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.