It’s around the midpoint of the offseason, which means it’s the perfect time to look back on the previous season as well as look forward to the next one. And this week’s topic to do just that is floor music and choreography—what’s our favorite from the past, what are we hoping to see in 2023 and more. Have strong opinions on floor choreography and music? Let us know about them in the comments or on social media!
Let’s start by talking about favorites. Which routines have had your favorite floor music in college gym?
Elizabeth: I like routines that have dramatic music. Think Anna Li’s Requiem for a Dream and Chayse Capps’ Intro by The xx. I also like takes on popular songs, but only in select cases. I’m not going to fall on the feet of any routine that features a Top 40 song.
Allison: I love a good creepy floor routine. Haunted doll. Possessed gymnast. Just overall makes you stop and want more of them. By far my favorite is Gracie Day’s 2020 routine; her 2019 is a close second.
Ian: Although Oklahoma’s choreography this season was certainly decisive, I did enjoy a lot of the choices that were made in terms of music. The blues and jazz-influence of people like Carly Woodard and Audrey Davis (who had the same music as Rachael Lukacs a few years back) stands out in a sea of techno mashups.
Tara: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Alabama’s Sweet Home Alabama tradition—it’s not the most unique since it is a tradition, but I love the state tie. Jessica Hutchinson’s 2022 Eurovision routine also stands out in this category.
Katherine: I am all about recognizable music that the crowd will get hyped for because they know it. Payton Richards has had some great medleys the past few years, with a classic rock routine last year and a Spanish one this year. The same goes for her teammate Nya Reed; let’s just say it was hard for me to avoid dancing in the media section when I heard the first bars of Itty Bitty Piggy by Nicki Minaj.
Tavia: The first routine that comes to mind is Alicia Boren’s 2019 decades of dance floor routine. I’m not typically someone who loves when floor music changes several times, but that music was truly iconic.
Don’t get into specifics, but what music do you never seem to care for when it comes to floor routines?
Elizabeth: Death to techno! Or really anything that you’d hear at a frat party or downtown bar or club. Also when it comes to college gymnastics, I don’t really want to hear those classic elite pieces or even instrumental versions of popular songs. It just doesn’t pass the vibe check for me.
Allison: Techno when there doesn’t seem to be anything coherent about it or when a routine goes from disco to country to pop to classic without a theme. If there’s something connecting these things, great. Otherwise I feel like I’ve watched 73 routines in 90 seconds and don’t even know what happened.
Ian: Don’t get me wrong, I like the occasional electronic or techno routine, but one thing that always seems to disappoint is when whoever is cutting the music tries to fit as many different songs in as possible. Floor routines really are not that long, and the more musical changes that are put in, the harder it becomes to create cohesive choreography.
Tara: See, I’m the opposite of Allison—I’m not a big fan of the creepy music. Sharp, sudden cuts are also a no from me.
Katherine: I have MANY songs in mind that have to go, but it says don’t be specific, so I’ll just say songs that are overused. There are billions of songs in existence; please get creative. That’s a big part of what floor is all about.
Tavia: Anything classical or techno is a hard pass from me. Classical isn’t my favorite because it feels too “club gymnastics” and mundane, and techno just sends me back to 2008. Not in a positive way.
What’s a song or genre you want to see a gymnast use for her floor routine during the 2023 season?
Elizabeth: I first saw choreography done to this song on So You Think You Can Dance, so it’s not an original idea, but I think Moments Passed by Dermot Kennedy would make a really great and funky floor routine.
Allison: As above, more of the horror, creepy routines. It’s not often you find that in college gymnastics. It feels as though most routines are an ode to the current Top 40 on the radio, which is totally fine, but I’d love a little more variety. Other than something horror, I love a good waltz.
Ian: Jessica Hutchinson at Denver started to dive into this last year by using SHUM by Go_A as her floor music, but the concept of Eurovision floor music is one that, in my opinion, needs to be built on. Just looking at songs from this year, I would love to see floor routines to Fulenn by Alvan & Ahez and SloMo by Chanel.
Katherine: My favorite genres are rap and reggaeton, so probably more of that. Luisa Blanco and Ariana Orrego both used Bad Bunny in their routines last year, and there’s plenty more bops of his that would make amazing floor music.
Tavia: I’m interested to see which popular Tik Tok songs find their way into floor music next season. This year’s favorite was Saweetie’s Best Friend. In 2023, I’m hoping for the likes of Industry Baby by Lil Nas X or Material Girl by Saucy Santana.
Now, what is your favorite college gymnastics choreography of all time?
