how to make a dance in 10 easy steps

Step # 1: Follow what excites you:

Keep a notebook at all times and write down what intrigues, tickles, repulses, surprises you when observing the world.

Step #2:

Improvise as much as you can:

Improvise in your kitchen.

At the grocery store.

Waiting in line at the bank.

Improvise while you are spinning the baby to sleep (thank you Lauraina, William, and Haya for that one).

Notice what movements emerge in these different settings.

Notice what moods and qualities and energies come from your body depending on where you are dancing.

Step # 3.


Read books and newspapers and the tea leaves at the bottom of your tea cup.

Watch movies and the sunset and your child’s hand reaching out to you.

Listen to music and to the radio and to your own heartbeat.

Step #4:

Get out of the studio so you can get back in:

If you are not seeing, living, participating in the world outside of the studio, the work will be empty.

Know that it is acceptable and okay and sometimes a must to make your work in the kitchen, the bathroom, the closet, the porch, if that is what you have access to.

Step #5:

Be gently aware that the dance is already there, just waiting for you:

In some ways this is the hardest step of all. It takes a lifetime, maybe two or three, to listen closely to what your internal world is offering up to you. That you actually don’t need to “make” anything new or innovative or original or stunning. You just need to take the time to uncover, dig up, tunnel into, and excavate the dance that is waiting patiently.

To be found by you.

Step # 6:

Be accountable to someone:

Whether you are making a solo, a duet, or a group piece, show up when you say you are going to show up.

If you are making a solo, set up times to have a few people come in and look at what you are doing. If people are waiting for you to show up, you are going to show up with the material.

If it is just you, you may find that eating a bowl of ice cream and watching reruns of The Colbert Report better suits your creative endeavor (example taken from personal experience) and then the dance never gets made.

Step # 7:

Get feedback:

Be picky about who you ask to come in to give you feedback.

Getting smart, critical, and thoughtful feedback can propel you into a whole new direction. Getting the opposite can knock you into an orbit you don’t want to or have the time to inhabit.

Step # 8:

Know the difference between impressing and enthralling your audience:

See a lot of live performance and then ask yourself, were you impressed or were you enthralled?

If you were impressed, I am sorry, but this means the art does not stand on its own, and in the end it doesn’t work.

If you are enthralled, then IT WORKS and that is what you are going for in your own work:

To enthrall, intrigue, surprise, captivate, bewitch, delight your audience.

Think about your favorite books, movies, tv shows.

When you are reading or watching something truly amazing do you say to yourself : “Wow, that writer can devise a sentence like nobody’s business” or “My goodness, but those actors on Orange is the New Black are quite good at their craft.”

Are you so engrossed in the story, the imagery, the sensory output that you forget where you are?

Do you leave the experience a little bit changed, thinking about the world through a new frame??

Do you forget that someone made this thing you are experiencing and you are just experiencing it in all of its glory, wonderment, and exaltation?

If you are answering yes, then that is a piece of live performance that works.

One of the few gems I took away from Grad School was a book we read called The Invisible Actor.

There is a section in that book that goes something like this:

Imagine this:

There are two scenarios. In the first scenario a good actor is pointing to the moon. And the audience says, “Wow, that actor can really point to the moon!”

In the second scenario a great actor is pointing to the moon. And the audience says, “Wow, look at that moon.”

Step # 9:

Be prepared that most of the time you will not achieve step #8 in your work.

Keep making the work anyway:

I rarely am able to enthrall my audience.

But I keep making the work anyway.

Because when I can, on those rare occasions, enthrall and intrigue the audience, I know I have tapped into something that is bigger then me.

Something that is mystical.

Something that is magical.

These moments are as scarce as seeing a hen with teeth or seeing fur on a snake.

But the more work I make the more likely that these unlikely moment will occur.

And finally,

Step # 10:

Know that making dances is not for everyone:

This process is tedious. arduous, scary as hell, sickening, stressful, boring, grueling, breathtaking, mind blowing, and better then LSD. I have mixed feelings about god. When I make a dance I feel good about, those mixed feelings come into focus, just a little bit more.

Take of that what you will.


These 10 steps are just the beginning of something bigger and more mysterious then you ever could have imagined.

If you decide to go forward with any or all of these step, email me and let me know how it goes.

I would love love love to hear from you.


With gratitude and appreciation I am please to announce that Joanna and the Agitators has received a generous donation from a long time student who wishes to remain anonymous. This donation will allow me to have a professional website made and to start a scholarship fund for those who are not able to afford the cost of taking a dance class. This is a brand new development that I am just starting to shape. I will keep you posted as to how the website and the scholarship evolve.

Enjoy the heat and hope you are doing well.




Joanna and the Agitators.