Lessons in Choreography

I’m going to preface this and say that I don’t have a strong dance or gymnastics background. I did ballet for a few years and the rest of my dance experience is theatre related. I’ve now choreographed two routines for myself and after a couple of the other girls at my studio were asking me about it after our showcase on Saturday, I thought I’d write about what I’ve learned so far (at least about myself) as a total amateur.

Find music you can see yourself dancing to. Maybe it isn’t your favorite song, but make sure you can listen to it on a loop for hours at a time without wanting to take a screwdriver to your eardrums by the time your performance rolls around. And above all, make sure you can dance to it. When I picked my song for this showcase, I could see myself moving to it already. I spent time freestyling and a lot of it stuck because I had a clear theme in mind and felt connected to the music.

When I started working on my competition routine, I made the mistake of choosing a really fast song and had choreographed the first minute and a half of it before I realized I was not only killing myself trying to keep up tempo, but that I was having trouble coming up with floorwork and combos. This led to me changing my song, starting from scratch, and having only about a month and a half to prepare. Which leads me to my next lesson…

Start early. Life has this unfortunate habit of getting in the way when I’m trying to come up with a routine. I’ve been sick, injured, and been inundated at work or had family obligations. One of the major downsides of not having a pole at home is that when these things happen, I don’t have the opportunity to practice because there’s only so many open pole sessions at my studio. Now, this really wouldn’t be a problem if I’d started two or three months earlier.

Think beginning, middle, and end. One of the major problems with my competition routine was not only the time crunch by the time I changed my song, but also that I choreographed my routine in fragments. A combo here, a combo there, some floorwork. Before the competition, I’d run through it less than ten times. I ended up getting confused onstage and had to improvise until I got back on track!

Practice, Practice IMG_2017Practice. This probably seems obvious, but to elaborate, had I started beginning to end, I would’ve been able to run through the finished parts over and over and get those really solid, even if the entire routine wasn’t done.

When I was working on my showcase routine, I was able to run it through the entire thing for about a week beforehand and I felt so much more confident once the night of the show rolled around. Mostly, there were some finishing touches I had to work on. That’s where your smartphone comes in handy…

Record yourself. In the midst of all that practice, I’d take a video here and there to see what I was doing wrong and then correct it. I was able to look at it with a critical eye and see what was working, what wasn’t and what might need to be changed. My showcase routine wasn’t perfect by any means, but I felt much better about it than I did my competition routine.

Don’t get too attached. If a move or combo or floorwork bit wasn’t working, I let it go, or put it somewhere else. I was better off changing a move to preserve the flow of my choreo. I’m also a sweaty, sweaty person and would have to abandon certain moves because I was slipping out of them, especially at the end of the routine. Here’s something I actually did better with my competition routine. Knowing that I’d be using chrome poles, a lot of the poses and combos I came up with were meant to be slip-proof and it worked.

By the end of practicing my showcase routine, I was sweating and slipping all over the place. Of course, one you get to the end, it’s always good to…

Seek a second opinion. It never hurts to ask your pole sisters for some help! I did this for both my competition routine and showcase routine and really appreciated the feedback.

You’ll get better. The only way to improve at something is to keep doing it! And have fun, and try not to be too critical of yourself. Keep freestyling, keep recording, keep dancing, and keep performing ❤