Eight Secrets for Choosing a Piece for a Perfect Performance

Struggling to pick a variation for an upcoming competition? Eight alumni give some insights on how they chose their winning variations (Tip: use these for exams and Dance Challenges too!)

Class work

‘My teacher in Sydney, Hilary Kaplan, never believed in rehearsing one variation for months so the focus was always on my class work. We worked on building the strength and freedom to attempt any variation.’ – Steven McRae, Principal Dancer with The Royal Ballet (Gold, 2002)

Trust your coach

‘I trusted my coach at the time deeply. Bernice Lloyd and I both thought that the Aurora Act III variation would suit me well. It also helped that I LOVED that variation.’ – Tanya Howard, First Soloist with The National Ballet of Canada (Finalist, 1997)

Showcase your strong points

‘I went with solos that portray my strongest points. I was always an energetic jumper, so the variations I chose showcased my qualities.’ – Valentino Zucchetti, First Soloist with The Royal Ballet (Gold, 2006)

Show your dramatic ability

‘Giselle Act I variation was my preferred classical variation for the competition, not only for the extensions, pirouettes, and hops en pointe, but for the fact that I was able to portray a character, and show my dramatic ability, as well as my ballet technique.’ – Céline Gittens, Principal Dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet (Gold and Audience Choice Award, 2005)

Decide with your teacher

‘It was a mutual decision-making process, in which my teacher and I looked through the list of potential variations and discussed which would showcase my strengths, as well as help, improve my technique and artistry, and most importantly, the variation I would thoroughly enjoy performing!’ – Isabelle Brouwers, First Artist with English National Ballet (Silver, 2013)

Show a different side to yourself

‘I had already learnt and practised the Siegfried solo and I felt confident performing that. The other more modern solo was by MacMillan and I immediately enjoyed dancing that, it made me move in a way I felt I could play with and use it to show a different side of myself.’ – Sean Bates, Junior Soloist with Northern Ballet (Silver, 2010)

Show contrasting variations

‘I wanted to show contrasting variations including something softer to show I could be diverse; something very classical in a tutu and then something lyrical/classical with a long floating dress. I made the choice along with my teacher from The Royal Ballet School and we chose Summer Fairy from Cinderella and a variation from Raymonda‘ – Tierney Heap, Soloist with The Royal Ballet (Bronze, 2010)

Choose what you love

‘I chose my Act III Coppélia variation as it’s a ballet I love. I wanted to choose something that had a good balance of technical elements and classical style and charm, this way I knew I would enjoy dancing it and therefore perform better.’ – Elizabeth Harrod, Soloist with The Royal Ballet (Finalist, 2003)

No tights, no problem

‘Honestly, I’m not sure! My teacher chose it, probably because in Le Corsaire I didn’t have to wear tights!’ – Alex Wong, Dancer, singer and actor (Bronze and Audience Choice Award, 2003)