Words and Template by Eva Devore | Photography by Mia Maraschino
Creating your own routine is a great way to combine your performance skills with your own creativity to make something that is completely you. You get to bring the ideas inside your head to life, and find your own personal style when performing. Creating your first choreography can be really daunting, and it’s hard to know where to start, and what to do!
Here at Sky Sirens we choreograph brand new routines for every class, every term. So you could say that our instructors are pretty great at realising their choreography! We’ve combined some of the best tips from our teachers into a handy step-by-step guide to set you on the path to creating your own routine. We’ve also included a special template to help you start to map out your choreography and make the process a little bit easier. These tips apply to Pole, Lyra, Sling and Burlesque, and every kind of dance and performance style in between.
Step One | Choose Your Concept
Behind every routine is a creative spark that excites and inspires you to bring your idea to life. Inspiration can come in many forms, whether it’s a song that you know you need to dance to, or a costume concept you can’t wait to wear. Maybe there is a specific event with a certain theme that you need to adhere to, like our exotic-themed show, Glory Box. Maybe you’d just like to create a routine for a particular apparatus.
Whatever your inspiration, the best place to start with a choreography is to nail down your concept and music. Having a strong theme will inform the choices you make around movements, moves and visuals like tricks, staging and lighting. If you’re starting with your song choice, listen to the lyrics and see if there are any clues that you could pull a theme from. If you’re starting with a concept and need music, check out playlists on Youtube or Spotify to find the perfect piece to complement your idea.
Step Two | List Your Tricks & Skills
When faced with trying to put together a routine, it can be overwhelming trying to remember everything that you’ve learned and can perform. Even though you might have studied and taken tonnes of classes, when you get to the studio to choreograph, it’s like all your knowledge has disappeared from your head!
I find writing a list of the moves I’d like to include really helps with this. I start by writing a big list of every move, trick or pose that I know how to do, and then from that list, I pick and choose the ones I’d like to put into the routine. From here, you can start to string them together to form sequences and combos.
Depending on the amount of time you have to complete your routine, you can either choose tricks and moves you feel completely confident in, or pick something a little harder to challenge yourself. Remember to give yourself lots of extra time if you are choosing something new!
Step Three | Map Your Music
You know what tricks you want to do, and the theme of your piece, but how do you figure out where to put everything? Listening to your music and mapping out the important points will help you find the perfect place to put a trick or pose. Musicality, which means moving to the beats, swells and feature moments of the song, really elevates your performance to a more professional level.
Listen to your song, and make a note of any particular sounds, moments or changes in the music. Does each section end with a big sharp sound? Does the song repeat itself, or change completely halfway through? This will give you markers for where to put your combos, where to add in your dancing, and how to structure your act. It will also help you pick which movements work best for the music, ie, softer, flowing movements for a quieter part of the song, or big, bold movements for a louder part or strong beat.
Step Four | Freestyle It Out
Once you’ve got a strong sense of how your music works, and a list of tricks to try, its time to jump into the studio and dance it out! Freestyling is a really useful tool to start putting things together and creating flowing sequences. Popping your song on, and dancing through the motions allows you to try different things to see if they work, and see if your body is able to do them. If something doesn’t work or you make a mistake, just keep going! Sometimes the most unexpectedly amazing moments in a choreography come from our mistakes or missteps.
Make sure to video yourself so you can remember what you have come up with! Videoing your freestyle on your phone means you can watch back afterwards. When you see something you like, make a note of the moves so you can try them again. Then, freestyle all over again! You can read our in-depth blog full of freestyle tips here.
Step Five | Review, Revise and Rethink
After you’ve had a play in the studio and free-styled to find what works, you can really go back and nail down that choreography. Go over all of your freestyle videos, and write down the combos, tricks you’d like to keep. Making a note of the choreography means that when you go to practice it again, you can remember everything that you have done.
This is also a great time to check and see that you included all the tricks and moments that you needed to. If you are doing a burlesque performance, you can check to make sure you have adequate time to take off each piece of clothing, and show it off the way it deserves. Match your choreography back to those moments in the song that you wrote down in Step Three, to make sure you’re really hitting those key moments. If something doesn’t quite work, this is your opportunity to tweak and adjust!
Step Six | Get Feedback
To really take your routine to the next level, sharing it with others and getting their opinions and advice can help you check to see if there is anything you’ve missed. Ask a mentor or a friend whose opinion you trust, and either perform your routine for them, or send them a video of your rehearsal.
Feedback from others helps us to see things about our choreography that we might not have noticed ourselves. Perhaps its an opportunity for a fun moment that you didn’t notice, or a trick that doesn’t quite flow. Even just checking that the story or message you are trying to get across is clear. Letting someone else give you feedback will really open your eyes to how your act might be received by your audience when it’s time to perform.
You can also book in a lesson with a teacher or mentor to really take your choreography to the next level. Your instructor will be able to look at your routine with fresh eyes, and provide their experienced feedback and constructive ideas!
Below is a free, downloadable template for you to start planning your own performance piece! There is space for you to write out your concept, map your music, list the tricks you would like to include, and make notes about your choreography sequence. This is a great document for you to save and have handy for all of those creative ideas, and it’s also a really awesome resource to bring along to a lesson if you book a private session to create a solo act! We can’t wait to see what you create.