Choreography for Reliably Making the Initial Cuts

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Smooth Dancer, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Smooth Dancer

    Smooth Dancer Active Member

    My partner and I are need of some learned opinions. The issue is the most reliable way to make Bronze-level cuts, getting into the final heat but not necessarily winning it (yet). We have not been making cuts consistently, and if this keeps up we'll not be long for the world of competitive dancing. It's just no fun. We are of course working hard on style and technique (posture, frame, and so forth) but the issue now is choreography.

    Let me throw out the theory of an approach we'd like to take:

    -- "The most reliable, fail-safe way to make preliminary cuts is to do a few, perhaps basic, figures but do them with great style and technique. For example, in Standard Waltz: Natural & Reverse Turns, Whisk & Chasse (for at least a modicum of variety), and Spin Turns in the corners. Period. End of story. Adding more figures gains nothing in making these cuts, and only runs the risk of impacting our style or even screwing them up."

    Of course, we know this won't reliably win the finals. To do so you need a more impressive variety of figures (although not a huge number), and, more important, figures where you can demonstrate certain techniques, like heel pulls, heel turns, and pivots. But for us, this comes later.

    Is this a sound strategy?
  2. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    First opinion: practice
    Second opinion: work with a caring and competent coach
    Third opinion: practice more
    smidra86 and danceronice like this.
  3. NielsenE

    NielsenE Active Member

    Its generally a sound strategy. If you're looking to tailor it, at least for bronze, I would probably leave out whisk/chasse. (i.e. leave out any promenade figure). "Just" establish and hold a great closed position. You won't need to worry about getting to PP from CP or any Outside Partner steps.
    smidra86 likes this.
  4. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    In bronze, you don't need a lot of or a magic combination of figures. You need to dance the figures you do better than the other couples on the floor. If you have good technique, you will make the cuts. If you're not making them, it's not the figures you're dancing, it's how you're dancing them.
    Gorme likes this.
  5. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Moderator

    Are you dancing at NDCA/USA Dance comps or collegiate comps? It makes a difference if you're trying to survive the cattle call of 50 or 100+ couples. In the earlier rounds, the judges pretty much only have time to see who's dancing on time and has a nice topline.
    I totally agree with NielsenE re: whisks. Almost all bronze (and a lot of silver) couples haven't developed their hold/frame enough to be able to do promenade well (at least to show it to advantage).

    When you say "Natural & Reverse Turns", I assume you mean doing 1-6 natural, RF closed change, 1-6 reverse, LF closed change. I think all beginners should start there. However, those closing-foot figures are *very difficult to dance well*. Given that you're doing spin turns, it sounds like you have the technique to support passing-foot figures.

    As an alternative that makes it easier to look smooth and travel, I'd suggest:
    1-3 natural turn
    Spin turn
    4-6 reverse turn
    1-3 reverse turn
    Basic weave
    <repeat>

    Of course keep using the natural/reverse/closed change sequence during practice to work on fundamentals.
    No. Not in bronze. Given the typical level of dancing. there are so many issues to work on, areas to improve. It's more effective to address those rather than trying learn and refine new figures. For example, in bronze, you're better off improving topline, correcting footwork, improving flight, learning to swing, etc. rather than trying to put in an impetus or double reverse spin.

    I've seen a couple win bronze waltz (out of 40 couples) with a basic 7-measure sequence. 90 second event / 6 couple final = average of 15 seconds to look at each couple. 7 measures is about 14 seconds.

    I'd also encourage you not to put too much weight on making cuts. Up to 50% of the field isn't going to make the cut. If the first round has 48 couples, 24 couples simply aren't going to get to the next round. Those 24 couples certainly shouldn't take home the message that they're dancing badly.
  6. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

    I would add, though, that if you attend five comps over a semester and don't make it past the first round at any of the five, then maybe some work is in order. I second (or third? or fourth? or fifth?) the notion that it's not about steps, though -- it's about technique. You can dress up your routines with back whisks and double reverse spins and progressive chasses to the right in bronze, but if they're done badly, a well-executed closed change will probably get the mark instead.
  7. Leon Theou

    Leon Theou Active Member

    I've seen a couple get marked dancing bronze American foxtrot in a standard foxtrot round. Complete with underarm turns and everything. They had nice frame though, and I am pretty sure that was what got them the mark. Such is the power of good frame and posture.
  8. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Moderator

    It could be that one is improving at the same rate as everyone else. And that the couples at the top are slow to move up to the next level. I think collegiate couples on the west coast are slower than the east coast to move up through the levels. We have much lower volume. There isn't the same need to get people moving on up so we don't have any "timing out". It can be even slower for NDCA comps because of the small syllabus numbers and the point system.
    I think steps *can* matter. Certain steps take much more investment to dance well. IMO, closed changes are perhaps the most difficult.
    jiwinco likes this.
  9. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

    Fair enough. Just cautioning against throwing in everything but the kitchen sink into a routine at the expense of working on basic actions -- quality over quantity of the steps you do use.
    smidra86 and Terpsichorean Clod like this.
  10. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I would have to say that, by all accounts, I had a good deal of success as a bronze dancer in all styles...and my routines were generally simpler than most....I would look seriously at what it would take to get your movement and shape to the next level, as well as all relevant technique
  11. smidra86

    smidra86 Active Member

    I personally am not a big fan of any complex of fancy figures in bronze. Which is also why I oftentimes have issues with comps like MIT which allows gold syllabus for every level, so little bronzies are attempting sometimes gold steps and it looks awful.

    My first thought is, do you REALLY want to have 6 or 8 routines to which you are remembering choreography? (If you wanted to have basic routines for the first few rounds and more complex for finals?) A teammate of mine would often double register (if allowed) for silver and gold and had both silver and gold routines and I kept telling him just have silver routines, do them freaking well and you can win. My partner had a completely silver routine for cha-cha (there used to be a gold step in it but we couldn't really make it work right so we took it out) and won gold (as I had mentioned in another thread). Stick to the basics and work them until they bleed clean and clear.

    My next thought is, everything everyone has said, if you aren't making cuts then its time to reassess. Its most definitely not the choreography. Choreo in syllabus never will determine whether you make a cut or not. Its the technique. Choreo begins to matter a bit in more open levels because that's when a judge will usually start putting in their opinion if they like the choreo or not because the difference in technique of 2 champ dancers could be minimal, yet the choreo can rub a judge one way or another. But like I said, choreo will not determine your placement or making it to the next round in syllabus levels.

    Another thought, maybe it could just be personality. It sounds like you are focusing so much on the choreography and steps that you aren't putting any personality into your dancing. Dancing is about having fun, and in the lower levels, I've noticed (at least at collegiate comps) that its not necessarily the one with the best technique who does well, but sometimes its the one with the best personality/having the most fun.

    This is just my opinion.
    5678dance likes this.
  12. Gorme

    Gorme Active Member

    If you can stand straight and stay on time, you will make finals in bronze every time.
  13. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    This, but I want to add that you need to move. Just standing up straight and being on time won't beat couples who actually move around the floor.

    Also, make sure you incorporate plenty of figures that get you turned around, otherwise the judges will never see your number.
  14. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    technique, movement, posture, and not looking terrified...exactly
  15. 3wishes

    3wishes Well-Known Member

    hmm, having spent "time" in Bronze - in several disciplines
    1) Posture/frame/timing 2) does it look like both of you are enjoying yourselves or is there tense scared to death thinking about the next step body language going on 3) do the simple figures with excellence as well as the transition between the figures 4) get at least two different coaches to smooth out things possibly the two of you are not aware of, 5) purchase a DVD of your best rounds and show your coach so they have a film to view as well as watching you in action. We did very simple figures, not alot of figures, knew the pattern quite well, and when boxed in by other(s) I could follow him no matter what in order to start moving again.
    Sidenote: go to a comp/ small or mid sized - and watch as an audience ticket holder. See if you can notice those couples that you feel will make the finals and those who will not - that dance in your category...simply viewing...not competing is a lesson in itself...write notes on what you viewed...and talk about it with partner and coach.
    debmc likes this.
  16. Smooth Dancer

    Smooth Dancer Active Member

    Thanks to EVERYONE who kindly took the time to respond. All great comments. You could almost bind this thread as "How to succeed at Bronze (or maybe more.)" It confirms that we should put our effort into posture, frame, musicality, smiling and clean footwork.

    Replacing the Whisk/Chasse (which gives us fits) with the Weave is one of those, "Duh, why didn't I think of that." We plan to adopt this sequence as our basis (we like the Weave), perhaps adding just a bit.

    Thanks again everyone!
    Terpsichorean Clod likes this.
  17. stash

    stash Well-Known Member

    I would like to say that the whisk and chasse should be a temporary replacement. It's a move that never really goes away entirely and it's a great move to improve. So take it out of your competition choreography but still practice it :)
    Bailamosdance likes this.
  18. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Moderator

    Maybe in other forms, e.g., back whisk, fallaway whisk. But I never see the whisk danced at high levels.

    IMO, the whisk is simpler, yet harder to dance than the others. I put it next to the closed change and full natural/reverse turn in difficulty, which you also don't see in high level competition. :)
    tequila likes this.
  19. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    That's because none of those figures has any contrast.
  20. stash

    stash Well-Known Member

    But it's a simple figure at low levels to work on promenade postion (which never goes away). I should have stated that the technique gained from this move haunts you for the rest of your dance life rather than the move per say.
    ajiboyet likes this.

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