Are you competing at Nationals this Summer? Here’s some advice from the industry’s leading experts.
It’s that time of year again. Are you nervous, but excited about your upcoming competition finals? You’ve performed well all year and now it’s time to shine on the national stage, competing against the country’s best dance studios and groups. To help you succeed Dance Informa spoke with the industry’s leading dance competition and convention directors. You know the steps, you’re going to smile, but how can you shine?
How can dance troupes best prepare for Nationals?
Joe Tremaine, President, Co-Founder, Tremaine Dance Conventions and Competitions
Preparation is the key to success! My belief is to over prepare and then you are able to go with the flow. The secret to success is hard work. Be sure the dancers are well rehearsed and comfortable with the choreography, staging, costumes and props.
David Westerfield, CEO Showbiz National Talent and Prime Time Dance
Good planning makes a great event! Think of everything from transportation to hotel accommodation, to preparing the used costumes from throughout the season, to polishing your shoes and refreshing the choreography.
Melissa Burns, President, Turn It Up Dance Challenge Inc.
I think it is important to break down your routines starting from the beginning and fine-tune your choreography. All too often I hear of studios that continuously play their song and keep reviewing their dances. This enables the same exact mistakes to be done over and over again. Make sure to break bad habits one step at a time from the beginning of your routine. This will help you get the precision that the judges are looking for.
Pam Chancey, Executive Director, The Pulse On Tour
Dance studios and performance teams can best prepare for Nationals by implementing corrections given to them from regionals and taking into consideration the thoughts and comments of each judge that has critiqued their piece previously. Nationals is usually a long week (The PULSE is a 4 day intensive) so gear up with endurance and be prepared to pace yourself!
Shari Tomasiello, National Director, Headliners Performing Arts Competition & Championship
Listen to and apply the critiques you received at regionals. These are invaluable learning tools.
What are the judges looking for?
Judges are looking for a well rehearsed and great overall performance. Remember performance [stage presence] often supersedes technique! Cleanliness of the number is at the top of the list.
Many times I hear my judges say “that routine was very nice because it was DIFFERENT from the rest”. If choreographers and dancers can put themselves in the shoes of the judges they will realize that judges see many of the same styles, songs and even choreography throughout the year. Judges appreciate routines that stand out whether it is a great costume, a unique lift, or an unexpected twist on a theme.
There are many things judges look for in a piece: performance, connection to the music and to surrounding dancers, technique, timing, execution of skills, creative choreography, and overall impact of the routine. The judges are dance lovers, like the performers, and are really looking for a connection between them, you, and the story you are telling onstage. At The PULSE, our faculty are interested in more movement quality and not necessarily “tricks and turns”, so make sure the routine is nicely balanced.
Clean, properly executed technique and that the dancers look like they are enjoying themselves.
What advice would you give to competing dance groups and soloists?
Focus on performing to the best of your ability and having a wonderful time. Of course this is accomplished by being well rehearsed and prepared. Hit the stage and have a great time!
Learn! Come to learn because at the Showbiz Nationals we’re attracting people from all over the US. It’s not like just attending another regional where you will be competing against local home town studios again. Nationals gives you an opportunity to come and experience what goes on in other parts of the country; everything from choreography styles to costuming styles, to music styles. On stage savor the moment, enjoy every minute of it, own the stage and perform like it’s your last time. Just get out there and do what you do best.
I would say it is important to give 120% during practice time. Work your hardest and feel like you are on stage every time you practice your routines. That way your body will already know what to do and you can enjoy yourselves on the day of competition. You will not have to worry about practicing in the hall or backstage because you will already know your routines perfectly. You will be able to wish others good luck and cheer on your friends!
Work as a team. Leave no one behind, move as one, and bring the choreography to life. My advice to the competing soloists would be to show your true self. Unleash your vulnerability to the audience, and don’t be afraid to truly let go and become one with the dance. After all is said and done, scores are great and are a very helpful tool in improving, but it is just as important to feel success in your own selves, and feel complete in your performance.
Enjoy yourself and don’t focus so much on the award you receive. So many competitions nowadays give golds to everyone. Dancers know what they should receive so focus on the positive and remember that regardless of what competition you attend that this is just a moment in your lifetime.
What advice would you give to teachers and choreographers?
Choreograph to the abilities of the particular dancer/s and remember that often times less is more. Make it all fun and remember the way you react is how the dancers and parents will react. Be sure the parents have all the necessary information about the event for a problem free experience. After a competition be sure to CELEBRATE the performance with the dancers and parents, whether it is win, lose or draw!
There is nothing worse than a choreographer setting a piece on kids who are not able to handle it, may it be the difficulty or the particular style. People have a tendency to bring in a choreographer to set a piece. The choreographer may have never been to that studio, they don’t even know the style of that studio and they don’t really know what the kids are capable of doing. You’ve got to know who you’re setting the piece for. Learn the kids’ abilities before you try to set a piece. That is extremely important. The choreography doesn’t have to be difficult to be good, it’s how it’s presented. Also, if people truly sit, watch and learn at Nationals, then next year they can’t help but be better. Choreographers should sit in the audience and watch.
Teachers and choreographers may want to enhance choreography now that routines have been perfected. Maybe add in one thing that would help their routine stand out from all the rest of the routines at nationals.
It’s always wonderful to dream big for your dancers and have a vision for them. Remember the level of dancers you are teaching or setting a piece on. If they cannot execute the step in class perfectly…without struggle…it does not belong in the performance! The more familiar you are with their level the easier it will be to navigate the piece. However, on the flip side, don’t be afraid to push your dancers. It’s all about finding a balance. Finding this balance will bring success and appreciation between you and the dancers, and the dancers and you.
Focus on giving your students material that they can properly execute. Too often we see dancers trying to do movements that are beyond their capabilities.
Good luck dancers!
Top photo: Dancers compete at Turn It Up Dance Challenge