5 Dance Routine Construction Errors That Will Cost You
Never build a home on top of an ancient burial ground, and never build a dance routine with these construction errors.
All movie jokes aside, the errors listed aren't sinister plots, or major catastrophes, but neither are the pebbles that can cause an avalanche. The goal of this article is to create a solid foundation, going into your next routine fully aware of the potential pitfalls, and creating something that is as rewarding as it is sustainable under pressure.
1. The Great Divide
If you were building a staircase, you wouldn't put the steps five feet apart from each other.
If you are building a routine, you've got to follow the same logic.
How it Happens
Starting apart from your partner at the beginning of the routine, as simple as it may seem, takes the degree of difficulty up exponentially.
Your nerves can do a number on you. They can make a simple demonstration at the studio feel like performing at Radio City Music Hall. You're far outside your comfort zone, so your teacher is the closest thing you have. It would be like starting a swimming class in the middle of the deep end, and without an instructor.
Knowing that, you've got to start your routine in contact with each other.
The closer you are, the more comfortable you'll be, and considering that this is a solo routine, you need all the comfort you can get.
2. The Unrehearsed Dip
Sometimes we save our favorite moves for the big show... even if they were never part of the plan.
How it Happens
Imagine that every step of your choreography is a dinner guest at your wedding. There's a specific place for them, and you expect each and every one of them to show up at the right time.
Occasionally, there are guests that can't make it. That's normal. What you want to avoid are uninvited guests. The spontaneous choreography wedding crasher that shows up at the worst possible time.
Anything unrehearsed, especially dips, should never be included in your routine. These "spontaneous inclusions" are as welcome in your routine performance as uninvited wedding guests are to your big day.
The old sports phrase is, "how you practice is how you'll play", and that absolutely applies to your routine choreography, but with a slight twist.
"What you practice is what you'll play".
How you practice your routine is important - like the time, effort, and attention to detail, but what you dance is a non-negotiable thing. Like asking a contractor to toss in a swimming pool to your kitchen remodel at the last walk through.
You can always add extras the next time around.
3. Falling in Love with Landmarks
We are all creatures of habit.
Your mind is constantly mapping the rooms you are in, like a high tech computer creating a 3-D rendering, or a street savvy private eye. "You're casing the joint", even when you aren't trying.
The good thing? Your spatial awareness improves as a ballroom dancer.
That bad thing? You may be creating a permanent, uneditable mental map of your routine.
How it Happens
Think of how your Tango routine starts. Maybe you're standing diagonal wall, against the line of dance, and you hold the first two measures of the music.
In addition to the alignments, your brain picks up on the fact that you're facing the DJ booth, the front door to the studio is always in your peripheral vision, and you'll finish the first quarter lap around the room with your back to the coat closet.
So what happens when you perform without the DJ booth, the front door, or the coat closet?
This is the point where your brain, frantic for those pre-programmed landmarks, goes into a mental spin cycle.
Once your routine has been memorized, you've got to rearrange things.
No, not the choreography, or the furniture, but where you are aligned in the room. Try it on the opposite side of the ballroom, in a separate ballroom (if possible), and that will reduce your dependency on landmarks dramatically.
4. The Last Minute Makeover
Fight it. Fight every single urge. There's a point when all editing, cutting and pasting, and changes to your routine must stop, but part of you won't let you.
How it Happens
The performer in you wants the routine to be fantastic, a visual spectacle, a sure-fire standing ovation that will make people laugh, cry, and faint, and for some reason that performer is rarely satisfied with the routine you've prepared.
Unfortunately, changes to the choreography late in the process can revert your material to the Awkward or Conscious Use stage in the learning process - which won't create the desired result.
You want your routine to be better. That's understandable. But there are better ways to improve your dancing. New moves, fancy moves, or a trick here and there are like new words, new sentences, or a bad word in another language:
They won't make sense if you don't have the accent.
The moment you stop editing, and re-editing, your choreography - your routine can start getting better. Actors can't really act until they've learned their script, and dancers can't really dance until they've learned their choreography.
Constant changes in either postpone the skill from developing.
5. Deadline Optimism
Being positive in your dance progress is important, but sometimes optimism can have its faults.
How it Happens
Deadline optimism happens when you make a decision based on your confidence in achieving a certain result. Like catching a flight, or a project that isn't due for a month - It's easy to downplay the process of preparing early.
In dancing, it's a lot of - "We're going to be fine...", "Once the music comes on...", "What's there to worry about....", "I've got this."
What happens next is rarely the shiny, optimistically hued result that was predicted when the deadline actually arrives.
It may show up as a last minute dance lesson marathon, or a late night decision to cancel the event altogether, but it all boils down to not having enough urgency early on in the process.
Set up some sprints. Not of the actual running variety, but in segments of learning your routine. Perhaps you "sprint" for the first 3 weeks of learning the choreography. Later, add one for installing new technique after working with a Dance Coach.
The bottom line is that taking short bursts of lessons to achieve specific, short-term goals will keep you motivated, and less likely to make overly optimistic "marathon assessments" that may not come true.
Just like construction, or your favorite show on HGTV, you can see progress before perfection. That's exactly why there are events designed to showcase your work in progress routines - like Newsome Twosomes, Spotlight Nights, or whatever else your studio calls them.
It's those smaller test runs that actually improve your routine construction. They provide critical feedback for you, and your teacher, before you present your finished dance routine.
Whether you've done a hundred routines, or you're contemplating your first one, just remember: Your teacher wouldn't ask you to do one unless they thought it would help you.
(But feel free to share this with them just to be safe.)
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