Archive for the ‘Choreography’ Category

Sorry for the long dormant period of this blog! School has been demanding, what can I say? 🙂  But I will be trying to get some more posts in.

This is for those dancers that have trouble dancing “passionately”. Your dance instructors keep telling you that you lack passion, but how do you obtain it?

I used to have this problem with playing piano. Sure, I did a good job and I played all the notes correctly and in time and even added in some great dynamics, but my teacher said that I was a little robotic. I couldn’t help it; it was just how I played.

How did I fix it? It all changed in one day. I decided that I’d practice for a long time, and I sat at the piano for about two hours straight practicing just one song. This was the day that I began actually loving the piano; before this, I played but I couldn’t say that I loved playing. I might have been good at it, but being good at something and loving it are two completely different things.

One concept of passion is loving what you do. I know, I know–you love to dance but you still lack the passion that your instructor wants. Maybe the problem is that you’re tricking your mind; I know several people on my drill team who said they loved being on drill, but I knew that they did not love it in their hearts because of their horrible practicing habits. If you love to do something, pratice is a reward rather than an arduous task. I used to hate practicing piano; if this was true, how could I love playing? After the day that I practiced for two hours straight, I was completely changed. From this day, I began practicing all the time. Now that my school schedule is so demanding, I have barely anytime to practice and any time that I do have is spent practicing. I love practicing.

One quote that my music teacher told me comes from a famous musician (I forget who): I never practice; I always play.

I think this quote enforces that “practice” should be just as fun as playing. So many people find practice as something that’s unfavorable. Attributing practice with the term “play” has changed the whole aura of the word. Practice suddenly becomes fun.

The steps to developing passion:

1. Begin to LOVE practicing
How do you do this? I say to do it the way I did. Spend at least two hours practicing one dance, and you will be completely changed. And spending two hours at a dance lesson does not constitute practicing. Go home, and set two hours just for practicing–no breaks. You may be surprised at how much you change at the end.

2. Practice like you perform
Put lots of energy into your practice. Lots of people love performing but hate praticing. If this is so, then perform everytime you practice!

3. Love & be moved by the music
A large aspect of dancing is the music. When playing music, in order to play passionately you need to become moved by the music. Same goes for dance.

Remember, passion is about loving what you do. You know how you can just tell in someone’s face what mood that person is in? A smile indicates happiness; a frown indicates sadness. Well, passion is similar, but harder to describe. It’s not just a smile or a frown, it’s an aura and a feeling. Music can make you feel a certain way just because of the aura that it brings; a passionate dancer does the same. Someone can look at you and decide if you’re passionate or not just like someone can look at you and decide your mood. When I watch a passionate dancer, I feel moved and engulfed in the dance. It’s a very hard thing to describe, but when you have it, you know it. First thing–begin to love practicing.

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I know this is a huge issue in drill. Who will mix the music if I can’t do it? If it needs to be done professionally, how will we raise the money? Well, don’t be discouraged to mix music. Really, it’s very simple.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Get a music cutting program
I’d recommend Adobe Audition, as this is very simple and the only one that I’ve used. It has more than enough functions to mix any dance routine.

2. Play with it
Really! Just press the buttons and see what your program is capable of. To edit a music file, import that file from your computer or CD (remember where you saved it!) and view in under the single track view. It’s pretty self explanatory, in Adobe at least. When you play the music, it starts from the yellow line and goes till the end. The white line will indicate which part of the music it is currently playing. Listen to it, and cut off the parts you don’t want by highlighting and deleting (ctrl+X). You can zoom in and out to be more accurate. When you’re ready for the next song, go into the multitrack view. Drag the first song into one of the rectangles starting from time 0. This will be the start of your mix. Once you’re done cutting the second song, add the right next to the first or even overlap it and create fade effects. I’m not going to go in-depth, because I’m sure you can figure it out. It’s very simple. If you want to slow the music down, just find that option in the menu. It’s all written there for you! If you can’t figure something out, comment and I’d be happy to help.

3. Find a tutorial
There are many people who have websites dedicated to teaching you something. Some examples might be how to edit pictures in photoshop and how to create 3-D pictures in Rhino. Whatever it is, I’m sure that someone has written about it. Search for one in google (or yahoo, msn, etc.)

See, it’s not so hard. Now you can go mix your own music 🙂

Update

Sorry about not having the routine up. I thought that I could finish it by today, but I’ve had way too much homework and compulsory tasks. I’m hoping that it will be up sometime soon, but I can’t really say when. At this point, I have the music all mixed and part of the routine done. I really want to get it done, but I have a stack of books waiting to be read.
Anyway, I wish everyone luck on getting their splits down. Performances are coming up–keep calm and work hard!

