|Barked: Fri Jan 20, '12 4:05pm PST |
|Yay for freestyle!
Sometimes it depends on the venue as to what is emphasized. In MDSA and CFF style freestyle, the emphasis is placed more on the dog. The human's performances is supposed to compliment the dog's. In WCFO (which is the venue we compete in), it is an equal emphasis. The person's performance is judged at the same level as that of the dog. HOWEVER, the person should still not detract from the dog's performance. It's a team sport. (MDSA and CFF freetyle both place little emphasis on costuming. WCFO expects you to have a much more elaborate costume that fits your routine/music choice and compliments your dog.)
No matter the venue, I'm sure there are people who have brilliant dance moves and their movements can overshadow that of their dog's. But that's not the ideal. And, since I'm no dance star, that's not an issue for us.
You can certainly create a good performance without having a lot of moves. The first routine I created for Risa consisted of pretty basic moves: heeling both sides, spin, high fives, jump spin, going through my legs, circling me, jumps, sit/stay, recall, and front/back. I have also seen some really nice beginner routines that featured 5-6 moves. More is not always better!
(Risa's Second Freestyle Demo)
I always pick music first. The piece of music you choose is extremely important. You want to pick a song that matches the dog's gait at a trot; the beats of the song should match his footfalls. It's easy for the human partner to change their pace to accommodate the music. Not so easy for the dog!
For lively dogs, you probably want to go with a faster tempo song. For larger or slower dogs, a more moderate or slow tempo would suit them better. I would recommend picking music that isn't very repetitive and has both beat and tempo changes. It creates a more visually appealing performance when you change speed in tune to the music.
There are two ways to determine what music might suit you and your dog best. You can get a metronome and calculate your dog's ideal beats per minute (BPM) by gaiting him in a trot. Or you can gait him in a trot and play various tunes to see which ones fit his footfalls. Since you cannot see his feet while you're working with him, it's best to have a friend help with this portion. If you don't have someone nearby to help you, you can always videotape yourself to determine what songs might work or to calculate the BPM.
I would also recommend picking a song you like. You're going to hear it a lot when you're practicing!
I usually start by breaking down my music into several pieces. Then I write out a list of moves my dog can do. I listen to the music and try and determine what moves would work best in that section. I often play the song and dance to it with my 'invisible perfect dog' to see if the movement feels right. Then I take my actual dog and try it. Even if the movement feels right, you should always have someone else watch you (or video yourself) to see if it looks right. Sometimes the movements don't look as good as we think they do.
You also want to create memorable beginning and end poses. Think of these as a snapshot, a picture of you and your dog together. The more unique and interesting, the better. Your beginning pose should draw the audience in and give them an idea of what is to come. The end pose should leave a lasting memory of the performance.
When you're laying out the routine, it's important to keep in mind the space you'll be performing in. Depending on the venue and the size of your dog, you want to use at least 60% of the ring (larger dogs will be required to utilize more space). You also want to keep it interesting. Don't just walk back and forth. Incorporate diagonal movements, circles, serpentines, backward and forward movements, etc. Have your dog perform stationary moves as well; you don't have to move all the time! Pace changes also add variety to the performance. You should also remember to heel. Heelwork ties the performance together and gives the audience a chance to regroup between movements. You should also vary your moves. Just because a portion of the song repeats doesn't mean you should perform the same behaviors at that time.
Your movements are important to. They should compliment what the dog is doing. Some people have found learning dance helpful in creating effective movements for freestyle as well as improving their rhythm. There is certainly no harm in signing up for a dance class or two to help you out. You can utilize your own dance movements as cues to your dog in the routine or stick with verbal cues. Much like rally, you can talk to your dog in musical freestyle. Just be careful when using visual cues as it can be more obvious to the judge/audience if your dog doesn't perform the behavior you cued.
I think it's also important to consider the following when designing a routine:
Who is the audience? Are you performing for a nursing home, children, a group of dog trainers, for the crowd at a local pet festival?
What mood are you trying to convey? Is it silly and fun or moving and emotional?
Does your dog have any limitations? Are there movements your dog cannot do or is not comfortable doing? Don't put them in your routine. With few exceptions, there are no required moves for canine freestyle.
What moves does your dog excel at? Pick the moves your dog does best and limit the times you ask him to do moves he's not very good at. You can also place movements your dog enjoys after moves he is less inclined to do to reward him for doing them.
Where is the audience sitting? You want to make sure everyone can see the moves you're performing. If your audience is only on one side of the performance area, make sure you're facing them most of the time. If you're competing, make sure the judges can see the majority of you and your dog's behaviors.
If you have any other questions, just ask!
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