When I started my competition team 15 years ago, I discovered that it was like starting another business, with huge demands on my time and energy.
It’s happened to you, right? One day, when your head is full of choreography, itineraries, costume adjustments, and competition schedules, a student comes up to you with a look on her face that says you’re not going to like what she’s going to tell you. And you’re right. She cannot make the next two rehearsals, she says. Nine days before the competition.
At the end of a four-day competition, my fellow teachers and I were frustrated with our students’ performances and the competition results. These kids were the nicest in town, but quite honestly, they were rather boring onstage. They were beautiful dancers but not strong performers.
What do dance competition directors think about solos, video streaming, late nights, runaway scoring, and rising costs? Dance Studio Life got the inside scoop from more than 20 directors.
COLUMNS Ask Rhee Gold Advice for Dance Teachers 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers by Mignon Furman 2Tips for Hip Hop Teachers by Geo Hubela 2Tips for Modern Teachers by Bill Evans 2 Tips for Tap Teachers by Stacy Eastman A Better You | Fighting Fatigue by Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT . . .
I’m a dance mom. In some circles, that’s a pretty ugly title, like “ax murderer” or “crazy cat lady.” But it’s true, and since they say admitting your weakness is the first step to a new you, there it is.
At the first-ever Boston International Ballet Competition, held May 12 to 16, dancers tackled classical variations with grace, beauty, and technical prowess, hitting gigantic double tours and spot-on fouetté combinations.
Lost reservations. Not enough rooms booked. Scheduling conflicts. Broken-down buses. Whiny, bored kids. Was your last trip with your dancers so stressful that you’re threatening to say the heck with going to competitions or other performance opportunities?
Last week the space next door to my school became available for rent and the landlord offered me a very reasonable rate. The location would be perfect for a dancewear store.
I have a hip-hop teacher who has become a huge asset to the school. He has created a hip-hop team that performs throughout the area, and he’s a good teacher who takes his responsibility seriously and is always trying to do the right thing for the kids.
Competitions for schools of every size, taste, and budget
Hi Rhee, I am toying with the idea of making my teachers part-time employees versus independent contractors. A neighboring studio owner contacted me about a teacher of hers whom she pays as a contractor (1099 income) threatening to report her to the Labor Department about her payment practices. How should we proceed?
At a Dance Masters of America competition last March, the students of The Gold School got a standing ovation, and it wasn’t just for their technique. It was because of their artistry. Seven years ago, when Rennie Gold, director of the Brockton, Massachusetts, school, decided to scale back from the competition scene and showcase his students through a series of benefit concerts, his goal was to create artists through dance.
You hear it all the time, from studio owners and competition directors: competing isn’t about winning; it’s about the experience. About learning, teamwork, developing stage presence, testing your limits, finding out whether you’re a minnow or a giant koi in the big pond of the competition arena. All good stuff.
What if you could stage a mock competition—with tech and costumes, but without the pressure or the public—before your students moved on to the real thing?
If the thought of the upcoming competition season makes your stress level skyrocket, I have one word for you: prepare. Know what you want and how to achieve it. With careful planning, good communication, realistic goal setting, a professional attitude, and a firm grip on your standards, you can make your school a winner at every competition. And no, I’m not talking about trophies, awards, and medals.
Dance Studio Life asked dance competition directors across the United States to share what’s on their minds. Their responses to our questions (some did not answer all questions) appear in alphabetical order by company name (sometimes abbreviated). We thank them all for their participation:
The moment you sit at a judges table, it is your responsibility to have absolutely no prejudices about a school, teacher or a certain style of dance. A judge is there to adjudicate what is being presented on that stage, at that moment in time, with a focus on the technical skill of the dancers, their choreography, performance skills and all the other things that come into play when you put those numbers on paper. That’s it.
When I opened my school, my goal was to have my students compete, but I also wanted them to win. What can I do? —Marjorie
Some dance people on Facebook post that they are going to kick butt at a competition. I wonder if they are missing the point? Are they passing the “kick butt” mentality on to their students and parents who will be disappointed if they don’t end up kicking butt? Instead should we express how excited we are to see other …dancers do their thing? We need to understand that dance is a gift, not a tool to beat others?
Although I discourage using the word “lose,” it’s the best way to make my point. Some of the smartest and brightest people got that way from losing many of their battles. We learn from the losing process or by not getting what we want. It’s how we improve ourselves.
Several weeks ago I hosted a national dance competition for some old friends. It had been five years since my last national competition experience, so I didn’t know what to expect. But as I sat in the host chair, I was pleasantly surprised. The caliber of talent and creativity was better than I expected, and I love to see young dancers with an obvious passion for our art. They were abundant at this event.
On a warm Friday evening in April, the packed audience at the 860-seat Skirball Center for the Performing Arts breathes as one. Together the viewers gasp as a petite dancer loses her balance at the end of an impressive variation; they burst into applause as the next dancer executes 16 perfectly placed fouettés; and they fall into respectful silence as yet another competitor’s number is announced. The crowd is a mixture of nervous fellow competitors, eager young dance students, attentive coaches, and proud parents, all gathered in lower Manhattan for the final rounds of the Youth America Grand Prix.
Most dance teachers would think twice before saying that the reason they send their students to competitions is to win, win, win! There’s no denying that coming home with an award in hand is a heady feeling, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the real reason for competing, most would agree, is that it offers students—and teachers as well— one heck of a learning experience. Although the in-the-moment glow of being onstage has its own lessons, much of what can be learned at a competition comes in the form of words: valuable words of advice and constructive criticism offered by the event’s judges.
With the competition field growing every year, there must be some persuasive reasons why young dancers keep showing up at these events weekend after weekend. Who better to tell us why they compete than the students themselves? Dance Studio Life talked to six students who told us why they put their hearts and souls into the competition team, what they are learning, and the joys and sorrows of competing.
Owners of dance studios that participate in competitions know that to do well requires hard work, good choreography, and dedicated and talented dancers. So when you hear “And the first-place winner is . . .” and your studio’s name is called, you have reason to be excited and proud of your accomplishments. It’s likely that a lot of people participated in making that number first rate: the teachers who gave the students good technique, the studio owner who provided them with the opportunity to compete, the choreographer who shared his or her creativity with them—and of course the students themselves, who carried out the assignment effectively.
Acrobatics has always been an important part of my dance curriculum and as such it’s something that I want to pass on to future generations. As the daughter of a dance teacher, I have continued to give to my students the basics that I received during my dance training. Acro was a big part of that foundation.
Each spring dance school owners across North America are booking hotel rooms and air tickets, collecting convention and entry fees, and filling out and sending registration forms—often by overnight mail because parents were late to pay their fees. All of this activity is due to a desire to take students and faculty members to summer programs, conventions, and competitions that will inspire everyone involved.
I know you have had a lot of experience in the competition field and I am hoping that you can help with me with some advice on how to become a judge. For the past couple of years I have been sending my resume to many of the national competitions inquiring about a judging position, yet no one ever contacts me.
When the curtain rose for the awards ceremony and gala performance of the ninth New York International Ballet Competition, held June 24 at the Rose Theater, the audience was treated to a glittering constellation of established ballet stars and young dancers on the brink of fame.
Planning for competition season brings a big question—and sometimes an equally big headache—for school owners: Who will dance on your competition team? It’s inevitable, but figuring out the answer doesn’t have to bring on a headache.
Fall is a time to start the new dance season with energy and enthusiasm. For many studio owners it’s also the time to consider which competitions to attend. Then the dreaded paperwork starts.