Dance: Analysis

What is Dance or Performance Analysis?

It is a trained professional looking at (and usually writing about) choreography, craft and performance for the purpose of supporting dancers and choreographers… how dancers move… how effective the choreography is in showing off the dancers and conveying image, design, theme and meaning.

Students and professionals perform live or submit a video for analysis and feedback (usually for a low fee) while an analyst watches.

A performance analyst is trained as a dancer, has had experience teaching, and also has developed special skills in looking at the body and knowing where movement comes from as well as how it is conveyed. A background in dance criticism and an understanding of choreography as a craft is also important.

Melanie A. Stinson is a performance coach and dance/performance analyst, and coined the latter term.

A former professional ballet and modern dancer and later-in-life improv and ballroom dancer, Melanie has a background in Laban Effort-Shape, massage therapy, energywork, ballet pedagogy, choreographic craft, improv, and Rudolf Laban’s elements of movement.

Melanie writes about performances to help dancers address imbalances and better use their talent and training. She often addresses the choreography because it is integral to the performance and hopes to help choreographers further explore their craft to heighten theme, content, design and communicate through the medium of movement more effectively.

How is Dance/Performance Analysis different from dance criticism?

It helps dancers,  performers and choreographers at any level of experience.

Dance criticism is often written for the public… to encourage members of the viewing public to attend a performance and suggest the reasons why they will enjoy or not enjoy a particular season or dance theater experience.

Dance analysis or performance analysis is not for the public, unless members of the public want to understand what they’re seeing so they can give a more qualitative response. Dance analysis is for dancers and choreographers.

“I have had dancers come to me and say, “I can’t get through a performance. Can you take a look and see what I’m doing that’s hanging me up?” Melanie says. “A dance instructor can help a dancer in this way, too. We’re both supportive. We teach but often in different ways.”

Sometimes dancers hold their breath. Sometimes a dancer is doing steps with no awareness of how to convey a sense of presence or character. They compete and don’t place. They want to know why. They may not have authority or presence when they dance. They may be holding back or have something emotional going on below the surface.

Melanie’s background in energy balancing, mindfulness, and the physical therapist-designed Rosen Method Bodywork & Movement helps dancers see in new contexts. Often, a dancer is gesturing (perhaps flinging the arms or legs). That dancer may have no concept of how to change the experience the audience receives, and they may not have any idea how to change themselves.

A performance analyst in these kinds of situations is like a teaching associate who says, “You’re doing gestures as you’ve been directed. However, what are those gestures intended to convey and where are they coming from inside you?”

A performance analyst may help the teacher/choreographer or artistic director clarify what they wish to convey and explore different methods of achieving this through elements of craft. Many times dancers become choreographers to create a routine, especially in ballroom dance. They may never have looked at what goes into a dance or worked with the idea of theme. To some choreography is simply steps to music put together off the top of one’s head.

multi contemp dance photoPerformance Analysis can be conducted in the studio (with the cooperation of teachers and directors), and in private sessions, before a dance competition or series of performances, or added to a workshop. If you do not live in northwest Ohio, you can submit a videotape for Melanie to view.

If you want to set up performance coaching/dance analysis or find out how to submit your video, please contact Melanie by phone at 419.353.1295 during regular business hours. She has missed some emails and now does not check for them.