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Choreography creating Dance and Social Media Dance Competitions Educators

Tricks

Let’s talk comps! “Tricks win” is a common sentiment regarding dance competitions and judging. Threads inquiring about what judges are looking for is is another common topic of conversation. Complaints about critiques are prevalent. I’m going to break this down.

Executing tricks for the sake of tricks is not interesting. It’s not something I want to see or something that is impressive. 99% of turns in second on the competition stage are not stage ready. A majority of pirouettes done on the competition stage are not stage ready. Aerials are almost always not interesting. Heel stretches (I don’t enjoy calling them that, but you know what I mean) are almost always not done correctly. You see what I mean. I could go on.

When I sit at the judges table, I’m not looking for anything specific, but what does move me and make me excited is authenticity. When a choreographer and/or dancer finds a piece of music that moves them, and the movement follows the arc and dynamics of the song, the audience feels that. They get that. Realness is more desirable than a string of technical elements lacking individual stylistic quality.

BUT if the sequence of “tricks” is executed with technical proficiency, it’s going to score well. We are judging technique, stage presence and precision. Even if I don’t like it, I’m scoring it high if it’s executed well.

It’s true that judges’ critiques can often fall short. A common complaint is that the judges don’t talk throughout the dance, then give a score. I agree that we do need to hear from whoever’s adjudicating. If a dance is very good and I find myself not speaking as much, I articulate that. It’s something like: “I am really enjoying this and that’s why I’m not saying a lot. Your technique and artistry are exquisite.”

If, as we sometimes do, we get a judge that doesn’t really know what they’re talking about, but they at least keep talking through the dance, cool. Honestly, cool. I’m (almost) never mad at that because it’s just not productive. In the end, if we are on that hypothetical professional stage, our audience doesn’t know dance but they know what they enjoy. Connection = success.

If we can take a genre that generally has a narrow audience and bring awareness to a broader audience, that’s what it’s all about. Think: Twyla. If a judge doesn’t know tap (they should, but… you know) yet the choreography moves and has relatable rhythms, dynamics and style, then it will more often than not adjudicate well. If it doesn’t, we take a look at it and see what we can improve, or we shrug it off and try again next time.

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Artists creating Dance Dance Competitions Goals teamwork Training for success

Who cares

Every year there are a few months when competition complaints and criticism of judges are abundant. It’s consistent from year to year, even in this most unique of seasons.

  • The judges don’t know tap.
  • They only want to see tricks.
  • The scoring is all over the place.
  • Do judges take off points for…

What’s interesting is that the kids aren’t the ones who are upset. Honestly the parents (of my students, at least) are never upset either. They are excited to see their kids on stage and to see the growth in ability from one season to the next.

Dancers are there to perform, to understand the rewards of working toward something and to work through the nerves of performing on a stage, in a costume, under lights and in front of an audience and/or complete strangers who will assess them in 2 minutes.

Winning is fun in the moment, but if we don’t win, are we going to hinge our validity, progress, artistry and joy on a snap judgement numerical score given by a stranger that can’t possibly know what it took to get that dancer or group of dancers on stage?

Trust the artistic process and enjoy the ride. Nobody remembers what the score was.

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Artists creating Dance motivation productivity

The non-negotiables

As dance educators, as any educators, as humans, we have more to give if we take time for ourselves. It can be as little as 15 minutes (longer is better but take what you can).

Take your time

I’m going to take these 15 minutes to eat breakfast and read the newspaper.

I’m going to read 10 pages of this book.

I’m going to do 20 minutes of yoga.

I’m going to take ballet class at noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so I’m not available then. Call me at 1:30.

I’m going to take 45 minutes and learn something new.

I’m taking these 10 minutes to write.

Put your me time on your to-do list and make sure you check it off.

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Artists Choreography creating Dance Educators

Make it real

We have the ability to ask 10,000 people what a good song would be for a 7-8 year-olds musical theatre solo.

We can join a group where colleagues will share with us how they marketed their studio and all of the promotions and trials they did that were a smashing success.

We can pick songs and create dances based on what we think people would like to see or dancers would like to do, or what we think would score well.

Nobody does you better than you.

All of this is not for nothing, but none of it will work if it doesn’t move you from the core, if it doesn’t feel right and natural, if it’s not coming from you, if it’s not consistent.

My biggest flops were when I was trying to emulate someone or something else because I thought it was better than what I could create or be on my own.

