Competitions are an exciting experience, but competition preparedness is key. Because without it, they can be an incredibly stressful time. As a studio owner, staff member, or parent-volunteer, you have the responsibility to relay detailed information, expectations, and general reminders of preparedness to our parents and students to ensure a pleasant, positive, and organized experience for everyone.
Prior to competition season even starting, it is important to prepare and distribute a competition overview packet. This packet should detail all the expectations for the regional events of the season. This includes costume checklists, call times, and responsibilities. It provides parents and dancers a detailed overview of what will happen at the event, what they should expect, and appropriate etiquette. When you receive the schedule for an event, it is a good idea to re-type it so that parents explicitly understand call times, locations/directions, and performance times. The information is beyond thorough and strives to provide more information than necessary.
Key steps to help guarantee competition preparedness:
In January, offer a hair and make-up seminar where parents style hair and apply make-up. This way, everyone has a consistent look (and the appropriate products) for a successful competition.
At the event, submit your music in an organized, timely manner. Stomp each of your CDs with your logo and organize all of the CDs (in entry order) in a CD book. Prior to the weekend, test each of your CDs for any scratches or playing issues. The back of the CD book contains back-up CDs for the routines, and as a backup, it may be wise to also carry all of your competition music on an iPad or another MP3-enabled device. The CD book lasts throughout the season.
In post-competition rehearsals, debrief the event by discussing appropriate competition etiquette and utilizing the competition feedback. (some studios have made a point to attend competitions where the feedback is constructive)
Take responsibility for transporting any large or group required props.
Competition preparedness at the competition:
Be on-site for your students’ call times and performances. If the studio has representatives at an event, it is most important that there be some form of studio leadership/liaison at the event, too.
If you have a question about an event, ask, usually in advance. You never want there to be an “unknown” regarding a weekend. Of course, if there is information you feel as though you are missing, reach out and ask someone. Assuming that the company is professional, they will be happy to help.
If a concern, incident, or issue arises on site, take the time to handle it calmly and professionally. Everyone is working together to make this a wonderful experience for our students. There is no need for stress, tempers, or panic. The hours are long and the environment can be stressful. But if you put yourself in the proper mindset, the experience will be more rewarding and productive for everyone. Be kind to everyone!
Competition Preparedness Conclusion:
Ultimately, being organized, calm, and in control, as a representative of your studio (whether you are a studio owner or instructor), will help ensure that your students and parents will follow your lead. Likewise, if you are unorganized, frustrated, or uncertain, that mentality will convey to your parents and students.
The competitive experience is an opportunity for each of your students to grow and improve, as dancers, performers, and people. Therefore, it is important to make the event positive, encouraging, and constructive.
Finally, take the time and ask yourself if you are you doing everything in your power to guarantee that your parents and dancers are fully prepared for competitive events? We are always evaluating and evolving our systems and methods to make sure that everything is efficient, informative, and functional for a successful weekend.
Check out some of these articles focusing on preparing for dance competitions:
Recently, we did a small dance survey and asked for your thoughts about trends on the competitive circuit. Instead of small concerns or observations, the responses were overall negative and centered around:
Inappropriate Costuming & Movement
Too Many Props
An Abundance of Guest Choreographers
Lack of Technique
Level Confusion/ Inconsistency
As I thought about the feedback from the dance survey and shared it with my friends, it seems that some of these complaints could be improved or solved with greater accountability- on behalf of the studios and the competitions.
(1) Owners, Directors, and Teachers have to set the tone for appropriateness and take accountability for what they choose to put onstage. Is anyone going to argue with wanting to maintain a child’s class and innocence?
These same individuals must also strive to provide their dancers with a solid, technical foundation and artistic, creative, and original choreography. When it comes to levels, they also must be honest in registering their dancers for varying divisions.
(2) Competitions must stand by their rules and beliefs. If a routine can only have so many tricks in a particular category, it should be upheld. If the competition promotes appropriateness as a value, it should be upheld (even though it can be understandably subjective).
Regardless, in dealing with an unregulated industry (for the studios and competitions), it is important that we all do our part to make it a positive, beneficial experience for all dancers. Ultimately, we all want it be an educational tool that improves our dancing, our industry, and its artistry.
