First Freestyle: Building Sets


You’ve made it to the fifth & final part of our series on building your first freestyle routine! Congratulations! Now it’s time to put it all together. Today we’re going to talk about building sets. A set is a small group of moves choreographed to work together. Many freestylers build their freestyle routine this way. Each set can then be strung together to make a full routine. There are several benefits to building a routine this way:

  • You can keep training sessions short & rate of reinforcement high by only practicing one set at a time.
  • The dog will soon learn the set, and will know what to expect as soon as you start the opening move. This will help your dog move with confidence, and s/he will soon be where they need to be for each throw.
  • Organizing a routine by sets can help you remember your routine as well. If you’re using 4 or 5 sets in a novice routine, you can assign each one a name. Then memorize the order of the sets, and once one has begun muscle memory will take over & help you remember that set. This is especially helpful if you’re subject to performance anxiety!
  • As you build new tricks, you can build a set around them, then switch out an older set for a newer set within your routine, gradually building your repertoire of tricks.
  • If you build one routine to use across venues, you can easily change your routine to use more or less time – only put in your top 4 or 5 sets for a 60 second routine, add a 6th set and repeat one of your stronger sets for a 90 second routine, etc.
  • If you choose to change your music each year, you can switch the sets around in order of performance, possibly switching a new set in for an old one, to give the routine a new look to fit the new music.

Now how to begin? A common way to begin is by determining how many discs you can afford to use in a set. Skyhoundz allows you to use up to 5 discs; USDDN allows up to 10. The other venues fall somewhere in the middle. Therefore, many people will choreograph a set around 5 discs. You can always use fewer discs than the organization allows. You might also have a set that looks good but uses more than 5 discs – keep that set in your routine, but switch it out for something else when playing Skyhoundz.  Andrea Rigler said the following on the subject, “IMO, you should always plan your routine strategies around disc management. You can make anything look cool but nothing looks cool when you’re fumbling with discs while your dog is sitting there waiting for you. Address disc management from the get-go and the rest of the planning will be a lot more fun.”

A common technique is to perform your set, then send your dog on a long throw while you pick up the dropped discs. When they return, go into your second set. This helps in practice, too. When you practice just one set, begin & end with a long throw. When your dog is returning with the disc in competition, they’ll see you setting up for the next set & know what comes next. Make sure when choreographing the set, you have one disc left for that long throw!

What to include in a set is completely up to you. This is where your creativity comes in! I will list below a few ideas to get you started, but make it your own. This is only a few possibilities.

  • One set might be an around the world sequence. An around the world can use the entire field, or it can be close in. If you’re using the entire field, this set might be most convenient placed last in the routine, as the discs will land at quite a distance!
  • Another set might be a series of 3-4 vaults & overs.
  • A zig zag sequence is another possible set. Again, you want to think about how long it will take you to pick up all the discs when this set is over.
  • Another set might be a couple of transition moves, or even a vault or two, setting up for a juggle sequence.
  • Another idea is a few overs or vaults, leading to a dog catch.

When choreographing your routine, you want to consider flow. If you do a leg over, what direction is the dog facing when they land? Does it work better for them to turn back to you quickly for another over or vault, or will they drop their disc to go for a longer throw in the direction they’re facing? This will likely involve a lot of trial and error until you come up with a sequence of moves that flows together smoothly. Transition moves, like scooting under your legs, or a spin, can help connect various moves.

Freestyle Flow with Andrea Rigler shows a world class routine, done in slow motion, with commentary from Andrea explaining what she’s doing.  This would be an excellent post to review while you’re thinking about how to make your moves flow.

Have fun choreographing your first routine!

For the rest of this series, see: First Freestyle: Choosing MusicFirst Freestyle: Editing MusicFirst Freestyle: Choosing Elements, and First Freestyle: Pre-Routines.

Featured image is (c) Marshall Smith


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