Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wait, that's not my music!


I mentioned briefly on Monday that there were some sound system problems at Saturday's show. This glitch led to a couple of dancers swapping songs, and another dancer having to provide her back-up copy. It left me thinking about what a dancer should do when she steps on stage and the wrong music starts.

1. Keep calm! No matter what sort of music problem you have (wrong music, sound system goes out mid-performance, CD starts skipping), put on your professional face and deal with it in the best way possible.

2. You can dance to whatever is playing, but there can be a couple of pitfalls in this. Obviously, if you're now performing to someone else's music, that means she then has to decide whether to dance to your music (which she might not like), or whether she wants to dance to her song and risk the audience being bored. Also, you might find yourself dancing to something that totally doesn't work with your costume, your prop, or your dance style.

3. Be flexible! In a perfect world, when there's a music problem you'll have a backup and everything will be fine. But maybe you forgot your backup, or the sound system doesn't want to play it. When that happens, be willing to dance to something else. This is why it's good to build strong improv skills!

4. That said, it's OK to insist on dancing to your song if it's at all possible. Whether you do improv or choreography, chances are that in the weeks leading up to the show you've been practicing this piece very hard. You've chosen your costume to match the mood of the music. You did your hair and makeup to fit the personality you want to express. Maybe you're using a prop and there's moments in the music where you can show off the really cool new tricks you've been working on. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do what you had planned to do, and you shouldn't feel bad about saying "No thank you, I don't want to dance to this other song, please try to play my back-up copy."

And now, a few ways to avoid musical pitfalls:
  • Did I mention that you should always have a backup? Maybe two? I try to remember to bring my iPod to every gig, and sometimes I'll also have an extra CD copy. Or two.
  • Remember to check your music before you leave for the gig. Double-check that the CD burned properly. Edited to add: A clever reader pointed out that you should not just test it in your computer, but in the least-reliable CD player you have access to, because if it will play in that, it will play at the show.
  • Always pay attention to the music requirements for a gig. I know we'd all prefer to just be able to send in an mp3 and be done with it, but some gigs want the music on CD, and may even want a CD with that song and that song only on it.
  • When sending digital music, make sure that it's in a format they can actually play. You don't want to accidentally send a song that can only be played on your iTunes, for instance.
  •  Always. Have. A. Backup. But maybe also have a backup plan. For instance, if someone else is dancing to your song, have a different song you can perform to instead.


  1. That was an important edition - the MP3 on CD that plays in your computer but not a normal CD player is SUCH a common trap!

    1. Yes! I'm glad Becka reminded me of it :)


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