Grab your hair spray and arsenal of brushes because it’s that time of year again. With recitals looming, studio owners will be dictating recital hairstyles, and parents everywhere will be scrambling to smooth out their children’s locks. Whether you’re a dance teacher putting finishing touches on your student’s updos or a parent struggling to tame a curly mane, use these tricks to get perfect dance performance hair every time.
For short hair
Dancers with shoulder-length tresses often struggle to get their hair up into ballet buns. There’s always the option to use a fake bun and cover, but there are also ways that short hair can be pulled back into a professional style. The YouTube tutorial below shows how dancers with short hair can slick their locks back with a pomade, then twist any remaining ends into cute little spirals. This trick calls for plenty of bobby pins to hold the hair in place, but it’s a great option for ballerinas who don’t want to go the fake-bun route.
For unruly hair
Dancers with curly, thick or coarse hair may have trouble coercing their hair into desired performance styles. To say it’s challenging to get some hair types into a smooth updo is an understatement. Some dancers use chemical relaxants to get their hair to cooperate, but Dance magazine explained that this will only damage the strands. Instead, students should try using a moisturizer on their hair once a week. On the day of the performance, spray a heat protector onto your hair, then carefully blow dry it, working with a small section at a time and elongating the locks as much as possible while you’re working. Once your hair is dry, use a flat iron to further flatten your locks. With the help of a strong hair wax or balm and a fine-tooth comb, you should now be able to pull your tresses back into a smooth updo.
For the perfect bun
It can be tricky to make a perfectly neat, stable bun, but dance veterans have a few tried and true tricks. Before you begin, you’ll need hair rubberbands/elastics, plenty of bobby pins, hairspray and/or gel, a brush/comb, hairnet, and for this example, a bun “donut” (see example here). Our client Elite Dance Force recommends the following steps in their excellent tutorial:
Starting with wet or gelled hair.
Pulling hair into a high ponytail.
Pull the ponytail through the bun “donut.”
Smooth hair around bun maker.
Add a rubberband around base of bun.
Part hair on right and left of bun. Apply more gel.
Twist one side of hair.
Wrap around bun, gel and bobby pin it.
Repeat on other side.
Wrap hairnet around bun.
Apply any head piece for your dancer’s costume.
For a tutorial that does not use a bun “donut,” check out the video below.
Some cute costumes call for complementary hair accessories, but these are especially prone to falling out while the performers are twirling and leaping. If you’re wearing a headpiece, decorative flower, bow, extensions or fake ponytail, there are a few tricks you can use to ensure the piece stays in place. The most well-known trick is to simply put as many bobby pins as humanly possible onto the accessory. Try to place the pins so they’re crossing each other, as this will create a better hold. Dance parents on the DanceMom forum recommended going all out with 25 or more bobby pins! Another expert tip is to attach some horsehair braid ribbon onto the accessory with hot glue. This will give bobby pins a surface to grip and help the piece to stay put.
If you’ve ever been a dancer yourself, you probably know how much it can hurt when a parent or teacher is yanking your hair, trying to get it just right. Keep this in mind as you help your students prepare for their performances! Dance Advantage explained that a comfortable dancer is a happy dancer, so being as gentle as possible during prep can go a long way. Here are a few tips to ensure that students don’t leave the hairdressing station with tender scalps.
Avoid hair ties with metal clasps, which can easily get tangled or poke into the skull.
Let students brush their own hair to get rid of any initial knots and tangles.
Pay attention to the body language of the dancer – they might not tell you when you’re pulling too hard!
Ask the performer if her ponytail feels comfortable or is too tight.
Let dancers wipe any excess hair spray or gel off their skin with a baby wipe, which can otherwise become itchy and dry as the day goes on.
Preparing for a dance competition is no easy feat, especially if your team is a newcomer to the circuit. There are lots of things you have to take care of before the big day, like last-minute costume tweaks and makeup tutorials, as well as burning backup music and gathering emergency supplies. Use this guide on how to prepare for a dance competition to make sure your studio, dancers and parents are ready.
The Week Before
You’ll want to give yourself ample time to check every minute task off your to-do list, so it’s best to start preparing at least a week in advance. Procrastinators beware! You will only give yourself a headache trying to get everything together the night before, and chances are that you’ll end up forgetting something important.
There are a few essential tasks that studio owners and dance teachers should complete in the weeks heading up to a competition. These include:
Help your students perfect any tricky hair or makeup styles.
Run through choreography one last time in full costume.
Talk about behavioral expectations with your dancers – and parents, if necessary.
You may also want to talk with your team about best packing practices. While you’ll likely have emergency supplies, like bandages, hair spray and a sewing kit, it will be up to your dancers to ensure that they have everything they need for the competition. Dance Advantage recommended showing dancers how to roll costumes to reduce wrinkles and stash each outfit in a separate bag with coordinating accessories, extra tights and undergarments. Many studios choose to hand out competition packing checklists to help dancers cover all the necessary bases.