Before I get into this post, I’m going to add a short note. I’ve noticed lately that my posts are much more general now and not strictly drill-only. I think I’m going to continue with this, providing more general tips on things like flexibility, endurance, etc.

So . . . how do you know what music is right? Many performances involve a theme, and if the music fits that theme, then you select it. Sounds logical. But what if there are thousands and thousands of song fitting one theme? What if there’s no theme at all?

First of all, you want to find music that’s danceable, if that’s even a word. You know what I mean. The tempo shouldn’t be too fast or too slow for the type of dance you’re performing. You wouldn’t perform hip hop to classical music nor ballet to R&B. Stick to the right “theme” for the dance and keep a good tempo. Make sure that the music expresses the true art of your dancing. For lyrical, find music in which you can express strong emotions and also show your grace; for drill, find music in which you can keep your moves precise and sharp.

Secondly, find music that everyone likes. Someone that hates the music won’t like performing to it, and that’s gonna show in the performance. Take a vote!

Thirdly, choose the music that best fits what emotion or theme you’re trying to convey. I’ve played piano for over a decade now, and there are the songs that truly move me and then the ones that end up on the floor somewhere. You want the music to move you. It’s usually easier to express sadness than happiness for some reason, but always try to incorporate various emotions. Go into complex emotions. Show the differences in all these emotions: sadness, fear, anger, happiness, excitement, etc.

Also choose music that communicates and moves the audience. Repetitive music is boring and the audience is unengaged. Make everyone feel moved after watching your performance.

Lastly, choose a variety of styles. Of course, some dances are limited in the types of music that they can use, for instance, a lyrical dance usually won’t be performed to rap music. There are still so many types of music that you can use for each dance. I know one problem with drill is that many teams like to use 100% techno music. Sure, techno is great for drill especially because it promotes sharpness and you can hear exactly where the beats are. Go for other types of music. Engage your audience by varying the style every once in awhile.

I know that lots of dance teams are just starting up (if they haven’t already) in September. I wish you good luck and a jolly dance season!

When you create the routine, you need to make sure that it’s challenging, interesting, appealing to the audience, etc. That’s the obvious. You also have to make sure that it is capable of being 98% perfect.

A difficult routine is great, but a difficult routine performed poorly is just as bad as a boring routine. Challenge yourselfs with a difficult routine and make it as perfect as possible. Of course there is no such thing as 100% perfection, but if you want to succeed in competitions, you’re going to need at least 90% perfection. If this is just not happening for your team, maybe it’s because the routine is too difficult! Maybe the counts are too fast, the moves are too far apart to transition to, the music is too fast, etc. Simplify it and make the work easier on the team. If you’ve read my other articles on choreography, you should know that you yourself must be capable of performing the routine with the music first. Sometimes people will create moves that they themselves can’t even do! Practice first. Teachers don’t teach things that they don’t know; likewise, you shouldn’t be teaching a routine that you have not practiced and perfected. Make sure 90% perfection is possible.

As for the routine itself, one way to make it fun, new, and interesting is to add your team member’s creativity to it. They can contribute to the choreography and make your life as a captain easier! In the end, make sure anyone who creates a section of the choreography gets credit for it in some way! After all, if you don’t credit this person, you’ve basically took credit for her work. You’ve learned this lesson at school already. Don’t plagiarize.

The main reason choreography is so hard to perfect is because it is created without consideration to the pace of the music and the plausibility of the moves. Of course it’s okay to first start off slow and speed the counts up to the music, but the instructor’s responsibility is to perfect the choreography before she teaches it. If you can’t do it, no one else can. Make sure you can do it, and make sure there are no extremely difficult, based-on-chance moves. These could be cartwheels or other risky moves. It usually leads to sloppiness anyway. Don’t add something to the routine unless you’re sure that everyone is capable of perfecting it (including yourself!).

Though I say to not add something that can’t be perfected, I don’t mean to make the routine boring and easy. Challenges are good, but extremely risky challenges like head-spinning just won’t work, unless everyone can do it. Make your routine as creative as possible, with unique transitions and a bit of everyone’s creativity in it.

Happy choreographing )

Moved!

Drill.wordpress.com has moved to www.drillobsession.com

New articles will be added there. All the old articles from this site are there as well. Enjoy! )

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A whole lot of time is spent at practice being unproductive because some people still don’t know the routine. And as a captain or even a team member, you start thinking, “why do they not know the routine? It’s been a month since they’ve learned it!” It’s a very good question, but there isn’t really an answer to it, other than the fact that they’re lazy, effortless, and don’t place drill on their priority list. But you can’t just kick them off the team–they’re important. You’re going to have to deal with it some way or another.

