Issue 62: Choreographing Ballet Routines

Editor’s note : The pictures included in this article are from the 2008 AKA Grand Nationals

General approach:

The entire approach to choreographing a ballet routine is based on the following description found on page 11 of the International Sport Kite Competition Rules, Version 2.1 :

H. Ballet
The ballet discipline is characterized by the interpretation of music.

  1. Choreography is the interpretation of selected music, a performance from beginning to end.  There shall be a close relation between the music and the performance.  The routine shall interpret the variations of the musical composition, such as dynamic, tempo, rhythm, originality (not necessarily meant to be spectacular), mood, creativity, variety, etc.

1.  The best routines have the following attributes:

  1. A strong connection between what is seen and what is heard throughout the entire routine.
  2. Demonstrate a wide variety of flying skills
  3. A variety of moves to help create interest
  4. Moments of visual interest

2. What to listen for when choosing your music:

  1. Choose music that you will love to hear over and over again.
  2. Choose music that has many points of interest. This will allow for more interesting choreography.  The following list are musical attributes that often makes for good music to choreograph to:
    • Noticeable changes in form or style (e.g. an active rhythmically sounding section followed by a lyrical section)
    • Noticeable changes in dynamics (loud section followed by a softer section)
    • Noticeable change of rhythmic activity (slow and fast sections of music)
    • Has a variety of different musical lines to choreograph to (e.g. the music has a trumpet playing the melody and supporting counter melody in the tubas; depending what is happening on in the music you can switch back and forth between the two parts to creat variety in your choreography.)
    • Has several noticeable points of interest (e.g. a crash cymbal explosion, a part of the music that suddenly becomes silent, or a moment when the entire orchestra accents a note… it’s these types of moments that when you hear it you can easily envision a move in the air; like a fade or landing.)
  3. Search for music that helps you stand out from the rest of the competition.  Is there anything which makes your music unique; e.g. Unique sounds, unique style of music, unique genre of music…
  4. When listening to the music envision yourself flying to it in all types of wind (perfect, very light, and very heavy winds).  Will this music still work for you?
  5. Choose music that has room for future choreography development.  As you develop new flying skills you can add them into your routine.  For instance, when you first hear the music you envision a fade at a particular moment even though you can not execute a fade yet.  To start with you can do a stall until you have the skills to replace it with your intended fade.
  6. Once you think you have a great choice of music do not listen to it for at least a day.  Come back and get a fresh listening to it and see if your original impressions are still exist.  Frequently what may seem like a good choice (or visa versa, a bad choice) may change.
  7. Can you hear the music easily throughout (is it too soft for the judges to hear at any time?).
  8. Is your music interesting throughout?  Does it have several climaxes spread throughout the piece?
  9. Does the music have a strong solid ending?
  10. Avoid music that has a definite sounding end to your routine in the middle.  The person running the sound system may get confused and unintentionally turn your music off before your routine is done.

3. Length of music:

  • Time is relative:  A short piece that is overly repetitive may feel negatively longer than a piece that is very long but has lots of variety.
  • Keep in mind that the longer your music is the longer you will have to fly in poor wind conditions.  Strategically choosing music that is short enough to demonstrate your flying skills and is feels long enough to be a complete routine is smart.

4. How to begin to choreograph your music:

  1. Map out a time plan:  Using the below chart break the music down into segments of time.  There is no hard fast rule about this.  Here are a few ways you can do this:  A) Try to segment the music by musical phrases.  Not too long or you will later be drawing too much in each box provided.  2) You can sporadically place time (approximate where in your map to start and adjust its box location as needed) markings where you want something happen even if you do not have the specifics.  This may mean you may have the middle of your routine mapped out without the beginning figured out.
  2. After mapping out your time blocks you can start either drawing specific pictures or just give a name to what you want to fly at that time (e.g. square, cascade, stall, land…)
  3. If you not exactly sure what you want to write or you are having a tough time on deciding where to put the time markings your can instead start by try to write down in each box at least the musical line/part that you will most likely write to. (e.g. the trumpet, violins, soft section, faster tempo…)
  4. If you do not have a specific idea of what to draw in each box you can start by just jotting down the concept you are going to fly (angular, smooth…)
  5. You do not need to choreograph the routine from the beginning.  Pick points in the music that are easy for you to envision as anchor points.  Then connect these concrete points with non meandering transitional moves.
  6. If you need ideas create a list of moves and skills that you can do. (e.g. stall, landing, side slide, fade, square, steps up, diamond, circle…)
  7. Create the visual to match the music:
    • Once you have jotted down some visual concepts (as suggested in #5 from above) start brain storming specific maneuvers that look like the concepts you jotted down; e.g. “smooth” = rounded pictures, “harsh” = angular maneuvers.
    • Consider using some repetition in you choreography if it you hear the opportunity; e.g. a series of stalls across the window.  Careful to not over use this concept because it can make a routine become monotonous.
    • Changing which part of the music you choreograph to helps create interest and gives you more options as to how to create climaxes within your routine.  At times you may want to fly to the melody and then switch to the background rhythm.
    • “Over choreographing” may give you diminishing returns.  Sometimes you may want to purposely not write a lot of active moves before a climatic point in your music.  This can help accentuate that climatic moment.  (e.g. In the art world a red painted dot on a canvas that is filled with many other shapes and colors is not too noticeable.  But take that same red dot and place it on a blank, white canvas and now that same red dot is striking.)
  8. Borrow moves and concepts from other great routines you have seen in the past.
  9. Let your routine evolve.  As you get more familiar with your routine and your overall flying skills improve your routine.  Adding to your routine will also keep it less predictable for those who see you fly from event to event.
  10. Take the time to talk to your judges to get feedback.  Find out what they think needs to be improved.  They are looking at your routine from a competitive point of view.

5. Helpful tools for choreographing a routine:

  1. Field grids for writing down your routine
  2. Model kite on stick
  3. Laser pointer
  4. Some type of software for editing your music to meet your needs (e.g. Cool Edit, Samplitude).  You can also make different speed recordings of your music to match different wind speeds.


6. Resources for helpful choreography ideas:

  1. By inexpensive CD collections for music ideas
  2. Watch videos of past winning routines
  3. Ron Reich’s book: Kite Precision, Tutor Text Pub., POB 1605, Romana, CA  92065-0895
  4. Talk to present and past winning fliers
  5. Talk to your judges for feed back on your choreography

Sign off to the reader…

Ari Contzius