The Night Before
Both you and your team will likely be nervous the night before, so it’s important to take steps to relax and prepare yourselves for the big day. On Stage Dance recommended that everyone pack up their bags the night before and double-check that they have everything crossed off the checklist.
It’s best to eat a healthy meal the day before a competition. Advise your dancers to stay away from fast food, sugary treats and caffeine, and refrain from overloading on carbs. Instead, opt for a well-balanced meal that will help them feel satiated and get to bed on time.
Finally, it’s important for you and your dancers to get a full night’s sleep before a competition. Take steps to relax before bed, like soaking in a warm bath or reading a book. Try not to watch too much TV or stare at your phone, as these can make it harder to get to sleep. Instead, head to bed early, but don’t forget to set your alarm!
The Day Of
If you’ve taken care of all the prep work in advance, you can simply wake up on the morning of your competition, grab your bags and head to the bus. Hopefully your dancers have equally prepared and can do the same. However, there may be one or two students running late, so be sure to give your team plenty of time to get to the venue, change and warm up.
It’s best to get your dancers into costume and makeup at least one hour before their performance time. You never know how many other teams will be crowding the changing rooms, so give yourself ample time to score the best mirrors and perfect each dancer’s look. Once everyone is warmed up and ready to go, give your team a pep talk then watch them dance their hearts out!
Your competition team could be the most talented dancers in the world, but if they don’t trust each other, they’re going to struggle to achieve their goals. Trust, camaraderie and respect are all essential characteristics of a dance competition team.
If your dancers aren’t meshing quite as well as you’d like, a few team-building games might be in order. Use one of these activities to break down barriers between your students and help them grow and flourish as a cohesive unit.
1. Guess Who
This classic ice breaker is a go-to for the American Dance and Drill Team. It requires a little bit of preparation on your part, but will really help to get your dancers talking, laughing and working as a team. You’ll need a stack of index cards and some tape. Prepare by writing the names of famous people on each index card. You can use historical figures like George Washington, modern stars such as Lady Gaga or even fictional characters like Harry Potter.
Once you’re in rehearsal, ask your dancers to line up, then tape one index card onto each student’s back. Explain that they need to figure out who they are by asking teammates only yes-or-no questions, similar to how they would play 20 questions. Each player can only ask two questions to any given teammate. Your dancers will quickly discover that they must rely on each other to solve tricky problems.
2. Human Dragons
This activity from M.A. Dance will really get your dancers moving. Create a few lines of six to eight students. The leader of the line is the “head” of the dragon and the last person is the “tail.” The players must hold onto each other’s waists. The object of the game is for the head of a dragon to tag the tail of another. The dancers who make up each dragon will have to balance following the head and simultaneously protecting their tail. The last dragon standing wins!
3. Trust Walk
If you want to build some one-on-one relationships, this trust walk exercise is really helpful. Pair up your students and blindfold one person in each duo. Set up a series of obstacles in your practice space, such as a few stairs, a hula hoop to climb through or a bridge to walk over. Each pair must successfully navigate the course with the blindfolded member receiving only verbal directions from her partner. Once they make it through the obstacles, have the dancers switch places and traverse the course again.
When you’ve been running a successful recreational dance studio for a couple years and have some amazingly talented students in your classrooms, you might start to think about ways to show the world how great your dancers are. What better way to do that than start a competitive dance team at your studio? If you’re wondering how to start a competition dance team, follow these easy steps.
Before you jump head-on into planning, it’s a good idea to see how many of your students would be interested in joining a competition team. Some may be too busy with other sports or extracurriculars to dedicate enough practice time, and others might not be able to afford the additional costs of competitions. You can gauge interest by talking to parents and students or sending out a survey to everyone. Make sure you have a solid group of students on board before making any definitive decisions.
Once you’ve determined that your dancers are ready and able to take their dancing to the next level, you’ll want to hold tryouts for your new competition team. There are a number of different ways that you can structure tryouts – your needs will dictate which method works best in your studio. Varsity.com explained that some studios hold open tryouts where any student can apply to be on the team. In this type of situation, you’ll likely have to make cuts, so be prepared to give your dancers honest feedback.
Another common method of recruiting dancers is to have “invitation only” tryouts. This strategy ensures that only dancers who are advanced enough for the rigors of competition will be considered. It can help spare your novice dancers the rejection of being cut and makes your job easier, as you’ll likely have fewer students to consider.
Whichever method you choose, it’s best to hold a meeting with parents before or during tryouts to explain the expected costs and time commitments that come along with competitive dance. The last thing you want is to select the perfect team only to have half drop out because of the price.
