Only then should you move onto the next step: assess your talent and style. I believe this is the most important step. There is nothing better than watching a talented performer doing what she does best. That is what makes a routine exciting. What is YOUR particular strength? What can you do better than most others? Are you a competitive level gymnast? Are you a gifted dancer with technical experience? Are you a martial artist? Can you twirl a baton? It can be anything that showcases your particular talent and illustrates your athleticism. This is you biggest asset.
Once you identify your best strength, then you must think about what your particular STYLE is. Is hip-hop your forte? Is jazz dance more your style? Are you a ballerina? Have you been break dancing since the 80's? You need to identify your greatest assets and build on those as a foundation for a superior routine. If you do not, your routine will end up looking like many others' because they are basically doing the same strength and flexibility moves that you are. You must set yourself apart by putting your greatest strengths and your own personal style into your routine.
The next step is to identify your weaknesses. This is also a very important step--and most often overlooked. What you DO NOT include in your routine is just as important as what you DO put in it. In other words, you should be aware of moves that you are NOT good at, and be sure NOT include them in your routine. This is a very common mistake seen widely in competition. Many competitors, especially first-time competitors, believe that they need to include all the moves they have seen in other routines and they end up doing things that are shaky, not executed properly or just plain do not look good because it is not their style.
There are many competitors who do gymnastics but that is no reason for you to attempt a roundoff-backhandspring if you do not have a gymnastics background---even if it took you six months to learn how to do one. If it does not look effortless, you should not include it. You should never add moves for the sake of having them in your routine, you should add them because you can execute them properly AND you look good doing them. The whole point of a fitness routine is to show the judges how strong, flexible and talented you are. Why would you do something that does not fit into one of those categories?
When you are just starting out, it is best to stick with what you can do now and what you can improve on the quickest. Now, this is not to say that you should not try new moves, because after all, how will you ever master something new if you do not try it? My point is that you should only include moves that you have already mastered, not the ones you are still working on.
Once you have a list of strength and flexibility moves that you can do, then you can decide on music. I always ask my clients if they have any songs in mind, because it should be music that THEY like, not what I like. It should be music that makes YOU want to get up and dance, because you are the one who has to perform to it. I suggest NOT using music that you've heard other competitors use, for obvious reasons---it's been done and the judges have already heard it. Remember, you want to stand out, not blend in with the competitive crowd. Being original here is crucial.
Many competitors use a pre-made music mix. Almost all competitors use a mix of hip-hop and R&B music. At most national level competitions that I have been to, at least 85% or more of them do. There is nothing wrong with that, since that type of music can be high energy and fun, but sometimes, they can all blend together because they sound alike. Don't be afraid to use rock, country or any other kind of music that you like. I suggest choosing each song you want to use and using four to six songs, generally. Any more than that can be distracting since too many music cuts can sound choppy. Then again, using one great song can also be effective. It just depends on the song and how much energy it has. Also, using sound effects in your music can be distracting if there are too many, but many competitors go that route too. Use your best judgment here. Just remember that originality goes a long way, especially when it comes to music. The judges will probably thank you.
Part of choosing music may mean coming up with a theme for your routine. This is a great way to stand out, but only if the theme hasn't been overdone. These days, it can be difficult thinking of an original theme, but it can be as simple as using all songs from the same artist, like Prince, or starting off with a Disney song, like the Little Mermaid. But again, don't use a theme if it's already been done too many times.
Finally, when you are ready to put your routine together, it will be easy because you will already have a list of strength and flexibility moves that you want to include, right? Remember to:
- Distribute your strength and flexibility moves evenly throughout your routine. I like to break up routines in sections, depending on the music changes. Each section should have at least one strength move and one flexibility move.
- Move around. Use the stage or space so you are not standing in one spot too long. That can get boring.
- Have smooth transitions in between strength and flexibility moves. Make sure your routine flows smoothly from one move to the next. If it doesn't feel natural when you are doing it, it probably won't look natural.
- Use level changes effectively. Don't do all your floor work (pushups, straddle hold, splits) in one section. Even level changes keep the routine moving.
- Do your most difficult strength move, or whatever move takes the most energy, in the first half of your routine. You want to make sure you can get through it and still have enough energy to finish the rest of your routine without looking tired.
- Have a strong beginning and a strong ending. Use one of your best strength or flexibility moves in the beginning to get the judges attention and save another good move for the end. When you are done, hold your last pose for at least two seconds! Let the judges process your routine in their minds before you go running off the stage.
Good luck and remember to practice, practice, practice!
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