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Updated on July 24, 2015

Lai Rupe's Choreography

"The most important thing to think of when preparing to teach a choreographed routine, is to know the best ways to teach your dancers. How can you make it easier for them to learn? How can you inspire them?"

~Lai Rupe


How to NOTE Dance Choreography

As a dancer or choreographer, sometimes creating a dance just comes simply and knowing how to teach it and remember everything isn't a concern. Other times, you really have to work to find that perfect dance routine that you want to display to your clients. When these dances come, choreographers usually must make notes of steps, formations, group parts, and movements to be able to better teach and make your choreography visions really come to life.

This article will help you learn how to better note your dance choreography to help you become a better teacher and instructor as well.

First - Note Dance Moves Minute-by-Minute

Before you can organize your notes and perfect them for better choreography instruction, you need to simply write down the notes step-by-step. What I like to do is break down each section either by a set of eight, or by the lyrical lines. For example, Lai Rupe's Choreography recently choreographed a contemporary-lyrical routine to the song "I'm Kissing You," by Des'Ree. For this four minute soloist routine, detailed choreography notes were a must. I broke down all of the steps by lyrics and then by sets of 8 during the instrumental points. The picture below is just an example of the way it was outlined.

As a choreographer writing down the dance moves, you will find certain tricks and trades of your own to abbreviate certain words, moves and dance terms. For example, when I am writing notes for a double pirouette I write 2T (for 2 Turns). Or for moving to the left or right, I simply note "L" or "R". Everyones minds work differently, so you will want to try different tricks to help you remember what "codes" mean what for specific notes. Below are some examples that may work for you.

  • 3T - Triple Turn / Pirouette
  • L - Move to Left
  • R - Move to Right
  • GJ - Grande Jete
  • K - Kick

"I'm Kissing You" Dance Choreography Notes


Second - Outline Formations

After you have the dance moves and tricks noted to your preference in an organized order by set of 8, minutes, and lyrics, you will then want to organize and write out your formations. For better assistance on dance formations for group routines, please read Lai Rupe's article, "How to Create Dance Formations and Transitions." In this article, as a brief explanation or how to outline formations, you will want to break down where you want your dancers to be for each specific part. When Choreographing solo routines, this can be easier than group choreography, as you don't necessarily need as many formation changes. With large groups you want at least one formation change for every minute of dance you choreography. Adding formation changes give the routine diversity and more dynamics.

For noting your formations, I like to use circles or numbers to mark each dancers. Numbers are great, because then when you have a formation change, you can mark where that dancer moves, by their correlating number. This makes it easy to teach formation changes too, because then you can simply give each dancer a number and call out that number for where their new position will be on the dance floor.

If you have any questions about creating more solid dance formations, reach out to Lai Rupe by commenting below.

As a Choreographer, What are tips you use to note your Dance Routines?

See results

Third - Key Phrases for Instruction

One of the other key tips to help you create useful and constructive choreography notes, I would advise to write down key phrases to help you and the dancers remember certain sections and dance moves. These can be easy words like "Turn" or "Leap;" or they can relate to the lyrics like "Fall" or "Fly."

These key phrases can be used as simple reminders to help you and your dancers remember what moves to do for each part. They also allow you to not have to talk as much while teaching, as you only need to shout out key words, rather than full counts or dance terms.

Ellie Goulding's "Lights" - Beginning Jazz Routine Choreographed by Lai Rupe's Choreography

In Order of Importance, What Makes a Successful Routine?

(click column header to sort results)
Professional Choreography  
Lai Rupe  
Dynamic Formations
At Least 1 per minute
Impressive Dancers & Tricks
Arials, multiple turns, leaps
Song Choice
Inspiring, upbeat, diverse

As a new choreographer,

trying to note your routines, it will get easier and easier the more you do it. Try to find abbreviations that will work best for you, outline your formations, and use key phrases to help you and the dancers remember movements. These tips will not only help you be able to better note your choreography, but they will also help you when teaching and instructing your dancers, so that your dancers will be able to learn your choreography faster.


If you have any questions about creating choreography, outlining formations, or any other dance questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to Lai Rupe by com

Also, feel free to check out the article, "How to Hire Long Distance Dance Choreographers," for help with dance choreography. Lai Rupe's Choreography is here to inspire a stronger passion for dance!

Thanks for your LOVE and Support!
~Alaina (Lai) Rupe


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    • lairupe profile imageAUTHOR

      Lai Rupe 

      19 months ago from Farmington, Utah

      So happy to help out those that share my passion for dance!! Thanks for following.

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      That was really helpful.. Thanks a mill.. I am planning a dance video and was confused on how to write the steps. This is helpful.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Thanks for writing this. Am highly encouraged. I run a dance school in Nigeria Africa. Its been running for about five years now. We decided to grow the contemporary dancers around knowing so many of them might not have the opportunity to travel. I have an unconventional means of teaching contemporary dance(which is a good thing) But few people can break away from convention. The topic of dance notation has been a controversial one.

      My consultation with few experts around makes it look like there should be just one style(format) for noting.

      My dream is to demystify the dance style and make it more accessible by dancers in my country. I am glad you are willing to share and also help people grow. Am inspired...

    • lairupe profile imageAUTHOR

      Lai Rupe 

      3 years ago from Farmington, Utah

      Samantha, Thanks so much for the lovely comment. If you ever need help getting some choreography started, edited, or want to collab, please don't hesitate to let me know! You can reach out to me from my website www.LaiRupe.Com. I would love to help you get started even more as we share our passion for dance!

      Love, Alaina Rupe.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This was extremely helpful! I have been dancing for most of my life but over the past year and a half I have been very serious about creating my own choreography. I haven't made much progress yet and one reason is because I couldn't figure out a good way to create notes. Once again your article has been very helpful and I feel a little more ready to take on the projects I have lined up! Thank you for writing this!

    • profile image

      Brother Kerry Bender 

      3 years ago

      I find this so very fascinating! And educational! WOW


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