Schedule Practices and Outline Expectations
After you have a great group of dancers on your new team, you’ll need to create a practice schedule that works for all parties involved. Ideally, it shouldn’t interfere with their other dance classes or outside activities. However, the reality is that you may not be able to find a time that works for everyone. Do the best you can and make compromises whenever possible.
You’ll also need to outline your expectations for this new group. How many practices are they able to miss? What happens when they show up late? How far in advance do you need costume payments? Are there certain behaviors you expect dancers to uphold as representatives of your team? These are all important considerations to take into account. Competition teams generally have strict guidelines for dancers because if just one person is missing, the whole practice can be thrown off and the team may suffer.
Hone Your Skills
Once the paperwork is filled out and expectations are set, it’s time to do what you do best – practice! Start creating routines, building team bonds and preparing your dancers for competition life. You may want to bring in guest speakers who have experience in competitive dance or attend a local competition to see what the atmosphere is like. Some competitive teams also require their students to attend certain camps to work on skills and technique, but this should depend on whether your students are willing and able to do so.
When you think your team is ready, pick your first competition and go for it! Whether you win or lose, you’ll be on your way to creating a strong, covetable competition dance team.
When your first dance competition of the season is approaching, parents are inevitably going to ask you, “What should we bring?” After all, dance competitions are like any all-day sport tournament, and they require a bit of advanced preparation if everyone is going to have a good time. Here’s a simple way to break down must-haves into a dance competition checklist for your eager parents and students.
The first big category of necessary items in your dance competition checklist: costumes and accessories. Naturally, your dancers will need their outfits for each performance, as well as the appropriate tights and undergarments. Ask parents to bring an extra pair of tights in each color and a spare set of bra straps if they have them. Some other costume-related items that parents may want to have handy include:
Miniature sewing kit
Stain removal pen
During the course of the competition, you may need items like hot glue, body adhesive and rosin, but you should always have those stashed in your dance competition survival kit!
The second major category of must-haves in your dance competition checklist is composed of beauty products and tools. It’s best to have extra of any cosmetic that dancers are wearing, be it lipstick, foundation, falsies, nail polish, eyeshadow or blush. Similarly, ask parents to bring along some makeup remover, deodorant, cotton swabs, tweezers and any necessary tools, like makeup brushes, nail clippers and false lash glue. It’s also a good idea to have hair care supplies stashed away somewhere. Don’t dash out the door to a competition without these items:
Hair brushes and combs
Extra bobby pins and elastics
Any necessary hair accessories.
There are also a number of miscellaneous items that students will wish they had at a long competition. These include healthy snacks, plenty of water, disinfecting wipes, cellphone chargers, magazines, cameras and portable games. For parents, you may want to recommend they bring a comfortable chair to relax in during downtime, as well as a book to read and cash for souvenirs.
Show Some Support
Win or lose, your dancers will have a positive competition experience if parents are there to cheer them on. Parents may want to consider wearing matching T-shirts or creating signs for your team if the venue allows it. Most importantly, tell parents to bring their spirit and lots of positive energy!
Editor’s note: Readers have suggested some great additions to the list, including deodorant, clear nail polish for stopping runs in tights, hair gel, mousse, specifically remembering to list all the different shoes a dancer will need (tap, jazz etc.), extension cords, and charging cables for cell phones, and even a glue gun. Specifically for tap emergencies, you may also want to have a screwdriver and shoe polish.
It doesn’t matter if you’re working with preschoolers or pre-professionals – dance props can be a welcome addition to just about any class. There are lots of items that can be incorporated into dance lessons, from floor spots to umbrellas and hats. If you’re looking to switch up your usual class structure, use these four tips to incorporate some fun props into the mix.
1. Consider Safety
Before you choose dance props to work with in class, it’s essential that you take safety considerations into account. DanceStudioOwner.com explained that you’ll want to think about the space you’re teaching in when picking items. Your dancers should be able to move freely with the prop without running into others, so canes or umbrellas aren’t a good idea if you have a big class. Similarly, you’ll want to choose items that are proportionate to the age of your students. Long ribbons are easy to trip on, so save them for older students. Think through your prop choices carefully and try to anticipate any problems you may run into.
2. Get Creative
Many dance teachers have a few go-to dance props, such as scarves, hats and canes, but the sky is the limit if you use your imagination. Head to a local dollar store to pick up some unique items to incorporate into your lessons. Dance Advantage suggested using masks, beanie animals, stretchy bands or bandanas as teaching aids. You can also play around with fake flowers, cones, baskets, novelty items, accessories, fans, toy instruments, sporting equipment and more!
3. Drive the Lesson Home
Props are fun to perform with, but they can also be used to teach important lessons. Bean bags can be used to help dancers improve their posture, while stretchy bands can help students execute a series of sharp movements. When you’re using props to teach a skill, don’t let your students get too distracted by the change of pace. Be sure that your lesson is clear and that the objects are being used to their full potential.
