When it comes down to choosing your music for your next performance, accept no less than full love for the music. What I mean by that is that you need to be rather madly in love with the piece. We'll explore below the advantages of that.
Madly in love
Before we do, though, I want to explain the concept of "madly in love." The manifestations will vary from person to person. I once met someone who said that she never loved a piece of music yet I'd often hear her say when a piece was starting "Oh, I like that piece!" with a sigh. She didn't realize it but that was love for the piece right there. Some people are more exuberant (I most certainly am) so it's easier to notice that attraction to the music. So anything that makes you go "Oh, I like this!" could potentially be a contender for you to dance on.
Narrowing it down
That being said, not every piece of music that you love will be danced to. You'll need to narrow it down. There are some pieces that you will love but they won't be fitting for the style of dancing that you do or with your normal aesthetic. I'm not saying that you can't do a departure from your regular style but rather that you want to choose when you do. Also, there may be some pieces that will fit better for some events/venues/audiences than others so that's another thing to keep in mind when choosing your piece.
Be careful of the academic love
Sometimes, you'll love a piece of music but it's because it gives your brain a spin and not because it's inspiring you artistically. I've had that happen to me once where I loved the piece of music but it was really academic love. And the end result was not up to par to what I wanted to deliver. So strive for something that will inspire you artistically. You'll know that it's the case when you're starting to have images pop in your head or movements are just coming to mind.
In line with this, be careful also when selecting a piece of music for a specific time of year. I think that the biggest culprits that I see is around the themed events or Holiday (any) where folks feel an urge to go for the staples of said Holiday. If you really really really love it, sure, go ahead. But this is generally where I see performers not put in their full effort. I dare you to do better. I dare you to find something that is in the spirit of the Holiday (whichever one) or theme and still do art in it.
You'll know it in your gut
It sounds corny to say but it's very true: you'll know it's the right piece to dance to when you feel it in your gut. Your belly (some would say your liver... see this post by Tempest) will react to the song and you'll feel a tug. You'll just know. Trust me.
Do not back down or pass up a song you're afraid of
This took me a long time to realize and I still have to fight with myself over it: there have been a number of pieces over the years (especially early on) that I passed up because I was afraid of them. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do them justice and it saddened me so much that it paralyzed me out of action. Once I started doing pieces that I was absolutely madly in love with, I realized the power that they held... most importantly, those are pieces that made me grow exponentially. You're afraid because maybe it will be hard to pull off... but you know what? Working on it hard and pulling it off will make you grow and make you into a better dancer and performer... even into a better human being, depending on the work and findings that you've done/had. ;) The pieces that I was most afraid of turned out to be my biggest successes.
Here's a quote from The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield (it's a great book... super short... I highly recommend to read it! I think that it was originally Ariellah who recommended this book in a workshop):
“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance.”
So the benefits when you absolutely love a piece of music are two-fold:
1. Easier to work with
It's counter-intuitive because it most certainly won't feel that way at first. But if you are really inspired by a piece of music, it will be much easier to come up with creative combos, movements, etc., than it would if you only kind of like a piece. You'll just need to break through the ice first.
2. Easier to connect with
If you already have a relationship with the piece of music, it will be much easier to keep the connection going. If you've ever had to work with someone else's piece of music that you were just okay with, you know how hard it is to work your way through connecting with the music.
Hold on to the feeling
Now, if you are so in love with the piece, you may have some extra stage fright over delivering the piece. I tell my students to hold on to what the piece makes you feel like. It's your one thing that you can be sure of. Hold on to that and all the work that you've put in and deliver what the piece makes YOU feel. The rest is fluff. Sincerely, using that love for the piece and harnessing it to project out that feeling will help you deliver your best performance to date.
[And, yes, it can be dark! ;)]