at times. It does not need to be intimate (a sword fight can be just as intertwined) but it does have to be connected and cohesive.
What do we mean by “Transitions”?:
Transitions are “movements, passages, or changes from one position, subject, style,
concept or place, etc., to another”. In the Fire Conclave, it’s how one dance section or routine moves and flows to the next. Does it look smooth and coordinated, or choppy and chaotic? Are performers ready and waiting to transition to the next section?
What do we mean by “Choreographed Dance”?:
Choreography comes from the Greek word Khoreia meaning “dancing in unison” and is defined as “the composition or sequence of steps and movements within dance” and “the gathering and organizing of movement into order and pattern” .
As you can see, it is a very broad term and quite multifaceted. The Fire Conclave Council does not dictate the specifics regarding choreography. That being said, we do require some form of organization and cohesion to your dance. We do not want to see a series of solos or renegade (aka spin jam style). We want to give you freedom of expression and artistic oversight, so how you interpret this and what direction you take is left to you to decide.
Choosing Your Choreography Style:
Over the years Choreography has evolved dramatically. Methods of composition vary radically from Contemporary, Modern, Abstract, Classical Ballet, Line Dancing, Hip Hop, Krump, African, Polynesian, Capoeira…the list is virtually endless.
The guidelines for your submission video state that you must provide 15 minutes of “choreographed dance”. So what do we mean by that, and how do you go about achieving it? Since this seems to be a routinely asked question, we’ve decided to provide you with some helpful suggestions in an effort to help you get started.
Here are some of the more “typical” choreography styles that have worked in the Great Circle over the years. Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick with just one style. Blend different styles as you see fit depending on the number of dancers, size of tools, etc…
- Synced: routines which move or operate at the same time and rate, in unison.
- Staggered Sync: offsetting the timing of a specific move, or a series of moves can enhance the simple synced routine. Alternating between speeding things up/slowing things down, or playing with height variations are also simple tricks to add a splash of style and creativity.
- Marching Formations: a drill which consists of a series of movements by which a unit of individuals are moved in an orderly, uniform manner from one arrangement to another, or from one place to another. For example, going from circles to lines, then to squares forming distinct patterns. Or two lines, one in front of the other, are offset and inverted (aka switch places) so that the front line is now in the back, and the back line moves forward.
- Partnered: partnered choreography typically consists of two people (or several groups of two people) performing in tandem. Partnered styles can be anything from dancing the tango to square dancing where partners rotate or change. Partner poi, partner dragon staff, and partnered double staff performing offsetting isolation tech seem to be some of the more popular styles in fire performance.
- Call and Response: “Call and response” is a physical conversation: One person/group performs, then another dances in response. This form has its roots in the songs, drums and dance of African culture, and is often seen today in hip hop and tap. Example: Two groups face each other onstage and perform alternating 8-counts, as if in response.
- Multiple Tools: this style is tough to pull off if you don’t want it ending up looking like renegade. Utilize techniques such as syncing similar tools together (even if they are located on different sides of the routine itself) to give the routine some cohesion. Another suggestion is to have multiple types of tools doing the same moves and/or formations. The key point in this is having a critical eye. Watch the routine to make sure it looks purposeful and complementary, not chaotic and disjointed.
- Rhapsodic: dances that express pure feeling are known as “rhapsodies”. Emotion is the key component to this composition, such as conveying a sense of sadness, elation or even seduction through movement.
- Narratives: this type of choreography typically follows a storyline. The use of theatrical techniques are most often utilized to enhance a play or movie, however, there is no reason they can’t be utilized (in small doses) to add spice to dance routines. Fight scenes, love scenes and even large fire props can fall into this category. But in order for this to work, it has to be believable! Fight scenes need to look real, like someone is about to die. Love scenes need to scream passion. Remember, although storytelling and character development are important in these types of routines, they should never take precedence over the dance. They should be used sparingly to enhance your dance routine, not dominate it.
- Feature/Background Style: this type of choreography revolves around a solo performer, duet, or small group performing in the foreground with a larger group performing in the background. This style is commonly used in conjunction with other styles such as the Narrative/Storytelling style. The important factor to remember with this style is framing. The background performance should be framed in a way that doesn’t distract from what’s going on in the foreground. A good way to accomplish this is to have the featured piece in the middle with the background performers on each side, or to have them lined across the back using height variations such as large, high moves with a staff while smaller fire is performed in the foreground. This style can be helpful in larger groups where you have a contingent of performers that are new to fire spinning and less skilled. The main thing to remember in utilizing this style is that it should not look chaotic or renegade-ish.