The main problem about someone not knowing the routine is that it brings the team down. You can’t really work on angles, formations, etc. so you’re forced to instead go over the routine (and waste time) or find another activity to do (conditioning, marching, etc.) that won’t really help your performance which is coming up in two weeks…

It’s extremely frustrating when practice after practice, these same people continue to not practice and not know the routine. You start wondering why on earth they were selected at the time of try-outs.

When I was on drill, the captains/coach always enforced the fact that we’re a “team” and have to do “teamwork” in order to be successful. Well, it’s true, but only to an extent. Of course you have to rely on each other have good angles, be sharp, perform well, etc., but another thing that annoyed me was the concept that if one person didn’t march the right way, the whole team would have to march again and again until everyone had it right. There was always the one person that didn’t point her toes, or the one person that decided to not keep her posture back, and even though I was doing it fine, I had to repeat it over and over again just because of the girl who didn’t point her toes, the girl that didn’t want to be sharp, etc. It really angered me and I am pretty sure that it angered every other person on the team. It just brought everyone’s mood down and I stopped caring completely after doing it the 5th time in a row. I mean, is this concept of “teamwork” really applicable? No. It’s important to work together in a team, but you shouldn’t punish everyone for one person’s errors. It’s just not right.

So, just because some people don’t know the routine, does that mean everyone should go to practice and waste their time going over the routine, for the millionth time in a row? No. Here’s my method of teaching a routine:

1. After choreographing, create packets for everyone (make sure you triple-check for errors)
These packets were very useful for me when I was learning the routine. They would have the count # and the moves next to it, indicating where marching started and stopped. Here’s an example of what I mean:
1 High v, in fists
2 Swirl arms down to low v (start high-knee marching)
3 W angle in fists
& T, in fists
4 Broken T, in blades (stop marching)

OK, so that wasn’t exactly a realistic routine, but I hope you get the idea. It’s really easy to forget the routine after it is taught, especially when a lot is taught in a day. Sometimes people will leave out entire 8-counts and it just leads to confusion. These packets are good references and you will never have a team member telling you “but…I forgot about that part”, “you didn’t answer your phone when I called for help”, etc. Just make sure they don’t lose their packet.

2. Set a time period for teaching the routine to the team
Some teams like to practice daily for an hour or two a day; others might like to practice for 3 hours a day two days a week. It all depends on how your team does it. For a normal, approximately 3 minute routine, I would say set a week to teach the routine. You don’t want to teach an overwhelming amount in one day, nor do you want to take a whole month to teach it. Make sure you give everyone a 5 minute break between a set of four 8-counts for them to think about what they’ve learned and catch up on it. If you’re talking the whole time, no one will have time to think about the previosu 8-count or the one before it, so make sure you close your mouth for a few minutes and just let them think about it and practice on their own for a bit. One time when I was being taught, the captain just kept going on and on to new sets of 8-counts. I just gave up midway through practice and decided I’d go home and learn it. I just didn’t care anymore. You don’t want anyone to just give up, so “thinking-breaks” would be helpful.

3. Leave a 1-week time space for team members to practice
Don’t schedule practices for one week. Take the stress off and enforce everyone to practice and take advantage of the time off.

4. Schedule one week for individual practices to evaluate team members
Create a sign-up sheet for evaluation sessions. Have five of these (one hour each) in one week. Divide your team up evenly (ex: 30 members on a team, divide this by five days so that you will evaluate six members per practice). Allow members to sign up whenever they wish, as long as it’s in the timeframe. During this practice, your job as a captain is to evaluate every team member on how well they know the routine. This has nothing to do with perfecting it. Knowledge is the first part–you can perfect the routine later. If the person knows the routine, she passes, and if not, she will fail. Don’t be too harsh, it’s a know-it or don’t thing; you don’t want everyone stressed out over this. Create a punishment for failing, like going to practices during the weekend or going to “fail” practices. This will be your time to punish those that didn’t know the routine, because it was their fault and they deserve to be punished rather than the team as a whole. Use this time to help them learn the routine so that you can start practices with the entire team to work on the next step–perfection.

And there you have it! One week to teach the routine, one week to rest, one week to evaluate. A three-week process. This might seem long, but if you think about it, it’s really not. Most captains make the mistake of teaching a routine in 1-2 weeks and going immediately into the perfection process. Though many team members are dedicated and spend time practicing, there are the ones who don’t. Running straight into the process of perfection is therefore only a waste of time, because the people that don’t know the routine can’t perfect what they’ve not yet learned. When you perform, the judges watch every single person on your team and you cannot risk having one person off. If one person doesn’t know the routine, she’ll never have time to perfect it and her bad angles/posture/etc. will catch a judge’s eye.

