As part of our second semester for the newly formed salsa club at Georgia Tech, we have formed a performance class that will be performing at many different events this spring. Recently, I was asked to choose a song for this performance, since I have the largest music collection of anyone in the club. I thought I'd share with you all the things I took in consideration to make my decision to assist others who will be planning a performance in the future.
When to choose your song
There are two ways to choose a performance song, either before or after creating the bulk of your choreography. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I will cover after creating the choreography first since that was the real situation for me.
If you have already started your performance group, you will have a good idea of what they can handle in terms of tempo and complexity, and if you have certain elements that require different timing, a pause, or something similar, you will already know that before you choose your song. However, since you already have most of the elements of your performance set, it may limit you in your selection of ideal songs for the performance, and you may end up stuck with something less then idea. For example, you may have this long and dramatic intro planned, with lots of freestyle movements, but if you do this without considering the song, you may not find a song that is a good match for this amazing choreography you have made.
In my personal opinion, the best time to choose the song for your performance is before you plan the first step for the performance. If you already know what song you are using, you can make your choreography match the song, you can hit accents in the music with flare and style, and everything should flow nicely.
Questions to ask when choosing your song
Here is a set of questions to ask yourself when you are deciding on a song for your performance:
1) How long will your performance be? If this is a performance class with mostly first time beginners, you are going to want a song that is short, or that you can cut at a good ending point. If you have a dedicated performance team, you can go longer. Keep in mind, you can easily double the length of a routine by adding a quick formation change and repeating the choreography.
2) Who is your audience? Always consider your audience. If you are performing for a group of non-dancers, a salsa version of a popular song is always a good choice, because they will recognize it and thus appreciate your dancing even more. If you are performing at a salsa congress or event, a classic salsa song may be a better choice.
3) Is there a theme to your performance? There are many different types of salsa these days. If you are performing at a holiday event, a salsa Christmas song adds extra entertainment value to your performance, if you are performing at mardi gras mambo, maybe something from the Album "Salsa Creole". There are other themes that you can do that are not time specific, for example, there is a salsa version of the Pink Panther song.
4) Are you going to have solo sections for ladies and mens footwork, or a formation change? If you do, you might want to consider a song with a strong set of instrumental solos for your footwork, compared to something that is non stop full band.
5) Would you like to have a freestyle section in your performance? For freestyle dancing, a long intro often works well, but you can do it at any time that there are musical elements you would like to play with.
Finally, I leave you with an example of amazing choreography. This is what you can do when you design your choreography with a song already chosen. Also note how they use the xylophone solo for their footwork section. While this performance is advanced, you can incorporate these elements into any level of performance to make it better.