So it’s time to start working on a routine (whoo hoo that’s freakin’ awesome) but if it’s your first time – it possibly may feel a bit daunting! Where to start, how to begin, what do I do first??? Well fear not my friend because we have all been there. The first routine is always the hardest. So take it step by step and let the process unfold and soon you’ll be rocking those routines like there’s no tomorrow.
1.) Get inspired by a piece of music
Find a piece of music you are really drawn to and listen to it. A lot. Over and over until you are nearly sick of it. If I’m about to work on a routine I keep on the look out for really good songs and usually one just pops right out at me. I then let the music inform me of how the routine will shape itself.
2.) Think about the style and genre of the piece you want to do
Whilst on the look out for a sound track also think about how you want to present yourself in your act. The song should evoke the sort of style you may want to portray. Usually I choose music first simply because I love letting music tell me what to do, but others prefer to go for style and idea first and then find the track that best works for that. Or often it’s a case of doing a bit of both.
3.) Compile a list of all your moves or sequences that you may want to incorporate
This would be the moves you do best and the ones you can do easily. All your good stuff basically! Don’t ever put tricks you are still working on into a routine (unless you are on some sort of a death wish). Remember there won’t be crash mats when you perform. I find that blocking them into 3 or 6 moves sequences really helps.
4.) Listen to the song carefully and identify sections
I usually look up the lyrics (if it has them) on google and print them out. This then gives you an outline of the beginning, middle and ending and when the chorus lines or instrumental sections kick in. If I am getting really detailed with the choreography I’ll write out how many sets of 8 beats each of the lyrics use etc. But that’s probably me being a real geek about it! I just like to know where I am, and how much time I have say to hold a move…
5.) Start playing with your sequences and seeing how they can fit with the sections
Listen and see if the music invites you to do certain moves – does a certain sound make you want to move in a certain way. Where are the big breaks and what main moves do you want to do during them. Remember to contrast – angular vs curved, gentle vs strong, slow vs fast, levels of movements…etc.
6.) Block out what you think would work with the music and then try it out.
I call this a skeleton routine. It’s like a rough sketch – painting your large strokes, to see which sequences work best with the phrases of the music, where the dramatic bits are, where the slow sections fit, whether you have enough moves for the piece etc. Then you can always go in and add the details later.
7.) Then practice, play, practice, play, practice!
Adjust, rework, refine, tweak, add bits, remove bits, play with bits. This is the fun part – this is the heart of the creative process and where you can start to feel excited about your routine. It’s taking shape and you have something to show!
8.) When you are happy with the routine set it and don’t mess with it
Then repeat, repeat, repeat (and repeat again) the routine over and over until all the movements are clean, slick, polished and you could do them in your sleep. You need to know exactly what move follows what, where the leg should be going, which direction, what arm where and to what exact count and beat to the music.
9.) When it’s been worked, cleaned and polished then show it to someone.
Your teacher, training buddies or a friend. And ask for feedback. Get them to help you with any areas that could be improved upon or any movements that look off. If you can’t show it to anyone in person video it and send it to someone.
10.) Video it and watch yourself
It’s amazing what you will spot – oh I was sure I was straightening my legs / pointing my toes… Omg my arms are flapping about… do I really make stupid faces like that… yes it’s cringe worthy but that’s how you will improve the fastest – when you watch yourself and self correct.
11.) Add your special sauce
When you’ve got your routine set, cleaned and corrected – then work to add that special something that makes it totally your own. Let your personality come through. Infuse your movements with your own qualities that make you interesting to watch, give the audience a sense for who you are, or intrigue the audience enough to want to watch you to find out more.
12.) Finally relax and have fun
If you are stressing about the routine or the audience or about messing up – yes all normal fears, this will show and the audience will also feel stressed. Just go out there and enjoy yourself – don’t take yourself all too seriously. Because the more you enjoy yourself the more you will capture your audience and you’ll take them on a journey with you (even if you mess up or forget your next move). Usually this happens automatically – I find I may be stressing back stage like an utter nervous wreck, but as soon as I walk out in front of an audience something else takes over. As long as you’ve done the preparation and practice beforehand, then the connection with the audience puts you into performance mode… you forget all the worries and stress because they are all watching and wanting you to shine like the star you are. Remember the audience are on your side, enjoy yourself and they will enjoy with you.