Movement Energy Qualities

I’ve mentioned this before (and practically every time I teach or adjudicate), but one of the things I always harp on is movement energy. I learned about movement energy in high school, but it wasn’t until my choreography class in college that I really understood its importance. Here’s the thing, no one wants to watch a movie where the actors talk monotonously. Why would we want to watch a dance that is equally as boring and bland?

There are six movement energy qualities in dance.

Collapse – A release of tension; gravity is permitted to take over.

Percussive – Movement is sharp, aggressive, and has a forceful initiation of energy which is quickly checked or stopped.

Suspended – Movement results when the pull of two opposing forces is even. For a brief moment the dancer seems to be held by the air, handing in space, a denial of gravity.

Sustained – Movement is smooth, continuous, and has no accents or stops. Sustained quality requires maximum control. There is a steady, equalized release of energy.

Swinging – Movement is pendulum-like. There is usually a beginning accent or starting impulse, then energy is released as a the movement reacts to the pull of gravity and the effect of momentum. The final portion of the swing is an unchecked follow through along the path of an arc and a momentary pause before repetition.

Vibratory – Movement is quick, recurring successions of small percussive movements.

In choreography, using various energy qualities will allow the movement to match the tone of the music and the story being communicated. We have a variety of emotions through the day… heck, in the same minute! So dance performances should also have different emotions and a variety of textures.

To practice these qualities:

  • Create a movement and attempt to manipulate it using each type of energy.
  • Create a six movement phrases – each phrase utilizing a different quality.
  • Use a variety of sounds to match the type of movement energy it relates to.
  • Create a phrase using each movement energy.

Having watched a lot of dance in my lifetime, I highly recommend experimenting with movement energy! As an example of what this could look like, here’s a clip of a rehearsal of one of my favorite pieces of all time: Reality of a Dreamer by Sherry Zunker.

Also. I can’t claim to have invented this concept, so I am crediting Choreography: A Basic Approach to Improvisation by Sandra Cerny Minton.


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