4. Use Props in Competition
If you find that your students work well with props, you may want to consider using the objects in an upcoming performance or competition. Dance Studio Life noted that the right supplement can help augment a theme and bring your team to the next level. However, you’ll want to be sure your dancers can handle the props like pros, otherwise it can make for a sloppy performance.
When you’re in the process of opening a dance studio, there are many, many decisions to be made. While you think about names and locations, you’ll also need to take the general dance studio curriculum into consideration. Today, there are two main categories of dance classes – competition and recreational. It’s important to decide if your studio is going to cater to just one of these types or offer both options to dancers. It goes without saying that it’s a big decision! Here are some considerations to take into account when deciding what type of dance classes to hold in your new studio.
Studios that boast recreational programs often work with a wide variety of students. You can offer lots of different class genres and have different skill levels, but the bottom line is that your dancers aren’t pressured to perform competitively. Aspire Dance Academy noted that in its recreational dance program, students are guided toward their fitness goals in a more relaxed class atmosphere. At the end of each season, recreational students usually perform in a recital to show off their skills to family and friends.
The major difference with competitive dance is that there’s a greater financial and time commitment, both for students and the studio. In addition to offering a set number of competition classes each week, you’ll have to take into account the costs of entering, preparing for and traveling to competitions with your dancers. However, the opportunity to perform in front of new audiences and compete around the country is often appealing to many students. If you’re on the fence about offering competitive dance at your studio, it can often be helpful to talk to other studio owners for a first-hand account of the pros and cons.
Consider Your Target Market
As with any big decision when it comes to your studio, you need to take your target market into account. Think about the students who you believe will attend your studio. If they’re dedicated athletes, chances are there will be lots of interest in a competition program. On the other hand, if you’re catering to mostly preschoolers, it may be best to start off with just recreational classes. You should also take into account the other dance schools in your area and the classes they offer – if there are lots of recreational studios, but no competition programs, competitive dance could very well be a profitable niche.
The more information you can gather about the needs of your community, the better informed you will be when it comes to making decisions about your studio’s curriculum. If you really aren’t sure about what types of classes potential students would be interested in, it would probably be beneficial to do a little bit of research, either by surveying local students or simply talking to parents in the community.
Quality Across the Board
No matter which path you choose for your studio, it’s important to realize that you should focus on providing the best quality instruction possible. The Dance Exec blog noted that sometimes the dance industry views recreational classes as less technical and informative than competitive classes. However, if you want to run a competitive business, it’s important that all your courses offer the same high-quality instruction. A good measure of if your recreational classes are up to snuff with your competitive offerings is if groups of dancers with similar skill levels can perform together harmoniously at an end-of-season recital.
The finishing touch on top of an awesome competition costume is flawless makeup. Your dancers’ cosmetics can truly really make or break their whole look, so it’s important that you put adequate time and effort into planning and executing their makeup. Whether you’re a newcomer to the competition circuit or just want a refresher on best practices, here are several dance competition makeup tips and tricks that will help bring out your inner makeup artist.
“Skin should be hydrated when applying makeup.”
Start with a Clean Canvas
Your students’ makeup needs to last all day, so you’ll want to do everything possible to make sure it’s applied correctly. Instruct your dancers to wash their faces in the morning and apply a light moisturizer. For best results, skin should be hydrated, but not oily, when applying makeup. Use a quality primer under foundation to ensure maximum staying power, and opt for water-resistant products whenever possible.
Know How to Highlight
Once each dancer has applied foundation that matches his or her unique skin tone, you can make the look more stage-ready by applying highlights. Shimmery powder can really add dimension to your dancers’ faces, so gently sweep a light shade on top of their cheekbones. Be sure to finish off the look with a translucent powder that will help the makeup stay.
Another area where it’s important to apply highlights is around the eyes. Sweep a neutral eyeshadow, such as champagne or ivory, under your dancers’ brows to help define the shape. You can also dab a glittery powder in the corners of their eyes to really help them sparkle. These understated touches will give your dancers’ overall look a bit of extra flair and elegance.
Don’t Skimp on Liner
It’s probably fair to say that any dance makeup look should include eyeliner and lip liner. These two tools are invaluable when it comes to clean, defined and long-lasting cosmetics. Pick a waterproof gel eyeliner to outline your dancers’ eyes – this will ensure you get clean lines that don’t rub off when they sweat. You may want to bring along an index card to help touch up any smudged cat-eyes before your dancers hit the stage.
When it comes to bold lips, you’ll definitely need to use lip liner. Use a product that’s one shade darker than the lipstick, and make sure to have a sharpener on hand. Define each dancers’ cupid’s bow and the sides of her lips before applying all-over lip color.
