Composition & Improvisation

PADA 255

Composition and Improvisation Banner.jpg


Course Description

Freedom of movement will be encouraged and its relation to choreography will be explored. Inthis course students will become familiar and proficient in the selection of various musical forms to enhance or guide choreography. Students will also implement choreographic tools in conjunction with the spoken word and in silence. Repeatable up to 6 units.

Class Schedule

  • MW 12-2:50 pm Malibu 120

Heather Castillo

Office Hours:

MW 3-4:30

Malibu 118

Vitual Office:

Zoom Link

(805) 437-2052

It is when movement becomes awkward it becomes interesting.... Merce Cunningham.jpg

Learning Outcomes

-To expand/explore individual movement vocabulary

-Explore improvisational techniques and their application to performance and choreography

-Understand components of movement composition: time, space, spatial, dynamics, and architecture
-To be able to discuss dance and breakdown the separate components of performer(s), choreography, lighting, costuming, theatricality
-To be able to discuss dance performance in a critical and theoretical manner
-To understand the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary composition.
-The use of creative stimuli for original composition
-To compose a solo movement work as original composition.


Course Policies

  • Please check your Dolphin Email regularly for class updates, material, and changes
  • Cell phones must be turned off during class unless we are using them as a tool
  • Please do not bring children or guests to class unless discussed with Instructor 24 hrs. prior
  • Classes may not be audio/video taped without prior instructor consent and specified purpose
  • Extra credit is available. No more than 40 points may be made up in extra credit
  • Notify the instructor of any injuries or if you are not participating. Excessive sitting out will be cause for points to be lowered.
  • It is often customary in a dance class for the teacher to help the student by physically putting their body in the correct alignment. If you are uncomfortable with the professor manipulating your body, please inform her at the beginning of class.

Dress Code

Students should wear form fitting clothes that allow the instructor to see the outline of the body. Hair should be kept out of the face. No long earrings or loose jewelry. Supportive undergarments should be worn by men and women so that they are comfortable performing jumps and vibrant movement. Baggy clothes are not permitted. Street shoes should not be worn on the dance floor. Dance shoes or bare feet may be worn as feels appropriate to the movement aesthetic. Undergarments should not be able to be seen while performing stretches. Clothing should provide adequate coverage. Jeans and street clothes are not appropriate choices for dance class.

Principles of Learning

  • You will learn only as much, or little, as you choose to learn.
  • Each of you has a unique learning style, so not every exercise will appeal to everyone—but the variety should enable you to show what you are capable of.
  • You are in charge of your own understanding, so if you do not understand the instructions for an exercise, or if you do not know how to complete the assigned work, it is your responsibility to find out (by consulting with me and/or your fellow students).
  • The more often you collaborate with your classmates—in discussion, in study groups, in rehearsal, and on papers—the richer the experience will be for you. !
  • Dance is always a collaborative process.
  • Performance, like writing, teaches us about ourselves.
  • You will teach yourself more than I teach you.
  • You will learn more from each other than you do from me.
  • All of you are capable of succeeding in this class; my job is to help you succeed.

Grading Policies

-Dancing is an oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation. Therefore, attendance is extremely important to your success this activities class. Subjective qualities such as participation, effort, progress, and attitude will come into consideration. Rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, heaving sighs of exasperation, and, poor posture suggests your lack of interest and effort to learning the given material. Exhibiting these physical behaviors can have an adverse affect on your grade.

-If a student is late for class, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure the professor knows they are there and have been marked on the attendance sheet. If the student is tardy and goes unmarked in the roll book. Attendance can have a significant impact on your grade.

-If a student is sitting out, they will be required to pay attention and work on

choreography through alternative methods.
-Dance as a profession requires you to be on your best behavior, always! The dance performer only has their reputation to carry them from job to job. The work of the performer is to audition constantly to get the job, but their performance during the rehearsal process and subsequently the actual performance has bearing on the dancers ability to get the next job. Therefore, the performer is always in an interview/audition process. This class will prepare you for that demanding focused atmosphere. You must complete all assignments to pass this class.

Point Breakdown

To earn 90% of points: A

A student comes to class on time, prepared, and appropriately dressed.
Exhibits a high level of effort.
A student must be driven, focused, highly attentive.
One must demonstrate mastery and artistry of the given material, or exceed expectations in trying to ascertain the material given.
Participates in discussions demonstrating the knowledge learned from the reading assignments and is able to critically analyze or make connections to class material.

To earn 80% of points: B
A student comes to class on time, prepared, and appropriately dressed.
Exhibits an average level of effort.
Is attentive, but lacks the drive or focus to perform the skills above an average level.
Performs what is asked of them, but does not go above and beyond to
Participates in discussion but is only able to regurgitate information rather than forming a critical opinion or connection to the class material.

To earn 70% of points: C
A student comes to class on time, prepared, and appropriately dressed.!
Exhibits an average to low level of effort.
Does not have the attention span to absorb the material and has gaps in knowledge.

Has a difficult time performing the material without demonstrating effort to improve.

Listens, but does not participate in discussions.

To earn 60% of points: D
A student is most likely late and unprepared for class.
Exhibits low effort level.
Often talks in class, has to look at their cell phone, and does not participate or appear to listen to discussions.

To earn 50% point: F
A student is late, unprepared, unfocused, inattentive, bored.! Exhibits almost no effort.
Talks in class, is disruptive, does not participate in discussions.

Class Calendar

Week 1: Course Introduction/Portfolio Building August 29, 31

Week 2: Signature Piece Presentations September 7

Week 3: Time/Rhythm Module September 12, 14

Week 4: Time/Rhythm Module cont. September 19, 21

Week 5: Shape Module September 26, 28

Week 6: Shape Module cont. October 3, 5

October 6 6-8 PM NAPA Gallery Opening: Optional Improv

Week 7: Space Module October 10, 12

Week 8: Space Module cont. October 17, 19

Week 9: Effort Module October 24, 26

Week 10: Effort Module cont. October 31, November 2

November 3 6-8 PM Napa Gallery Opening:Optional Improv

Week 12: Tempural to Permanent Module November 7, 9

Week 13: Tempural to Permanent Module November 14, 16

Week 14: SHOWCASE PREP November 21, 23

Week 15: SHOWCASE PREP and Presentation November 28, 30, December 2

Week 16: Portfolio/Dance film prep December 5, 7

Finals week: Portfolio/Dance Film presentations **December 12 10:30 AM

CSU Channel Islands Disability Statement

Cal State Channel Islands is committed to equal educational opportunities for qualified students with disabilities in compliance with Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The mission of Disability Resource Programs is to empower and support students with physical, learning or psychological disabilities so that they can participate as fully in and benefit as equitably from University campus life as non-disabled students to realize their academic and personal potential. Students with physical, learning, or other disabilities are encouraged to contact Disability Resource Programs, in the Educational Access Center, Bell Tower Room 1541, 805-437-3331 (V/TTY), email:, for personal assistance and accommodations. All requests for accommodations require appropriate notice in advance in order to avoid a delay in services. Please discuss approved accommodations with me.


Plagiarism: All work that students submit as their own work must, in fact, be their own work. If a paper presents ideas of others, it must clearly indicate the source. Information or ideas quoted or paraphrased from other sources must be cited. Papers with plagiarized ideas or language will fail. In cases where the cheating or plagiarism was premeditated or planned, students will receive an “F” for the course and, in accordance with the CSUCI policy on academic dishonesty, be reported to the appropriate dean. If you have questions about what might constitute an act of plagiarism or cheating, please consult with me. I want you all to succeed.

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