Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Please Don't Stop The Music"

Tonight during Yoga class I let my mind wander  away from my practise and started thinking about non-sense... so I must share!

I generally have 3 main things that drive me crazy at dance competitions, in terms of being a fellow teacher and an adjudicator.  Each reason is deserving of it's own blog, so today we will start with #1... prompted by one of my teachers tonight!

I walked in to Mitchell's last choreography class tonight to peak in on a Jazz Duet he did for two of my Senior girls.  Instantly upon entering the room I thought I heard the music skip, but then I realized it wasn't... it was his music cut.  I immediately questioned him on whether or not he was going to fix that, or actually I just told him he needed to fix it.  He assured me it was just a rough cut to get them through the night, and I clearly scared him enough to know that he will make sure he fixes it!

My biggest issue at competitions is bad music quality and splicing.  This great routine could be on stage and they're about to go into a big turn section, and the music cuts to the next chorus of the song which is not in the same key and the riff doesn't match.  It make me cringe and I have to turn away from the routine for a moment to collect myself before I look back.  As a seasoned adjudicator I will admit that I always comment on adjudication tapes/CD's about bad music edits.  I'm not talking about poor music choices for your students, that's a whole other blog!

As a dance teacher I know that most songs aren't written to be within the three minute time limit competitions set, so therefore they require editing.  From my random attendance in my University Music & Society Class I came to gain some knowledge about song writing and editing.  I know that songs are all written in the same format; A, B, A, B, C, B.  So obvious solution here right, cut from a B to another B section to make the song the appropriate length.

I can see how music editing is a daunting task every year for dance teachers and studio owners, but it goes hand in hand with spending a lot of time on a great routine and a great costume.  I know of a lot of teachers who go to music studios and pay professionals to cut their music.  If that's the right choice for you then great, but I don't like to pay for unnecessary expenses and spend that kind of time at a music studio.  I found a downloadable program that works great for me.  It was free to try, and then once I decided I couldn't live without it, I dished out $30 so I could own it forever.  In fact, I'd put my program and my music editing skills up against any professional studio editing machine and technician.

Now that I am familiar with my program it normally does not take me very long to achieve what I want with each song.  I adjust the sound quality of each song to be similar and then I transfer them to my iPod and CD's for competition.  And once a year I always find that one song that I cannot cut to perfection, but I will stay up all night to fix it if needed... every song I use for every dance deserves to be the best I can make it.

Part of the issue here is that teachers will choreograph a dance before even cutting a piece of music.  This year I cut all of my music in September so that I had a clear direction for each routine.  But the main reason was because then I knew where the song was going to steer me in terms of choreography and I knew how it was going to end.  Music is one of the most important elements to me when it comes to dancing and choreography, as it internally drives my feelings and my movements.  Musicality is a major topic in all my classes, and I focus a lot of my choreography based on what the music tells me to do.  I talk to the kids in depth about their songs before we start dancing to it, and I want them to know every word and every note.

A fellow studio owner I am close with has a very intimate relationship with all his music, and he generally refuses to edit it at all.  Most of his groups are over the time limits, but he isn't too concerned about it.  He feels that the song was written with integrity and he wants to treat it as such, along with his routine.  I guess competitions are making a lot of money off of him paying for all the Extended Group categories!  I can appreciate a full length song when it's a really great routine, which thankfully his are, but it is not something I am preaching for everyone to consider.

Most importantly here when it comes to music editing, is that a fade out is not always the answer!  I do not understand why teachers don't cut their music before going to a competition and then proceed to tell the music table when to fade a song, based on when the kid finishes their dance on stage.  I always know when a group hits their ending pose and then the song starts to fade slowly while they hold their pose.  It says to me, our teacher didn't care enough to cut our song so that the ending put a real exclamation point on our piece.  Do you think nobody notices, especially the adjudicators?

So, for all you dance teachers up tonight trying to cut all your competition music... don't stop to read my blog!  Cut your music with the same integrity you would want your teacher to do for you.  Cut your music so that it helps to showcase this piece that does reflect on you as a teacher.  Maybe it's not for your most advanced kids, or your cleanest routine, but at least no one will be able to comment that your music edits sounded like a cat being stepped on.

I just thought of a great money making plan... I'm going to make a compilation CD of pre-edited music that all studios should use.  The CD will include versions of "Orange Colored Sky", "Popular" and special for this year, every Michael Jackson song.

Unfortunately, those of you who buy this CD obviously did not receive a copy of the list I have compiled, as an adjudicator, of the banned from competition music.  Or even if you did, and you're still rocking that Musical Theatre Solo to "Popular", at least cut the damn thing so that Kristin Chenoweth forms complete sentences!


KidRichards said...


New Wife said...

I love poor quality the best. Esp love when there's a voice-over the music and the voice is recorded with awesome "popping". Brilliant!