False Lashes: A Necessary Evil
If there’s one beauty product that’s a pain in the butt, it’s fake eyelashes. However, most dance professionals agree that false lashes are necessary for big performances, as they make dancers’ eyes look bigger and more prominent. You’ll find many tips and tricks on how to apply falsies, but the best way to get faux lashes on perfectly is simply to practice. Be generous when applying glue, so there aren’t any eyelash malfunctions mid-performance, and don’t be afraid to apply a few coats of mascara over the lashes to separate and define them.
Tips for Wild Cosmetics
If your competition team is performing a particularly creative piece, you may decide to go with bold, eccentric makeup. Use the following dance competition makeup tips to ensure that you can pull off wild stage cosmetics on the big day.
You probably saw this one coming, but practice, practice, practice!
Don’t sweat the little details. Chances are that the judges won’t even notice if a line isn’t perfect.
If you’re planning a complex design, be sure you have quality tools – brushes, sponges, cotton swabs – and products that will minimize mistakes.
Start with a light application of makeup. It’s better if you need to add more than to mess up and have to start over.
Set the finished look with a layer of powder, and remind your students not to rub their faces!
Many dance competitions are all-day events. Your team might start getting ready at the crack of dawn and not receive their awards until the evening. However, your students won’t be dancing the whole time – there will likely be long breaks in between performances. Your team members might be content to lounge around during their downtime, but you can take advantage of the breaks and make them productive. Here are a few ways you can keep dancers busy during an all day dance comp.
Try Team-Building Activities
One way to pass the time is to get your dancers engaged in a team-building activity. Whether they’ve been dancing as a team for 10 years or are competing for the first time, there’s always more your students can learn about working together and supporting each other. The American Dance and Drill Team recommended using a “Circle of Friends” activity to help dancers bond. Have your team sit in a circle and give one of your leaders a bean bag or stuffed animal. Ask her to say what she loves most about dancing, then toss the object to another team member. Go around the circle and see how many unique answers your team comes up with. Make sure everyone gets a turn and don’t forget to join in yourself!
Watch Other Performances
There’s also a lot students can gain by watching other performances. It’s best not to linger when direct competitors are on stage, as that can get dancers nervous, but you can definitely watch other performance levels and categories. After each routine, ask your dancers how they think the group did, what the strengths and weaknesses were and how the group could improve. Athletes can often benefit from evaluating their peers and then applying the critiques to their own performances.
Allocate Ample Warm-Up Time
Even if your team has hours before their next performance, make sure they’re staying warm and limber. Pointe magazine explained that dancers should do regular light exercises, like ab work or yoga poses, throughout the day. This will help keep their muscles active and ready to jump on stage. An hour or so before your group performs, get them started with stretching and other pre-performance routines. Remember, it’s OK for dancers to push themselves during warm-up, but make sure they’re not overexerting. Otherwise, they could end up tired on stage or with a last-minute injury.
As you gear up for competition season, there are probably a lot of things on your mind. Once you’ve gotten costumes and music squared away, it’s also worth your while to double-check that you’re adhering to dance competition rules. This may seem like a menial task, but it can save you a serious headache if you get the details cleared away before the day of the competition.
Here are some important recommendations when it comes to double-checking that your competition team is following all the necessary rules.
If you have multiple teams and soloists performing at a competition, sometimes the paperwork can get a little mixed up, especially if you’re rushing through the documents. Once you’ve finished filling out entry forms, The Dance Exec recommended that you go back through all the entries and double-check that student’s names are spelled correctly and their birth dates are accurate. This process will likely take a few extra minutes, but it can save you time trying to correct inaccurate information on the day of the competition.
It’s also best to take an hour or two before big competitions to ensure your routines adhere to the competition guidelines. You should look into the following items for each group that you’re entering:
Acrobatic requirements or limits
Use of props
Double-checking dance competition rules is an especially important step if you’re attending an event that you’ve never entered before. The requirements and limitations can vary significantly between competitions, so be sure to do adequate research. When in doubt, it’s best to contact the organization to clarify your confusions than risk being disqualified for not meeting regulations. However, even if your dancers have participated in the competition for a number of years, it’s still a good idea to make sure there haven’t been any rule changes.
Another set of dance competition rules that are worth double-checking are the various performance levels. Depending on what event your dancers are attending, there will be different guidelines that regulate whether they’re classified as recreational, intermediate, elite, adult or another category. Some competitions differentiate performance levels based on age, years of competition experience or hours of class per week.
Classification is often left to the teacher or studio owner, so be sure to carefully read through the guidelines on each performance level. If your dancers are competing at the wrong level, they could be subject to point deductions or disqualification. Not to mention that putting dancers in the wrong category will often undermine their competition experience. The purpose of these events should be to help your students grow as performers and test their skills against peers, and your dancers won’t be able to do that if they’re not on a level playing field with other studios.
