What should you put in your competition routine? Should you hire a choreographer or do it yourself? If you are looking to hire a choreographer, the interview with Mark Coleman below will give you a lot of guidance. For more information about Mark, CLICK HERE.
1. What should a choreographer put in a routine - must haves?
· Include all Elements on the Score Sheet: Well, first and foremost a choreographer needs to make sure that they include every element in a particular routine that is on the score sheet.
· Include the Elements in Proportion to the Score Sheet: They also need to include each element in proportion to its weight on the score sheet. Most score sheets are similar, but not all weight each category the same. For example, it makes no sense to tumble for 50% of your routine when tumbling is only 20% of the score sheet.
· Include a Style: A choreographer should also be well versed in the particular “style” of the competitions in which a team will be competing. Different competition companies and cheer organizations have different styles for which they are known and sometimes have idiosyncratic routine requirements. The particular style that the majority of teams adhere to at a certain competition is usually fairly transparent, and it is often in a team’s best interest to use that style in their routine. However, sometimes there are routine requirements that are not found specifically on the score sheet, but are known by people familiar with that certain competition. For example at certain state competitions, Jumps might be only 5 points out of 100 on the score sheet, but people in the know understand that to maximize your jump score you need to do at least 3 different jumps and to include at least one double jump.
· Add a “Hook: One final thing that a good choreographer will include in a routine is one or more “hooks.” Hooks are often used to describe parts of songs that “keep you coming back”; one or more things that make it stand out to the judges. Routine hooks can take many forms – great overall flow, exciting routine music, cool transitions, a new pyramid, a unique stunt entry, etc. It is a choreographer’s job to make a certain routine stand out from all of the other routines. This can often be very challenging because many routines are choreographed by professionals these days. It’s important to note that a routine hook doesn’t always translate as increased difficult. Some of the best and most memorable routine elements are merely creative and not that difficult to execute.
2. What are 10 things you should look for / do when hiring a choreographer?
1. Check their references. Most choreographers get new jobs by word of mouth or by someone seeing examples of their work. If you hear about a certain choreographer from someone that has worked with them, be sure to ask questions about what it was like working with them. If it’s the latter, be sure to ask for references. There are many very talented people that work as choreographers in this business. There are far fewer that are completely responsible and work as true professionals. Be sure to do your homework and check a choreographer’s references.
2. Check their credentials. Up until a few years ago, it was almost impossible to be credentialed as a cheer professional. Now, it is not so rare. Certification by the USASF and ACCAA are easily attainable for anyone professional enough to want them and responsible enough to get them. Be sure to ask what credentials, if any, a person has.
3. Check their familiarity with the style in which you are looking. Success at one competition and style does not guarantee success at all competitions. Make sure that your person is familiar with a certain competition.
4. Make sure that they can work with your age group/skill level. Really good choreographers are versatile, but some have preferences for the age groups or skill levels with which they work. There are many different kinds of coaches/choreographers, and some just don’t have the patience and temperament to work with younger cheerleaders or those with little to no experience. It is not difficult to find many people willing to choreograph Level 5 all stars or an extremely talented high school team. It is a little harder to find someone willing to work with a Level 1 Mini team or a brand new middle school squad.
5. Be clear about your expectations. Make sure that you get a clear explanation of what you are getting with the money that you are paying someone. Is music included? How many hours of instruction are included? Contracts are uncommon in this industry, but make sure that you get details of your arrangement in writing. Also, be sure to detail everything that you expect from your choreographer with regards to your routine. Make sure that they are aware of any rules or emphases that are specific to the competitions at which you will be competing. Be clear up front about how many 8-counts of dance that you want ahead. If they are doing your music while they are there, give them music suggestions the first day so that they will have time to incorporate them into your routine.
6. Handle as many of the responsibilities as possible. The more details that you can handle for a choreographer will make their job easier. Make sure that everything is ready – hotel, rental car, etc. - for them once they arrive. Most choreographers work many camps during the summer and live out of a suitcase. Anything that you can do to make their time with you easier will allow them to focus more on your squad and routine.