Are you looking for more articles to make this year’s competition season as productive as possible?
We go to great lengths to be as prepared and organized as possible at every single event, but there are a few items we ALWAYS forget for conventions. As you’re packing up, make sure you include these last minute convention supplies!
Every time we arrive at a convention and are distributing wristbands, we always forget to have scissors on hand to cut the extra band. I have scissors in the spare sewing kit, but they will not work on most wristband materials.
Some conventions or competitions give out scissors as part of registration. Ask and see if the one you’re attending does! If not, make sure to grab that pair of scissors on the way out the door.
There is another item that is great to have on hand for travel and community/competitive performances: a SHARPIE!
This comes in handy for labeling music, forms, costumes, etc. Add it to your must-bring list!
(P.S. Make that TWO Sharpies. Someone will absolutely ask you to borrow one, and you will absolutely never get it back.)
On long weekends of competition, performance, and convention classes, it is really easy to drain the power on your device(s).
Recently, we purchased a portable battery. This device is amazing for charging on the go!
It eliminates the necessity of dragging cords, finding outlets, etc.
There are many different brands, styles, and price points available- but definitely look into it! It will make your life much more convenient!
You can also take a look at our more complete checklists and packing tips as you head to convention or competition:
After we return from each competition, we take the scores and feedback, transcribe the information into a document, and distribute it to our studio families. Many times, the results of the dance competition scoring reiterate information we’ve been communicating, and it serves as reinforcement for areas of improvement.
From the perspective of a teacher/competition judge, I’ve realized that critiques can be critical to dancers’ development. So, it’s important for studios to leave competitions with constructive feedback.
Sharing Dance Competition Scoring and Critiques
I have spoken to many Studio Directors, Owners, and Instructors that choose not to use their competition critiques in any way, shape, or form. If you’re selecting events with quality critiques (something that should be a critically important factor in competition selection), you should pass the information to your students and/or their parents.
Sharing this information increases the value of the competitive experience for your studio families. If you’re using competition as an educational experience, this reiterates your mission and stance. Your studio families will appreciate it!
How Judges Need to Offer Critiques
While using competition critiques back home is important, it is even more important that the critiques be thoughtful, informative, positive, encouraging, and constructive.
The standards for critiques has to be higher. How many times have we heard of feedback that consists of a judge singing the song lyrics? Or, what about the routine that doesn’t perform well that contains audio with no feedback and only a “good job” at the end? Unfortunately, this happens too often.
The process is multi-tiered:
(1) Competitions have to demand excellence of their judges.
(2) Studios have to expect a high standard when attending events.
(3) Studios have to use the materials provided by a competition.
This morning, I am traveling back from a judging weekend. As I was flying out on Friday morning, I committed myself to offering critiques that were meaningful and thoughtful. Those kinds of critiques can potentially make the difference in the life of a dancer.
The gestures are small, but maybe offering a student a tip on prepping for a turn sequence or expanding their movement on the stage could motivate a child to the next level.
As teachers and judges (and for many of us that serve as both), let’s continue working on increasing the value of the dance competition industry. We all know the experience is about more than a placement or a trophy; it is about personal success, improvement, and accomplishment.
Bullying seems so senseless and unnecessary. And yet, it still occurs in seemingly all environments. It happens at school, extracurricular activities, via social media, and, yes, even from members of the dance team at competitions. Social media outlets has removed accountability and personal connectivity from today’s youth, allowing them an impersonal way of criticizing and degrading others in a very passive manner.
I have heard stories of bullying occurring at dance competitions for the past few years. But, it wasn’t until recently that I actually observed negativity at an event.
Via social media, an older student from one studio’s dance team was blatantly criticizing much younger students from another studio. Using that message, the older student had other dancers joining in the conversation, and it felt so unnecessary and inappropriate.
What do you think made this student feel as though this was an okay choice?
Respect and Appreciation at Competition
As instructors, we have to instill values of respect in our students. These values should transcend the studio classroom and reach other studios, peers, and life endeavors. Our values become our lifestyle, and I would like to think that studios would never condone this kind of behavior.
Most competitions and conventions encourage appropriate behavior. I appreciate and applaud the steps they’ve taken to guarantee students are learning and growing in a nurturing, supportive environment. Studio owners, parents, instructors, students, and peers have to support and encourage that mission, too.