If you’re new to the competition circuit, you’ll quickly learn that there are some dance competition rules that aren’t always written down. One notable example is the costumes your teams wear – some events may not have specific costume guidelines, but what your dancers wear can still impact their scores.
Dance magazine explained that competition teams should always have age-appropriate and professional costumes. The judges are watching the moment dancers take the stage, and their first impression will be based mostly on what the performers are dressed in. If a group of young dancers are wearing rhinestone bras and short shorts, the adjudicators may immediately have a negative opinion of the group.
“It could be amazing choreography, but I’ve already formulated the thought, ‘I wish those kids were wearing a shirt or some clothes’ before they’ve even danced,” Brandon Cournay, a judge for the Headliners Dance Competition, explained to Dance magazine.
The publication noted that many judges will deduct points or even disqualify for inappropriate wardrobe choices, so you’ll want to put adequate time and consideration in your dancers’ competition costumes.
Certain competitions have guidelines for spectators, so be sure to check these out and pass them along to any parents who are attending the event. It may not seem like a big deal, but Dance Teacher magazine explained that sometimes judges will dock points off a team’s score if their fans are behaving inappropriately.
“We even take points off for certain routines where parents or teachers – even though they’ve been warned – continually take video,” Brendan Buchanan of BravO! Dance and Talent Competition explained to Dance Teacher magazine.
It may be helpful to have a pre-competition meeting with parents and students and explain what’s expected of them. This is also a good opportunity to go over good sportsmanship practices and ensure everyone is squared away on the details of the big day!
When you’re preparing for a big dance competition, your mind is probably filled with concerns about costumes, makeup, choreography and transportation. However, there’s another equally important consideration that often gets overlooked: What are your dancers going to eat? Most competitions are all-day affairs, and you can bet that your performers are going to get hungry throughout the day. If you want your students to perform their best, plan ahead and come to competitions prepared with food and beverages for your dancers. Use these tips to choose snacks packed with nutrition for dancers that will optimize energy and keep them on their toes.
The Night Before
While you won’t be there to ensure your performers are eating healthy meals the night before a competition, you can at least give them and their parents a little guidance on the best foods. Dance Comp Review recommended that dancers have a dinner with protein and complex carbohydrates the night before they perform.
Some goods options might be:
Grilled chicken or fish
Leafy salad with nuts, berries, and feta
Whole-wheat pasta or brown rice
Comfort foods that are rich in sugar and fat might seem tempting, but it’s better to choose a meal that packed with nutrients. This will help your body to fuel up on energy and get ready for a long, active day.
When you’re packing snacks for the team to munch on throughout the day, you’ll want to focus on small, healthy items. The Rockettes blog suggested bringing along trail mix that contains nuts* and seeds, as these will help keep dancers feeling satiated for longer. Fresh or dried fruits and vegetables are another good choice, as they contain natural sugars that will boost energy. Other options include:
Whole-grain pretzels and crackers
Opt for Small Meals
You’ll probably spend a good portion of your day idling between performances, but that doesn’t mean your dancers should indulge in a big lunch or dinner. Experts agree that it’s best for performers to eat a number of smaller meals when they’re hungry.
“Eat when you’re hungry and find foods that leave you satisfied,” recommended Richard Gibbs, M.D., the supervising physicians of the San Francisco Ballet, in an interview with Dance magazine. “Eat smaller amounts and eat better. What often happens is that the dancer eats nothing all day, and at the end of the day pigs out on the wrong foods.”
Good options for competition-day food might be:
Deli meat sandwiches on whole-grain bread
Chicken soup with lots of vegetables
Toasted bagel with peanut butter*
Skip the Soda
Be sure your students are drinking plenty of fluids with each meal they eat, and try to steer them towards water whenever possible. Dance magazine explained that drinking water with meals will help make food more digestible for the body and optimize nutrient intake.
Soda and other sugary drinks will likely be available at the competition, but these options aren’t so great for performers. Sugar crashes are all too real, so encourage dancers to focus on drinking water and leave the other beverages until after they perform.
*Editor’s note: Several readers have mentioned their concern about bringing nuts due to possible peanut or tree nut allergies among the dancers. Be sure to consider those with nut allergies when deciding what to bring, and remember that some severe allergies can be triggered by contact with very small amounts of the allergen.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a dancer that never gets nervous before competitions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or an Olympic gold medalist – nerves are a natural part of competition. As a dance teacher or studio owner, it will often fall to you to help alleviate those pre-competition butterflies that your dancers feel. This can be tough, as different dancers have different degrees of nerves, and might be calmed by different activities. Take a look at some dance competition tips and advice that can help your dancers remain confident and collected before they take the stage.
