So, your dancers completed their first big competition and placed pretty well! When everyone is proud and morale is high, you should start thinking about the next step in the competition process: working through adjudicator responses. Whether your dancers came in first or last, there’s always something to be learned from the judges’ comments and scores. Here are some dance competition tips to help you make the most of this important feedback.
Go Through Comments Alone
Whenever possible, you should take time to go through all the comment sheets alone or with your instructors. Hopefully the competition you attended had adjudicators who were professional and honest, but sometimes you may find comments that are unnecessary or even rude, as one teacher on Dance.net found out the hard way.
If this is the case, you don’t want your students to be upset or lose confidence in themselves. Weed out any unhelpful feedback and present only the useful criticisms to your dancers.
Review Appropriate Feedback Together
Once you’ve read through the commentary, it’s time to present the feedback to your students. It doesn’t matter whether you have another competition in two weeks or are finished for the season – you should always take time to review the performances.
Remember, dance competitions are an opportunity to learn and help dancers grow, and they can’t do that if they’re focused only on a trophy!
Sit down as a team and review both the positive and negative remarks. Work together to come up with strategies to fix the team’s weak spots and emphasize their strengths. Dance Australia explained that judges are generally looking at basic skills, appearance, confidence levels, technique, choreography, costumes and overall performance.
Most competitions will clearly lay out the different areas students were judged on, so work with your students to identify areas in which they need to improve. This way you can better your team as a whole and help individual students learn to critique themselves and grow as dancers.
Contact Organizers when Necessary
Unless otherwise noted, you have the right to feedback after competitions. If you find that the notes you receive are incomplete, inconsistent with scores or of poor quality, you may want to consider reaching out to the organizers. Let them know politely that you were unsatisfied with the adjudicator feedback and recognize ways you think it could be improved.
On the other hand, you may also want to drop a note to let organizers know that their judges gave you thorough and detailed comments.
Dance competitions are a great learning experience for students young and old, but they can also be stressful and very intense. National competitions bring together groups of amazing dancers in huge venues with large crowds. That type of setting, combined with the pressure to perform, can be intimidating for just about anyone, no matter their age or experience. If you’re bringing your dance students to a competition for the first time, use these tips to get everyone in the right state of mind and make it an experience they’ll never forget.
1. Know What to Expect
You can never be too prepared for dance competitions. Make sure you’ve crossed every “t” and dotted each “i,” and don’t forget to let your dancers know what to expect. It’s a good idea to look into how many other groups will be there, how long the competition is expected to last and what the stage will be like. The more information you, your teachers and the dancers have going into the competition, the less likely it is that you’ll hit a bump along the road.
2. Prepare a Schedule
Another essential step to a smooth and easy competition experience is a detailed schedule. In an article about competition life, the University of Texas at Dallas recommended planning to arrive early to give your students plenty of time to register, change, stretch, warm up and relax their nerves. If your group has time between performances, make sure you note when to start warming up again and set an alarm to remind yourself. You may also want to note other performances you want to watch, the best times to take food breaks and when the awards ceremony will be. When you have a schedule set, it’s easier to keep everyone on the same page and prevent any last-minute scrambles.
3. Stay in Tune with Student Needs
There’s so much going on at dance competitions that teachers sometimes get distracted by paperwork, costume glitches or other performances. However, you’re going to need to pay special attention to your dancers and anticipate their needs. Don’t forget to bring along your dance competition survival kit, packed with cosmetics, sewing kits and medicine. You’ll also want to have extra water bottles and snacks on hand. If you notice that your dancers are looking particularly jittery, take them aside for a short pep talk. It’s important to explain that there’s nothing to be nervous about and that everyone will be proud regardless of how they score.
4. Perform for the Right Reasons
In your pre-performance pep talks, explain to your dancers why you’re attending the competition. Many novice students may assume they need to win a trophy to have a positive experience, but that’s certainly not the case. Dance Spirit magazine explained that medal or no medal, competitions create better dancers and performers. They teach students how to handle pressure and work together to achieve a goal. At the end of the day, you want your dancers to have fun, so don’t make the competition all about their scores.
“People focused only on winning don’t have fun,” Adrienne Canterna, an experienced dancer who co-founded “ROCK the Ballet” and appeared in the movie “Step Up,” told Dance Spirit magazine.
5. Practice Good Sportsmanship
If you want your dancers to come away from the competition with smiles, make sure that you’re encouraging and modeling good sportsmanship. It’s tempting to focus so much on your performance that you neglect to interact with people around you, but your students will benefit from talking with and watching other dancers. Encourage your group to cheer for other performances and wish other dancers luck. Even if they don’t walk away with trophies, they’ll be happy to leave with new friends and a heightened feeling of camaraderie.
Have you ever been at a dance competition and realized you don’t have any hairspray? Or maybe it was bandages. Or bobby pins! Every studio owner, dance teacher, or dancer has that moment of panic when everyone is backstage and you’ve forgot that important item. Hopefully, someone can lend a hand, but you’ll want to be prepared next time! Here are some tips for putting together a dance competition survival kit with all the essentials so you can avoid those “uh-oh” moments.
Editor’s Note: Readers have offered some great suggestions on additional items to add to your competition survival kit. This article has been edited to add their ideas. Thanks to readers Pam B., Elayne S., Katie B., Senaida T., and Jennifer P.!
First thing’s first. In your dance competition survival kit, we’ve found it’s easiest to bring along a large plastic container, preferably on wheels and with a number of compartments for easy storage. Along those lines, it’ll come in handy to have different size resealable bags when you’re packing so you can group similar items together and label everything clearly. For labeling? A Sharpie (or two, or ten, because Sharpies somehow always disappear).
If there’s something that you know you’ll need, you better have some extra on hand. The Rockettes website suggested you bring extra:
Shoelace “stick” to keep them tied
A multi-tool for tightening taps
Lighter (for burning costume frays)
Sewing kit with scissors
You’ll also want to have extra makeup for last minute touch ups. It’s a good idea to bring:
Any other cosmetics your dancers use
First Aid/Personal Care
The next essential component of a dance competition survival kit is the first aid portion. A standard care kit is a good place to start, as it will contain bandages, ointment and wraps. You may want to throw in the following:
Only you know what unexpected needs crop up at your competitions, but here are a few miscellaneous items that may come in handy:
A notepad and pen (to jot down those “wow” moments, or emergency information)
Extra CDs with your music
Copies of the competition schedule
Static cling spray
A power strip (charging station, anyone?)
And finally, a good attitude! Once you have your survival kit put together, you’ll be set for future competitions too. Just leave it in a closet for storage and be sure to replace any items you use. Plus, it can come in handy as a “dance recital survival kit” as well.