Ultimately, we are all in this together. And, personally, I know that I want every dance experience to be positive, meaningful, and productive for each and every one of our students.
Dance Spirit featured an article in 2011 entitled Beat Bullying, which discusses the issue from an in-studio perspective. It’s just as relevant to think about bullying in regards to outside events and encountering other studios.
At the end of the day, we have to lead by example. That way, we make sure our students are aware of their choices, actions, and consequences. We are all working hard, striving to do our best, and encouraging our students to grow. Each individual is on his/her own dance journey, and we have to be respectful and supportive of each dancer’s work and achievement.
As J.K. Rowling said: “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Let’s make the choice to be kind. After all, we’re all in this together.
The dance convention environment is an important component in building strong, confident, adaptable, and resilient dancers. The experience is unique, challenging, and, when approached (and presented) correctly, highly effective and beneficial as a supplemental training opportunity.
Here are 10 Tips for making each dance convention a successful experience for your dancers!
1. Dress to Flatter
Yes, it is important to stand out, but convention attire has become so over the top trendy, that the art of classic, flattering apparel is almost a rarity.
What looks best on you? Are you prepared with attire that matches every style of dance offered?
For hip-hop, do you look like a hip-hop dancer? For ballet, do you look like a ballet dancer? Know your styles and dress appropriately (and professionally).
2. Physically Perform, Mentally Engage
Dance convention classes require physical exertion for performance, but they also require an equal amount of mental engagement and focus.
3. Be Prepared
Arrive early, be well rested, hydrated, and have a plan in place for healthy meals and snacks throughout the workshop. Take care of your body!
4. Remove Yourself from Distraction
Remove yourself from your in-class friends and parents (if they are observing). Find your own spot in the room where you can focus and absorb the information. Leave your cell phones and iPods outside.
When you are in the dance room, you have to be in the zone.
When you are in class, be focused, engaged, and connected with the material being taught. If you disengage at any point, you will likely fall behind in the choreography/instruction.
If you fall behind, do not give up. Work hard to catch up, and keep trying! If you have a thoughtful, relevant question, do not be afraid to ask it.
6. Be Respectful & Kind
Treat ALL dancers, instructors, and attendees with the utmost amount of respect.
Think about how your words, actions, and gestures may be interpreted. Do not leave or sit down in the middle of a class. Stay throughout the entirety of a workshop.
7. Push Yourself Beyond Familiarity
Use the convention environment as an opportunity to explore and attempt new styles. Take EVERY class. Do not sit out.
You will strengthen yourself as a dancer and may realize a new interest or love for a particular style.
8. Thank Your Instructors
Take the time to thank your master teachers. It is a great showing of respect and a resourceful networking tool.
Also, take the time to thank your in-studio teachers and parents for providing you with this wonderful opportunity.
9. Do It for the Right Reasons
Attend workshops for the right reasons– i.e. receiving a scholarship should not be your motivation to attend. Go in with the mentality that you there to work hard, learn, and improve yourself as a dancer.
10. Apply the Lessons & Skills Beyond the Day
Retain the information, tips, and techniques shared at the workshop. Apply it to your everyday dancing and make the experience last far beyond the weekend.
The hair and make-up process for dancers, especially competitive dancers, can be daunting. To help parents and dancers understand the process of creating a particular hair and make-up “look”, host a hair and makeup seminar where parents and children can go through the process.
That way, they can go through the motions step-by-step, in a practice environment.
We host our seminar in mid-to-late January. Before the seminar, we email out a list that includes all of the supplies required for hair, make-up, tights, and shoes.
At the seminar, we go through the process of:
Styling Hair (detailed to the location of the part)
Applying Make-Up Properly (and using the proper colors, and in what order)
Applying False Eyelashes
Checking for Correct Colors of Tights/Shoes, to match with the rest of the costume
This makes EVERYONE feel more prepared for the dress rehearsal prior to the first competition, and, at competition, everyone feels more at ease and prepared.
For some help on explaining important makeup tips, check out our articles on dance competition makeup:
Many dance studios choose to have a performance or competition team of some variety. Having a competition team allows students with a greater interest in dance or the performing arts an opportunity to explore their passion in a variety of performance and educational settings.
