Props Should Be Vital Parts of the Dance RoutineIf a choreographer decides to use a prop, whether it is a piece of scenery that the dancers will climb on, individual props that each dancer holds, or a single or few props that are passed between the dancers, that prop must be treated as an integral part of the dance. Props should be woven into the choreography, so that there is a purpose for them being on stage, just as there is a purpose for each dancer on the stage.
It can become a distraction in the piece, rather than an important part of the piece. Judges are looking for technique, and audiences are looking for entertainment - if the prop hinders either of them, the piece will not be favored. Modern dance is an expressive form of dance that combines the
Props Can Set the ThemeModern dance can tell a story or interpret a scene. Props come naturally to this form of dance. Conflict and struggles can be visualized in modern dance by using ropes, chains, long ribbons or nets. The props choreographed into the dance movements can show bondage and then freedom. Modern dance uses scarves and veils to show things hidden in the dance, or secrets that come from the dance. Some of the props, such as balls or streamers, are for fun and add energy to the dance routine.
Large Props Can Add DimensionMany modern dances use a single large prop to add dimension to a routine. A giant box that the dancers pass through brings a new element to the visual part of the routine, as do large mirrors or giant tubes.
Dancers Can Be the Props in Modern DanceModern dance will even use the dancers themselves as props. A dancer can pose or use creative form to be a tree, a rock, mother earth, the moon or the stars. The dancers can form pyramids or other designs using human bodies. The dancers as props in modern dance can show emotions such as fear, happiness or anger.
Classes Explore Ways Props Can Be UsedDance programs that teach technical theater, staging and production typeclasses may offer courses in modern dance props or the use of dance props. These classes explore ways props can be used in creative and unusual ways, which modern dance is perfect for.
Props Should Not Be Used to Hide Dancers or WeaknessesThere is a trap that choreographers may fall into by showcasing the props in their routines, rather than showcasing the dancers. The point of a performance, especially a competition piece, is to highlight the strengths of the dancers and to entertain the audience and judges. If a piece becomes focused solely on the props, the prop becomes a crutch for the dancers. Using a prop to hide weaknesses in one or more dancers can also backfire for competition pieces. If a few dancers, for example, climb a massive staircase and simply pose for a majority of the piece, judges will notice this. They will also take note if the use of props hides their view of the dancers' bodies, since they are trying to judge the piece based on the technique of the dancers.
Dangers of Using Props in Dance RoutinesThere are always things that can go wrong with props, which is why choreographers should not rely completely on props to execute any routine. They can easily be forgotten or broken and seem to have minds of their own. Chairs can stick, jump, or slide too easily across the stage, which will upset your choreography and could possibly injure your dancers. It's a good idea to rehearse dances with and without props, in case of emergencies like these. If a dancer needs to toss a basketball across the stage to another dancer, and it ends up flying into the wings, the dancers will need to know how to complete the piece without it.
Final Tips for Using PropsKeep it simple - Something as small and simple as one scarf or one candle passed among several dancers can impact a piece immensely.
Reuse and recycle old pieces - If your petite dancers were "Singin' in the Rain" with yellow umbrellas last year, perhaps your advanced dancers can paint them black or silver and use them in a contemporary piece this year. This not only cuts costs for the studio (and keeps your prop closet from overflowing), but it can spur ideas in choreographers on how to reuse their props each year.
The dancing should always come first - The point of your routine is always to showcase the dancers' technique and what they have learned in class, and mostly likely not their ability to juggle basketballs or turn their costumes inside out while doing fouettes. If choreographers focus first and foremost on the technique, the props can be used effectively and will serve as the icing on the cake.