How to Select a Song

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By Kate Smith

When every dance season ends, dancers take a well-deserved break from the classes, the competitions, the rehearsals, and the recitals. But while their dancers are having fun and relaxing, choreographers and teachers are still hard at work, because when the next season starts, the routines must be prepared for the dancers to learn and rehearse. An important part of the process of routine preparation is the selection of music.

“Song selection is essential for a great routine,” Stoughton Center for the Performing Arts teacher and choreographer Jessica Cseter states. “Hearing a song that makes me want to move the first time I hear it is a good sign I will use it.”

Those instincts are common amongst choreographers looking for the perfect song for their next routine. Professional Egyptian dancer, choreographer, and instructor Jasmin Jahal advises in an article on her website,, “Select a piece of music you really like and which makes you want to move every time you hear it.”

Of course, it is also important to keep in mind the style of dance being choreographed. What works for a lyrical routine might not work as well for a jazz number. “For jazz musicality is key, and I try to choose a song that has music changes,” Cseter states. “For tap, a song with different rhythms and a lot of energy usually works out really well.”

In terms of using popular music, it can be a positive or a negative, depending on the choreography accompanying it. Director and choreographer Michael Bourne states in an online BBC chat that “Generally, I work with famous music, so I need to be true to the music, so I don’t upset people too much. They have feelings and strong ideas associated with the music.” Some songs become popular once they are used in a competition routine. Cseter cites singers such as Imogen Heap and Roisin Murphy as current artists often heard during competitions. “Once a song gets used it usually becomes popular because other people have heard it and will use it and bring it to another competition.”

However, many choreographers are interested in using music that has rarely been used. Cseter often looks to soundtracks when she is looking for something unusual. “Soundtracks usually offer a wide variety of songs from lyrical to hip hop that often aren’t found on the radio.” Of course, once the song is used, it will start to catch on, and the choreographer’s search for music, old or new, fast or slow, continues.

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