If your studio is considering starting a competition team, TutuTix and The Dance Exec have put together a Dance Competition Team Guide to get you started!
If your studio already has a competition team, our guide also goes through topics like:
Managing the logistics of the team
It also includes some links to articles about nutrition, choreography, competition stress, and more.
You can download the free Dance Competition Team Guide below!
After you’ve downloaded the Guide, check out these other ideas to add your competition team this year!
The choreography is prepared, your technique is strong, and you have been rehearsing in preparation for your upcoming performance/competition. Go through this checklist and make sure you are applying the following ways to improve your dance routine(s).
Dance Routine Checklist
Perform! Have a backstory, and use your movement to convey a story.
Let your energy flow all the waythrough your fingers and toes. Don’t let your energy stop at your wrists or ankles.
Connect your transitions. Keep the “in-between” moments fluid and purposeful, as you transition from one important sequence to another.
Stretch, and elongate your lines to their fullest. Relax the shoulders, and don’t let yourself get tense!
Let your timing and musicality be second nature. Play your music on repeat until you know it by heart.
Keep the eyes up! Recognize when you have opportunities to connect with the audience, and use them to enhance your performance.
Strengthen your arms. Let them have as much purpose as your feet!
Confidently execute the movement. Know your weak sections and adjust/rehearse until they are no longer weak.
Perfect your turn preparation, execution, and landing.
Prior to competing or performing, dancers should understand the importance of fully warming up their bodies. We spend a lot of time discussing this with our dancers, and we provide a checklist of proper pre-performance dance warm up exercises (FYI, sitting in a straddle is not a proper warm-up!).
This way, if we are busy or unable to lead a warm-up onsite at a performance or competition, students (and, sometimes, knowledgeable parents) can independently guarantee that they are prepared for their stage performance.
Recommended dance warm up exercises
Cardiovascular Exercise (Ex: Jumping Jacks, Runs in Place)
Ballet Work (Ex: Plies, Tendus, Degages, Battements)
Standing Stretches (Ex: Lunges, Flat Back)
Sitting Stretches (Ex: Second Position/Straddle, Splits)
Back Stretches (Ex: Cobra Stretch, Back Lifts)
Wall Stretches (Ex: Resistance Flexibility)
Core Stabilization (Ex: Plank, Hold & Balance in Retire)
After the body is warm, dancers can review or execute certain skills within their routines.
It is important to reiterate that once the body is warm, it should stay warm until performance time. If a dancer is idle, it is important to repeat the entire warm-up.
Communicate this information with your dancers and their parents, and you will be impressed with the level of autonomy and focus it instills on performance days.
Also, don’t forget that it’s equally important for dancers to be eating healthy foods in the days and hours before a performance! Take a look at these articles and make sure dancers are eating well so they can get through a big performance:
There’s plenty to consider when asking the question “Are dance competitions worth it?” for your studio—-the endless hours of preparation, the cost to attend and the time it takes to travel. And yet the results for your students can far outweigh the headaches if competition opportunities are an important part of your studio goals.
If you already participate in competitions, then you know how much work the dancers put into learning and practicing their routines, and how much money their parents invest in their classes and rehearsals. You also know the stress that can come if you are unprepared for an event, if your expectations were off, or if the competition doesn’t feel like a good fit. Then there’s that amazing feeling of watching your students onstage and earning well-deserved recognition for their hard work. Indeed, competing can be a roller coaster!
So how do you really know if that roller coaster is a worthwhile ride for your studio?
Keep reading to learn the three questions you should consider when asking yourself, “Are dance competitions worth it?”
Looking for more great info on dance competitions? Check out the following articles:
Sparkly dance costumes look fantastic on stage! But it’s not so fantastic when you start noticing glitter anywhere and everywhere the costume has been.
If your dancer has a particularly sparkly dance costume for recital or competition, how can you keep that glitter where it belongs: on the costume? Check out this quick solution to keep glitter on the costume, plus some general costume care tips to help the costume last.
Hairspray is the key for a quick fix to your glitter problems!
First, take your project supplies outside, to a well-ventilated area.
Take the costume in question, and lay it out as flat as possible. Spray a generous amount of hairspray onto every glittery portion of the costume. If the costume has multiple layers or ruffles, make sure to get each one, but also make sure to let each portion dry completely before you touch it.