Elizabeth: My favorite music and favorite choreography go hand in hand because one isn’t good without the other in my opinion, so Chayse Capps’ routines and Anna Li’s senior season choreo stand out in particular. I also have to bring up Lloimincia Hall of course. It’s completely different than my other favorites, but it’s just so fun that you can’t help but enjoy it. In a similar vein, Nina McGee’s national title-winning routine was also great.
Allison: Echoing Elizabeth’s comment on music and choreography going hand in hand, I’m going Gracie Day’s 2020 Dead Silence floor routine. I lucked out seeing it in person when UNH hosted one of the final quads that season, and I could watch it over and over again. Alix Pierce over at TWU had a phenomenal routine this past season that I loved, too. I dream of seeing Riley McCusker back with something orchestral and haunting like she had in her elite days.
Ian: After watching about 20 routines back, the one that has stuck with me the most is Alyssa Perez-Lugones’ 2021 routine. I honestly think you could give her any choreography and she would do amazing with it, but the real memorable factor that makes this routine stick is her amazing performance. A lot of people can have good choreography handed to them, but this routine stuck out as one where the gymnast made it her own.
Tara: I remember LOVING Sabrina Schwab’s butterfly routine, to the point that it made me that much sadder when she had to medically retire. AJ Jackson’s chalkography routine is another one I’ll never forget. Denver’s two national floor champions in Lynnzee Brown and Nina McGee also put on a show on floor.
Katherine: Abby Armbrecht’s routine at 2019 nationals, where she was Alabama’s sole representative, was iconic because of the ponytail-ography. If I remember correctly, she’d never done it with the long ponytail before, and the movements complimented the dramatic music (to Dangerous by David Guetta) really well. It was awesome.
Tavia: I’m going to go with Lloimincia Hall’s 2014 routine. To this day, I still want to do a seat drop to fist pump every time I hear that beat drop. I mostly love this choreography because it escorted NCAA floor routines into the future. We wouldn’t have all the viral routines we’ve seen in the past few years without Hall first paving the way for more groovy, fun floor choreography.
What team, top to bottom, has your favorite floor choreography?
Elizabeth: The choreography is always controversial, but I’ve always loved KJ Kindler’s choreography for Oklahoma. Sue me. It’s just so weird and different. I’m a fan of the movements KJ creates.
Allison: I’m an Oklahoma choreography person. It is weird. It’s clunky but intentionally so. I love the sharp, weird angles of the wrists. I miss Anastasia Webb’s intense glare. All for it.
Ian: In an effort not to keep repeating Oklahoma, I’m gonna pick a bit of a wild card with BYU. To this day, Shannon Evans remains one of the few people who has been able to do a musical montage routine that actually goes somewhere, and even though she’s now retired, the tradition of amazing BYU choreography from Brogan Evanson has continued.
Tara: It’s hard to forget BYU choreography—that was the first team that came to mind when I was brainstorming these responses. Those routines are iconic, and I have to say I’ll never forget Shannon Evans’ Mario routine. I’ll admit that some of them get weird, but I gotta give creativity points. I’m also generally a big fan of Utah’s choreography.
Katherine: UCLA’s floor routines go viral for a reason. I liked the crazy, campy stories behind so many of the Miss Val routines; they gave them a larger than life quality, complimented by the unique choreography and music.
Tavia: This one is hard because I’m historically a choreography hater. Good choreography has its ebbs and flows. I’m going to have to stick with KJ Kindler’s Sooners on this one because Oklahoma consistently brings choreography that’s interesting and elegant.
What is an underrated floor team in terms of choreography and/or music?
Elizabeth: Jeffrey Langenstein-era Lindenwood routines were so underrated. I haven’t seen enough of his Washington (or San Jose) work to have an opinion yet, but I loved the Andy Alexander/Kayla McMullan-type routines from her years at LU. Also, more people need to appreciate Texas Woman’s. Isabel Goyco literally Rick Rolled with her floor routine her junior and senior seasons. And you haven’t experienced TWU floor until you’ve attended a home meet. It’s every bit as loud and engaging as a big-time SEC team.
Allison: After liveblogging 20,390 Yale meets last year, I never grew tired of its floor music. I love that it’s not all club music, all classical, all Top 40… More Billie Eilish, though — not sorry. It’s a little bit of everything, and it keeps that floor rotation from feeling repetitive or dull.
Ian: I’ve seen quite a few people say Washington’s choreography was “boring” or “unmemorable,” and honestly I don’t really see where people are getting that from. The back half of the lineup with Geneva Thompson and Amara Cunningham proved to be some of my favorite routines of the Pac-12 this season.
