This really goes without saying, but feedback in the arts is TOUGH. It’s touchy, it gets personal, and a lot of times it ends in hurt feelings, even when it starts with the best of intentions. So today, I’m giving you my top 5 tips for giving quality choreography feedback: the kind that helps to improve the project and doesn’t get personal.
- Set Expectations
Before ANY feedback is given, make sure both you and your fellow artist are on the same page about how the process will work. Be open with the artist; ask them what kind of feedback they want and what they want to work on. It’s also important to let them know what kinds of questions you might ask, what you’re looking for in their piece, and even how you’ll structure your feedback. This step is probably the most overlooked in giving choreography feedback, but the best critique happens when everyone understands what to expect right from the beginning.
- Understand Their Goals
Giving good feedback is all about helping a fellow artist achieve the goal that they set out to achieve. So, it’s important to understand what their goal with the piece is. Helpful questions to ask are straightforward: What is your goal for this piece? What do you want your audience to take away? What story do you want to tell? An artist who has put thought into their piece should be able to answer these questions.
- Ask About Their Process
After you have a grasp on what their goal is with the piece, it’s important to understand what steps the artist took to try to achieve that goal. Understanding the thought process and actions they took will be immensely helpful in pinpointing any problems or unclear moments. Helpful questions to ask: What did you do to communicate (this part of your intention for the piece)? Where is (this moment of the story)? How did you factor your message into your story?
- Make Observation Statements
Though it’s nearly impossible, try to be as objective as you can. It’s important not to comment on moments that you liked or disliked, or moments that were ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but to instead focus on moments that were clear or unclear based on the artist’s intentions. Pointing out moments that grabbed your attention or moments where you lost focus can also be a helpful indication of what parts of the piece need the most revision.
- Offer Suggestions
ONLY IF THE ARTIST WANTS SUGGESTIONS! Not every artist wants to you know what you would do in their situation. While this can be helpful in some cases, having an easy answer right in front of them can clog up an artist’s creative process, stopping them from finding their own answer. If you do have the opportunity to offer suggestions, make sure you and the artist work together to understand WHY a certain moment was unclear or lost your attention before delving into possible solutions.
The most important thing to remember is that giving helpful choreography feedback is ALWAYS about helping another artist achieve their goal. These tips will help to take some of the personal feelings out of giving and receiving feedback, but it’s never easy for an artist to fully step back from something they’ve worked so hard on. It will take time and practice to be able to give and receive feedback without a hitch – so get practicing!