Sometimes even months after the routine is taught, people still don’t know the routine. I remember times when people hadn’t learned a routine until four months after being taught. So if you think about it, a three-week process with every single member knowing the routine is a pretty good deal. As a whole you will be able to move on and not have to practice formations with the girl in the back who doesn’t know the routine and is always in your way because she doesn’t know where to move. You have go step by step, and the first step is knowledge. Not just in most of the members, but every member. You need to surpass this step in order to move on.

Have fun teaching!

A routine is boring if there’s no and-counts and variations. It also gets boring if it’s entirely symmetrical. Make sure you vary routine and follow these tips:

1. Use &-counts when the music calls for it
Once you become experienced in listening to music, you can see where the and-counts are meant to be. If you count the music and it sounds like there should be an and-count there, try it out. It will probably fit in perfectly and add some more variation and appeal in the routine. Judges don’t want to see straight counts without variations, so add them in so you don’t bore the judges.

2. Don’t make it so symmetrical

If you have a high V in your left hand, that doesn’t mean you need one in your right hand also. Do different angles with each arm, for example, a goalpost left arm and a low V right arm. It gets really boring when every part of your body is mirroring itself.

3. Don’t switch every move
This means that you shouldn’t, for example, switch from a right diagonal to a left one too many times. Other examples are a high V to low V, a right check to a left check, a right fan kick to a left fan kick, etc. It’s ok to switch, but don’t do it continuously throughout an 8-count. It gets boring.

4. Make move transitions different

You don’t have to go straight to moves. Swirl to them, break up to them, or do some other types of transitions. It makes it look a lot more interesting and also has a neat effect. It also makes the team members look together if they know exactly how they’re getting from one move to the next.

5. Do several moves at once
Just because you’re marching doesn’t mean your arms should be still. From what I’ve seen from teams, they tend to march a whole 8-count in one arm move. You can do moves and march at the same time, it’s not too difficult.

6. Don’t be predictable
This goes with step 3. You don’t want the judges to be able to predict what you’ll do. Make up new things for every performance. Creativity can never end, so make sure you think of something that the audience will be awed by. When I’m watching teams, I already have seen a million of the same angles, marching, floorwork, kicks, etc. Change it up and open up the judges eyes. They’ve seen a million routines and they want to see something different for once. After all, kicks, floorwork, etc. were only recently added to drill. Drill is based off military marching, so everything it is now has all been added by many creative people. There wasn’t always music to drill. Maybe there’s something different that you can think of.

That’s it for now; I hope it helps!

Choreographers (usually the captains) always make the same mistake when it comes to choreography. They follow these steps: 1. Make up moves; 2. Find music that matches these moves, 3. Find someone to mix the music. The first flaw in this is that it is hard to find music that matches the choreography that you have made. All music is different, and you might be searching for a long time before you find the right music. The second flaw is that sometimes the choreographers make up counts that are almost impossible to do. They might make up many &-counts and after teaching the team, realized that the music is way too fast. Choreographers think that just because the choreography is already made up, they don’t have to practice it with music and can go straight to teaching. After realizing that the moves just won’t work with the music, choreographers will make changes to accommodate. This just leads to frustration and confusion in the team members.

The right way to choreograph is to follow these steps:
1. Find music
2. Get the music mixed
3. Start choreographing (including formations)
4. PRACTICE the choreography to the music
5. Check to see if it “works out”

Choreographers sometimes skip steps 4 and 5, and will end up making changes to the routine due to this. You need to practice the choreography to the music to see if it is too fast/slow. Sometimes moves without music may be great, but once the music is on, they’re not so hot. That’s why you have to practice with the music–to experiment with the tempo and see how the overall feel of the moves & music is. Step number five is a little confusing. If you choreograph, you need to reasonably see if it is possible to move from one formation to another in the number of counts given. Sometimes you might think that an 8-count of marching is enough, but you soon realize that you actually need four 8-counts. That’s a huge difference and will force you to edit the routine. Make sure you logically see how the formations will fit togther and where each individual will march. You need to know if it’s possible to march from one place to another in the number of counts given. If you’re not able to estimate, you should experiment using team members. Ask them to get in one formation and march to the next, and see how many counts they need. There will be no mistakes this way. Mainly, as a choreographer, you want to make sure you yourself can perform the routine to the music by practicing and making sure it’s not too fast or slow, and also provide enough time to move to formations.

Changing choreography is really frustrating to everyone and wastes time. If you make your routine perfect the first time, you won’t have to waste time changing it and you can spend more time working on other things.