Tara: The MPSF as a whole has a lot of underrated floor routines—San Jose State and UC Davis immediately come to mind, but I know there’s more. In the past Sac State’s Lauren Rice also had great routines. It’s a little gold mine of fun choreography that not a lot of people pay attention to!
Katherine: I’ll shout out my alma mater, Temple. Faith Leary had one of the first Nicki Minaj routines I remember, and all its gymnasts seem to be giving 100% with their dance and facial expressions. That lineup is never boring.
Tavia: I second Elizabeth’s sentiment about TWU. TWU floor circa 2012-14 showed me how fun college gymnastics could be. The era of Kristen Edwards, Kayla Jones and Rashonda Cannie was a core memory for me. And the Pioneers still know how to have fun and draw in a crowd, especially at home meets.
What’s a team that you didn’t used to like choreography-wise but now you really appreciate?
Elizabeth: Michigan used to be bad. No offense of course, but it just had nothing going for it in my opinion. While it’s still not a team I’d call my fave, it’s definitely good now—Naomi Morrison and Nicoletta Koulos come to mind first.
Allison: Not necessarily didn’t like, but a lot of the smaller programs and those in Division II and Division III have really started to put up some flashy, eye-catching routines that really stick with you. I don’t know what’s changing, but I hope it continues. It’s great to see those programs gain some traction with the gymternet with their fresh, unique choreography.
Ian: There was definitely a time where I didn’t quite get Oklahoma’s choreography, but over the last few seasons it has grown on me a lot more. I enjoy how Oklahoma has proven itself to be a team willing to go for something out of the ordinary.
Tara: I find myself regularly falling in love with choreography when I see teams in person: Ball State, New Hampshire and San Jose State are recent examples. That’s not to say I didn’t like them before, but they cemented themselves in my mind as good choreography after watching in person.
Katherine: I agree with Tara re: teams I don’t really know until I see them in person. Denver was always a bit of a blindspot of mine in terms of the top teams, but seeing them at the Auburn regional final this year gave me the chance to watch some really beautiful choreography. I’ll echo her previous reference to Jessica Hutchinson, especially.
Tavia: I’m definitely going to have to hop on the Michigan train. I never remember noticing its choreography, but I was obsessed with the entire floor lineup this season. Sierra Brooks, Naomi Morrison and Gabby Wilson were especially my favorites.
How about individually? Who is your choreography GOAT in college?
Elizabeth: Not to hammer it home too hard, but anyone who doesn’t say Chayse Capps is wrong.
Ian: I alluded to it before, but I cannot get through this roundtable without mentioning Geneva Thompson. Unlike a majority of routines that get a lot of praise, her super-senior season routine this year was choreographed by her and her teammates, and you can tell how much she loves the choreography through her performance.
Katherine: Kennedy Baker had some awesome routines during her time as a Gator, especially her senior year mashup of Anaconda and Lip Gloss. They were the perfect combination of enthusiasm, poise and excellent dance moves. There was also her jaw-dropping Dos Santos, which truly made the routine stand out.
Tavia: Nia Dennis. Anyone who signs their name mid routine has my vote.
And finally, which 2023 gymnast is your favorite to watch on floor because of her choreography?
Elizabeth: I always look forward to Nya Reed’s routines. You know she’s going to give 100% on the choreography, and it’s always going to be super fun to watch.
Ian: After only getting to see her once on floor this season, I am looking forward to what Kara Eaker can do with more time to evolve as a collegiate performer. Watching GAGE gymnasts break out of their choreographic shells is always a process and the seeds were there with her routine this season to blossom into an amazing performer.
Tara: I mentioned her before, but Lynnzee Brown always goes all-out on her choreography, and it gives her performance that much more of a wow-factor.
Katherine: I loved watching Jordan Chiles in her freshman season; we’ve got plenty more to come from her, no doubt.
Tavia: It’s a tie between Lynzee Brown and Trinity Thomas. I’m excited to see what their final routines have in store!
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As a women’s gymnastics Oklahoma Sooners’ season ticket holder, I am loving KJ KINDLER’s choreography and music choices 98% of the time. Maggie Nichols routines and many others. This past season there were stand-out floor music routines for sure. Also in the past, I did enjoy many of UCLA’s floor exercise routines by VALERIE KONDOS FIELD, aka “Miss Val.” Example of Felicia Hano as a 1920s mermaid in 2019.
Michigan’s floor routines are now done by Sooner-alum Maile Kanewa (spelling). She’s quite the dancer! As a dancer myself, I love Maile’s choreography. She learned from the best. KJ.