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How To Choose The Perfect Music For Your Dance Competition Routine
March 14, 2016

What Music Not to Use for Your Competition Routine

One of the first elements that must come together when creating a winning dance competition routine is music. It’s an important factor, too – it could help inspire the choreography; as dancers and teachers, you will have it memorized forward and backward; and it will be what the judges hear when watching (and scoring) the routine. That said, there are some things to keep in mind when choosing music, and some things you’ll want to avoid. Here, with the help of a leading judge, we will guide you in what to consider, and what not to use, when selecting music.

Music Matters

“Like a prop should be used if it is given, so should music,” explains Jill Wolins, a former Radio City Rockette who has been a judge for Starpower, Dance Masters of America, Dance Explosion and Star Dance Alliance competitions over the past 14 years. “Musical dynamics and accents should always lead the choreography and movement quality of the dancer. It should also lead the choreography in terms of use of the stage, the ‘graph’ part of ‘choreograph’. Dance can be considered turning music into motion. If that is the case, dancers and choreographers should take their jobs seriously. Teachers and choreographers should not do what they want but what the music tells them.”

What Not to Use

Most importantly, Wolins says, is that the music is age-appropriate. Do not use songs with distasteful lyrics, heavy subject matter or sexual innuendo. Not only are these songs inappropriate for young dancers, but they could also end up offending another performer or even a judge.

“Be realistic and keep in mind that judges may come from any part of the country,” Wolins adds. “Although the competition may be held in a city where edgy styles are accepted as the norm, judges may come from a more conservative background. You and I may love a song and not find it offensive, but we should not put our kids in a position to lose points because someone else may find the song distasteful. If you think something may possibly be offensive to anyone, just don’t do it.”

Edit Music Well

If a song has a good beat and drives you to dance, then it could be a good choice. Just make sure that you listen to the song extra carefully, and edit out any inappropriate lyrics or content that may be in there.

“It is not always enough to bleep out, or mute profanity, especially if all of the lyrics lead up to a specific word that the audience knows,” Wolins suggests. “Cut out the whole section. Teachers could treat their routines as if they were producing their own show. And the show is a family show. Do not use children to create your fantasy or vision that would be more suitable for a professional show or an 18-plus audience.”

Judges will mark down for inappropriate music choice or music that is poorly edited, so take the time to edit your music well.

“Because the results are often so tight, overall impression can break ties,” Wolins shares. “If technical levels and performance qualities are the same, any possible distasteful elements would certainly deter a judge from choosing it as its winner.”

Where to Find Music

These days, with the accessibility of the Internet and neat music-related apps such as Shazam, it can be easy to find tons of music. In fact, you could spend hours browsing iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. Also consider subscribing to satellite radio, which breaks down channels into specific genre categories. And Wolins suggests using a search engine to type in key words such as “movie themes” or “songs about water” to help find music that may correlate to a certain concept.

“Many people enjoy searching for acoustic covers,” she adds. “One can type in any of their favorite songs in the iTunes search engine and come up with numerous versions of a song. If there is a song you used as a kid, and it is a timeless wonder, don’t be afraid to bring it back. Judges and audience members always like a good throwback.”

Let Kids be Kids

Part of your job as a teacher or choreographer is to inspire and guide young dancers. Help create a dance that is tasteful, age-appropriate but also fun.

“Don’t be afraid to let kids be kids,” Wolins says. “Once childhood is over, we never get a second chance. Remember that ‘Happy’ always sells, especially when it comes to kids. The added responsibilities that come along with being an adult is inevitable, and tapping into that unassuming and just plain happy, high energy music and performance never goes unappreciated.”

Once the music is chosen, be sure everyone – the dancers, teacher and choreographer – really listens to the music. Get the counts in your bones, close your eyes and envision the dance as the music plays, and pay attention to how the music makes you feel. This connection to the music will read to the audience and the judges, and it will overall make for a better, more enjoyable routine.

Guest Contributor: Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.