Brenda Pugh McCutchen
April 18, 2014

Teachers of dance are always on the lookout for danceable topics that will stimulate innovative choreography. Finding a wide array of movement ideas is often elusive, especially topics that meet the diverse interests of our students. Our aim is to identify a variety of topics worth abstracting into dance so students find abundant opportunities to create original movement material. A variety of stimuli that sparks different textures and timbres of movement is very useful to developing movement vocabulary for choreography.


It is especially helpful for beginning choreographers to learn how to convey one topic clearly. The single topic dance is one we often overlook in our quest to teach choreographic skills. Alwin Nikolais stressed the importance of conveying one idea clearly without extraneous movements—and one idea presented in a concise, imaginative way can become a dance masterpiece. He insisted that students invent new ways to convey an idea in order to stretch their vocabulary, impose creative limits, and discover ways to make clear, intelligible dances. His sharp eye ferreted out the extraneous moves which he insisted be removed for clarity. As a result, the dances his students created were delightful as well as innovative. Unless students learn to convey one idea clearly and inventively, what hope do they have of conveying multiple ideas through such an abstract medium as movement and dance.


Gone are the days where pop music should be allowed as the inspiration for choreography in K-12. Pop music is an invitation for novice choreographers to string their favorite moves together and call it choreography. Dances to pop music are not only clichéd and naïve, they are literally dependent upon the length, lyrics, and limits of the music itself. When dance becomes dependent on the music it therefore becomes secondary to it—and unnecessary. One value of educational dance in K-12 is to teach choreography in such a way as to preempt the making of cookie-cutter dances that are far too riddled with worn out movement clichés, making so many dances look-alike and communicate little of interest.


In a recent dance teacher workshop in South Carolina a group of intrepid dance specialists joined me to create choreography prompts that would circumnavigate their students away from such cookie-cutter dances as these…. and toward fresh topics that challenge them to move in new ways. We first read, explored, and worked with the five-line stanza called Dance Diamantes which turn nine words into a movement ideas to choreograph. Next we tackled the more complex Dragonfly Diamantes for students who are ready to abstract ideas into movements for choreography. They were jazzed about their new creations. By the end of our workshop we had enough Dragonfly Diamante prompts to share with you on some diverse topics. This very talented group of teachers graciously conceded to share these with you online hoping to give you new fodder for your choreography classes in upper elementary through high school to lead students away from movement cliché and into creative movement invention.


We hope these also stimulate you to write your own danceable diamantes around single topics to prompt your students to create as well as to find original ideas to dance.


On Fireflies.


Fireflies. Fireflies. Fireflies.
Blinking. Glowing. Sparking. Igniting. Scurrying brightly.
Hovering in meadows. Hovering, flaming specks. Fast. Light. Shining.
Summer evenings. Disappearing. Re-appearing Dusk creatures.
Quiet. Dancing. Glistening.
(Lisa Marie Deitz) (Lisa Marie Deitz) (Kellianne Floyd)



Fireflies. Flight. Fireflies.
Soar. Sip. Soaring freely. Hovering, buzzing.
Dodging a stick. Climb. Dive. Spin. Over water. Reflects.
Bright. Light. Hovering above. Fish bait.
Darkness. Free. Gulp!
(Jenna Oliver) (Kellianne Floyd) (Kathy Ingram)


On Airports


Airport. Airport. Airport.
Lanes. Lights. Checkpoint hassles. Constantly moving.
Luggage check-in. Take it off. Briskly. Quickly. Hurried.
Busy. Fast. Lost shoes. Always motion.
Take-off!! BUZZ. Flying.
(Jenna Oliver) (Kathy Ingram) (Kellianne Floyd)



Late. Rushing.
Impatient lines. Frustrated.
Finally boarding.
(Lisa Marie Deitz)


On Sunsets


Sunset. Sunset. Sunset.
Sinking orb Fading. Falling. Slowly lowering.
Slipping behind horizon. Darkening the sky. Into the night.
Ending today. Shrink. Sink. Blazing. Bright.
Dark. Calm. Evening.
(Lisa Marie Dietz) (Jenna Oliver) (Kellianne Floyd)



Slowly sinks
Into the horizon.
Rest now.
(Kathy Ingram)




Circling speed. Speed. Race. Looping dangerously.
Zoom. Zip. Roar. Waving the flag. Please don’t crash.
Pitstop….pause. Fans. Stands. Shaking wheel.
GO!! Drivers. Control.
(Kathy Ingram) (Jenna Oliver) (Lisa Marie Deitz)



Racing quickly.
First to finish.
Takes prize.
(Kellianne Floyd)


On State Fair


State-Fair State-Fair State-Fair
Roller coasters. Cotton candy. Children. Laughter.
Backward. Forward. Loop. Whirling. Tilting. Diving. Waiting in line
Games galore. Cows. Pigs. Food. Friends.
Carnival! Community. Play.
(Kellianne Floyd) (Lisa Marie Dietz) (Jenna Oliver)



Cotton candy.
Ice cream. Full.
Fast ride.
(Kathy Ingram)


On Parking Meters


Parking Meter Parking Meter
Tick. Tock. Measuring minutes.
Must beat clock. Time is up!
Hurried. Worried. Coins click.
Late. Feed.
(Jenna Oliver) (Lisa Marie Dietz)

Author, Brenda Pugh McCutchen gives dance teacher workshops and professional development institutes worldwide. Creating Dance—Processes for Choreography –her teaching toolkit for dance composition features movement invention through original diamantes starting at grade four through twelve. Her book, Dragonfly Diamantes—Stanzas to Abstract for Choreography includes over eighty stanzas to prompt inventive dance compositions at high school and college level.