You're a studio owner with competition season right around the corner and countless routines to clean and prep for performance. But before your competitive dancers got to that point, most of them started off as wide-eyed three-year-olds with more spunk than skill! These dancers may not be headed to competitions just yet but they still need to be recital ready. How do you choreograph a routine for these new dancers that will be enjoyable for an audience (and not just their parents) to watch? Follow these few simple guidelines and you are sure to have success!
One of the main goals you should have for your young dancers is for them to be able to remember their routine either completely on their own or with minimal teacher assistance. Repetition in choreography can help your little ones achieve this goal and experience the joy of accomplishing a task on their own! To ensure that the repetition looks intentional (and not like the choreographer just threw in the towel) it is a good idea to repeat movements when the song repeats. For instance, once you have choreographed to the chorus of the song you can have your dancers repeat the choreography every time the chorus comes up. The dancers will remember the moves because they have already done them, and the familiarity of the chorus can help dancers who have gotten off find their spot in the routine again. As long as the choreography is interesting the audience will be happy to see those cuties repeat it again and again!
When it comes to formations for little dancers simplicity is key. Choreographing multiple formation changes will leave your dancers confused and your routine looking messy. For beginning dancers the best formation is two straight lines. This way the dancers can learn the basics skills of staging like staying in their windows and being aware of whether they are in line or not. If the dancers are ready, a good beginning formation change is to have them switch lines (front row to the back, back row to the front). This is again great practice for them to understand staging and it also gives each dancer the opportunity to be in the front line. Most importantly, in any formation you choose to use, make sure that every cute little dancer can be seen. Mom and Dad won't care how great your choreography turned out if their little munchkin was hidden from view the entire time!
The timing of the movements is almost more important than the movements themselves. Keep things in even 4 or 8 beats as much as possible. Changing quickly from one move to the next will not only mean more choreography for the children to remember, but it also means your dancers have fewer chances to catch up after they make a mistake (And we all make mistakes, right? Pobody's nerfect). As an added tip, always pay attention to the speed of the song. If it’s too fast they’ll never finish their movements completely, but if it’s too slow they will most likely get grooving and get off on their timing. You may want to try using a slower speed of the song as the class learns the routine then speeding up the music as the dancers master the routine. Using music that is a tad faster than the dancers practice with in class can be a great way to compensate for the adrenaline they get while performing that will make them want to speed up the movements and get off on their timing. Timing is everything!
The more intricate a movement, the more opportunity it has to be lost in translation with little dancers. Young dancers are still developing motor skills which means they may not be physically capable of isolating one part of their body in a small movement the way that the choreographer might be able to. Because of these reasons the best choreography for young dancers should be large movements that are easy to define. The bigger the movement the better! With large movements, audiences will be able to tell the intention of the movement even if the execution may be a tad bit sloppy. When possible, choreograph moves that go with the words of the music. Be creative with the words and not too literal- you don't want your dancers to look like they're playing a game of charades. Keep your movements fun! The whole point is to teach these young dancers to enjoy expressing themselves through motion. And remember: when in doubt, shake it out.
If you follow these guidelines you are sure to help your little dancers put on one great show. Making things simple, big, and easy to remember will ensure your dancers have success and gain confidence in their abilities as a dancer! So get choreographing! You set the right moves and you are sure to bring out the inner diva in your little starlets.