Christina Campbell, an executive at the Orange Studio, certified examiner and smooth competitor, also dabbles in Theater Arts. This type of dancing centers on making theatrical ballroom routines that create an entrancing story. With carefully chosen music, costumes and choreography, a theatrical routine requires more planning than a normal solo. Here’s her expert advice to get ready for your next routine.
Have you ever watched a great routine and thought, “Wow! I wish I could do that!” Well, creating a great theatrical routine doesn’t have to be a daunting feat. Some of the best routines – no matter how different – all have a few important traits.
1. They choose a great song.
The key to any memorable routine is picking the right song. Finding a good song is like finding the perfect prom dress. It fits you perfectly, you can’t stop thinking about it, and you want to show it off to everyone.
Make sure it’s a song you absolutely love! If you are looking for a show-stopping routine, pick a song that everyone knows. You want every person in the room to be thinking, “I love this song!” instead of, “This is kinda weird. What is this?” Also make sure it hasn’t been overdone; you don’t want the crowd thinking, “Not this song again!”
If you want to express yourself, choose something that inspires you. If it inspires you, it will most likely inspire your audience.
2. They tell a story.
If you don’t have one, start by looking at the lyrics. The artist probably had a message she wanted to share with the world – you have the privilege of sharing that message through dance.
If your song doesn’t have any lyrics, listen to its tone. Is it sad? Is it funny? Joyful? Angry? Start there and see where your creativity leads. Just make sure the story is clearly represented in your routine. It’s disappointing to watch a routine and feel like you’ve missed the point.
If you are doing a comedy, consider a play on words. I once saw Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” danced as a West Coast Swing where the couple dressed up as a couple of Wheaties boxes. Have some fun with the brainstorming process.
3. They use props (or not).
Props can easily make a simple routine extraordinary or be a complete nuisance and distraction. So use props with caution.
It’s frustrating to watch a couple use a prop at the beginning… only to never use it again. If it doesn’t have a significant impact on your routine, don’t use it. It’ll be one less thing to remember and practice with.
But if you do use a prop, use it constantly and creatively throughout the routine. Once you figure this out, practice, practice, practice! The key to pulling off a prop is making it seem effortless. You want it to add to your routine, not be a distraction to your story.
4. They flex their acting muscles.
What’s the difference between dancing socially and performing a routine? It’s the difference between a whisper and a shout!
In a routine – especially a theatrical one – the acting has to be larger than life. You want the person in the very back of the room to see everything you’re doing. Where you place your feet; how you move your hips, your arms; and most important of all, your face! A great story teller can convey her emotions to the entire room.
A great practice tool is to record yourself. Have you ever heard someone say, “You should have been there!” That’s because in person you can see depth and feel the energy in the room. What you’ll find on your video is that what feels like a lot is really only a little, and by doing more, you’ll push your dancing/acting skills to new limits!
5. They have great costumes.
You have the song, the story, the over the top acting and dancing, and you’ve been practicing for months. Now all you need is the perfect outfit to complete your routine.
The Oscars have an award completely dedicated to this. In fact, so does Unique Dance-O-Rama. It’s that important!
Having the perfect costume commits you to the character and places you in the scene. You don’t need to buy an expensive costume, but you have to look the part. You wouldn’t catch Darth Vader trying to take down Luke Skywalker in a t-shirt and jeans. Look the part!
Your costume doesn’t stop at your clothes. Your hair and makeup (You too, gentlemen!) should be just as in-character as your wardrobe. The Oscars have awards for this too! It’s the attention to detail that creates the biggest impact.
6. Lastly, they have great choreography!
The choreography should have variety to keep your audience interested, but not so complicated you can’t focus on anything but your feet.
The routine should most importantly match your music. If the song has a hit, you should too. If your song has a soft moment, you should too. Let the music dictate your moves. Dancing is after all a physical expression of music, isn’t it?
A great theatrical routine isn’t just dancing or just acting. It’s a well-balanced blend with a goal in mind: giving the audience an experience.
That’s why people go to the theater, isn’t it? They go to be entertained; to escape from their day as they join the onstage adventures; and most importantly to be a part of something truly magical with other people.
Keep these things in mind when thinking up your next great routine and you’ll be sure to create something memorable.