Tag Archives: Teamwork

  • Dance Competitions 201: From the Mouths of Judges—Tips for a Winning Competition Routine

    Pink-Ribbon-GraphicBy: Terri Gustafson, Relationship Manager

    With competition season in full swing, talented dancers from across the country are coming together for the love of dance with the hope of walking away with a renewed sense of confidence and some hardware to show off back at the studio.

    Last week, I met with a few friends of mine who regularly serve as judges in regional and national dance competitions to get the inside scoop on how they judge competition routines. As you prep for and fine tune your dances, keep in mind the following elements that judges will surely prioritize when determining a score for your performances:

    For Choreographers

    Spacing is key. For group numbers, spacing must be top notch. Dancers should be evenly spaced and formation changes should happen seamlessly and neatly.

    During practice, keep in mind that it can be tricky for dancers to accurately assess the space between themselves and others. To help, consider giving them visual clues that reflect the spacing needs of individual pieces of choreography. For example, you might tell dancers for a specific sequence there should be a “full arm’s length” between themselves and the dancer next to them.

    Bottom line is that sloppy spacing is distracting to judges, making it more difficult to focus on dancers’ technique.

    Keep in mind your students’ capabilities and strengths. While routines that include advanced sequences may be more fun to choreograph, be sure you are thinking critically about what tricks and movements your dancers can realistically pull off during show time.

    For example, if your students are unable to regularly complete a fouette sequence without falling off center or maintaining proper technique, do not include it in your choreography. It is always better to have your dancers excel with simple choreography than struggle with advanced movements they have yet to master.

    Consider your dancers’ ages. Nothing is more off-putting to judges than young students performing very provocative choreography (or mature dancers performing a very juvenile routine). Consider your dancers’ ages and maturity levels when choreographing and selecting costumes. The judges and your dancers’ parents will thank you.

    Diversify choreography. Every choreographer has a unique style. George Balanchine, Martha Graham and Bob Fosse, for example, have particular styles that helped make them renowned choreographers.

    However, while you may have a certain style or set of go-to moves, be sure that there is diversity in choreography across routines, and especially, across genres. It shouldn’t be immediately obvious that two dances are from the same studio.

    For Dancers

    Technique. Technique. Technique! Platinum performances are won in the studio. No matter how animated you are on stage, or how in sync your team is, if the technique is not there, the dance will not stand out as one of the best. Listen to your instructors’ feedback and implement it. Stretch regularly to increase flexibility and turn out. The more you practice the right way to execute your choreography, the more naturally it will come to you on stage.

    Maintain your “performance face.” How frequently has your instructor yelled “smile!” to you during practice? I’m willing to bet more than once! Dance is a difficult art because it requires that you make some incredibly difficult and complex movements look effortless. Part of this is ensuring you don’t drop character on stage, even before a challenging move or after a mistake. Whatever emotion you are supposed to be displaying—happiness, sadness, fear—make sure you are in character from start to finish.

    Handle judges’ critique with poise. Competitions are opportunities to learn and grow as a performer and artist. As such, embrace the judges’ feedback and try not to take it personally. Their critique is meant to help you improve, not to hurt your feelings!

    Just keep dancing. Mistakes happen. Every dancer has fallen victim to blanking out on stage. When this happens, don’t panic! Remember that the judges do not know what choreography you have been practicing. In fact, I worked with a young dancer several years ago who, after completely blanking on stage, carried on with choreography that she made up on the spot. When it was time for the award ceremony, guess who was recognized for best choreography? She was! (And her choreographer let her keep the award, of course).

    As cheesy as it may sound, having fun is the most important part of the competition experience—and this goes for performers, choreographers, studio owners and parents. The opportunity to gather with hundreds of people who share a passion for dance is exciting and invigorating.

    From all of us at Curtain Call, enjoy competition season!

  • Dance Competitions 101: The First-Timer’s Guide to a Successful Competition Season

    CC Blog PostBy: Terri Gustafson, Relationship Manager

    Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to competition season. To those of you who are preparing for your first dance competition as a studio owner or teacher: congratulations and break a leg! While this time of year can be stressful and trying for first-timers, if you are prepared and organized, it can also be highly rewarding and fun.

    As someone who has been lucky enough to judge numerous competitions throughout my more than 30 years of teaching dance, I can attest to the fact that a studio owner’s competition responsibilities can be difficult to juggle. To help manage the chaos, here are a few tried and true practices that I’ve discovered over the years that will keep you, your dancers and their parents calm, cool and collected during competition season:


      1. Communicate with Parents: Open the lines of communication with parents several months prior to upcoming competitions. With busy schedules to manage, parents will very much appreciate being made aware of competitions with enough notice to make educated decisions on which ones their child can participate in. To make parents’ scheduling decisions easier, try to avoid conflicts with other studio events, charity efforts, holidays and community events. Additionally, be sure to emphasize and regularly reiterate deadlines for signing up and providing registration fees.Beyond scheduling, be sure to communicate about travel logistics, as well. Providing as many details as you can, including hotel options and travel costs, is courteous and helps streamline the decision-making and scheduling processes.I always encourage studio owners to speak with parents in-person about competitions so that you can provide an in-depth overview of logistics and be available to answer questions or address concerns. Detailed handouts can be very helpful, especially when coupled with an in-person Q&A session.
      2. Inspire Confidence in Your Students: Have conversations with your dancers before each competition about how to remain calm and mature during tricky situations, such as forgetting their routine, or responding to a music malfunction. Helping them feel prepared will translate to helping them feel more confident. Remind your students that you are there for them to review choreography, help them warm-up and to cheer them on. Overall, be a positive role model. Shared lessons you’ve learned from first hand experiences competing or performing. Also, set an example by keeping professional throughout the competition – when your team wins, be humble and gracious; when you don’t, be a good sportsman.
      3. Tackle Competition Logistics Early: Checking registration deadlines and costs, as well as participation requirements, such as age groups and featured dance genres, are the first items to consider when determining if an event is a good fit for your team. When possible, try to look into these details sooner than later to save yourself a headache down the road. You don’t want to commit to a competition to later realize key members of your team are not available!Once you are confirmed to attend a competition, arrive early on the first day and take a tour of the facility noting where bathrooms, locker rooms, stages and water fountains are located and determine a meeting place for your team. After you’ve taken care of these matters, you may find yourself with some down time, in which you can take a walk to check out participating vendors.
      4. Pack Your Survival Kit: Remember to take care of yourself during long competitions by staying hydrated, well-nourished and rested. Help take care of yourself and your team by packing a survival kit.Pack a large bag with water bottles, snacks, back up music, make-up, oil wipes, hairspray, safety pins for clothing malfunctions and bobby pins for hair malfunctions and ice packs. It’s also wise to keep administration materials close to your side, such as an organized grid outlining your personal schedule, registration confirmations, emergency contact lists, floor plans, and lists of students participating in each routine. Additionally, don’t plan to have access to an outlet all day, so be sure to pack a portable battery pack.

    Competition season is an exciting time to enjoy, and a great way for your team and their parents to bond, so prepare as best you can. Remember your smile and compassion and be encouraging to all those participating.

    What are you most looking forward to this competition season? Tell us in the comments section below.

2 Item(s)