Categories
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.

Categories
Business Dance Dance and Social Media Educators Technology Trends

It’s not what you say

Humans love to complain. We publicly post a dance rant and have 500 of our closest friends chime in on how they hate that too and then list 5 other things that that they can’t stand.

Who doesn’t love instant gratification? There’s that feeling of ultimate satisfaction for about 5 minutes, and then what? All of the sudden dancers start wearing tights and two shoes, age appropriate costumes, they stop filling the music with all tricks and all of the competition judges become perfect? Probably not.

If we put out work we believe in, work that reflects what we want to see on stage and what inspires us, we can find a longer lasting satisfaction than the knee jerk say-what-you-feel-right-now impulses that propel us to take our grumbles to social media for all to commiserate with.

What we say matters far less than how we say it. Expressing what we love to see is equivalent to expressing what we loathe to see, except more will listen if we frame it with a positive spin.

The reason trends exist is because somebody started them and our culture pushes us to conform.

Not every effort will be a home run, but if we bunt and get a base hit, it’s a promising start.

Categories
Artists Dance and Social Media Technology

Start with this

Everyone can now know what we think about everything, should we choose to share it. There are no longer gatekeepers between us and our audience.

When something happens in our industry that we don’t like, the first instinct is often to take to social media.

“Everyone must know what I think about this.”

What’s the goal, really? What will change if everyone knows how much I dislike something or how against it I am? Will everyone all of the sudden start to do things differently? Will 500 people I don’t know give me life changing advice when they can’t really see it from the inside?

These exchanges very often turn into arguments that nobody ever wins, or mountains of advice and opinions from people who really don’t know us.

If we want to make change, truly meaningful change, we make culture by starting with the people right around us. This is our group, and our group does it like this.

When the impact starts small, it ends up much greater.

Categories
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.

Categories
Artists Dance and Social Media motivation Training for success

For example

It is no longer a select few in charge who get to be heard shouting at others for not doing things the right way or for the right reasons. (Side note: I’m going to narrow this down to the realm of dance, but it’s applicable to any industry or topic.)

Each and every one of us has our own public soapbox to argue about split sole tap shoes, rant about tap dancers not listening to jazz music, bemoan the hypersexualization of competition dance and overall, shame others for not representing the art form in a way that we find acceptable.

This doesn’t work.

Humans don’t want to be antagonized into doing things “the right way”. We learn by following the examples around us. We teach what we’ve learned from our mentors and what we feel is true to the integrity of the art form, while making it engaging. That’s all that matters.

Follow the example I set. Or don’t.

Categories
Dance and Social Media

Rule #1

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a gut punch every time someone unsubscribes from my email list. Oh no! They don’t like me anymore!

If you head over to the Dance Teacher Network on Facebook, you read about a lot of disappointment having to do with students leaving, many times on unfriendly terms with mean-spirited texts and emails.

Even if the aforementioned unsubscribers came to my studio only once or twice, or came to my festival 4 years ago, it doesn’t change the gut punch factor.

Sometimes people do just need to move on. This place wasn’t the place for them. Rule number 1 if this is you: be cool. This means leave respectfully. Frame complaints as a solutions. Frame negatives as positives. Act with integrity without sugarcoating or euphemizing.

It’s questionable etiquette to post about how amazing the new studio is or to air grievances about a studio with which there was a falling out. Moreover, it’s not relevant to most people reading it. Read: we don’t care.

Dance studios are not AT&T. We run our small businesses with a fervent passion. Everything we do comes personally from us. The AT&T rep on the line isn’t really “sorry for your frustration.” We can’t all get along all the time, but no matter what, be cool.

Categories
Dance and Social Media Educators Technology

It’s not what you say…

Want to know if a new play, movie or book or tv show is any good? There used to be a select group of critics and gatekeepers that were the arbiters of what was and was not worth our time.

It’s now really easy to be a critic. The world can read what you thought about Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert or “Hollywood” on Netflix. Facebook and other platforms have taken away the gatekeepers. Anyone can speak up.

It’s important that those who educate choose to engage people over alienating them. Yelling at those who we feel ‘disrespect the art form’ or whose values and points of view don’t align with ours pushes more people away and diminishes the potential to reach others and make a difference, which is what most all of us who are educators set out to do.

The louder the critics are, the less they are worth listening to.

Categories
Careers Dance and Social Media Networking

My door is open

Notable figures in any industry have a responsibility to be approachable and accessible. In the arts, this means anyone who travels to educate, who is known as a performer and/or is a director or leader of any kind.

What we say and do stays with those we interact with for years. The moments that teachers at festivals, conventions or professional studios (Steps, Broadway Dance Center, Edge) take to talk to students before or after class matter as much as the education they get during the class. The time that performers take to say ‘hi’ to fans and sign autographs at the stage door makes them impactful beyond the character they play on stage.

What we say on social media matters, and more so, how we say it. Most of us won’t get to hang out with the very famous, but don’t you feel like you could just sit and have a cup of coffee with Tom Hanks? Lin Manuel Miranda’s ‘Gmorning, Gnight’ tweets lifted people’s spirits so much he put them in a book. They make their followers feel important, even though there are millions of them.

When people look to us for training, guidance or insight, it is our responsibility, to them as individuals and to our art form as a whole, to be approachable and accessible. Twenty years later, they will remember what we said.

Categories
Dance and Social Media

If a dancer pliés in their kitchen…

Dance training is personal. It will always mean more to the individual dancer than it will to anyone else. The emotional release, the increased vigor that you feel as you train harder, the feeling of doing something better than you did yesterday. All of that belongs to you. Nobody can feel what you feel inside your body and soul as you train to become better.

This has been true forever, before we had to stay at home and before we became globally hyperconnected.

Copying MTV videos with my friend in her driveway was for her and me. I didn’t need anyone else to see it. I had fun and I felt good and that’s all that mattered. (Yes, MTV used to play music videos!)

Now we get to the metaphysics. If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Philosophers and scientists are divided. On the scientific side, “Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of our ear…If there are no ears to hear, there will be no sound.” (1) On the philosophical side, the tree will make a sound, even if nobody heard it, because it could have been heard. (2)

Each dancer has something inside that is theirs, that nobody can take. Training is a personal journey. If a dancer pliés in their kitchen and nobody is around to see it, it doesn’t matter. It belongs to them.

Sources: (1) – Scientific American, (2) Wikipedia/George Berkely