Choreographing Your Own Dance

Now, we often see fantastic dance moves and eloborate footwork during salsa competitions, but what actually happens behind the scenes to put all that together? When tien yew and I got together to choreograph our own dance, it was really tedious. Hence I decided to write this article to give some tips on what to look out for when choreographing a salsa routine.

First, there was the music. Tien yew and myself spent a few hours just going through the never-ending list of salsa songs he has in his computer (I mean like hundreds of songs…). We listened to god knows how many songs before we settled on one which we both liked. It was one which was distinctly salsa and I particularly liked the effect of the trumpets which added a certain performance flair to it. The title was “Betece”

Next, we had to cut the song to 3 minutes and that took a few hours too. There were some occasions when I could more or less figure out which parts could be cut, but most of the time, Tien Yew was the one with the incredible sense of rhythm. He melded the parts so well, they just flowed flawlessly. If I had not listened to that song more than 20 times, I wouldn’t be able to tell which parts had been cut.

Moving on, we had to break down the song into parts like the Musical Interlude, the Solo Singing and the chorus. For each part, we counted the number of sets of 8 (counts). For example, there were 6 sets of 8 for the Musical Interlude and 4 for the Solo singing. Hence we structured our moves to fit the number of sets. For instance, we would do say a windmill, followed by a cross body lead and a simple turn. That would be 4 sets of 8 and would fit into the Solo Singing part. In this way its much easier to remember the routine and we can tell which part of the song to start dancing which moves.

For every move, you need to try it out with the music, to see if you can actually keep up with the speed of the song. There’s no point trying to cramp one move/ stunt in one set of eight if you can’t finish it in time. Its better to use 2 sets of 8 and add some styling so that the entire move is cleaner and smoother. It helps to do the moves in front of a mirror (yes Tien yew has 3 huge panels of mirrors that can rival that of Xen..) And yes, pls WRITE down your entire routine. Its amazing how fast the human brain forgets when the music starts playing.

Once you are done with the whole routine, practice each part over and over again before trying to do the entire thing at one shot. Try it with the music but slow the music down and then gradually increase the speed when you are more familiar with the moves.

Last but definitely not the least, is safety. Guys, if you want your partner to do a stunt, you have to make sure that her safety is your top priority. Gals, please be careful if you are doing some gravity-defying stunt. Do wear knee guards to cushion falls on your knees and long pants/shirts to prevent floor burns and abrasions. Some bruises are inevitable, esp when you are first trying out a stunt but the results will be rewarding when you perfect it. :) And most of all, enjoy the whole process! :D

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