Dance Upon A Dream

by Danielle Hernandez on March 23, 2018

Expert Tips And Guidelines For Competitive Dancewear And Preparation For Dance Competitions And Conventions

A Dance competition

Participating in a dance competition is a dream for many. It is a fantastic opportunity for dancers of all skill levels and age groups; not just for developing technical dance skills and building confidence but also for understanding the broader dance world and making friends. Experience the thrill and excitement of performing at various dance competitions or conventions in your region or abroad. Whether you are competing as a solo or part of a dance team, whether you are competing for the first time or have been there several dozen times, here is all you need to know by way of preparation for a dance convention or competition, what you should wear for different dance forms, and how to cultivate a winning attitude.

Competitive dance

Competitive Dance is a popular, widespread sport in which competitors perform in any of several permitted dance styles—such as acro, ballet, contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, modern, musical theatre, and tap—before a collective group of judges. Dance competition companies conduct regional competitions at various places along their annual, nationwide tours. Dancers competing in local competitions range in age from approximately four to eighteen years. Dance schools (often referred to as dance studios) arrange for their students to compete as groups. For solos, duets or trios, advanced dancers may be chosen. Dance competition season typically begins in January and end by July or August.

Preparing For A Dance Competition With Expert Tips

Regardless of whether you've been at the dance studio a few weeks or several months, going into your first dance competition can be an anxious affair. You want to do your best. However, it is best to know beforehand that there are bound to be some aspects that may not go as intended.  A glitch in your routine, a costume malfunction or a forgotten accessory, these and a hundred other things could go wrong, and it is just as crucial to be mentally strong as physically for a competition dancer. Consider these aspects and tips to combat them while attending a dance completion or convention.

You will make a mistake - If something goes wrong in your routine, just keep going and smile brighter. Most mistakes become evident only after someone sees the look on the dancer's face that says explicitly that they just made a mistake. Rest assured that even the best of best professional dancers do make mistakes, but pick themselves up.

Get used to the actual competition experience - In the weeks leading up to the competition, do multiple rounds of your dances with only a 30-second break in between each. Get used to the experience of how you may feel on the day of the competition, in preparation for every competition.  This routine builds the stamina you need to last through the heats and actual performances.

Practice recovery - Not stopping if there is a mistake is crucial to the overall score. You need to practice recovery from mistakes as much as anything else. Smile brightly (from point #1), and it will help you focus. Rely on your muscle memory to get your body to the next point without drama.

Get familiar with your costume - If you are wearing heels to dance at competitions, then you will need to practice in those very heels. Your actual competition shoes should feel as or more comfortable to you than your practice shoes. Many practice shoes come with a low, thick heel, wean them out as soon as possible or do not use them at all in your practice sessions.

Keep time to spare – the schedule is unpredictable, so get into your full costume with makeup at least one hour before your performance time. Changing rooms will be crowded and frenzied, so budget for that extra time to score the best mirrors and perfect your look and the look of each dancer in the team. Once everyone is warmed up and ready to go, give your team a pep talk that will inspire them to give their all!

Professional mindset - The most successful pro-am students take on the mindset of the professional when at comps. By that I mean, they do not expect their partner to make them look good, or even expect their partner to look better than them.  They are there to do their individual best while making the partnership work to their advantage.

Consider yourself a teacher - Every time you dance, change your mindset to think you are demonstrating instead of performing. Believe that you are showing others how to dance instead of being judged on your style of dancing. This will have an impact on your mindset where you will want every move you make to be graceful, fluid and correctly done so that others can learn from you.

Don't Make Last-Minute Routine Changes - On competition day and the week before, try to relax.  You have gone over your moves a hundred, possibly more time you can count. Your muscle memory will kick in, so trust that your practice sessions have been the best and let it happen. If you start making even minute changes to the routine at that late point, it will very likely throw you off.

Look and feel natural - Judges look at whether the dancer understands and is comfortable with the fundamentals of their level. Judges don't want to see you looking stiff or awkward in the routine, which can make or break your complete score. If your tension shows, it will be hard for the judges to focus on your dancing skills, so do try to relax!

Dance Costumes For Competitions

Dance students, dance teachers, create a memorable performance using vibrant, age-appropriate and on-trend costumes for your next competition. Plan the outfit well in advance, and ensure it is in excellent condition before the competition. If the competition costume or shoes need to be repaired or cleaned, have it done at least a week in advance.

For any clarifications, your professional dance instructor or studio director would be the best person to answer questions about what to wear, appropriate to your age and category. If your costume is yet to be bought or customized, ensure you have it two weeks before the competition so you can practice in them.

Competition Dancewear guidance for Ladies:

Clothes: Jazz, tap, contemporary and lyrical dance costumes are designed to steal the show at dance competitions. Dance costumes with details including rhinestones, appliqués, and embellishments are all the rage; It is best to avoid black and choose bright colors like fuschia, hot green, blue, purple since you will be more visible to the judges 

For Latin/rhythm, a short, flippy dress/skirt, or a long, slender dress with a high side slit are popular choices. The slit has to be high enough to allow free leg movement. The arms should be bare or at most quarter-length so that your wrists and hands will show as you do your arm movements/extensions. Needless to say, red and black are the colors for Latin!

A tutu for a ballet competition is essential and may cost a teenaged, pre-professional dancer $1000. The average professional tutu costs around $2,000. More jewels and feathers and glitter can bring the price up even higher. A camisole tutu dress for children can be a great alternative to a standalone tutu.

