Is it over…?  The Choreographers Guide To Fade-Out Endings

Is it over…? The Choreographers Guide To Fade-Out Endings

Is it over…?
The Choreographers Guide To Fade-Out Endings

A song that ends with the chorus repeating over and over ad-nauseam until finally silent was the right choice for the recording artist. So, why is it important for you, a choreographer, to try and avoid using that part of the music in your dance pieces?

We’ve all been there, right? Sitting in the audience watching dancers perform their butts off on stage. We’re there to support them and want everyone else in the crowd to be swept up as well.
The piece has been beautiful. People are encapsulated.
Now the dancer is gently melting to the floor, the music is getting quieter and quieter and we sit in silence and wait…
...and wait.
“Is there more?”
“I don't want to be the one to clap first in case it's not done.”
Someone finally decides to clap, the slow applause starts and then finally everyone joins in.

The last moment of a piece is what people hold with them.  Don’t make the audience, judge or adjudicator feel uncomfortable. The final few seconds should be as powerful, as moving and as clear as the rest of the dance. 

The recording industry has their own theories of why the “fade-out ending” exists in the first place. You can check some of those out at NPR - The Record or on Billboard’s Ask Billboard.

Example of a fade-out ending. (From "Past Masters" (2009) "Stereo Remastered")

As a choreographer, why should you care?

Audiences need and actually want to be guided through the journey of your piece. As a choreographer you should want to be clear with your intentions.

So how do you move forward?

Audiences need to be told how to feel.
You lead them through from the beginning, along the journey of your piece and to an end.
We as artists have the ability to manipulate the humans intrinsic connection to music in order to support the story being told through the choreography. You build your piece both crescendoing in volume and increasing in intensity. Then comes the time to make it very clear when, where and how you want the people watching to react.

How do you want them to react to the final picture, at the final chord?
Do you want them to sit in awe and then break out in applause?
Do you want to leave them in a state of contemplation?
Or maybe it’s a fun “cheesy” jazz combo that should make them dance in their seats.
In any case, you have the ability to bring them along for the ride and not drop out at the end.

Even if your piece isn't story based and just celebrates your best choreography and the dancers best skills, give the audience a clear end. A “thank you for watching”.

Don’t get turned off. This doesn’t mean every piece you create this dance season needs to have a “button” ending. It just means that you have the ability to control the ending of your piece. It means you don't have to leave the audience (adjudicators, judges, parents, colleagues, competitors) guessing when your piece is actually over.

Be it jazz, lyrical, modern, tap, ballet, hip-hop, figure skating, gym floor routine….[you get my point(e)] make a choice! Don’t just accept how the recording artist/music producer chose to end the song as how you must end your piece.

Your options are as vast as your imagination. You can:

  • Splice an ending from somewhere else in the song
  • Write/create a new ending (not as difficult or as expensive as you’d think)
  • Manipulate the volume so it doesn’t fade but repeats and then hold out a final chord
  • Cut off the song but pump up the reverb right at the end so it isn't abrupt

Take advantage of the music.

If you think it’s too time consuming, delegate the task to someone and explain your vision. If you’re not sure how, ask for help.

Keep the love of the music in dance alive in all your recitals, showcases, competitions and festivals.


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