Competitions are not only a fun way to test your talents, but they’re also a huge learning opportunity. To find out the top nine things you must take away from your competition weekend, Dance Informa talked with officials from Groove Dance Competition and Convention. Jill Lazzini, Mallory Swanick and Jonathan McGill are all judges and teachers at Groove, and Rachel Brown is the lead judge and a master teacher.
#1. Make friends.
“Say hello to a dancer from another studio. Congratulate them on a job well done! Exchange contact information! The professional dance community is smaller than you think.”
“While, yes, you are in a competitive environment when you attend a dance competition, the greater goal should always be to build up the dance community, and that starts at the regional level.”
#2. Be inspired.
“Be inspired not only by your friends or the faculty but also by other dancers from different studios. I try to tell dancers when I teach on competition weekends that in the future you may work with the dancers you are competing against today. Why not learn to love on one another now?”
“I always try to encourage dancers to acknowledge what interesting choices they see others making and from there, try to incorporate those choices into their own dancing. The purpose is not to look like someone else but rather to see how someone else’s approach can influence your own natural movement.”
#3. Be satisfied with your best.
“Be proud of yourself no matter what the outcome of the awards ceremony. Everyone learns and grows at different rates. You are just where you need to be on your journey. Keep working hard, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself and have fun along the way!”
“Do your best! It is not about what place you finished in or the size of the trophy. It is about doing your best every time. Every time you compete or perform, you will improve and you will gain confidence; just keep pushing! If you are doing your personal best and trying your hardest every time, you are succeeding!”
#4. Immerse yourself.
“Take advantage of as much of what is being offered throughout the weekend as you can. Any classes, talk backs, mock auditions… Go! Be a sponge; soak up as much knowledge as you can.”
#5. Establish your own routine.
“Competitions are the perfect opportunity to establish a ‘pre-stage routine’. Competitions are awesome in that they provide tons of stage experience for young dancers. Like any job, you must be properly prepared for each day. Take the time now to figure out what conditions you perform best under. Learn how to do stage hair and makeup, learn how your body needs to be fueled for your best performance, and take time to come up with a warm-up routine. Come up with your perfect warm-up, and stick to it. It will instill a work ethic and encourage discipline that goes far beyond dance.”
#6. Know the judges are there to help.
“Please remember that the judges are rooting for you! It can seem intimidating to see the judges sitting below you and their mouths are moving quickly and their hands are moving as they speak, but we truly want to see you shine! Our critiques and feedback are to help push you as a dancer and performer.”
“Focus on the feedback. Critiques are meant to help. Dancers, whether they have been in class for a matter of days or a matter of decades, can all benefit from hearing an outsider’s opinions or suggestions. Listen to every critique, take all the notes with an open mind, and see how the feedback can influence the specific piece of choreography, as well as your weekly training. Sometimes, the most beneficial critiques are those that reiterate what you already know but are said using a different set of words or analogies. Each piece of feedback is something to have in your toolbox for years to come. What might not seem like the most useful piece of advice now might make perfect sense later in your career.”
#7. Go to grow.
“Approach each competition as an opportunity for growth. Yes, we judges want to see you at your best but, we are also there to help you become better dancers. Think of us as a fresh pair of eyes and a new voice that is not in the studio with you on weekly basis. As a judge, my hope is that my critiques both reaffirm what your teachers are telling you week to week, as well as allow you to approach and think about how you dance in a different way.”
#8. Enjoy the hustle.
“Competitions are fast paced; there’s always a lot going on. Rather than letting that stress you out, learn how to enjoy the hustle, and how to be ready to roll with whatever happens. Go into a competition prepared and in a professional manner, but also realize that you share these fun moments with your friends and dance families that people outside of the competitive dance world cannot even imagine! Dance competitions should enhance your training, but they should also be fun and provide you with memorable stories for years to come!”
#9. Have fun!
“Be present, and enjoy every moment you’re on stage. Connect with whomever you’re dancing with, connect with your audience, connect with your judges, and feed off that energy. Leave any doubt, fear or drama in the wings, and allow yourself to fully dive into whatever atmosphere you’re creating on stage. That’s where the fun is!”
“Perform and have fun on stage! They say dance like no one is watching, and it’s true! We want to see you perform and truly live on stage. When you are enjoying yourself, everyone else will, too. It does not matter what the style or emotion of the piece is, if you are in it, so are we!”
By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa.