Tips & Advice

9 Ways to Improve Your Scores at Dance Competition

A dancers performing at Artists Simply Human competition. Photo courtesy of ASH

Dance Informa is always asked — whether it be by email, text or in person — about ways to improve a dancer’s score at dance competition. As a teacher, choreographer and judge, I’ve compiled a list that can help you to achieve higher scores and success this season:

#1. Clean lines (costumes and choreography)

When judging competition pieces, my two personal pet peeves are dancers not knowing their formations and/or having tan tights bunched around their ankles. Clean lines in performance and clean lines in appearance will take you so far. This includes neat hair and uniform makeup that matches everyone in your group.

#2. Take ballet seriously

I think the level and seriousness of ballet training by competition dancers is drastically improving across the country. I still say over and over again while judging, however, for dancers to articulate through their toes and feet, and to stretch the backs of their knees. Ballet 101!

#3. Get grounded

One common phrase I say while judging is to get “grounded” into the floor. What I mean by that is there has to be a strong connection to the floor in order to attain maximum height in jumps and maximum turns in pirouettes. Also for transitions, the little things in between, I see so much hopping and jumping. Melt into the floor with a solid plié and connect to the floor.

#4. Performance quality

Fake emotion is completely transparent to a judge. Most of us judges were performers ourselves. We can see right through the fake. A genuine breath or a genuine smile will go a very, very long way.

Also, confidence is so important. When speaking with competition judge Kyle Moulter he told me, “The only way to have success is confidence. Confidence is key!”

#5. Eye Contact (with judges)

Please do not stare at me in the face your entire solo…however, do not ignore the fact that judges are there. You’re performing for us, the judges, and we love to be acknowledged. The winking and staring can be a little uncomfortable if the dancers are over the age of six, but looking over our heads the entire performance can be too distant and might decrease your overall score.

#6. Know your level

This is mainly for teachers and choreographers. It is so hard to judge a dancer who is clearly a more recreational student when their choreography is all tricks that they are not ready to execute technically. I can only judge what I see on stage in that moment. So if you give a dancer four fouetté turns and their hip is lifted, their plié is hoppy and their foot isn’t pointed, I have to take off points in the technique score. But also, I will probably have to take off points in the performance score because it reads all over the dancer’s face that they are insecure about their turns. Give dancers choreography that they can successfully execute every single time.

#7. Watch each other

I always like to see a clean dance, but also a well-connected group of dancers. We can tell if the group is connecting well on stage and if they have rehearsed and danced together for years. Watch each other’s timing, and feed off of each other for emotional cues and breaths.

#8. Crowd energy

Especially during productions and large group numbers, crowd energy always makes me have more fun while watching the number. Now, there is a limit! Too much crazy from the audience can be quite distracting, but as long as the judges can hear the music and stay connected to the dancers on stage, be loud and energetic to show support for the dancers on stage.

#9. Leave a lasting impression

Moulter shares, “If you don’t trust in your technique and ability, how will you make three people think you are the best and select you to win? You have to demand it. With that, you will find more success and consistent placement. Demand you are the best, yet be humble in your winnings.”

Be the dancer that, at the end of the day, we cannot leave out! We have to place your dance somewhere because it made such an impression. Whether it was through your emotion, energy, cleanliness of execution or just overall fun, you left us with a smile on our face and a warmth in our heart.

To view the 2016-17 Dance Competition and Convention Guide, outlining the hottest dance opportunities this season, visit

By Allison Gupton of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): A dancer performing at the Artists Simply Human competition. Photo courtesy of ASH.

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