Banish Negative Thoughts
Positive thoughts are key when it comes to remaining confident before a competition. Hopefully your studio and classes already incorporate positive thinking and positive feedback throughout the year – make sure that your positivity extends from the studio to the stage!
Especially in a setting where dancers are comparing themselves to every other dancer as soon as they step through the dance competition doors, it’s important to keep a positive outlook. That goes for your dancers, and your entire dance staff! If you’re a studio owner or competition teacher who has a attended a competition and NEVER faced a challenge, email us and tell us how you managed to avoid any problems. Because everyone else needs to know how you did it!
“While you warm up, think about a time when you danced really well and felt very confident,” Cownie suggested to Dance Informa. “Visualize how you felt and use that feeling to pump yourself up.”
Practice Calming Rituals
In addition to thinking positive thoughts, dancers should find a calming ritual that helps them relax. How do you typically help dancers cool their nerves before recital? Performance is performance, though the dancers might feel like the stakes are higher at a competition.
Consistency can sometimes be very helpful – use what you know works back home at the studio, and have the dancers:
Listen to music
Practice breathing exercises
Visualize the choreography
If you have something that works, use it!
Also, as the teacher, you’re the expert on your dancers. By now, you’ve seen them in practice, outside of class, and probably in some performance setting. Just like people learn in different ways, everyone will have their own method of keeping nerves down and staying focused. Keep an eye on your dancers, certainly, but let them do what they need to do to get in the zone and be ready to nail the performance on stage.
Watching the Competition
And by competition, we mean other dance performances. This is a tricky one!
On the one hand, the larger point of a competition is to receive critique on your own skills, choreography, and preparation, but it’s also to celebrate and learn from other dancers who might be doing things differently. So it makes sense to watch other dances and learn!
On the other hand, you don’t want your dancers to get anxious by watching other dances, and (like we mentioned during the positivity portion) you don’t want them to be comparing themselves and shifting towards a negative outlook before their own performance.
No matter how you plan the day, and plan your class’ movements, chances are you’ll see some other dances. That’s fine! If you’re talking to your dancers about staying positive, worrying about their own performance, and taking inspiration from other dancers, you’ll minimize any anxiety about “our dance vs. their dance.”
And, if you’ve already performed your last dance for the day, encourage dancers to stick around and watch other performances for their own benefit (depending on what your post-performance plan is, obviously).
Between ripped tights, performance missteps and glitchy audio, there are lots of things that can go wrong at a dance competition. Some issues you might see coming, like if a dancer is overly nervous and forgets her steps, while others may catch everyone off guard. Because some crises can strike without warning, it’s best to give your dancers a pep talk ahead of time. Here are a few tips to prepare your students for common problems they might face at the next dance competition.
1. Costume Malfunctions
Perhaps the most notorious of performance crises is the wardrobe malfunction. It might be something as small as a run in someone’s tights, but it could also be a broken strap, a loose tap shoe or a drooping tutu. The first thing you should do to prepare for any costume problems is have your competition survival kit handy. You’ll want to have extra tights, shoelaces, bra straps and double-sided tape, as well as a multipurpose tool to tighten taps.
Hopefully you were able to sort out any mid-performance costume issues during your dress rehearsal, but it’s a good idea to let your dancers know how to handle any unexpected problems. ISport Ballet recommended that dancers continue performing if there’s a minor wardrobe malfunction. It’s more distracting to the audience if a dancer is scrambling to fix a slipping strap than if she simply lets it hang. If you have serious concerns about the integrity of a costume, it might be a good idea to have dancers wear nude leotards underneath.
2. Forgetting the Steps
Stage fright is an all-too-real problem. If you have some novice dancers who seem a little shaky before their performances, you might be nervous that they will forget the steps. There are few things more upsetting for dancers than blanking in front of a large audience, so have a pep talk prepared in case this happens.
If your performers express concerns that they can’t remember the steps, Dance Advantage suggested that you remind them that their muscle memory will likely kick in once they relax. Try to get them thinking positive thoughts and assure them that their bodies will remember what to do once the music starts. Confidence is key when it comes to performing, so encourage your dancers to visualize success.
3. Making a Mistake
An occasional wrong step is often inevitable, but once in a blue moon, there will be a dancer who makes a noticeable mistake. Dance Spirit magazine noted that this is a fear of many students, as no one wants to let the team down. If this happens to your performers, it’s important to encourage a spirit of camaraderie among your dancers.
“This will happen to everybody on a team at some point,” Anne Smith, co-director of Hollywood Vibe, explained to Dance Spirit. “Everyone does the best they can and it’s important to keep each other motivated, uplifted and positive.”
Encourage your dancers to keep performing, even if there’s a major blunder. Have students support one another and pick up teammates who fall – literally or figuratively.
