Tips & Advice

7 Great Ways to Prep for Competition

A Step Ahead Performing Arts Studio. Photo by James Jin.

It’s never a bad time to start prepping to make your next competition season the best one yet. Here, we have compiled a list of seven tips and tricks to make you and your team stand out on stage this fall. 

#1. Start with some team spirit.

Host a pizza party or sleepover to get your team together and excited before competitions start. Watch old competition videos, YouTube your favorite So You Think You Can Dance Next Generation routines, and create fun arts and crafts like matching hair ribbons, tie-dyed shirts or decorated water bottles. If you have several teams (i.e. minis, juniors and seniors), pair up “bigs” and “littles” for team bonding that will extend beyond your own age division and unite the whole group.

#2. Plank every day. 

A strong core is crucial to executing any given technique: turns, leaps, kicks, partnering or even tumbling. Holding a plank activates all of your abdominal muscles and even engages muscles in your shoulders, glutes and quads. From push-up position, drop down to both of your forearms.  Keep your body in a straight line from the crown of your head to the bottom of your heels. Engage your belly button to the back of your spine. Kick out through your heels and keep your eyes out a few inches in front of your hands on the floor. Set a timer on your phone, and try to beat your time every day. Start with 30 seconds and see if you can plank your way to a minute or longer! Add variations such as isolated knee touches, subtle rocks forward and back, and side planks to target your oblique muscles.

#3. Step outside your comfort zone. 

Utilize any free time by trying something new. Challenge yourself by taking a new style of dance like waacking, Bollywood or theatre tap. Start trying to master a new skill like a double tour or a one-footed wing. This is the time to take risks — fall down, get back up, and try again. With that hard work and dedication, you’ll start competition season and impress your teachers with a new handful of tricks up your sleeve.

#4. Go see dance. 

Look up any dance performances in your area. Whether it’s a modern dance concert at your local theater, a national tour of a Broadway show, or a Beyoncé concert, go. Get inspired and energized for your competition season ahead. YouTube is also a wonderful resource for watching dance. So do your dance “research”. Dance is a visual performing art form, and you can learn so much from simply watching. Search Jack Cole and the evolution of jazz dance, Tiler Peck’s upcoming Broadway musical Little Dancer, or the Syncopated Ladies’ tap performance to “Formation.”

#5. Write all competition dates in your planner. 

Think ahead and make sure to put all competition dates and venues in your planner, including call times. This might include travel days too and meeting times for carpool. This is so important for instructors, dancers and parents. Make sure you know when and where you need to be at all times and plan in advance to remove unneeded stress in the lead up to each event.

#6. Go beyond the Billboard Hot 100. 

Dance is a lot like fashion — it’s more about standing out than fitting in. And a great way to stand out from the crowd is with an unfamiliar song or creative cover of a popular hit. The Internet is your friend, so do your research! Look up lesser-known songs by your favorite artists, download the Sonarflow app to find albums similar to those you already love, and stay up-to-date with current pop culture events.

#7. Set goals. 

Make a list of grand yet tangible goals — ones that aren’t necessarily award-oriented, however. Instead of shooting to “win First Overall” at every competition, set out to include an a cappella section in your tap routine, nail a turning section ending with a triple pirouette, or simply attend more convention classes. Make a separate list of goals for yourself and goals for your team. Keep the list in your planner or taped to your bathroom mirror as a daily reminder to keep working toward your goals.

By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): A Step Ahead Performing Arts Studio. Photo by James Jin.

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