Tag Archives: choreography

How important is music to dance?

Dancer/choreographer Bree Hafen has written an excellent article about the role that music plays in her dance life on her blog. It’s called The Mystery of Music Decoded.

I think the best part of Bree’s article is how she explains how much care she takes when selecting music to match the song to the age-level of the dancer(s). It’s also great to get her insights into how important music is since it provides the emotional foundation of the entire dance.

Beatles remix – Somehow Someway

The following dance routine titled “All You Need Is Love” – was an Elite Senior jazz/character routine performed at the 2012 StarPower Springfield, Massachusetts Regional competition. Choreography by Lesley Lambert. Audio design/remix by Morriss Partee, Squirrel Trench Audio. Story & audio concept inspired by Cirque Du Soleil/Beatles partnership Beatles’ Love

I love doing custom, creative remixes for dance such as this one, and am excited that quite a few dance studios will be using Squirrel Trench Audio remixes for the 2012-2012 dance season. And more are currently in the works! If you are looking for a unique dance remix, then shoot me an email and let me know your concept and routine length.

Creative remixes for dance

Britney Spears beautiful new lookBesides delivering structurally-sound remixes of single songs, perhaps my favorite music editing project is a creative custom remix. These come in many forms. I just finished a remix of four Britney Spears songs for a large competitive group at a studio in Georgia, and I’m about to begin on a “Dance Through The Ages” remix for a non-competitive studio in New Jersey. And if you are looking for a two-part cheer music edit, that is no problem as well. Other custom remixes I’ve finished include a Pixie Hollow theme, a Mary Poppins mash-up, a Wizard of Oz retelling, a train medley, an evocative drum journey, a Beatles remix inspired by the Cirque du Soleil masterpiece Love, and many more.

If you are looking for some fresh new ideas in music to give yourself a creative boost for your next choreographic masterpiece, then shoot me an email. Prices for these custom remixes depend on the complexity, but typically run between $74 and $149.

Time to get your music ready for the 2012-2013 season

Here it is, the end of May, and for most dance studios, that means that Regional competitions are over, and it’s Recital time! As the dance season winds down, and studios get ready for Nationals, Summer Intensives, and Summer camps, now is the perfect time to start getting your music ready for the 2012-2012 season.

If you select your music within the next 1-2 weeks, and send it to me for editing, you can be sure you have the best music ready for your new choreography well ahead of Summer Intensives. Don’t make the mistake that many dance teachers make…. which is to choreograph first, and edit the music afterwards. The problem with doing it in this sequence is that in many cases, editing the song’s intro leads to a better soundtrack for your dance routine, and that is not possible if that part of the song has already been choreographed. If you choreograph the first minute-and-a-half of the music, you are tying your editors hands in terms of flexibility to deliver the best edited/remixed music possible.

Whenever you are ready to get your music edited, send an email!

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.

Retaining song structure in music editing & remixing

If you edit, cut or remix music for dance, gymnastics, figure skaters, vocalists or any other purpose, this is perhaps the most important article you can read on the subject.

What’s the Plan, Stan?

Most music has a structure… a road map that that takes the listener on a journey from point A to point B with several interesting stops along the way. While music is auditory, if you were to visualize the journey by breaking a song down into its component pieces, you would see something like this:

While many songs have variations on this theme, this graph is nonetheless a useful starting point in visualizing or understanding the structure of a song, including intro, verses (purple), choruses (blue), and almost always some type of bridge section (green).

Music editors who don’t pay attention to the structure of music typically make the minimum number of edits, or cuts, to get the music down from, say, four minutes, to the required routine length, which is usually three minutes, two and a half minutes, or two minutes. What usually ends up happening is that a fade-out is thrown onto music wherever the time limit occurs. If you were to visualize the resulting song structure, you’d see something like this:

While there is nothing “wrong” with this picture per se, it does not have as powerful an impact as the original song. It doesn’t feel complete, and the overall “shape” of the journey is now lacking.

In addition, we’ve now lost the bridge entirely. The variety from the original song is gone. Musically speaking, the bridge is often the most interesting part of the song and the emotional peak of intensity is often in the bridge.

When the structure is “chopped off” as shown above, instead of visiting three different regions, we’ve now visited the same two regions two times. This type of repetition does not lend itself well to the linear nature of dance choreography. The other problem with this edit is that we’ve also lost the ending. The audience is left hanging because the routine never reaches a conclusion.

