As competition season approaches, putting together the perfect dance routine can be difficult. Songs, choreography, costumes, and of course, themes are all essential elements of an award-winning routine. The most difficult of those? Picking a theme. Many of the other elements of your routine revolve around the routine you pick, so finding the perfect one is a must.

But how? There are so many to choose from, and you want your routine to stand out from your competition. Start by making a list of themes that you are interested in pursuing. Then ask yourself these questions.

What is the tone of the song?

This is a good question to ask if you have already picked out your song, but even if you haven’t, knowing the tone you’re searching for is essential for picking a theme. If you want an energetic tone in your routine but you pick a song that is more melancholy, you’re going to struggle to find a matching theme.

If you don’t have a song chosen, look at your list of potential themes. How many of them are connected to the same emotions? Try tying your theme to the emotion that appears the most.

What time of year is it?

Looking for a theme during a certain time of year can also be a useful strategy. If you are competing in the summer, you might want to put together a powerful Fourth of July routine. For instance, if your routine will be performed in the winter, a celebration of success could be perfect for your next piece. Looking to the seasons and holidays when picking a theme is always a good idea.

What style is being performed?

This question probably affects your choice of theme less than the previous two, but it is something to consider. You want to pair style and theme effectively. This isn’t because you can’t perform every theme with every style but because you might find that you have more room to explore the theme with a given style. For instance, if you decide to go for a jungle adventure theme you might not want to choose pointe because it would be more difficult to choreograph something raw, energetic, and gritty in that style that it might be in something like hip hop. So, consider the style you’re choreographing. You can use any style to develop any theme, but you might find that what you have in mind is best suited to one style or another.

By the time you’ve gotten through each of these questions, you’ve probably crossed off a theme or two, added one, and even redefined some. That’s perfect! By diving beyond the theme to decide on one, your list should change. Now, look at your new list. Which ones stand out the most? Which one corresponds most with the vision you outlined when you answered the questions? That’s the perfect theme for your routine.