Culpâ€™s Letter (number four): The World of Style
October 8, 2009
by Donna Culp
Iâ€™m the sort of choreographer who is convinced all coaches are choreographers. But getting them to see that will not only be my biggest challenge everâ€” but also why I created the STYLE ROPE.
Back in my pre-STYLE ROPE days, I would freelance a choreography job, and, as is the case for many choreographers preparing for the challenge of creating routines, the coach would have briefed me on the gymnast. So before the start of the routine, Iâ€™d listen and have a better idea of what might work with the gymnastâ€™s body. As the coach described the gymnast, always there were three types:
1. There was the â€œboxyâ€ gymnast: she had the shape that tends to look like a boy. (But that is actually the girl with big-ticket tumbling just waiting to be artistic.)
2. There was also the â€œtricksterâ€ kid: she had the cool eye-popping elements to suit our Code of Points. On the down side: too sloppy, too wobbly, too loose.
3. And there was the â€œdancer.â€ Ugh, Iâ€™d think: â€œdancerâ€ can mean ANYTHING. Anything from the reckless-unflattering to the ballet-costume thing, or the kind of dancing that doesnâ€™t work aside from those mirror ballet-barre rooms in gyms.
Once the coach had drawn a picture for me, Iâ€™d hear the music played from the loud-speaker and, luckily, it wasnâ€™t a movie tune. In fact, it was pretty darn good. Until, that is, the gymnast articulated her own idea of herselfâ€”not boxy, not trickster, not dancer.
â€œI canâ€™t dance,â€ she said shamefully, dropping her head down and looking at her feet, causing the coach to panic. Oddly enough, the gymnast doesnâ€™t look up for another ten minutes. Who knew that she would decide to check out at the beginning of a choreography session?
So I decided to bring out the STYLE ROPE I had been carrying on this particular trip. The STYLE ROPE frames and supports the gymnast so she gets to work her body beyond what sheâ€™d normally perform. Then the next thing, I choose a few of my favorite drills. I went through a number of reshaping drills to maximize the volume of her movement and the speed and line of her actions. She doesnâ€™t shy away from anything!
Something is workingâ€” because before the clock has even passed ten minutes, itâ€™s evident all things are possible. One of the coolest things about working with the STYLE ROPE is you donâ€™t have to push-pull gymnasts into overtime to develop the extraordinary lineâ€”stability, dynamics, and poise that it takes to ascend to the class of â€œartistic.â€
At the end of the day, I felt that we rocked this routine, causing the three of us to look forward to a high score! As the coach was about to take me to the airport, he asked the question â€œWhatâ€™s in that rope?â€ My answer: Hope. Because, in my opinion, thatâ€™s a â€œproductâ€ every coach needs.
Those of you who want to view Donna Culpâ€™s STYLE ROPE drills, purchase your DVD (at $29.95) from GymSmarts.