So, your trusty dancing partner is now working attentively and understands that he has to watch you closely when you work, and you have been thinking up and teaching “tricks” i.e. the freestyle part, as a separate exercise. Now you need to start combining the two elements and working on getting smoothly from one move to the next. Then you can start giving some thought as to the music that you would like to use and perhaps most importantly the type of music that suits your dog’s style of working. Common sense would suggest that a bigger dog that moves more slowly would not be shown in the best light whilst dancing to a fast piece of music, instead choose something a little slower. Slow by the way, does not equate with boring! Since many marks in competition are given for interpretation, a bad choice will be a costly one. But what is the correct choice? Generally speaking, as a rule, your favourite pop song is unlikely to be a splendid choice, simply because sadly, the majority of modern popular music contains so little variation of style, mood, or words to facilitate a good interpretation. In a nutshell, there is little to interpret – lacklustre music makes for a lack lustre performance.
As you become more experienced, not only will you be able to instinctively know how long a piece is without timing it (!), but you will also become aware of the music suggesting moves as you listen – the music starts to choreograph itself.
When choreographing your next potential masterpiece, try to plan it so you have at the beginning, middle and end some of your cleverest moves at an appropriate point in the music. Don’t cram them all together, aim to at least start and finish superbly, in that way you grab the audience’s attention from the start and you leave them with a good impression as you gallop from the ring! In that way even if things go a little, shall we say, unplanned in the middle – and trust me when I say it happens to all of us at some point – you finish on a high point!
If anyone is struggling to put routines together, if I try to tell you how I generally work out mine, maybe it will be of use to someone as a starting point. Remember it is a very personal thing and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next, as I say though; it might give someone food for thought.
Firstly, I panic, as choreographing four very empty minutes fills me with dread! That over with, I try to decide what style of music I want and what mood I want to create for myself and hopefully the audience. I then search through the titles of pieces that I am constantly collecting and decide on a possibility. As well as continuously finding music, I am attempting to think of and teach new moves, or develop further existing ones – which is perhaps one of my favourite past times, I love to see how far I can take a move once my dogs are happy with it and what we can come up with to make it different and exciting.
I like to try to let the music suggest moves, so I will listen to the piece over and over again trying to keep an inventory of all the moves that we have at our disposal at the forefront of my mind, until I can imagine at least one move or sequence fitting at some point – usually it is the final move that comes to me first. Once I have my starting point (if it’s possible to refer to the final move as a starting point?) I work backwards, trying to fit moves within the musical framework. Then as the routine starts to take shape, I will try to memorise it and begin to pace it out, seeing how it feels – any awkward moments are dealt with at a later stage when more of the routine is finalised. All of this I do without my dancing partner – preferring not to inflict any confusion when I forget what I am supposed to be doing, or fall down, which happens a surprising amount. Usually Chandi will come up with a few moves of her own which are always better than what I thought of and always things that I would have never dreamed that she could even do!
The final thing to do is to practice, thinking as I go about how much of the ring I am using and which direction I want to be facing for certain moves and so on. The more you prepare before the event, the more chance you both have of it going smoothly on the day – unless your mind goes blank, your shoelace comes undone mid-routine or your dog spooks as the music starts, all of which have happened on more than one occasion to me.
So, change your radio station constantly and try out different styles of music – and if you are listening to a piece and you find yourself imagining particular move fitting rather nicely, then you are definitely on to a winner, and you will certainly be hitting the right note!