Please note that we frown on what we call “circle jerks”. This is where you form a circle and rotate with the focus being on the front person for a short period of time, until they rotate to the next person who then does their solo. To us, this is a series of solos tied together and not technically group choreography.
Utilizing Large Fire Props in Choreography:
The Fire Conclave requires that there be fire on stage at all times. No dead spots or dark spaces. Standard, liquid fuel dipped tools don’t need any special approval, but large fire props do. We are always excited to see the new directions you are willing to go with your dances and prop development, but our main concerns about large fire props are rooted in safety. Large fire props need to be pre-approved by the FC Council. Submit your Weird Tool request for approval using the form found on the Fire conclave Resources Page:
Before you start adding large props to your routine, ask yourself “does this prop advance, expand and add to the dance?” Remember, large fire props are not an accessory, nor are they to be used in lieu of dance.
2. Seek out Inspiration:
Finding inspiration for your dance can be a daunting task, especially if you have never dabbled with choreography before. Hopefully you made it to our Choreography 101 forum, but if you didn’t, here are links to the Forum and the Slideshow:
Choreography Forum Presentation:
Slideshow: (PDF Download)
Finding things that inspire us can be as simple as watching a show or visiting the internet. Here are a few things we suggest to help get you headed in the right direction:
- Visit the Internet: YouTube and Vimeo can be a tremendous help when searching for ideas. Seek out diverse choreographies such as martial arts expositions, marching bands, step routines, cheerleading competitions, flash mob routines, and even the opening ceremonies from the Olympics to give you the spark you are looking for.
- Watch Movies and TV: If you’re not binge watching “World of Dance” you should be! There are also some great movies out there which can help when you’re feeling stuck as to where to start. Search Netflix for movies like Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Moulin Rouge, Stomp the Yard, and don’t forget oldies featuring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire! These can all help with the inspiration you need to pull together a routine, sometimes even an entire show. Of course, when all else fails, there’s always Disney…
Here are a few of our favorite links to help you get started:
- Motif & 16 Ways of Manipulation:
- Sean Lew & Kaycee Rice (WOD 2018)
- James Bay – Let it Go
Fire Conclave Submission Videos:
- Firemingos 2021 (Virtual Burn):
- Empire Fire Collective – 2022 (Duet):
- PyroTex 2022 (Line Formation & Sync):
- MxFx 2022 (Creativity):
- Royal Family: Front Row (WOD 2015)
Synced/Staggered Synced Style:
- Golden Buzzer (Got Talent Global)
- Strawhatz: Kimono
Narrative Style Choreography:
- Fabulous Sisters: Compilation (WOD 2018)
- BDash & Konkrete: The Duels (WOD 2018)
- The Heima: LA LA LA (2019 WOD) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCYf6GuAFdA
- The Kings – WOD (incorporating a Combat Scene into Dance)
- Choregraphie d’escrime artistique danse with Frederic Trin
- Fight Choreography Basics – Workshop
Flash Mob Style:
- Step Up – Revolution
Large Group Formations:
- Blue Devils: Metamorph
- Australian Drill Dance
For more inspiration, visit the Fire Conclave Website Video Library:
3. Social Media Groups:
Try starting an online group for each pod or routine. This way people can stay involved and discuss moves, music suggestions and more!
Have each group find two or three new moves and have each person practice them. You can seek out tutorials online, and challenge people to learn a new move each week. In a month, your group has 4 new moves down!
5. Video Chats:
Video chats for small groups are a great tool for showcasing new moves or dance moves. It also gives visual learners a great way to see the moves you are doing, and start to think about transitioning them all together. This is a great tool when your group is spread out in different locations.
This is a great time to start a group of people interested in costuming. Get people to sketch out easy costuming ideas, or search out make-up ideas online!
The bottom line here is that although the future can still change in a moment’s notice, we can still be doing things to advance the dance…
Keeping the Flame Alive,
Crimson, Tabasco, Wrangler, Scorch and Natalie
The Fire Conclave Council
Photo Credit: Kevin Levezu