Putting Together A Routine
Placing moves in an ordered sequence will greatly improve your presentation skills. Spend
time on a short routine because you will learn that smooth transitions between your patterns
are as important as the individual tricks themselves. The instructions are mostly common
sense and are widely applicable to club swinging, pole spinning, juggling and many other
Set a goal date e.g. a friend's birthday party, for which you want to have a completed routine.
Fixing a deadline and reason for the routine is a fantastic aid to motivation, but be realistic
and start planning between a month and a week before the event.
Consider the Audience
The intended audience will enjoy your performance all the more if it is tailored to them. Are
they children/adults, sitting/standing? Is the routine in the context of a show, or perhaps
busking outside? Are you working alone or in a group, with music or words and with what
kind of lighting? You may not know all the answers to these questions, but use your best
guess and common sense. You will often be able to choose many of these variables.
Listing Your Repertoire of Tricks
- First write down a list of all the different props you could use in a show, including clubs, a
pole, juggling props, musical instruments and comedy items.
- Next write down a full list of all the tricks that you can reliably do in no particular order. Make up titles for any that are not yet named.
- Then, asterisk all those tricks that will impress the intended watchers. "Funny" or
"unusual / surprising" moves generally fall into this category. Intricate tricks may not
appeal to the general public as much as more obvious body tricks like under the leg.
- Next, highlight those moves that you enjoy or find rewarding.
- Cross off any tricks that would be ineffective under the conditions that you have chosen
(e.g. club swinging snakes can be dangerous with fire).
- Warm up. Check that you really can do all the listed tricks reliably by rehearsing each at
least 10 times in succession. Strike out those patterns that do not pass the test. This
process will yield a repertoire of your own performable standard tricks.
Working a routine to music is generally a good idea (excepting slapstick comedy) as music
will aid rhythm, set a pace and bring depth to your show. Choose your music with care. I advise a piece without many words as these will detract from your skill. It is very important
to pick music that you enjoy -- you will need to listen to the tune many, many times if you are
to choreograph your routine at all closely! The music should also be accessible to the
listeners and appropriate for the mood of your routine. For instance, oriental pieces will give
a mystic feel, dramatic music is best if you decide to act out a fight and comedy routines are
enhanced by the use of music that has a surprising or amusing content. If you are not
knowledgeable about music, persuade a friend who is to offer suggestions. Asking an expert
can save a lot of time and searching.
The Start and Finish Tricks
Knock them dead with an attention-grabbing first trick that absolutely must be one that you
can land successfully every time. After this confident start, your show should build to a
finale, which again, is spectacular and yet completely reliable. Write down the first and last
moves now as chosen from the asterisked tricks.
The Middle Tricks
From your repertoire list, provisionally order only three other tricks into a sequence that
develops. Aspire to make the transitions among these three as good as they can be. Ball
jugglers should avoid doing the simple cascade between tricks, and endeavor to coordinate
moves with pleasing changes. A mirror will help. When repeating a trick, four times (or an
even number) is advisable since music tends to have four beats per bar. Try the short
sequence until you have rehearsed it reliably 10 times.
Do not be over-ambitious. If it is too difficult, cut the hardest move and replace it with
something that is easily within your level of ability. Continue to add single tricks to either
end of the existing three trick sequence, given that you have predefined the start and finish.
When you have between 6-10 tricks listed in an order, with graceful transitional moves, start
to rehearse with your music or comedy. Rearrange the sequence until the two parts (visual
and audio) match well, e.g., on high notes give height and present 'funny' tricks with an
amusing introduction. Include some surprises, delight in your own imagination and the
unexpected! Short routines are always better than too long, so do not be afraid to fade out the
music, even down to as little as 1-2 minutes. Cut the least interesting parts and shuffle the
rest again so that the routine peaks to a climax. Practise an entrance and a bow in order to
round off your show professionally.
Your routine is nearly ready. Prepare early to allow enough time to rehearse it well.
- Consider ways of dealing with any mistakes (e.g. spare props / "floor" juggling and comedy "drop lines").
- Think about costume and make-up to enhance your character.
- Show the routine to someone whose opinion you value for comments.
- Make any minor amendments to polish your show, then time the entire routine.
- Reward yourself somehow (e.g. with a trip to the fridge).
- Rewind the tape and get your equipment ready.
- To be at your best, warm up before energetically presenting the routine.
Routine Check List
Date .. Time .. Place .. Solo /Group routine .. for audience of Adults / Children / Mixed
Equipment / Props List .. Costume .. Music .. Scripted YES / NO, Title or theme ..
Total Length .. Special effects ..
© Anna Jillings 1994