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How to Choreograph a Competitive Jazz Dance Routine

Updated on October 21, 2014

If your dreams don't scare you . . .

Then you aren't dreaming big enough."

~Lai Rupe

Lai Rupe's Choreography

Competition season is literally right around the corner all across the U.S. Dancers, Studios, and Drill Teams are all preparing now with extra technique classes and hiring their choreographers to create amazing routines for them.

As a dancer, coach, or a choreographer wanting to be a part of the more impressive and competitive routines is what you should be aspiring for. You want to stand out and competitions and make the judges say, "Wow! Where did these guys come from?!"

Well, this article is to help you be able to know how to choreograph a competitive Jazz Dance Routine. For you dance coaches reading this, hopefully this article will help you be able to know what to look for in a competitive routine that will help your dance teams and studios dominate in upcoming competitions this year.

1. Level of Advancement

Whether your dancers are beginners or have been dancing their whole lives, when competing you always want to push your dancers to do things that are "hard" for their level and ability. The judges watching competitions want to know that your dancers are pushing themselves to new levels and growing as dancers. In competitive Jazz Routines, there are a few tricks try to include to help your routine have a more difficult ability level and impress the judges.

  • Pirouettes - For competitive routines Lai Rupe's Choreography suggests having at least a double pirouette in all jazz routines. Triples and quads are better, if your dancers can cleanly complete them.

  • Fuette Turns - If your dancers are able to do Fuette turns, those are a must for competitive jazz routines. If your dancers aren't up to that speed yet, keep practicing them! Fuettes are a sure fire way to wow competition judges.


What Are Your Favorite Dance Moves to See in Jazz Routines?

See results
  • Flawless Ariels - Any time you can incorporate Acro into a Jazz Routine, you are sure to blow the judges away. When I grew up, dancing and tumbling were kept completely separate. In my old-fashioned studio growing up, I never learned any Acro or Tumbling.

However, the necessity for knowing Acro tricks is rapidly increasing in the dance world today. If you want to be a professional dancer and be competitive in dance routines, learning acro tricks will give you a huge advantage over the other dancers and teams.

  • High Leaps and V-Sit Jumps - Most dance routines have at least one leap in them, for technical reasons. But if you want to stand out in competitions, you need to do more than simply including a leap in your choreography. Switch Leaps, Back leaps, Barrels, Axels, and V-sit jumps are practically a must for impressing the judges.

2. Cleanliness & Unity

Though you want you dance routine to be powerful and advanced, you also do not want it to look sloppy. Even if you have fuettes, ariels, and switch leaps in your competitive dance routine, the whole thing will fall apart if it does not look clean.

It is more important to do things that make your dance teams look uniformed, than pushing them to be more advanced.

Before competition season, it is critical that your dancers know their routines inside and out. We suggest hiring your professional choreographers to teach routines at least 4 months in advance. This will give your dancers plenty of time to not only learn the dances, but also to perfect the routines. It is then up to the coaches to make sure that every single dance movement is adjusted to be clean and uniformed. Help the dancers learn the exact placement of everything from head to toe. Having a clean, uniformed, solid routine is one of the biggest ways to impress the judges at competition season.

Do You Know The Most Popular Dance Styles in 2014 Dance Competitions?

Dance Style
% of Dancers Competing
Lai Rupe's Choreo Awards
Jazz Dance Routines and the number one performed routines in nearly every competition in the United States. Over 86% of competitive dancers perform and compete in the Jazz Dance Category every year.

"Seven Nation Army" -Intermediate Jazz Routine


3. Strong Formations

Even the best choreography can look boring without the right formation changes. See, formation changes help keep the audience intrigued. It creates another dimension, a deeper level to the choreography and is vital in competition routines.

Usage of the performance space is one way to show that you know what you are doing and you are not afraid to take up the entire stage and make the audience watch!

4. Real Performance - Endless Emotion.

The biggest part of making choreography great, ultimately comes down to the dancers. Most choreographers put all of their heart, soul, mind, and sweat into each routine they create. When they teach the choreography, that same passion should be taught. Then when it comes down to the performance day, it is up to the dancers to remember their purpose for the dance and really perform the routine.

You always hear of Drill Teams and Dance Studios using "facials" for their dance routines. These facials are a part of the choreography. They tell the dancers when to smile or be serious, to help portray the feelings the choreographer is looking for. Judges will mark teams now if they feel the dancers are not invested 100% and a lot of this portion of the judging comes down to uniformed facials and emotions.


As a dancer, coach, or choreographer, you will find that these four tips will help you be a part of the most impressive and competitive dance choreography this year. Amazing choreography is what will help set your dance team apart from all the rest, and these tips will help take everything to that next level.

Don't be afraid to hire the best choreographers for your dance competition routines, and remember to hire at least 4 months in advance to give your dancers plenty of time for perfection.


Lai Rupe's Choreography wants to say -

"Good luck dancers in all your competitions! We know you will simply excel in all that you do.

Dream Big!"


Have any dance questions, concerns, or topics to discuss? Don't hesitate to reach out to Lai Rupe's Choreography. I am here to spread the beauty of dance.

Also, feel free to check out the article, "5, 6, 7, 8 Steps for Breaking a Choreography Block," to hear a bit more about the other perspective of dance as both a sport, and an art.

Thanks for your LOVE and Support!
~Alaina (Lai) Rupe


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      Aaron 3 years ago

      Good luck dancers!

      Thanks for posting this content and videos about dancing competitions!