Understanding Your Audience
Updated: Mar 13
One of the trickiest but most beautiful things about dance is that you convey a strong message without speaking. Dance is a universal language that presents a story and purpose through movement. By crafting each dance to perfection, a thousand words can be said in a single moment in time. This can make choreographing a difficult but rewarding process. One revelation I’ve had when creating my work is that those who have mastered the choreographic process have mastered the human psyche.
When choreographing, I put myself in the audience's shoes by asking:
What is the main message or point of my piece?
Who is my audience? Are they family, friends, or fans of the art?
How much dance has my audience been exposed to in the past? Is their eye “trained”?
Will the audience be able to understand my message without context?
Does the movement I created truly reflect my intention?
How will the audience react?
These questions help me understand how people will view and interpret my work. All humans are subject to innate biases based on past experiences, so I have to take this into account when creating a piece. A person's culture, age, and even gender can influence how they perceive the work you create, so it is important to ask yourself these questions in the creation process.
In the first stage, I think about who the audience is going to be. Family and friends may be more embracing of riskier choices while people who don’t know you may be shocked or offended. In my experience, older folks tend to enjoy slower and traditionally beautiful works such as classical ballets while my generation, Gen Z, is more drawn to fast-paced and hard-hitting work.
Probably the most important question of all is, “Will the audience be able to understand my message without context?” If you are trying to take a stance on something, whether political, social, or personal, the audience must understand what the piece is about, or else you’ve lost their interest. Typically, trained dancers tend to enjoy pieces without storylines because the focus is less on what’s happening and more on how it’s happening. Dancers with trained eyes want to see great dance, but the reality is that untrained eyes can’t detect good technique from bad technique. Without a key takeaway, those without prior dance training may feel confused which can turn into frustration.
By understanding who your audience is, you can craft a piece that will have an incredible impact. The ability to predict an audience's reaction is an important skill that shouldn’t be overlooked when you begin creating dance pieces.