If your competition dress has thin straps, you can ensure they don't fall down your arm by taping or tying them together with rubber bands. It is wise to take several dresses, so there is always a back up if the need arises. Carry extra safety pins, needle and thread, and scissors for dance costume emergencies. Halter tops, belts, etc. need to be safety pinned to prevent any embarrassing costume mishaps.

Hose/underwear- Flesh-colored stockings or dance tights are required. The tights should be sandal foot and ``sheer to waist'', so it does not look bad if the stocking panty shoes when you swirl. Fish-net tights are acceptable for Latin dances, and a dancer must wear dance trunks or briefs.

Shoes: Wear Dance shoes at competitions and bring several different pairs and see what fits best at the dance. Heeled sandals are required for Latin while ballet slippers are required for ballet competitions. Bloch has produced a beautiful pointe shoe, called the Bloch European Balance Pointe Shoe which are sure to keep the competitor comfortable during the performance.

Hair/makeup: The saying for hair is: ``Not one loose hair!'' and so hair nets, hair sprays, hair gels, and bun covers are frequently spotted at a dance competition as all the hair needs to be slicked back. In ballet, hair must be put up in a bun at the top of the head (to enhance your line).  Carry dozens of bobby pins, and Aqua Net spray to keep your hair in control as loose hair flailing about and hitting the man's face is a complete no-no.

Have a spotlight ready look with lots of makeup! Highlight your lips and eyes dramatically, even at the risk of looking over the top, but in a classy way. The idea is to look fabulous to the judges and the audience who are at least some yards away, and overdoing the makeup compensates for the distance. Bright nails and fake eyelashes also catch the lights and add to the drama.

Competition Dancewear guidance for Gentlemen:

Clothes: When costumes are not allowed, wear dark dress pants, an elegant white shirt, and a regular tie or a bow tie (ballroom). You could try a vest on top to see how it looks but avoid a jacket as it restricts free movement.  For Latin, be adventurous with the style of pants and think colors like black and red; you can go for frills, but be careful: it could look good, or it could seem silly. If your routine has a partner, color coordinate the look by matching your outfit with your partner's dress and you will be sure to catch the eyes of the judges from the 20 other couples out there.

Shoes: Leather shoes, with leather, suede, or synthetic soles. Avoid shoes with rubber or spongy soles. The shoes should give you enough arch support. Specialty dance shoes are your best choice.

Accessorizing it right

Nothing makes an outfit like the right accessories. For dance competition, hair accessories allow you for smooth transitions between numbers and offer versatility as they can be used on high buns, low buns at the nape, ponytails or some like headbands can be used even to push back hair. Hairpieces, hats and other hair decorations need to be pinned down securely to prevent them from flying off mid-pirouette

Apart from the traditional barrettes and pins rhinestone headbands add sparkle and shine all around the dancer's head as they move, twirl, and jump across the stage. Tiaras are perfect for younger dancers in ballet or lyrical solos, and sparkle and sophistication to your dance costume.

Some hair accessories have a built-in comb so that they can slide into a bun or up-do and hence serve a dual purpose; others double as costume embellishments which can be sewn onto fabric as an appliqué, to give elegance and sparkle to your costume.

Two weeks preceding the competition, do at least one dress rehearsal where you try your costume, makeup, hair, and performance all at once. Take notes on what could work better and, if needed, feel free to do more dress rehearsals until it feels right.

Tips From Competitive Dancers

Some people participate in their first competition after only a few weeks of dancing while others enter after several years. Most are somewhere in between. Every competition you attend and participate in brings with it a wealth of experience and learning. Here are some tips from competitive dancers who have been there and done that.

Warm Up

The key is to focus on yourself and your body. Find a spot that gives you space to stretch and immerse yourself in a calming routine that gets your muscles warmed up and avoid injury.

Don't Fear the Judges

Avoiding eye contact with judges is avoidable and if you are nervous about coming face to face with the jury, try to smile to seem confident.

Present yourself professionally.

Untidy hair and ripped tights are a complete no-no. Always have a back-up plan.   Inappropriate- for-age costumes have received a lot of flak of late. Always be mindful of the studio image and ensure you guard your reputation.

Be gracious, sincere and positive.

Whether you win or lose, you are in for long haul, and the dance world is a small place. Be positive in your outlook and gracious towards other dance studious.

Choreography Is King

In every successful dance competition, excellence in the choreography can make the winner; your technique may be flawless and your jumps breathtaking, but to impress the judges your routine should have balance and flow.


Every dancer's motto should be practice does make perfect. Practice till you are nailing every trick onstage.

Use Your Face

Winning dancers love to dance, and they leave no part of themselves out in showing their passion for the art. Use your head and face, as much as your body's movements to emote and tell the story.

Keep Your Cool

Competition days are frenetic; with rushed schedules, missed meals and wins and losses, it can be an emotional and physical hurricane of a day. Keep the perspective that in the long run, it is not the end of the world if you don't come first place.

Have a great Attitude

Remember, every minute you are on stage is a minute to create a good impression. So walk straight, smile and acknowledge both the audience and the judges, and look up as you take your stance. Do the same as you exit, even though you may have messed up.

As I sign off, looking good will make you feel good and with that you will set the stage on fire with your performance! With all of this preparation and tips from the best of the best, do try to remember dance competitions should be above all, FUN. Try not to let nerves or other competitors negatively impact you; focus on just doing your best. Believe in yourself, and no matter what the dance competition results, you will have in yourself a winner!


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