Karl Mundt is arguably today’s most successful and sought-after dance team choreographer. His incredible work with 8-time National Champions the University of Minnesota has made him a household name in the competitive dance world. But his impressive list of National and World Championship winning clients also includes the University of St. Thomas, University of Cincinnati, Eastern Washington Elite All Stars, Los Alamitos High School and Eden Prairie High School – and that’s not even the whole list.
Karl took some time to chat to me about his inspirations, his method, his favorite routines and his thoughts on current trends.
The age old question – what comes first, the music or the choreography?
The music comes first. I generally listen to it over and over again before I start thinking of choreography.
Which is your favorite style to choreograph?
I grew up in the studio world and lyrical and theatrical jazz were my favorite styles. This has definitely carried over into my professional life.
Who or what inspires you?
I am often inspired by the dancers I am working with on a given piece. The music also plays a huge role in how a routine develops. My assistants are a big part of the process as well. I am especially grateful to Leslie Attwood and Rachel Doran.
How would you describe your creative process?
I tend to work best in the moment. I generally need the dancers to create the best work. There are times when an idea or concept will come to me out of the blue, say while doing the dishes or folding laundry, and then I try to be sure to take notes or video.
What creates a winning piece of choreography?
A routine that feels organic and where the dancers connect to the music and to each other. Ultimately, they need to take the audience on a journey. This is necessary for all styles. The best choreography keeps everyone engaged and leaves you wanting more. I know I love a routine when I forget to blink!
What were your favorite or least favorite trends this competition season?
To be honest, I tend to focus more on the dancers I am directly working with and not on the other routines. I find I get less nervous or anxious this way. I will say I am a bit over acoustic covers of popular songs.
Did you have a favorite routine or notice a standout team?
Hands down my favourite routine was Coral Reef High School’s jazz routine at the National Dance Team Championship. It was breathtakingly good. It told a story and the dancers were so committed to the movement. On a personal level, I liked the routine I choreographed for Eden Prairie High School (with Hannah Fredrick), as it challenged me and expanded my dance vocabulary.
What does dance mean to you?
Dance means everything to me. It makes me feel alive and invigorated. It gives me purpose. It truly is the best therapy, too. I love working with dancers and helping them grow as artists and human beings.
You can find more about Karl and his talented team of choreographers at INNOVATE Dance.