Anthony Rojas On Texturizing Yoyo Routines
Anthony Rojas is one of the most well-respected yoyoers of our generation, so when I got to speak with him on the most recent episode of kill your yoyo I tried my best to listen. I grew up watching Anthony yoyo during countless Saturdays spent at the Sunshine Kite Company on the Redondo Beach Pier and I’ve had the privilege of seeing him compete in person on a few occasions. During the interview, I asked Anthony how he makes his incredible freestyles. If I can summarize his answer, it’s texture. Allow me to explain.
I’d like to categorize Anthony’s tricks into three categories based on the ideas we discussed. There are style and movement, point scorers, and transitional.
Style and movement-based tricks don’t exist to score points, they are more emotional than logical. These seem to come out during passionate parts of Anthony’s routines, perhaps inspired by a particularly interesting moment in a song. These are tricks that can be complex but don’t have to be. Maybe a simple bind that is performed in a way that produces a novel movement. The best example I can think of is the trick that Anthony has performed many times where he throws a horizontal pinwheel and then contorts his whole body through a loop made by the string and his crossed arms. Maybe that score points and maybe it doesn’t, that’s not the point. The point is that it looks damn cool.
The point scoring tricks show up with a purpose in Anthony’s work. These are the harder more tech-focused tricks that boost his score and help him to pass prelims, and make up for the points that stylish tricks may not receive. Now just because these tricks are a bit harder doesn’t mean they need to be impossible. Anthony mentioned in the show that he isn’t interested in tricks that are so hard that the yoyoer has to breathe a sigh of relief afterward (like a reverse 5.5 hook). He’d much rather choose a trick that he can hit consistently, flows well, and still has some style. What his tricks may not have in difficulty, they make up for in creativity. If a trick that is extremely difficult scores as many points as one that is much easier but equally impressive, then the easier trick should be chosen simply because you’ll actually be able to hit it. Point scorers don’t have to be unstylish, but often these are the tricks that make up a lot of the yoyoing we see in everyone’s freestyles. However just because everyone does a particular trick, doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice because having some familiar tricks interspersed with more stylish tricks adds an important element of texture to a routine.
If a routine is nothing but flowy stylish tricks, then it may look beautiful but could get a little dull halfway through since the audience will be disconnected and not have any tricks they relate to (even a non-yoyoing crowd knows around the world and rock the baby). If the routine is nothing but fast point scorers, well then now the audience can relate but you have a mostly unoriginal routine lacking tricks in your unique style. But by using a few of each and switching between style and point-scorers, you’ll have a routine with peaks and valleys. You’ll have texture. Not only does this strategy tend to produce more interesting routines, but it also is a great way to make a routine that can place you high in a contest without sacrificing artistic integrity. The way to switch between and within these two kinds of tricks is with the third trick category, transitions.
Anthony designs purpose-built transitions into his routines. We all know that if you have two unrelated tricks, then you need to find some way to get from one to the other. This could be with a regen, a well-placed swing between elements, or any number of other methods but the important thing is to do it with style. Your transitions can be as complicated and stylish as you want them to be and because yoyo tricks are modular you can even use a full-blown combo to transition to a new trick. Some of my favorite moments in Anthony’s routines are his transitions because he doesn’t treat them as a lower class of trick, but instead performs them with as much style and grace as the rest of his tricks.
Of course, routine construction is more than just choosing a few point-scoring tricks, stylish tricks, and transitions. You can absolutely make a routine that is all hop combos and 5.5 whips if you really want to. All that the "routine model" I’ve written about here is meant to do is to get you thinking about texture in your routines. If everything looks the same while you're performing then your routine may look drab. So, consider adding texture either by a variation of the kinds of tricks or through some other means of varying your performance. You could add a new song halfway through, add some unique staging, or you could even use breakaway pants. There are an infinite number of ways to texturize a routine, so get creative and don’t forget to have fun.