7. Keep a reasonable schedule. Have realistic expectations for your choreographer and your cheerleaders. No one does their best work after 9 hours of instruction. No cheerleader can focus effectively all day long. 6 hours in a single day is a long day for a choreographer or a high school cheerleader of any age. Consider the age and experience of your cheerleaders and schedule your camp hours accordingly. Schedule appropriate breaks between sessions. Remember, that your choreographer will be at their best if they are well rested and have had time to decompress between practices.
8. Communicate while they are there. If you are not happy with something in your routine, communicate your concerns. Most choreographers will gladly change something or inform you of why they disagree. Remember, you are paying them for their expertise, but you have a say. Ask them to change something that you are not comfortable with or do not like. If they are professional, they will not have a problem with your occasional input. And most professionals will want you to be fully satisfied with all aspects of your routine. However, remember why they are there and let them use their expertise. If you start influencing them too much then you will not allow them to fully work their “magic”.
9. Have their money ready. Getting paid for something that one loves and would do for free if they could is never easy. Take the pressure off of a choreographer asking for their money by giving it to them as soon as they show up for camp. If you have done your homework during the “selection process”, then you should feel comfortable that the person that you have hired will deliver up to or beyond your expectations. Plus, paying someone up front just takes one more worry from their mind and allows them to, again, focus on your routine.
10. Keep in touch. Be sure to keep in touch with your choreographer throughout the year. Most will be interested in your team’s progress and will want to hear how you are doing. And if you were pleased with them and plan on using them the next year, it is never too early to start looking at dates for the next summer. If they did a great job for you, chances are other people will take notice and be interested in hiring them. The best choreographers have summers that are booked solid, and if you find a good one you will want to schedule them as far in advance as possible to make sure that you can use them again.
3. What is the price Range for routine choreography?
Prices for routine choreography vary from company and from person to person. Some people charge by the person and others by the routine or routine element. There are no set guidelines, but to some degree you get what you pay for. Check with several different sources and compare prices. Prices from $100-$250 per cheerleader or $3,000-4,500 per routine are not uncommon. If you can not afford normal choreography prices, many companies will work with you on the price especially if you are flexible with your camp dates and can schedule outside of peak times.
Be sure to check and see what you get for your money. Some companies do 2-day camps, others do 3-day. Some prices include music, some do not. Again, shop around and compare what you get for what you are paying.
4. What kinds of additional fees are there?
Again, additional fees vary by company or individual and are sometimes negotiable. Many people ask that you not only pay for their routine choreography but also all of their expenses – hotel, meals, airfare or gas. Often these fees are included in the price of the choreography, but sometimes they are not. Be sure to check with whom you are potentially working and understand their policies. If you fly someone into to do your camp, it is always a nice gesture to get them a rental car. That way you don’t have to play chaperone and the choreographer can have some freedom to go grab a bite beyond walking distance from the hotel.
5. What is the time frame for teaching a routine?
The amount of time to teach a routine varies quite a bit by the choreographer and is also greatly affected by the age and experience of the team learning the routine. Many choreographers are able to teach entire 2:30 routines to a squad in 6-9 hours. It is just difficult to get cheerleaders that can retain that much knowledge unless it is broken up over a couple of days. Younger teams often need a few more hours broken down into more sessions in order to properly absorb material. Obviously, the more time a choreographer can spend with a squad the more they can work skills and not just teach counts. Some choreographers try to do this by working with a squad for 9-12 hours when teaching routines.
6. When should a team hire a choreographer?
Teams follow many different schedules for preparing their routines, but many of them hire choreographers in the summer to get a jump on the season while school is out. However, competition dates and season restrictions vary from state to state, so some teams may have to start later. A good rule of thumb is to have ones routine finished at least 2-3 months before your first competition. That leaves at least 1 month before a competition for cleaning and going full-out. Having 4-6 weeks to prepare for a competition is a recipe that many teams follow for success.
Mark Coleman Cheer Bio: