This is the second installment in a series on reducing the stress in creating, training and performing a freestyle routine. It isn’t an exact science. There are different approaches that work equally well. But these are pointers I’ve gathered over my 20+ years competing in, teaching and judging freestyle. Use what works for you and your canine partner. And remember to have fun!
Tips for Building a Fun Freestyle Routine
It Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful, Part 2
I’m often asked if you have to be a good dancer to do freestyle. While artistic handler interpretation of the music will increase your score, you don’t need formal dance training to qualify. Scores are based on training, execution and teamwork, as well as musicality. But there are lots of things you can do to improve the way you and your dog move through the performance area and keep time the music. Here are a few ideas.
6) Get Moving.
Before determining the specific music I’m going to use, I generally have several songs that I’m considering. Often the one I like the best isn’t the best choice for my dog and me to perform to. But sometimes it is! So, first I take all of the songs that are in contention out to a big, open space and record us moving to the music- nothing fancy, just some heeling and simple transitions in time to the music. This will give you an idea of how comfortable you both are with the speed and the rhythm. Taking video of heeling with no music and then watching it as you listen to a potential song will also give you an idea of how well the music suits you.
7) Chop Chop.
Once you’ve chosen your music, it will probably need to be cut or edited down to adhere to the guidelines for the class you’ll be competing in. Even if competition is not your goal, new freestyle teams generally aren’t ready for a 3-4 minute routine. Start with a 1-2 minute music selection.
8) Words Matter.
I hope you’ve chosen a song that you like, because now you’re going to be listening to it a lot! Start by finding the lyrics and copying them into a document. There are many websites where you can find lyrics, just google your song title and “lyrics.” You’ll want your choreography sequences to fit within the phrases of the music, so separate the lyrics by phrases. Double-space so you have plenty of room to make notes as you’re listening to your music.
Instrumentals can make for great freestyle routines! For newcomers or those just starting out, it adds a bit more challenge to the task of getting your choreography on paper. If you choose to do an instrumental as your first routine, you may want to come up with a shorthand for the phrases. I make up words that sound like what I’m hearing! Dun Dun Dun Duuuun! Did you recognize that?
9) Picture It.
Then ask your Dog. Now listen to the music over and over and visualize what moves might look good where. Make notes on your lyrics sheet of short, 2-3 behavior sequences. Then ask your dog. You’ll find that what happens in your head isn’t always how it works when you try it with your pup, or to the music! Most dogs take longer to execute behaviors than we think they will. It’s easy to get off from the music, to put too much in, or to find out you have no idea how to get your dog from point A to B, or we may be asking them to do something that is much more difficult than we think. Don’t worry. It’s a process! And a fluid one at that!
10) Fill in the Gaps
Continue filling in your sheet using behaviors your dog knows well or that are in training. As you play with putting the behaviors into the sequences, be sure to picture where your audience is. You don’t want your bum facing your audience the whole time or your dog to be blocked from
view. In the video, Kashi is hidden when Julie turns right. Using a thru transition would bring Kashi back into view. Be sure to include transitions on your working sheet so you know how you’ll get from one move to the next or how you will travel across the area. We’ll talk more about this in the next installment of this series.