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In Vol. 4, World Champion Gentry Stein explains the Performance Evaluation categories of the yoyo judging system to help you build an epic routine that will place high.

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How to Become a Yoyo Champion: Vol. 4 Build an Epic Routine (Performance Evals) Kendama Trick
This is the 4th video in the “How to be a yoyo champion series” In this video we will first go over the 5 categories that make up your performance evaluation scores at a yoyo contest. Then I will show you how to arrange your routine to maximize your performance score.

When constructing your first routine it’s easy to simply get caught up in the tricks and forget that your overall performance is also a major part of your final score. To illustrate these points throughout, I’ll be referring to my 2014 worlds routine when I won the world title. In this routine my performance evals alone helped me make up more than a 4 point deficit in technical execution. If I had not put a significant effort into these performance categories, I would not have won the contest.

The first category is Space (Use & Emphasis) Most of the time when players think about this category they are only considering how much of the stage they use during their routine. While you do want to make sure to move around the stage in your routine, using both the width and depth of the stage, that is only part of what is considered. The 3D space around your body you utilize while doing tricks is also considered. You want to make sure to utilize different zones around your body, so some tricks should be high, others low, and you should use both sides of your body.

The space you use around the stage should be suited to the tricks and the routine. For example, while performing a trick where the majority of the space used is on the right side of your body, it may make sense to perform the trick on the left side of the stage so the trick is at the best viewing position to the audience. For smaller elements you may want to approach the front of the stage, etc.

Another example would be to consider returning to specific points on stage in relation to other aspects that are meaningful to the performance. If you wanted to integrate music use with space use and emphasis, you can use space on the stage according to different themes in the music. If the song has a certain melody or sound that is repeated throughout, you can return to similar space on the stage so your use of space is fitting with the music.

Choreography is the first of two music use scores. When trying to score high in choreography, the simplest way to think about it is, when the music does something, you do something. You want to match the rhythm, melody, and big moments in the song with your tricks. On the most basic level, your tricks should mirror the pacing, rhythm, and beats of the song as they happen. To clarify, this does not just mean yoyoing fast when the music is fast, or slow when the music is slow. To score high you need to go beyond that, and land specific elements to the rhythm of the song throughout the routine.

Matching melody is more complex, because it is not as regular as the rhythm, but this can also make your tricks more visually compelling because it will keep them from having a pacing that is too regular. In the opening of my routine you can see how each of the mounts and movements of the trick happen along with the melody of the song. The melody is often the most prominent part of the song, so it is easier for the judges to connect and see that you are performing with the song, when your tricks closely follow the melody.

You should also pay attention to the big moments and build ups in songs. This can be unusual but powerful sounds, a sudden change in the song, or even moments of silence. You want to make sure to identify these big moments in your music and prepare tricks to accentuate the music as these moments happen.

Construction is the second music use score. Rather than focusing on landing tricks to sounds, beats and cues, this category focuses on the mood, tone, and the theme of your routine based around the music. All music evokes emotion, making you feel a certain way as you listen to it. A player who scores high in this category recognizes this and constructs their routine around the music in a cohesive way.

The way you present yourself and your tricks along with all aspects of the performance, should be catered to this awareness of the music. The structure of your trick placement throughout the routine should match the structure of the song. You’ll notice the specific build up and sound of the music as I perform a whip combo. The music is building up as I perform a series of similarly themed elements. After this build, the song drops, and hits hard leading into a different section of music with a faster trick to match. You’ll notice that the same build up and drop occurs later on in the routine. The second time, I follow the same pattern of doing a trick with a series of similarly themed elements to the music. This time, instead of whips, its hops. As the song drops this time, I follow with another faster trick to match the music.

The next category is body control, which is one of the most misunderstood categories in the judging system. It is commonly thought that avoiding certain gestures like unintentionally sticking your tongue out while focusing, keeping your mouth open for no reason, or shaking your head when missing a trick are all that is considered in this score, when in fact, these things are just a small portion of what is considered, and are all absolutely unacceptable if you want to get even a decent body control score.

