Sooner or later, in your career as a crazy dance mum, the topic of dance competitions will come up. Your dancer may be asked to join a competition team or may even be asked to compete as a soloist. There are two important points to make right off the bat here.
- Every crazy thing that you imagine might happen at a dance comp, probably will.
- You will most likely get addicted, just so you know. You may start off with just one solo, on just one or two comps, but the urge to become that dream duffel toting dance mum, traversing the country, heck, maybe even the world will bite!
So, before you start spending your weekends hanging out in school gyms, what do you need to know?
I think the most important thing to know, right from the start is that dance competitions are not the Olympics, not even close. I repeat dance competitions are not the Olympics. There are times when it may seem like it, the level of commitment required may even suggest it, but they really aren’t. I was talking to a young dance student many years ago, who also happened to be a talented athlete. Dancers are like that, multi-talented. Anyway, this young girl was expressing her confusion over what is really one of the fundamental truths of dancing competitions. She said, “When I run a race, I know where I’ve come, I either run over the finishing line first or I don’t, but with dancing, it’s so hard to understand. Sometimes, I think I’ve done really well and I get nothing, and other times, I know I didn’t dance my best but I win.”. I really couldn’t have summed up the situation any better than this clever, young 10-year-old!
Why are dancing competitions like this? I’m not going to get into the, is dancing a sport argument, but dance comps do differ from other sports in a number of ways. For a start, just about anyone can run a dance comp. There is no overriding body that determines how competitions are scored, what elements should be in routines or how much these are worth. Sure, different dance comps have their own method of scoring but it varies from comp to comp. What this means is that, how your dancer fares on the day relies on many factors, most beyond their control.
- How many people are entered in their section.
- Who else is in their section
- The judge’s personal preference. This one is key. Some adjudicators look for one thing, some for another and that’s ok. Some are very experienced in one genre but not so much on another.
- Dancer-specific factors, strength of technique, performance etc., physical and mental development. This last one is a really big deal and I’ll talk more about it, in its own separate blog post.
What this all means is that you might turn up to one comp and sweep the pool. The next weekend, you might totally out dance yourself and come away with nothing. Never, ever underestimate how tough dancing kids are. They can stand up on that stage and get nothing and still smile and congratulate the other competitors. It’s enormously impressive.
Many years ago, there were only a limited number of traditional style Eisteddfods that ran in the school holidays. Sections were often enormous. You were basically competing with everyone your age because that was the only chance you had to compete. Nowadays, it is a completely different playing field. You could, literally do a comp every weekend if you wanted to. Entries for comps, especially weekend ones are capped. When they sell out, that’s it. The field is significantly diluted. This means that you might turn up to a comp and compete all day against the same four or five girls. If your dancer is stronger than the other five you might walk away with a swag of trophies, but if he/she isn’t then your day will turn out quite differently. This is of course true with larger sections but that there are so many of these weekend comps and that you can do so many of them, really drives the point home. Heck, you can even compete at the end of the season in a National. Except, it’s not really a national in the true sense of the word. It doesn’t mean that you are competing against the best kids from around the country, it means you are competing against kids from around the country that entered THAT particular competition.
It is of ultimate importance not to give too much weight to the results of any one comp. Sure, if you end up at the Prix de Lausanne you can start to take things a hit more seriously, but for now, it is important to keep things in context. To further illustrate this, imagine two dancers who are pretty much on the same level. Dancer A attends many comps a year, mainly on weekends. The sections she competes in are usually pretty small and she ends the year with an armful of trophies. Dancer B attends three larger competitions and competes against girls who are further along in their journey. She does her best, watches the other girls, learns a lot but doesn’t win any trophies. Does that make Dancer A better than Dancer B? She’s got more trophies, she must be right? Not so much! In fact, it may even be that Dancer B, has come out the better dancer. She had seen what she needs to compete, she knows what she has to aim for. She can now go back to her studio and work ten times harder. Dancer A thinks she’s a superstar, why put in any additional effort?
So what, does all this ultimately mean. Dance comps are great fun, a valuable learning experience, and have the potential to push your dancer to improve. Your dancer needs to be committed and give their best. Apart from anything else, they are expensive and much family time gets funneled into them. It is only fair that your dancer gives their best. However, and this is a really important point, for all the reasons mentioned above, the actual placings, in the general scheme of life, just aren’t that important. Sure, in the moment, they seem important, celebrate and be happy but don’t take them too seriously. See them for what they are, an outcome that occurred on one particular day, with a particular set of circumstances. It’s just part of the journey, usually not a very big part. Focus on their performance, what they did well, what they could improve, rather than their results. The very best thing you can do for your dancer is to enter them in a range of competitions, see how they go, and then keep seeking out opportunities to challenge and to enjoy. And the next day, it is straight back to the studio to keep working.