“Ballet for Beginners”

Coming up with a ballet routine that will blow away the judges, spectators and your opponents isn’t easy. You have to make it look effortless and inevitable. This is best done through careful planning, practice, creativity and luck.

There are about five or six steps to making a ballet routine.

1. Figure out the music you’re going to use.

This is really the most important part. Without the right music, you can’t make a good routine. It has to be something you really like-you will be listening to it over and over and over again, for hours at a time. It has to lend itself to choreographing-different parts, variety, stuff you can readily fly to. It has to be something the judges will like-this is tough to figure out-I’d say music with “bigness”-big transitions, big sound, emotion, not all the same, music that shows off interpretation skills. You may need to edit the piece you select to fit time constraints or compose your own or splice bits of different pieces (#1 & #2 are the most creative parts of the process). Once you get the music, burn it on a CD with 2 pieces for walk-on & walk-off music. Record the main piece in the middle to make it easy for the sound guy and label it clearly. I talk with him when I give him the music so he knows what’s going on. Put the CD away so it stays clean. Record the main piece on a cassette or mp3, over and over so you can listen to it while you’re practicing and making the routine.

2. Come up with a routine to go with the music.

While #1 is important, #2 is difficult. What I do is listen to the music so it becomes familiar but so you don’t know it perfectly. Then come up with things to do to parts of it while you’re just listening. Then fly to it and see if what you’re doing goes with the music. Keep flying to it, making a set of moves to each section of the piece. Then come up with transitions to each section. Then write everything down. I tend to block out each section or set of moves in a diagram, so the routine looks like a storyboard.

3. Practice the routine, making changes and refinements.

Now things get fun. Fly the routine over and over, changing things, maybe coming up with new ideas or altering pacing. Things are still in flux here, don’t fix the routine completely (I’m STILL making small changes to my routine and it’s three years old)

4. Practice more, practice still more. Rinse, lather, repeat.

This can get tedious. This is where you put the polish and smoothness on the routine. You should be able to fly it without the music. You might be able to fly it backwards, too! Right now my routine is to fly each move over and over and over until I’m satisfied or too frustrated to continue-then I go to the next move. Finally I’ll fly the entire routine a few times to correct pacing and interpretation.

5. The day of competition.

I try to practice every day leading up to a competition. Depending on when I’m flying or judging, I’ll practice a few times before I compete. I’m finding that I need to run through it 3 or so times to get comfortable. Kite and line selection is critical.

6. The routine.

By now you know the routine so well you could fly it in your sleep. Relax! Don’t worry about a thing! The problem for me is that I get keyed up-that’s why I have bumper music on the CD. A piece I’m familiar with that I can use while I’m gauging conditions to loosen me up and get me ready. The routine itself becomes a matter of nailing each set of moves and enjoying it played over a big echo-y sound system. My issue now is perfection and FOCUSING on the routine. I have problems with competing anyways, so I have to overcome that as well.

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