Ta-da! Your dance costume should now have a good hold on all that glitter.
That being said, hairspray only provides a temporary solution, and over time (and after washing) the glitter will start to fall off again. That could mean another round of spraying, depending on how frequently the costume is worn.
Another thing to note: hairspray (or any other kind of spray adhesive trick) will probably cause some stiffening of the fabric. For a quick fix, it’s probably worth it! But a better option is to try to care for the costume as much as possible to keep that glitter on as long as possible.
Caring for your Dance Costume
Some dance costumes are more fragile than others, and sparkly dance costumes are tricky to keep in great shape in the long-term. A few tips for taking great care of your costume:
Hand-wash when possible, in cold or lukewarm water. Hand-washing is gentler on clothes in general, and can help to keep glitter on instead of letting it tumble around a washer/dryer
Speaking of drying, make sure to air dry costumes with glitter on them! Less movement and friction means more glitter on the costume
Have a separate garment bag or area where the costume won’t be constantly brushing up against other articles of clothing. Less friction will help keep glitter on the costume, AND it’ll keep glitter from getting on other clothes!
Replacing Lost Glitter with Rhinestones
Is the glitter on your costume diminished to where you’re looking for more advanced solutions? Rhinestones and rhinestone patterns can make a costume pop, and can be a more permanent fix for a sparkly dance costume that has really started to lose its sparkle.
Last year, we decided to adopt a “Studio Mascot” for our studio and competitive team. Since we were attending Nationals in New Orleans, we selected a fun-looking alligator, named her Louise, and dressed her in dance-like attire (yes, we actually went shopping for a stuffed alligator).
We introduced Louise to the studio with the following poem:
I am proud to say “Hi there,
my name is Louise.”
I am a pretty little dancer
from Stage Door, if you please.
I hail from a southern city.
You may know it as New Orleans,
A city with lots of culture
Known for its Mardi Gras scenes.
You may be thinking
You’ve seen me before in a bog
But you’re thinking of my brother
from Princess and the Frog
I was so busy dancing
While my brother played his trumpet
They wanted me in the movie,
But I had to dump it!
I love ballet, tap and jazz,
theatre, acro, and hip-hop!
I love every style of dance,
And I doubt I’ll ever stop!
I am thrilled to be a part
Of the family at Stage Door
I will be your mascot, your friend
and so much more!
I will travel to competitions
with the Stage Door Elite
I will cheer real loud,
and stamp my feet!
At the end of the season
In July of twenty thirteen,
My journey will continue at Nationals
down in New Orleans.
I’ll show you my stomping grounds
and we’ll have fun
Riding in swamp buggies
in the hot summer sun.
After the summer,
I might choose to stay
at the studio in Raleigh
to laugh, dance, sing, and play.
So let’s start this adventure
And become great friends
We’ll work hard, practice,
and be a team to the end!
Louise had such popularity that smaller mascots began popping up at competitions:
Our studio families and students LOVE Louise! The students enjoy seeing her at events, and they are always eager to sit beside her, hold her, and take pictures with her.
Louise even had a starring role in our Spring Recital:
So, how can you create dance studio mascots for your team/studio?
Select something that ties into the theme/mission/culture/events of your studio
Tailor the mascot’s presence to reflect your brand
Promote the dance studio mascots to your studio and students
Be imaginative! Creativity is what brings a mascot to life.
The mascot brought a great level of camaraderie to our team and studio last year, and we are excited to begin Louise’s adventures this year. Select your mascot, and join in on the fun! It will add a little magic to your season. 🙂
In competitive dance, performing a solo is a significant investment- it requires a lot of time and financial support for choreography, costuming, and private lessons. As teachers and choreographers, it is our responsibility to provide the appropriate framework for the right routine for the right dancer. Ask yourself the following to see if you are making sensible choices for your soloists when preparing solo dance choreography:
1. The Dancers
Are your dancers that perform solos technically, stylistically, and psychologically prepared to perform as a soloist? Will it enhance and develop their experience as a dancer for the year?
2. Unique Routines
Do you uniquely create a routine that will showcase the strengths and mask the weaknesses of each performer? Do you develop ideas regarding music and concept of each solo performer? In order to succeed, the solo must be the perfect match between the choreographer and the dancer.
