Technique is gold. Without a doubt, it is the first thing judges see. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how amazing the choreography or costumes are if it lacks technique it will look off and sloppy. Dancing can also be very dangerous, and judges are looking to see whether moves are executed safely. Technique is what dance breaks down to. A solid foundation in ballet will help dancers have a long, healthy career.
On the other side of technique is stage presence. Without it, dancing is just a series of aerobic moves. Stage Presence is what captures the audience from the first moment on stage– timid, confident, strong? What tone were you setting for the audience? Identify with your dance. Consider your own life experiences and how they apply to your piece. Show those emotions onstage and take the audience with you. Show judges that story arc.
Synchronicity & Togetherness
Group dances should be effortlessly together. I like to hear the group breathing together from the judges’ table. No single dancer should stand out in a group dance. Show the judges that you’ve practiced hours at the studio with a tightly synchronized movement quality. The awe of a good group dance comes from the effortlessness of bodies moving together, which takes time, preparation, and rehearsal.
Stay Within Genre
The biggest perpetrators of blurring genres and entering the competition incorrectly are Jazz, Lyrical, Musical Theater, and Contemporary. For Jazz dances, I like to see classic, sharp lines. I also love dances that nod to the early Jazz dancers like Giardano, Limon, Luigi, and Fosse style. For Lyrical dances it is imperative that you dance to a song with — you guessed it, Lyrics. Telling a story through poetry and song is the most substantial element to lyrical style. Movement quality should be elegant and balletic. Musical Theater dances too often look like average jazz dances. I like to see a dancer working to be a triple threat. That means singing (or lip-syncing), dancing, and acting. Use a song from a real musical and set that scene. Contemporary dances are varied, but in essence, they have a grounded feel with organic, even pedestrian movement. Unconventional shapes and lines are okay here, including flexed feet and concave shapes.
Dance Age Appropriately
Judges do not like to have to judge a 4-year-old in a bra top and booty-shorts twerking to Nicki Minaj. Make sure dances allow for the dancer to relate to his/her piece. Alternatively, judges do not like to see tweens dancing about war, mental health, or other weighty subjects that do not reflect the dancer’s age and experiences.
Judges often have 10-12 hour days of watching hundreds of dancers from morning to night. It’s all too easy for the dances to blur together. But let YOUR dance be the one that stands out in their head at the end of the day. Be sure you’re not following competitions trends and cliches by using innovative, original choreography and music. Then, add that unique element to the dance that only you can bring to it. This is the kind of thing that can’t be taught. Dance the dance the way that only you can.
Remember that Competitions are a great performance opportunity. Enjoy the lights and excitement. Don’t stress about medals and placement. Prepare by rehearsing and taking a class, then have fun and just dance!
Kelsey is a classically trained dancer and Actor’s Equity performer. She has performed for companies such as Central Florida Ballet, Tokyo Disney, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and at sea with leading luxury cruise lines. A dancer by day and a writer by night, when Kelsey is not performing she shares her love of dance, travel, and finding a good cup of coffee on her blog Wend Away Travels. Find her full performance bio and show gallery at www.kelseyannglennon.com.
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Broadway Dance Dreams