Before I go in too deep, it’s also important to note that this score is judged the entire time a player is on the stage. If the routine doesn’t go as planned, the music ends, and the player is making their way off stage drooping their shoulders while shaking their head in disappointment, this can actually still affect the body control score. For this reason, it’s important to act professional and be aware of your body from the moment you walk on the stage to the moment you step off.

This category is mostly focused on body awareness while you’re on the stage. There are tons of aspects of body awareness. In its simplest form, it’s important that the player is presenting themselves in a confident and professional way to the audience. Throughout the routine the player should be standing up straight with good posture, not hunching over, stumbling over their own feet, or unknowingly going into weird positions when trying to land tricks.

But that’s just the basics. To receive a HIGH body control score, you should integrate body posturing and movement into every trick. Let me give you an example of what body control can do to affect the way your tricks look. First, I will be doing a trick with no body awareness at all. Then we will show you a clip of me performing the same trick on stage. Here is what the trick looks like. Notice the exaggerated movement of my arms, the angle of my torso, the positioning of my shoulders, as well as the footwork that is happening throughout the trick. For a high body control score, the movement and position of your body should be practiced and obviously refined, and the body movement and tricks should be presented together as one.

Something that can help you with your body control score is to practice in front of a mirror. This will allow you to experiment with different body movements while doing your tricks.

The final category is Showmanship, which is largely focused on the awareness that you are performing in front of an audience. A player who scores high in showmanship will make it obvious that effort has been put into the entertainment value of the routine. Much of the time an audience full of yoyo players will get really hyped about a routine when it is filled with amazing tricks. It is important to note that according to the rules, crazy hard looking tricks, or impressive yoyo skill have nothing to do with this category. A player could do a routine filled with perfectly executed seemingly impossible tricks, but still score low in showmanship. Like Construction, Showmanship has to do with theme, but in this category, it focuses on your overall presence, presentation, and attitude on stage. Do they accurately reflect or fit the theme you’re trying to convey?

Many of the best performers in yoyoing play a consistent character, or at least give a consistent vibe to the audience, when they are on stage. This helps the audience connect with you sooner, because they immediately know who you are and how to engage with you throughout the routine. This can begin even before you throw the yoyo, by the way you stand or look (or don’t look) at the audience before your routine starts. This doesn’t mean that you have to act as someone you’re not, but you should show some type of emotion and personality to the audience. And there are all kinds of ways to do this.

You could project wild enthusiasm. (Evan Nagao)

You can be stoic and impressive. (John Ando)

Or you can pretend like you know how to be a hip hop dancer.

Any way that allows you to express yourself to the audience throughout the routine.

You should also be intentional about engaging with the audience throughout your routine. This could mean that at various points you look directly at them. Looking at someone lets them know you want to engage with them, that you are connecting instead of just something for them to stare at. You can also give indicators to the audience when you are about to impress them with a great trick. On the other side, when you get a big audience reaction, you can respond back in ways keeping with the character or vibe you are presenting on stage.

There is one habit some yoyoers have where they wave their hand to ask the audience to cheer for them, almost as if the audience just missed something they did that was really cool. This is not good performance. The reason this is a problem is because it shows you were not really connecting with the audience. If you had been, they would have responded spontaneously. A better way incorporates what we already discussed: if you let them know early on who you are, and connect with them throughout the routine, they will be more in tune with your vibe and will intuitively pick up on whatever subtle signal you offer to let them know that a big trick or element is coming, and they will respond accordingly.

It’s important to remember there’s no specific right way to do any of this. Performance is all about you finding your own way to stand out and put on a good show. Being aware of the details of how the performance evaluation sections are scored is a great place to start, but know that creating a performance that successfully caters to all of this is not easy. Once you have mastered these scores, however, you will be setting yourself up to win, and to execute a memorable performance that will not be forgotten – the hallmark of a true champion. So get practicing.

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How to Become a Yoyo Champion: Vol. 2 Know the Rules

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