4. Messed-Up Music
Ask any studio owner and she’ll likely tell you that the only guarantees in life are death, taxes and technology malfunctions. If you’ve ever experienced a music mess-up at a dance competition, you probably know that it can catch even the most experienced performers off guard. Most teachers and judges agree that it shows professionalism and confidence when a team continues performing through music glitches.
“I had a group of novice Irish dancers whose CD froze on them halfway through their dance a few years ago,” one teacher explained on Dance.net. “Not one of them stopped or even hesitated … The adjudicator sent a message backstage saying how impressed she was with their performance.”
Instruct your students to keep dancing, no matter what’s going on with the sound.
5. An Imperfect Stage
There’s a reason that sports teams always want home-field advantage, and that’s because it’s where they’re comfortable. At a dance competition, when you’re performing on a stage you’ve never seen before, there’s always a chance it will be too sticky or slippery.
If you have concerns about the stage, instruct your dancers to use rosin before going on, and tell them to remain confident in their performance. Dance Spirit magazine noted that the risk of injury or mistakes is greater when dancers are moving tentatively because they’re afraid of the floor.
Whether you’re collecting money to attend a dance competition or pay for a studio field trip, dance fundraising can certainly be hit or miss. Some years you might exceed your goals, while others you end up losing money. If you plan to do some dance fundraising at your studio this year, use these tricks to optimize your earnings and reduce headaches along the way.
Be Open about the Process
It’s best to keep your dance fundraising efforts pretty transparent, especially when it comes to how the money will be used. Dance Teacher magazine noted that many times conflict will arise because parents or dancers think it’s unfair that certain people do the brunt of the work but everyone reaps the benefits. If you can be forthcoming about what the benefits of participating in the fundraiser will be and how the money will be delegated, you may be able to mitigate conflict.
“Be sure to do preplanning and have it all lined up as to how it’s going to work and how the money will be divided, before you approach the parents,” Mary Myers, director of The Dance Connection in Oklahoma, told Dance Teacher magazine.
More Hands Are Better
If you have four or five volunteers trying to run a dance fundraising event for a hundred people, chances are that everyone will be frustrated and overworked. The more people that help out with your cause, the easier the process will be. However, many studio owners don’t like to make participation mandatory. If you can find a way to incentivize students and parents to volunteer, chances are that you’ll be able to host a more impressive event. One option is to let students earn credits for each hour they help out, and let them put credits toward different rewards like discounts on dance attire or private practice time.
Don’t Rely on Traditional Methods
On a Dance Mom forum, a number of individuals noted that traditional fundraising techniques, such as hosting special parties, holding raffles and selling knickknacks, don’t collect enough money to offset the costs and time. Instead of falling back on your usual fundraising method that garners average results, think outside the box and come up with a fun and engaging strategy. Scholastic recommended holding a garage sale, staging a dance-off or running a funny contest. It’s also helpful if there’s a way for people to donate money online, so they’re not limited to the cash they have on-hand during your event.
There will be times in your career when parents don’t always agree with your choices or teaching methods. Even as an adult, it’s hard to deal with criticism from other people, especially when it’s said behind your back. If parents are unhappy during or after dance competitions, chances are that they will talk about it in the studio waiting room or even on social media. These instances can be hard to handle, so use these tips for dance competitions to make the most of an uncomfortable situation.
Set Expectations Beforehand
The first step toward dispelling negativity during or after competitions is to set up clear expectations for students, parents and teachers. DanceStudioOwner.com recommended that you explain to everyone that it’s necessary to stay professional and keep a positive attitude in person and on social media. No matter how well students perform, the experience shouldn’t be all about winning, but rather learning and having fun.
It may also be helpful to explain to parents that their words and behavior have a significant impact on dancers. Many young athletes, dancers included, will eventually give up competitive sports because they feel as though they’re under a lot of pressure to perform and the game is no longer fun. Encourage parents to do everything they can to make competitions fun for their children and alleviate the pressure to win.
One of the best things you can do to flesh out any discontent or complaints about competitions is to promote dialogue between parents and staff. If you notice that parents are only expressing their concerns to each other, it might be a good idea to host a town-hall style meeting or one-on-one conferences to get these thoughts out in the open. However, keep in mind that if you want parents to feel comfortable voicing their concerns and complaints to you, it’s essential to remain empathetic, understanding and professional. Chances are that parent grievances are not an attack on you as a business owner, even though they may initially come off that way.
Establish a Social Media Policy
While you can’t control what parents and students post on their own social media accounts, you can ask them to remain respectful and positive while posting on or about your studio’s page. Many studios choose to create a social media policy that outlines what content they encourage and what type of comments will be removed. For example, the New Zealand School of Dance states in its policy that they “welcome feedback, comments, reviews and ideas from all followers” but request that these contributions are respectful and appropriate for all viewers.