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From Studio to Stage

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

3 Tips for Taking Ownership of Your Choreography During Tech Week

By Celine Dirkes

Tech week can be one of the most stressful times in any production, especially for musicals. An already complex combination of song, dance, and acting suddenly must incorporate a whole new set of complications: lights, microphones, set pieces, props, and costumes, not to mention the live accompaniment of a pit. It’s amazing to watch a final performance integrate all these elements, but that process can be daunting, especially for performers who may not identify strongly as singers, actors, or dancers.

Dance, choreography, movement, tips

I sat down with ReThink’s resident choreographers, Danielle Durso and Marissa Aucoin, to see if they had any advice to help performers take ownership of their choreography during this challenging step in the staging process. Here are their three biggest tips and tricks:

1) Take in the Space

You may already have moved into your performance space during the rehearsal process, but by tech week, it will have changed. Whether that means large set-pieces on stage, re-arranged seating if you’re in a black-box, or the all-important addition of lighting, it requires you to reassess your relationship to the space. Co-Choreographer of Little Shop of Horrors Danielle Durso puts it like this: “There are just components that are going to be different, because your canvas is different.” Good advice! Be sure to take time to feel out how your new canvas affects your movement. Dani gives us a good idea where to begin: “…Usually the initial change is just: Okay, what does it look like, in changing the rehearsal space, and how is this going to read from an audience seat?”

2) Find Your Fluency

What is fluency? Danni explains “…We tend to think…especially in the beginning of a process of a musical, of it in pieces. And then, when it comes to tech week, this is where it all layers together. So, I like to think of the choreography as that fluency. It’s making words and phrases into sentences, and turning that into a beautiful song, right?” She advises that as the various elements of the production come together, performers stay mindful of the layers of storytelling, and find creative ways to integrate them with movement. “How,” she asks, “can we move a platform but do this in a way that is telling a story, or is keeping the eye moving, or is making me think more about what the character is doing and less about the fact that a platform is being moved? And that’s somewhere where dance can really add to the whimsy of what we’re creating, which is a lot of fun.”

3) Dare to Fail

With so much happening during a tech rehearsal, it can be tempting for performers to pull back. But Marissa Aucoin, the second half of the resident and co-choreographing duo, advises against it. “Taking risks and making choices, especially heading into a performance, allows you to understand the boundaries of what fits into the show and what doesn’t. What fits into this character and what doesn’t,” she suggests. Though tech is the time to fine tune, that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop making choices. “I love to have to pull people back,” Marissa says, “Which rarely happens, but if you give yourself the permission to try things and fail, and to learn from them and to try things and succeed, then more options start coming.”

Marissa, Danni, and the whole cast & crew of ReThink’s Little Shop of Horrors have been working hard during their tech week. Come see the results this weekend! Reserve your tickets now.

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