Dance Competitions…What are they? Why do them?

For those who are new to dance, your initial thoughts of dance competition might involve a certain show…

Thankfully time has passed and we’re getting away from that stigma.

You may have a dancer in the family who excitedly shares that they’ve received a Blue Diamond, 1st place, 2nd overall, with a Judges award, scholarship, and showcase performance and that was for just 1 routine and they’re in 10 dances- and your head is spinning!

Dance competition classes require a lot of planning, work, dedication, passion and support. But with all the hard work, they can be a lot of fun, create memories and provide fantastic lifelong experiences & lessons.

The Basics

Each competition has their own methods of organization but typically dance competitions organize their categories by style of dance, age level, quantity of students in the dance, and/or technique level. Each routine is performed one time in front of a panel of judges, who then score the performances and provide feedback and constructive critiques.

Dances are scored individually, and given an award based on that score. Each competition will have their own adjudication range, for example:

  • Silver, Gold, High Gold, Platinum, Double Platinum
  • Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby, Diamond, Blue Diamond

and sometimes, their descriptions can seem overwhelming, but each is clearly listed in the competition’s program or on their website.

Then, that same score is compared to others in the category/age group that dance was entered in. The score is then compared to the entire competition as a whole. So for the example above:

  • Individual Routine Score- Blue Diamond
  • 1st place in their category
  • 2nd place overall for the competition as a whole

Judges Awards are typically special acknowledgements regardless of the score. Perhaps personalities really rocked the stage, the dancers were incredibly in sync, the costumes really added to the performance, the technique was amazing- something really wow’d them enough to make a note of it.

Scholarships can be awarded to individual performers during a competition or convention. A showcase/closing show performance is where the top scoring performances, most entertaining, or a combination of both entries, are invited back to perform.

What others don’t realize…

It takes a lot to earn a spot on our competition team and to get ready for competition season. There are Choreography Weekends, extra practices, props to make and practice with, and dress rehearsals. Overall, a lot of time goes into one routine, let alone multiple dances. It is also important to be prepared for costume malfunctions, prop malfunctions, injuries, illness, weather, scheduling issues, travel issues, the list goes on…

And all of this prep work is before ever stepping on a stage to perform.

Then when arriving at a venue, you have to adjust for the size of the stage, is it small and narrow? Will you need to adjust your tumbling pass to account for this? The stage could be large, but you have a small group so you need to use your space wisely to show a commanding presence. The floor could be grippy or slippery, there could be no wings (curtains) on the side to use to prepare…there are so many factors our dancers need to consider.

Most dance students don’t become professional dancers, so…

In the long run, what will it mean? 

We’ve had performances where the music has cut out, and our dancers kept performing without missing a beat. Stage lights have turned off and back on in what felt like the longest 3 seconds, and our performers never stopped. There was a pop-up torrential downpour and we kept tapping in the rain at an outdoor stage. In our lowest lows, when illness, injury or family devastation hits, our team comes together to adapt and make changes to the routine – sometimes moments before going on stage – and the audience would never know it. We kept going

Life is not a straight line. It has highs, lows, twists and turns. Our students have learned to quick change (literally & figuratively), adapt, and persist…those are lifelong skills that are forever relevant, in any career choice they have.

Not only do they learn those skills, but they learn them together, as a team. Incredible relationships are made in all this time spent together and these experiences.

Another beneficial aspect of a attending a competition is hearing what experienced judges think of your performance and how they think you can improve. Yes, they’re “judging” you, but with the right attitude, that can be an extremely good thing. The ability to take constructive criticism as inspiration, fueling you to work harder and perform better, will serve well, long after dance classes.

Competition is about so much more than winning and losing. It’s about learning valuable lessons that you can use to improve as a dancer and as a person.

So here’s to our 2022 season, may it be healthy, safe, and have wonderful experiences!


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