With over 150 different competitive dance organizations and conventions touring the US during competition season, it can be a daunting task to find the right competitive event(s) for your studio’s students.
Whether your studio is focused on ballroom, ballet, hip-hop, or multi-disciplinary dance studies; there’s a competition that has your student’s needs in mind. The majority of touring competitive organizations offer a multi-disciplinary approach, with categories for lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, acro, etc. while others are strictly geared towards ballroom or ballet.
Here are some questions to ask and a few tips to help you find the right competitions and conventions for your students.
Check out their website!
Is their website comprehensive? Does it list their policies and pricing? What is their cancellation policy? Watch out; some competitions will cancel a tour date if registration goals are not met. Make sure you know what that means for you.
Still, have questions? Don’t hesitate to call the organizer. Remember this is about your dancers, so make sure all your questions get answered.
All about adjudication.
Some competition adjudicators/master class instructors are working dancers with extensive performance and/or academic dance experience; while others are not. Decide what is important to you and your dancers. I recommend at least one adjudicator who has competitive experience and understands the expectations of competitive dance. Some competition websites list their adjudicators/master-class instructors. If they don’t, ask!
FYI: There is no national standard for adjudication in private competitions.
Location is everything!
Depending on the needs of your dancers, the location will be an important consideration in maximizing student participation in addition to cost. Some competitions tour nationwide, some competitions are hyper- regional, and many competitions are somewhere in between. If this is your students’ first foray into competitive dance, closer may be better.
Most competitions are held in hotel conference rooms, convention centers, or auditoriums. How close is the venue to the hotel? Will you have to arrange for transportation from the hotel to the venue or is there a shuttle? This is important to know because it may add to your overall expenses and student participation.
Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
While reviews are not always the best gauge of everyone’s experience, they can offer a baseline for those researching a competition experience. Check out websites like Dance Competition Hub and Dance Advisor. They are great tools to review feedback. They have extensive lists of competitions and conventions with user-generated reviews. However, buyer beware! Just like all review sites out there, watch out for possible bias. These are just another tool to give you a better sense of participant satisfaction.
Timing is everything.
Most competition tour schedules begin in February and tour through the summer. Many competitions schedule dates to avoid school conflicts. Be aware of your estimated travel time and consider any school scheduling conflicts that may arise before signing up.
Let’s get fundraising!
Registration rates, accommodations, and travel costs can vary widely depending on the competition and how far you’re traveling. Generally speaking, larger groups make for more cost- effective travel. Fundraising is essential to minimize the personal cost to each student’s family. There are many fundraising options for your dancers and your studio. There are the traditional fundraising options like bake sales, car washes, spaghetti suppers, and candy fundraisers. Many nationwide restaurants like Chipotle, Peter Piper Pizza, Menchies, and Bahama Bucks have fundraiser nights, which are great for getting the community involved in the process. When you fundraise, don’t forget to keep an eye out for your registration deadlines.
In the end, the focus of attending any competition should be about the dancer and their experience. Did you see more smiles than frowns, did they learn more than they showed up with, did they make new friends? Not every studio chooses to compete, but for those who do, it can be an enriching experience that helps bring the best out in your dancers.
Jennifer Burton is a mother, dancer, dance educator, and writer with a BFA in Dance from the University of Texas at El Paso. After a 10 year career in arts journalism, she returned to her first love, dance. She has danced under the direction of Myron Nadel, Lisa Smith, Andrea Vazquez Aguirre, and Leanne Rinelli. She recently had the honor of participating in the Florence Summer Dance Festival under the direction of Lilliana Candotti and Monica Baroni. Burton hopes to enter the Master of Arts in Teaching-Dance program at NMSU this fall.
Kick up your heels and let's dance!
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