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The word “competition” often evokes more negative feelings than positive ones. Many dancers face the dilemma of whether to go competitive or not. Everyone has news, gossips and backstage stories that help little and only make aspiring dancers nervous.
Most dance parents are also opposed to the idea of their kids entering the competitive arena because of the insecurities, stress, and pressure that surrounds the extreme cases.
But there are several benefits too!
As long as dancers, their parents, instructors, and teammates can bring a healthy attitude to the stage; it can help one grow and be their absolute best like any other competitive sport would.
Ever wondered- what “competition dancers” are all about?
Maybe you already ARE one and are going through self-doubts like:
“Is it worth it?"
"Will it help my future?"
The questions are not only valid but something to be taken very seriously, especially by a young dancer as they choose their path.
As a dance parent, you may have noticed how competition dancers have received a reputation while the dance world exploded onto reality TV. Without getting into the drama it entails, as a dance teacher, I have seen many positive outcomes that have come out of competitive dancing.
Let me tell you; I didn't know anything about competitions while learning to dance. I just felt lucky to be training in places that provided an unusual amount of performance opportunities. From dancing at community events, performing on tours, and then finally coming to competitive dance, my dance career took a full circle when I moved on to mentoring dancers for competitions.
While you wish to write off dance competitions as something that may not be your thing read on before you make up your mind. Being a part of the performing and competitive dance circuit for several years and then taking up teaching dance to scores of aspirants, here is what I have learned about competitive dancing:
Imagine going on a diet and losing or not losing weight that no one notices. Feels deflating, right? Dancing may have been a dream or a passion for as long as you could remember, but without clear goals, the zeal, desire, and direction to where you should take your dance start getting lost. Dance often begins as something you want to do for yourself, and eventually, a dancer feeds on the support and admiration that he/she receives from the audiences. Competitions are an excellent way to stay motivated, prepare and evaluate your dance skills. And if you win, that’s the icing on the cake!
Every dancer, whether accomplished or beginner, can learn a thing or two from other dancers. Dancers have busy and exhausting routines, and there is hardly any time to catch up on everything new that is happening in the dance world. Competitive dancing provides an opportunity to learn from other dancers. Contrary to popular beliefs, there is a lot of camaraderie amongst participants, and everyone has their strength and weakness that you can learn from.
Competitions are a great way of staying updated on the latest trends in dancewear, popular music, dance styles and a lot more, which dancers having no exposure might miss out on. Where else would you have the opportunity to observe and learn from so many amazing dancers? A dance competition is the perfect setting to challenge you to improve!
Competition is an excellent learning opportunity. If you are observant, open to suggestions and know how to take criticism in your stride, you will be able to get honest feedback from objective outsiders. Constructive criticism is a great way to improve your skills. Many times, a dancer realizes that maybe they are not cut out for dancing at all. They were only doing it because “my mother wanted me to be a ballet dancer" Competitions help clear the doubts, self- doubts, and act as a mirror for dancers who can either get inspired or advised to move on to some other field in pursuit of excellence.
Every field is competitive these days. Dancing teaches dancers never to give up, lead a disciplined life and never stop learning. Competitive dancing prepares them for the real world. Competition builds character. To be able to accept a win or a loss with equanimity, motivate and encourage each other, work hard, plan and execute your strategies, time management, work ethics, learn to communicate better, teamwork, and most importantly, never give up are just some of the attributes competition dancing can teach a dancer. In the right dosage, competitive dancing can bring in and leave a lot of positivity in a dancer’s life.
I am a witness to the dramatic shift in attitude and mindset that competition brings in dancers. Having survived the nerve-racking experience, endless hours of preparations, stress, pre-performance jitters, and finally- performing in front of an audience out to judge you, whether you win or not takes a backseat. Every performer is a winner in their way when it comes to competitive dancing. Competing raises the bar for a dancer. It is a coming off age of sorts for a dancer, and they come out wiser, balanced, and have a more realistic and serious attitude towards their passion.
The stage experience, the bloopers, hacks, and what went right or wrong are experiences of a lifetime for most dancers. Comments from judges, and nowadays, exposure on social media are a source of inspiration and motivation for a lifetime. Most dancers who have done a bit of competitive dancing have their own stories to share, new friendships bloom, and sometimes they extend beyond dancing in a dancer's life. Competitive dancing is an excellent way of showing the world what you are made of, and like any competitive sport, it most often leaves with fond memories and learning to cherish in the future.
For dancers who wish to go pros, competitive dancing is an excellent platform to network with other dancers, instructors, agents, managers, dance companies and the like. Many solo dancers have found partners for couple performances in future, relationships and alliances are quite common. Dancers never get the opportunity to meet and interact with so many like-minded people under one roof if they don’t opt for competitive dance.
Many intensives audition invitations, conventions, Broadway shows, and even college dance programs have begun to learn that competition dancers cannot be ignored!
While you are preparing for your college admission, you can include a clip of your competitive dance performance in your portfolio; dancers who have participated in competitions are known to have a desire to succeed, and no fear of being assessed by pros. Competitive dancers are bound to get an extra tick mark on their admission application only because they had the courage to do so. Many organizations often team up with competitions and conventions to spot the talent and often offer scholarships to competition dancers. You may spend a lot of time and money while auditioning while all the exposure you need could be yours in just a few competition weekends.
Thanks to shows like "Dance Moms," "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," competitive dancing has received its fair share of flak. It objectifies dance, gets political, de-motivates dancers, and encourages unfair practices like “winning is everything"is often heard.
These criticisms aside, competitive dancing is as important and valuable for a dancer as Olympics are for an aspiring athlete. Dance is a universal language, and if the dancers are raised well, given the right environment of ethics and values at home and dance studios, there is no reason to be wary of competitive dancing.
Competitive dancing could become a rewarding family experience for dance parents when they notice the astonishing positive changes, growth, maturity, and confidence in their child. The excitement of competition and the sense of accomplishment on the face of your child at the end of the day is a sight to behold!
However, parents should remember that placements, results, winning or losing, are all to be taken with a pinch of salt. Your little dancer’s worth cannot be judged with just one performance. The idea is to encourage them to perform even better the next time.
Dancers becoming one-dimensional and not focusing on any other aspect of their lives should be discouraged strongly by the dance parents.
The idea is to love competing and the rush that comes with it, but also enjoy the classes at your studio because that’s when you’re growing the most!