While it might be tempting to pick the latest Top 40 song, think again when it comes to your littlest dancers. When picking a song, you need to consider speed, length of the routine and appropriateness of the lyrics. If these guidelines aren’t enough to sort through the sea of music, you can stick with some classics.
Younger children cannot execute complex moves as quickly as older children or adults because they still are developing their physical coordination. Choosing a song with fewer beats per minute will make it easier for them and will give them time to think ahead during the song to the next move. Typically 90 beats per minute is a good place to start. The type of dance you are choreographing for also dictates the speed. Ballet songs tend to be slow and flowing while jazz songs are usually fast and upbeat.
Three-year-olds have trouble remembering what they did yesterday, let alone your choreography from last week. A good rule of thumb is to make dances half as long as the kids are old; if you have a 3-year-old dancer, try a 1 1/2 minute dance, a two minute dance for 4-year-olds and a 2 1/2 minute dance for 5-year-olds. This rule doesn’t apply once the dance gets past four minutes because that is too long for most shows or competitions. If the piece of music you want to use is longer than your time limit you can splice the song, using programs such as GarageBand, or you can fade out at the end.
Dance companies come under fire for inappropriate skin-baring costumes for children, but you also need to be careful about song lyrics. Even songs that get radio play can contain words parents find questionable, so look up the lyrics online before choosing your song. Songs from the Disney empire, both movies and TV, tend to be clean and are appealing to kids because they know them. Soundtracks to movies for little girls, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Cinderella" or "Anastasia" are full of songs that work for dance routines.
While kids might enjoy dancing to a song they know, a few classics exist that parents and kids always seem to like. These include "On the Good Ship Lollipop," by Shirley Temple, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," by Ella Fitzgerald, and "Hush Little Baby," by Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin. These songs lend themselves easily to choreography because the kids can act out the words. For "On the Good Ship Lollipop," try a sailor-themed outfit with huge lollipop props that the kids use as oars. For "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," give the kids baskets and act out losing them somewhere in the song.
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