Insider Information: What Makes a Great Solo Routine

There are many factors that go into creating an incredible solo routine. Last Sunday, our studios put on a solo performance event that included many different styles of dance, levels and ages in the numbers performed. We are always striving to make sure the instructors and their students look their best and that we put on an amazing event. To ensure this happens, I regularly train on this information with our executive team, dance directors and staff before and we also debrief after. Here is the insider information of our training and some tips from a judge’s perspective.

Song choice is THE most important factor that can make or break your performance. Here are some things to consider when choosing your next piece of music:

Highs and lows – Avoid the monotony! For a dynamic performance, pick a song with highs and lows and musical breaks that you can highlight with your movement. When you hit a sharp line with an accent in the music, it packs more of a visual punch. Also look for words that you can act out to make your routine more engaging and entertaining.

Tempo – If the song is too slow, you may have a lot of dead movement, especially if you are a newer dancer and have a limited number of moves. If the song is too fast, it may look frantic, plus it will be more difficult to show good technique. Look up proper ballroom dance tempos to get an idea of the proper speed.

Strong beat – If you can’t hear the beat, you can’t stay on time and you’ll look disconnected to the music. You need to be right in the pocket and so you are able to add artistic expression to the routine.

Where people often go wrong is picking a song they really love and are emotionally attached without considering other important factors that go into song choice. While loving your song is important, it still may not be the right song for a solo routine..

At the end of the day when it comes to music, you are trying to have contrast. Without going slow, nothing looks fast, without going high; nothing looks low. In dancing we often refer to it as light and shade. You want that in the music and in your choreography as well.


When I’m creating choreography, I make sure to include a variety of movements to keep it visually interesting and fun because dancing is visually appreciated. It’s important to include steps that travel, rotate, face front, hit poses, change hold, vary in speed, are a surprise or comedic… the list goes on and on! The steps should be challenging, but doable considering the amount of time you will have to prepare. A good rule of thumb is about 1/2 to 1 level ahead of your current level and should only consist of 20% new material. If planned ahead, you should have ample time to learn the choreography, improve technique and work on your performance skills (smiling, facial expressions, etc.)


The best themed routines are costumed so that the audience can tell what the routine is about just by looking at you, before the music even starts. Costuming, props, movements and music should all work together to create a cohesive impression throughout the whole routine. A little acting, some dancing, a little acting, some dancing AND the story or reference should be clear without explanation. I have seen way too many routines open with a skit for 8 seconds and never return back to the story. It makes the audience wonder, “What happened?” If you’re going with a themed routine, stay consistent and true to the routine throughout the entire performance.


Costuming can play a major role in the “wow factor” of your performance. Costuming, as well as hair and makeup, should always match the theme of your song and choreography. It should not distract from the dancing, but enhance it. For example, outfits that are too short or tight draw the eye to those areas instead of the fabulous dancing. If straps are falling, skirts are creeping, shoes are coming untied and updos are coming undone, the audience’s attention will be on the impending wardrobe malfunction and not your performance.

The best way to make sure you have the right outfit is to ask the professionals. Rehearsing in the outfit ahead of time will help to you be sure the outfit works. If you have to adjust, tug or put any attention to your outfit while dancing, it needs to be adjusted or changed. Men, watch out for high water pants and shirts that become untucked. Invest in professional dancewear whenever possible…it’s made to be danced in! Having clothes that pop on stage will always look better (bold colors and sequins or rhinestones that catch the light will make you look terrific.) These might be things that you would never be caught dead wearing on the streets, but that’s OK! It’s meant for the stage.

If you have a performance coming up, make sure to consider this insider information when picking out your music and planning your routine. While dancing a clean, well-rehearsed routine is very important, that is not all that goes into have a great and memorable performance.

Live, Love, Dance and Enjoy!


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