3. Past Performance
When creating a solo, do you look at the dancer’s past journey to determine how they will continue evolving as a performer and dancer? What will this routine accomplish that will set it apart from other routines?
4. Creative Burnout
Do you know your creative breaking point? How many solos can you choreograph while maintaining a fresh, exciting perspective? Make sure you do not allow yourself to burn out.
5. Time is of the Essence
When working on solos, maximize the dancers’ time. Be efficient, tackle the choreography, and value their investment.
If you follow these suggestions, the solo will likely be a win-win for everyone involved!
Need some more ideas on creating choreography? Take a look at these other articles in the TutuTix blog:
If your studio competes, you have likely encountered the dilemma of determining what competitions/conventions your studio will attend in any given season. With new competitions and conventions arriving on the scene fairly regularly, there are many choices. As a Studio Owner or Competition Team Director, it is important you choose a well-rounded, seasonal experience that caters to the strengths and weaknesses of your dancers. And, it is important that you plan your entire season in advance and choose your dance competition dates carefully.
So, how do you determine what will work best for your team? As you consider options, you want to consider the following factors:
What did you enjoy doing as a dancer/performer?
What works best for the skill/ability levels of your competitive team?
Which events/activities has your studio enjoyed?
Parent feedback, concerns, complaints
Professionalism of the event
Location of the event and cost
Each factor is important and should be considered in determining the best options for you and your team. After all, you and your dancers’ parents are investing a lot of time, money, and energy into these events. The experience should be a win-win for everyone.
Must-Have Considerations When Selecting a Prospective Event
Educational Opportunity: What will your students learn at the event? How will it further progress their dance education?
Logistical Consideration: Is the event held at a nice facility? Will selecting this event be a good reflection on your brand?
Professionalism: Is the event professional? How long as the event been establishment? Will you receive professional critiques, instruction, or some type of feedback?
Piece of the Puzzle: How does this event fit into the yearlong plan of your training program? Is it well balanced with other options?
Teacher Incentive: What does the event offer to benefit the studio? Classes, tuition discounts, networking etc. are all factors to consider. After all, you want the experience to be great for your students, but you also want it to be great for yourself and your business. (As a side note, some competitions offer rebates, which are a nice incentive, but events should not be chosen based solely on rebate opportunity.)
Red Flags to Notice
Lack of Constructive Criticism
Whether it is through audio feedback at a competition or via instruction at a convention, the event should, in some way, inspire your students. If your students leave without inspiration, awareness, or reflection, the event has not accomplished its mission.
(For example, if a student receives a lower score at a competition but only receives the feedback “good job,” then the event has not helped your student.)
Is the facility run-down? Are your students dancing in areas that are less than ideal? If an event looks like it has cut corners in providing the experience, it probably has, which means you probably do not want to return.
Lack of Professionalism
At events, take note of everything that is happening around you. Are the staff members acting professional with all attendees, or does it feel as though favoritism is being shown?
Are the critiques appropriate?
Do the events run as though they are scripted, or does it feel like the event is “flying by the seat of its pants?”
Parents notice professionalism, and you should, too. If is an event is unprofessional, it may be time to explore other options.
Once you have decided to make your event selections, do a quick cost-benefit analysis and make sure your students will be receiving a return for their investment. Ask yourself if you would be willing to spend the same amount of money for the same experiences.
Avoid choosing less than stellar events for the wrong reasons. Many Studio Owners pick second-rate competitions to attend because they perceive that they can “win” more, or their students will do better because a powerhouse studio may not be present.
This notion is ludicrous! Challenge your students and expose them to the best.
At the end of the day, the events and dance competition dates you select for your students are a direct reflection on you and your business. If parents and students leave an event pleased, they will applaud your selection. However, if students and/or parents have a negative experience, they will address those concerns with you because you serve as the liaison to the event.
Take the time to plan, scope out, and determine events that your clients will appreciate and enjoy. Your students and parents will respect your careful selection and will see that you are picking events based on the students’ best interests. Who can argue with that?
Also remember: as dance competition dates get closer, make sure your dance parents are fully prepared for the event. Check out our Dance Parent Competition Survival Guide so that everyone arrives at the event ready for action!