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Choreography ( ancient Greek χορός , dance 'and γράφειν, write') describes the inventing and studying of movements, mostly in connection with dance . A choreography, like a musical composition, is regarded as a work of art . It ranges from a short solo or show dance (e.g. Michel Fokine's Der dying Swan , 1907) to staging a dance theater piece lasting several hours with many actors and a complex plot.

A choreographer is the creative designer of a choreography. He is the inventor and director of the play at the same time and thus represents the role of author and director in comparison to acting. Complex copyright issues arise from this dual function. In opera , drama and musicals , the choreographer usually works with superordinate directors.


The term choreography originally described the notation of the movements of the choir in Greek drama and was later expanded to denote any form of recording dance movements.

For Jean Georges Noverre (1727–1810) a “chorégraphe” was the one who wanted to record dance movements in writing , and this was meant rather derogatory. At the same time a ballet repertoire developed that could also be transferred to other ballet companies, but managed without written certificates. The teaching dance master wrote these ballets directly into the body. This process is called choreography to this day: the composition of movements in dance , in a broader sense also every staging of movement sequences. The written recording of dance movements, on the other hand, is now called dance notation . In the practical resumption of older works, however, dance notation hardly plays a role. Despite the now common existence of video recordings of previous performances, the choreographies are mostly passed on by former dancers / assistants in a process of showing and learning. Choreography is therefore one communication theory of the few forms of communication in which tradition belongs in practice today still of central importance. Since the avant-garde currents around 1900, stage dance has freed itself from the demand for an action that has separated it from ballroom dancing since the 18th century. Since then, dance has been able to be completely abstract again, in a pure form without any concrete content, as can be found , for example, in George Balanchine . Contemporary dance does not primarily differentiate between narrative, associative and abstract stagings. Very often, however, dance theater has a content that can be conceived as an original work by the choreographer, as is often the case with expressive dance and modern dance , or goes back to a literary model such as the choreographies based on plays by John Cranko ( Romeo and Juliet , Stuttgart 1962) and Tom Schilling ( Undine , Berlin 1972; Black Birds , Berlin 1974; A New Midsummer Night's Dream , Berlin 1984). Modern dance was able to develop into a path-defining and diverse art form in both parts of Germany until reunification .

Relationship to music

The choreographer either chooses accompanying music that matches his ideas or lets himself be inspired by a particular musical work in his work. The latter can be found u. a. with John Neumeier ( Mahler's Third Symphony and Bach's St. Matthew Passion ) and Uwe Scholz ( Haydn's Creation ).

A third option is to work with a composer who writes new music especially for a particular dance piece. This can also be found in Neumeier ( Odyssey - Ballet, with the Greek composer George Couroupos), as well as in Bernd Schindowski ( Gilgamesh epic - with Stefan Heucke ), Frederick Ashton ( Undine - with Hans Werner Henze ), Sergei Pawlowitsch Djagilew ( Der Firebird - Ballet, with Igor Stravinsky ) and Michel Fokine .

At the same time, the demarcation from music in the form of dancing to noise collages or spoken texts always played a role, already in expressive dance , then also in contemporary dance . Due to its strong emotional significance, complete silence is also used again and again as a means of evoking awe, promoting both tension and relaxation and thus a counterpart to music in choreographies.

See also


  • Lincoln Kirstein: Choreography: Materials and Structure. In: Movement and Metaphor. Four Centuries of Ballet. Pitman Publishing, London 1971. p. 2 ff.
  • Doris Humphrey: The Art of Doing Dances. On the choreography of modern dance. Noetzel, Wilhelmshaven 1990.
  • Martha Bremser: Fifty Contemporary Choreographers. Routledge, London 1999.
  • Andrea Amort / Mimi Wunderer Gosch: From Adler to Zanella. Lexicon of choreographers in Austria since 1980. In: Österreich tanzt. Past and present, Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2001. pp. 257–299.
  • Helmut Ploebst: No wind no word. New choreography in the society of the spectacle . Nine portraits: Meg Stuart , Vera Mantero , Xavier LeRoy , Benoît Lachambre , Raimund Hoghe , Emio Greco / PC, João Fiadeiro , Boris Charmatz , Jérôme Bel . Kieser, Munich 2001
  • Jochen Schmidt : Dance history of the 20th century in one volume with 101 choreographer portraits. Henschel, Berlin 2002.
  • Sabine Huschka: Choreographers and Choreographies. In: Modern dance. Concepts. Styles. Utopias. rowohlts enzyklopädie, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2002, p. 87 ff.
  • Jonathan Burrows: A Choreographer's Handbook. Routledge, London 2010.
  • Gabriele Brandstetter: Choreography. In: Art - Concepts of the Present. From allegory to zip. Edited by Jörn Schalaff, Nina Schallenberg and Tobias Vogt. Verlag Walther König, Cologne 2013, pp. 33–38.
  • Gabriele Klein (Ed.): Choreographic construction kit. The book. transcript, Bielefeld 2019, 2nd edition, ISBN 978-3-8376-4677-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Choreography  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations