Issue 3: 4play

They say music soothes the savage beast.  Trust me, a kite zipping through the sky can be just that.  Music makes the flight of our kites make sense.  In precision, we are assigned figures and anything else is simply supposed to be a transition from one move to the next, basically a fancy way of getting from here to there.  In ballet, we need more than that.

Ballet is a dance.  It involves creating emotions through music and movement working together.  The movement of the kite MUST agree with the emotional and rhythmical movement in the music.  Making this happen is a difficult task.   It will take time and effort to achieve it.

The first part of creating the ballet routine is selecting music.   Simple, right?  WRONG!  Any experienced competitor will tell you that he or she has invested hundreds of dollars into CD’s that may never have been used.  The reason for this is that not all music suits all kites, or all fliers.

Rule number one in selecting music has to do with the rules of ballet.   Your music must be between 2 and 4 minutes in individual ballet, both dual and quad line.  This is not as simple as it sounds.  If the song you choose is 3 minutes 58 seconds, you lose.  You will probably transfer it to a tape and one tape player is not the speed as another.  Take my advice on this, don’t cut it too close.  I myself flew to a CD that was 3:58 and was nailed with an improper ending because the field director said time was up.  The CD and the player it was in said 3:58 for the song.   However, the field director and judges have the last word.  Use caution here.

Time aside, we have to consider what to do next.  Does all music fit quadline kites?  It can.  However not all music suits all fliers.  Your flying style will play an important part in your music.  One of the greatest quadline fliers I have the pleasure of knowing (and the displeasure of losing to) is a guy by the name of Bob McBroom.  Bob flies to classical and movie theme music.  Very dramatic stuff.  I can’t fly to it.  My style just makes it impossible.   Each flier must find the style of music that suits him or her and will lend itself to showing off that style.

There are some aspects of quadline kites that should be considered when selecting music.  Quads have the ability to make dramatic changes in how they move.   You need to use this in order to show judges you can control your quadline kite.   Select music that has dramatic rhythm changes, abrupt tempo differences or nice transitions.  Remember, your quad can go fast and slow, hover and back up.  Find music that will enable you to show this off.

The kite flier’s largest enemy when competing is wind.  Don’t pick a piece of music that you can only fly to in certain wind.  I recommend using three pieces of music at a time.  One for indoors, one for light wind and one for heavy wind.  If keeping your kite in the air is going to be tough, you don’t want a piece of music with an extreme pace.  You’ll never keep up and you’ll either run out of room or steam or wind before the end of the music.  That said, I don’t follow it.  I run around like an idiot in low wind to keep my kite at top speed in low wind.  It is not easy and probably not necessary.

Why do I do it then?  Contrast.  Your routine cannot look like everyone else’s.  You must make it stand out somehow.  I accomplish this by flying to unusual music for a kite field.  Hendrix and Dee Lite have helped me here.   Others accomplish this by using dramatic tricks.  Curtiss Mitchell is incredible in this area.  That, however, is high risk.  Sometimes they go well and you look great, but a mistake can be very costly.  Other fliers use the emotion I mentioned before.

Dance with your kite.  Make it dance to the music.  If you music is upbeat,  your kite should be, as well.  If it is sweet and gentle, your kite needs to be sweet and gentle, no tip stabs at 30 mile per hour.  If you can close your eyes and feel what the kite should do, then you are there.  If your music is doing something cool and your kite is sitting still, you are not there.

Knowing your routine is important, but more important is knowing the music.  I listen to my music at least 10 times before I even try to fly to it.   Every nuance should be known.  Improvisation after a mistake only works if you know the music well.  Timing is only perfect when you know your music well.  It is obvious when you don’t know it.  You can’t play catch up with the music in competition.  You can’t be almost at a landing when the music comes to a screeching halt.  Timing is the key to a good dance and a good routine.  And perfection here only comes with practice and listening over and over again to the music.

So, all this blabber about music and now what?  Still lost.   Good.  I am.  Years of experience does not help me pick a new song.   I usually hear a song someplace and think, “hmm, that would be cool to fly to.”  Jason Benedict and I used to sit in his car and figure out what our kites would be doing whenever a song we liked came on the radio.  We would move our hands around or call out tricks.  Sometimes we would even call out the same move.  Those are signs of a good song, but not everything.  The whole song (or most of it) should call out to you and tell you where to move your kite.  After getting a routine together, I can almost fly it with my eyes closed.  When I don’t connect with my music, I fly poorly.  Those are the days when you say, “I just wasn’t on.”  When your music hits you, moves you, and tells you what to do, you have wonn a good part of the battle of developing a good routine.

If you have been following this column, it has sort of a progression going.  Some of it is strictly related to quad, some to competing in general.  So far, I have hit the basics of creating a ballet routine: what to make the kite do and how to connect it with music.  The next step is into the competition field.  Most of us don’t know what to expect when we get there.  I’ll tell ya next time.