Let your flops and failures be YOUR flops and failures. Only then can your massive successes truly belong to you.

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Artists Business creating Dance motivation rejection

Wait for it

We see it often. A colleague opens a new space and it’s immediately packed with people (these days, in a limited capacity). What?! How are they open for a week and packed like that?

What if you’re not one of those immediately popular businesses, artists or entities? You start with one client or supporter, then two, a few more… Some stick with you, some disappear.

The ones who stay come for you. They like what you’re about, what your process is, how you designed your program or your work. Little by little, more of those people walk in your door. You’re not afraid to try things because they are there for you and your realness. It’s ok to say, “Hmm that didn’t work. Let’s try this.” And your true fans are there for it.

You might not get that rush of 100 people at your door on the day you open in your shiny newness. The ones that are meant for you will find you, one by one.

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Artists Business creating Dance Dance and Social Media motivation Technology

Ch-ch-changes

Time may change me

Any change will make someone in your audience unhappy. Not changing at all makes you “stuck in your ways”, and maybe they seek out something new and shiny.

There’s an integrity to holding on to tradition. There’s a reason it is done this way and it works.

There are also things that can make us reluctant to moving forward and making changes: reluctance, stubbornness, fear, laziness, feeling overwhelmed.

We need to find ourselves in that middle place, where we don’t listen to every piece of advice thrown out there, but we don’t want to throw walls up the instant somebody is offering new options and directions to move in. It takes more time and critical thinking to find a path that feels right.

A tendu will always be a tendu and a shuffle is a shuffle. It’s right or it’s not. The possible platforms and modes of delivery, though, are constantly changing, and the question of whether to move with them or not does not have a binary, yes/no answer.

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Business Careers creating motivation productivity

Onward

Well, we are definitely happy to say goodbye to 2020. With all the tragedy, heartbreak and loss, we had to find solutions to keep working and stay connected in healthy ways as all of our lives were upended.

Here are some takeaways from my challenging year:

  • When ‘business as usual’ isn’t possible, nimbly pivot, keep moving forward and whenever something’s not working, readjust and keep going.
  • Paying attention to all of the noise on social media is a choice. Shutting it down, turning away and unfollowing those who prove toxic is a better choice.
  • What’s right for others isn’t and doesn’t have to be right for you or me, even if it seems everyone is flocking to them and not us.
  • Routine is especially essential, even when it all seems upside down. Wake up. Make breakfast. Read. Start on the to-do list. Practice. Lunch. Work. Dinner. TV. Sleep. Repeat.

Here’s to a new year of new opportunities and possibilities.

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Artists creating motivation

Pick up the pieces

There’s something you used to be really good at. You practiced all the time and you made the time to practice.

Other stuff took you away from practicing your craft so much. School, work, family, life in general, or sometimes there’s a global crisis.

Maybe it’s been years and you’ve convinced yourself that you lost it, that you used to be good, it’s all in the past and that’s that.

Go find it again. It’s still there. You may need to dust it off, clean off the rust and start from the beginning. Pick it back up, one small piece at a time.

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Artists creating Dance Goals motivation

Says who

We very often tell ourselves things to make us feel better. It can help us cope with being content in the moment, or it can stifle our ambition to achieve new heights or try something new.

I’m too old to become a director.

I’m starting too late. I’ll never be an actor.

I should have pursued this 20 years ago.

You have to ask yourself who is telling you these things. Mostly, it’s you. Others don’t get to decide whether you’re too old or too late.

Make art, whether it’s in your living room or at a Nederlander theatre. Seek out the best sources and guidance. Don’t stop.

Past regrets and bumps in the road do a great job of getting in our way. Use the good stuff as fuel and ignore the rest.

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Artists creating Dance motivation

I’ll be there

Many of us are fortunate to have people in our lives, outside of the obligatory immediate family members, that show up to everything we do as performers.

Whether it’s a class show for an improv comedy course, a dance concert in a crowded church basement or an outdoor performance at a large, well-known venue, they will be there. They always show up. It’s impossible to express in words the gratitude felt for my personal super fans who, no matter what, will be in the audience.

The only way I can think to possibly express it is to become that same super fan for others that I would want sitting in the front row at my show, to clear out some space in daily life and make time so I can be the one that shows up. Someday we will buy tickets to shows again. Our friends will have gigs. If I can make others feel a fraction of what I feel when my friends show up for me, I will be there.