Gary Shortland offers music editing services. Contact him at for more information.

Choosing music is very important, not only to suit your technical ability but to appeal to the audience, as well. It is easier to select music for ice dancing programs than for freestyle programs, partly because you can choose vocal music. However, because dance is all about rhythm—keeping your steps to the beat—it is important to skate to the beat, rather than to the lyrics or the medley (medley involves expression and interpretation; it is the source of your choreography).

When choosing music, select something original, rather than a piece that other skaters have used numerous times over the years. One way to find a unique piece of music is to watch other types of musical events, such as ballroom dance, synchronized swimming, gymnastics, and even popular music videos. You can also pay attention to the soundtracks of movies that you attend. Foreign films, in particular, are a good source of music that is unique to the general public.

Try to select music from the same movie or artist, so that all the tracks will have similar characteristics. This makes it easier to edit them into a dance program. It can be tricky to edit various musical tracks into a single piece of music that flows nicely and fits your program without exceeding the time limit; especially when you have many "favorite tracks."

Today's tape decks and CD players cannot stop the music exactly where you want it to stop for editing purposes. To edit your music, use a good musical editing program on a computer; that will make the job much easier. Your coach might have this software on hand. Whichever program you or your coach uses is a matter of personal taste. However, keep in mind that some music editing software contains more features than others, making the job of editing smoother and less time-consuming.


Choreography can be a lot of fun, even though you have to comply with a lot of rules and restrictions, which differ from year to year, as well as with the type of program you are performing (OD, Original Dance or FD, Free Dance).

When choreographing a routine, the idea is to incorporate original and interesting moves to achieve a fresh look. Judges are always looking for new and innovative routines. However, it is also true that your choreography should include some moves that you perform repeatedly, year after year, because they work well for you and enable people to recognize you and your work (a sort of "trademark," so to speak). There are also some odd steps that everyone performs in order to gain speed and transition smoothly from one move to the next.

It is best to have your music selected and edited before you choreograph most of your routine. This way, your ear becomes attuned to the way the music will sound every time you perform, and you will create a routine that doesn't exceed the allotted time limit.

Some coaches choreograph great-looking routines, and their students rely on them for choreography. This is fine when you are starting your competitive career; however, when you are well on your way to becoming a recognized skater or team member, it is wise to invest in a professional choreographer who can give your routine the kind of quality and appeal that is necessary to achieve your goals.

In the same way that skaters remain with one coach for long periods of time, they can keep the same choreographer, as well. But as time goes on, this is a personal preference.

When working with a partner, holds are an important part of the choreography. It's good to place your hands in a different position from the usual, expected dance holds. Try a hold in which one of the partners turns on the spot and limits any "letting go." This is fun to do and keeps the choreography creative.

When performing lifts, avoid ugly open-leg positions; some of these unattractive moves have actually become illegal (or at least questionable) in competitive skating today. And remember: the girl doesn't always have to be the one who is lifted, and both partners should share the work involved in executing lifts, equally.

Spins are fun and eye-catching. Again, use different holds, as well as leg and body positions when performing spins. Your choreography for spins is limited because you have to be close together and one partner must keep more of the axis than the other.

There are rules that determine the step sequences (for example, straight-line, diagonal, serpentine, etc.) and the corresponding holds that must go into a routine. However, keep in mind that you do not have to choreograph them in a specific order, and you can repeat certain steps as often as you like.

Have fun when you choreograph routines! Remember, this is your own creation, and you should choreograph routines that suit you. But don't make your routines too easy. If a routine feels difficult the first time that you put it together, then you are on the right track.

For more information about choreography, contact Gary. He'll be happy to answer any questions.

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