Should you include movement in your choir's performance?

If your choir sings any kind of upbeat repertoire, you may have considered whether some movement might enhance their performance. In what circumstances is it a good idea to add a bit of boogying?

When I first started my choir I was open to many things and some of my early repertoire seemed to lend itself to a 'step-clap' here and there. As I practised the moves at home with the song, it all seemed to work very well. When I introduced the idea to my singers however, I learned a few things very quickly. The first is undoubtedly that there are some hard and fast rules to movement when singing:
  1. Everyone must go the same way;
  2. Everyone must clap at the same time;
  3. The repertoire should be known inside out before the movement is introduced.
For me, it was basically a bad idea. What had been a very nice song with lovely harmonies quickly became a disorganised mess, with people crashing into each other all over the place! Everyone was so focused on getting both the movement and singing right that everything looked and sounded very mediocre. From that moment on I decided not to use structured movement with my choir. Instead, I focus on making sure that everyone is thoroughly rehearsed and looks engaged and cheerful on stage.

That's not to say that I don't allow my singers to move a muscle. I am a great believer that singing is not just about the voice itself and is an acivity which should engage the whole body. Standing rigid when singing upbeat contemporary tunes just doesn't work anyway. I've ditched any attempt at structured routines and instead have opted for relaxed natural movement from my singers when the song invites it.

I've found that this works very nicely for my choir and its demographic, but this is by no means set in stone. You know your choir and the kind of performances you do with them, so I think it's really important that you decide if and what movement you want from them. For example, if you work with a children's choir, often a bit of movement or some set moves can help them enjoy the music more and remember the lyrics if those moves correspond with them. And, obviously, there are whole genres of choral singing that incorporate more choreographed movement, such as show choirs.

If you do decide to go down the road of structured movement, I would definitely advise making sure the repertoire is word and note perfect before embarking on any choreography. I'd also suggest some clapping rhythm exercises during your warm-ups to get everyone moving in harmony.
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