Tag Archives: choice

The impact of music in dance

Over on the DanceMom.com discussion forum, it was brought up that some dancers really don’t care about the music that is used for a routine. Some people just want to dance, no matter what the music is.

While that is certainly a true statement, I also want to point out that in most instances of dance performance, music is of great importance. No matter whether it’s a cinematic work, broadway show, or dance competition, as much care should be taken with the choice of music as with the selection of costume, hairstyle, makeup, and props, especially in regards to the emotional impact the music can provide.

I’ve had the great pleasure of doing some music editing for title winning dancer Brianna Roland. Last year, I fixed the music she had self-edited, for the piece she had choreographed for Prince’s When Doves Cry. She won several dance competition titles with this outstanding routine:

For comparison sake, I edited k.d.lang’s Constant Craving, which uses the same 129 bpm tempo, to the same length of choreography, and swapped the audio for the original Prince song. Here is the same dance, but with Constant Craving as music:

In both versions, Miss Brianna’s dancing is superb (and of course is identical in both). Because the tempo of both songs is the same, many of Miss Brianna’s movements in the Constant Craving version are in sync with the music. Both songs are emotionally powerful. Watch both of these versions and let me know what you think of the difference between the two.

Fresh takes on classic dance songs

As we enter full swing of the competition season, it’s a great time to reflect on song choices for the dance routines. Out of the millions of songs that have been written since the dawn of mankind, why is that some songs get completely worn out at dance competitions? Often it’s because they are used in a hit movie or a memorable episode of SYTYCD, and suddenly everyone thinks that they are the only person to have the idea to use it for their own dance routine.

Well, popular songs are popular for a reason. Something about them connects with us, and has an emotional appeal that is hard to explain. But when they are over-used, it creates boredom for the judges. You want to present the judges (and audience) with something as fresh as your beautiful choreography deserves.

Even when you decide to go with a popular song, there are usually many ways to keep the song fresh for your dancer(s) and the judges. One way is to look for alternative versions than the most popular one. You could see if the original artist has a live version of the song. Often these live versions will have more energy than a studio-recorded song because it was performed in the presence of an audience. Often times if a song is extremely popular, other artists will do their own interpretations of it. Usually the best of these “cover songs” will be in a style that is very different than the original. If the song sounds nearly identical to the original, than why bother using it?

When looking for alternative versions of popular songs, check out the Vitamin String Quartet. This prolific recording team has made classical string versions of hundreds upon hundreds of popular songs. In fact, they have more than 370 albums in the iTunes store.

Here is one example of an overly popular dance competition song that has alternative versions that are very different stylistically from the original:

Original: It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls
Fresh Versions:

Check out more Antidotes to worn out hits. Also, there is a set of pages on this blog devoted to giving you song ideas for dance competition, grouped by dance category: Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, Contemporary, Musical Theater, and Kid-Friendly Hip Hop.

Deep Cuts

Ever been to a dance competition, only to discover that another studio is using the exact same song as one of your dancers? Well, it’s only natural, because what is currently popular is popular all around the country at the same time.

What should you do? Don’t fall victim to the over-popular trap. While your dance students might be excited to do a routine to Lady Gaga’s Pokerface, the judges eyes’ will glaze over when they hear it for the fourth time in the same day, making it harder for them to give YOUR student’s routine the attention it deserves. The judges have a long enough day as it is.

The answer is to find deeper cuts. It’s even okay to use a popular artist, but don’t use the most popular songs. Find the ones that aren’t overplayed and use one of them instead. Or find another artist who employs the same style, but is less well known.

As I come across songs overused in dance competitions, I will post them, along with their antidotes, here. I feel this is such an important part of selecting a song for dance routines that I have created a page called Antidotes, which you can see at the top of this page. Here are the first two Tired Songs, along with their Inspired antidotes:

Jai Ho (You are my Destiny) – From the motion picture Slumdog Millionaire, by A.R. Rahman, Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah, Mahalaxmi Iyer & Vijay Prakash (other versions include the Pussycat Dolls)
Chhod Na Re (Remix) – Vishal and Anand Raaj Anand

Pokerface – Lady Gaga
Sexy Chick – D. Ghetto

Feel free to submit your antidotes in the comments, and I’ll add them to the Antidote page!

Also, I have started a library of song ideas, grouped into dance categories. Check out the Song Suggestions in the menu at the top of the page for some inspiration!