#SQFromTheSQJudgesChair – Using Props
January 23rd, 2020 by Elizabeth Radabaugh
From small hand-held props to full stage sets, the judges have seen a plethora of props in the recent past. While all artistic decisions are subjective, there is nothing wrong with taking a step back to make sure your prop is warranted. Making sure your prop moves the story forward, functions well and can be responsibly taken care of, are all important things to consider when choosing a prop. In today’s blog, we’ll be discussing all things props and hear directly from experienced StarQuest judge, Kyle Rostan.
Moving the Story Forward
When deciding on a prop, you must consider whether the prop is vital to the performance. A big prop doesn’t mean a big score. Keep in mind that your prop should add to the story in some way. Just like a duet partner, if the routine is the same without the prop, then you probably aren’t using it to its fullest potential. Ask yourself how many times you use that prop within your routine. If your answer is once in the beginning and once at the end, I would argue that your prop isn’t vital to the story of your dance. The prop needs to manipulate the choreography in some respect. Try utilizing the prop with your choreography. Create movement around the negative space of the prop that directly moves the story forward. Challenge yourself as a choreographer to create movement incorporating both the dancer and the object.
Consider when choosing a prop that you’ll need to choreograph an entrance and an exit for that object. Organize who will be carrying the prop on and offstage and rehearse this in class. Smaller hand-held props are easy enough to carry and manipulate but, what about taking it offstage? I can’t tell you how many routine’s I’ve seen that leave a prop onstage! Make sure you practice every aspect of how that prop is entering and exiting. Also, it’s very important that you rehearse as much as possible with that prop. It is not only for the logistics of the object but, for the safety of the performer. Rehearse for every possible mistake and outcome. Instruct your dancers what to do in the event of a prop malfunction and how to deal with it.
Tips from Kyle Rostan
While some props tend to be cumbersome, when designed beautifully, it can be very eye-catching. Kyle Rostan, an experienced StarQuest judge, says “I always appreciate when a prop ‘matches’ the piece… Cohesion is always pleasant to the eye.” The idea is to make the prop look like it lives in the same ‘world’ as the costumes, dancers and feel of the piece. For example, if you choose to costume your dancers in a beautiful, ethereal, rhinestoned chiffon dress and then place a grimy couch on stage as the prop, as a judge, I’m being pulled out of the ‘world’ you’ve created and only noticing the out-of-place couch. Being practical, a lot of studios will understandably recycle their props. They may use the same prop for multiple dances. You can still manipulate the prop to ‘match’ the world you create with your dance. Kyle says, “There’s something to be said about taking that black wooden cube that’s used in the studio’s production, and putting some flowers along the bottom to compliment a dancer’s solo costume.”
If you’re choosing to utilize a prop for a routine, you’ll have to take some extra things into account. Does this prop move the story forward? Does this prop live in the same ‘world’ as the rest of the piece? Props can be eye-catching and memorable but, make sure you consider all aspects and logistics of how to move it on and offstage. A prop can be a wonderful opportunity to create new choreography, shapes and ideas so, start creating!
Marissa Anderson is a performer, choreographer, teacher and adjudicator for StarQuest with over 20 years of experience in the dance industry. She also hosts, writes and produces her own podcast on iTunes called “Beyond the Mirror: A Dancer’s Podcast”.
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