So in order to maximize artistic integrity of the song AND meet the linear requirements of dance choreography, music should be edited and remixed in order to retain the maximum amount of interest in moving from point A to point B, taking the audience on a journey, stopping off at scenic points of interest along the way, before finally ending up at the destination.

In almost all cases, retaining the bridge section of a song improves the result of the song editing process. This is because in dance choreography, there are rarely repeated movements. In dance choreography, there is almost always a linear progression that evolves from the beginning to end of a routine, without the repeating verse/chorus/verse/chorus patterns you find in music. Most dance routines consist of a linear series of moves that flow, one after another after another.

A song will match up better with dance choreography if it “keeps moving” from one musical idea to the next. Instead of chopping down a song as if it were a tree, giving it a verse/chorus/verse/chorus pattern, you give yourself, as dance choreographer, more musical variety and movement if you edit the song to follow a verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format.

Here is the same song structure as the first graph, but edited to retain the integrity of the original, including the bridge. Note how the shape of emotional intensity is still a journey that builds up, goes over the mountain top of the bridge, before finally coming to rest with the closing chorus and ending:

Note that the intro has been shortened, as has the final chorus. In this chart, I’ve indicated Chorus 1 and 2 as combined; there are many ways to handle this depending on the nature of the song’s chorus arrangement.

By understanding a song’s structure and retaining the overall feel and variety of it, you can make a remix or edit of that song and still leave the audience feeling satisfied with the journey, even though the trip took less time.

If you are a dance choreographer looking to give your students the best music possible for the choreography you are going to teach them, have your music remixed by a professional ahead of time so that he or she can retain the structure. While I am happy to “smooth” out choppy or incorrectly timed edits, even after the routine has already been rehearsed, you’ll be giving your students the best music and routine possible if you start with a solid musical foundation, and that means getting the structure right, from the beginning.

If you prefer to have a professional edit or remix your music, shoot me an email.

Also see: How To Avoid Awkward Fadeouts for another article on this subject, complete with sample edited waveforms.

Unique music source for choreographers

At many competitive dance studios, guest choreographers are invited to create routines for the most advanced students.

If you are such a choreographer, and want to bring a unique world-class song remix to your students along with the unique world-class choreography you are creating, look no further than Squirrel Trench Audio. I can take your concept and create a unique song interpretation which can then provide the inspiration for your unique choreography. If you are a world-class choreographer looking for unique music which works in a competitive dance format, send me an email.

Squirrel Trench Audio has created the music for a Mr. Junior Nationals Superstar winner in 2011.

Break through at your dance competitions

Many competitive dancers are looking for ways to break through to higher scoring at dance competitions. Hours upon hours of rehearsal, of focused practice, is the number one requisite to winning. In addition to practice, much effort and thought goes into creating the perfect costume.

Don’t overlook the foundation for any dance choreography: the music. The music provides the energy, the vibration, and the platform to express emotion and story in the dance.

One way to lift your dance to the next level is to use a fresh, original remix of the music you use for your choreography. There is no reason to use overplayed songs when there are many things you can do to make your music unique. You don’t have to settle for simple edits. Your music can be much more than that.

Squirrel Trench Audio is in the midst of new season of spectacular, original remixes for competitive dance as well as recitals. I will be sharing many of these original remixes once their routines have premiered in competition the weekend of March 3, 2012. If you have a routine you are proud of, and are interested in taking the music for the routine to the next level before competition season gets underway, shoot me an email.

Behind the scenes of a Beatles remix

It’s been a pleasure, a joy, and labor of love creating the Beatles remix called Somehow Someway. I can’t wait to see the choreography for this routine performed at Regionals and National dance competitions in 2012.

I’d thought I’d give folks a sneak peek at what went into the creation of the music for this piece.

More behind-the-scenes peeks of this remix will be posted soon. Let me know if this is useful to you, and I’ll do this for other remixes I’ve made. Questions? Comments?

Walk This Way (dance competition remix)

This song was remixed expressly for a dance teacher at a nationally-recognized dance studio, using both a swing and live version of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. This remix was used as the basis for tap choreography for a small group at regional and national competitions.

Here’s how it looked at Nationals:

To learn more about how I created the ending for this song, check out this post and video about avoiding awkward fade-outs.

If you are looking for an original remix for your next choreography, check out my services here.