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Motif | Core Composition | HSC Dance

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

What is a movement motif? How do you use this as a tool to communicate intent throughout your core composition? These are all questions that students often think they know the answer to, but as they get into the nitty gritty of the composition process, they get stuck or even lost on how to continue with their composition journey whilst maintaining the integrity of their chosen concept/intent.

Let's break it down:

Motif/s, what is it?

The NESA syllabus defines motif as "the earliest stage of development of a theme or composition; a movement starting point which gives the first element of form to the dance/work".

Movement motif/s are used as a device or tool throughout the composition process to achieve unity. It allows for you to consistently and clearly communicate your concept/intent without having to spell it out literally through movement.

I often encourage students to develop a motif phrase rather than one singular motif. A motif phrase allows for more variety within the manipulation process, where students often are able to create far more content that is original. Sometimes if students only have one singular motif, they often get stuck into 'repetition' rather than 'manipulation and development'.

How do you know if a motif or motif phrase is successful?

There is no real answer to this, however, their are some tips and tricks that I can share with you.

  1. YOU MUST have already decided on the following:

    1. The type of stimulus you will be using

    2. The concept/intent that you want to be able to communicate throughout the entirety of the work.

    3. Have an idea of how you would like to structure the work. This is in relation to formal structure. We will focus on this in another post.

  2. If you have decided on only ONE motif:

    1. Write what you would like to communicate through your motif in ONE to TWO words. Make sure you are clear with the words you pick and it encapsulates the full meaning of the work.

  3. If you have decided to create a motif phrase:

    1. Write down what you would like to communicate in ONE clear and concise sentence. Make sure this sentence has a clear beginning, middle and end.

    2. Remember - a phrase is equivalent to a sentence in literature.

  4. Once you have these words written down, set up a your phone to record. I know, I know. You feel like this will be super awkward. I'm not going to lie, It probably will be. However, sometimes you create the coolest stuff when you don't mean to!

  5. Once you have the camera set up, put some jams on and start to improvise with the selected words in mind.

  6. Watch the video and select the movements that you feel are most relevant to the words.

  7. Try to simplify these movements. Motif/s are most effective when they are simple and you are able to manipulate them in many different ways.

  8. String these movements together and film them as a whole.

  9. Does it make sense? If the answer is yes, then great! Success! If not, that is okay. Continue to improvise and refine movement.

It always help to get the opinion of other people when creating movement to see whether or not they understand what you are trying to communicate.

If you are struggling with composition, it's okay. Composition needs for you to be open to new experiences and this can be quite difficult for most dancers.

Further information to help you with your composition can be found in our subscription service. Alternatively, if you have already began to create your composition, you can send in videos to me, where I can provide you with helpful feedback.

Submit a video by clicking on the link:

Happy Learning,

Helena Adele :)

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