The Dance Eisteddfod and Competition Season
To Be or Not to Be in the dance competitions? That is the question that many parents, students and dance teachers are currently asking themselves. Quite frankly, many are viewing the upcoming season with a quietly concealed feeling of dread, as artistry and integrity, grace and manners disappear out of many studio windows to be replaced by dance tricks, flashy cheap moves and tantrums galore or glorious - depending on your opinion, of course.
Competitions can bring out the best and the worst in students, teachers, parents and entire dance schools, and knowing exactly where one stands, whether 'Win at all Cost' or attend for the enjoyment value or performing opportunity is vital to surviving with one's sanity intact.
One must consider the fact that dance and classical ballet in particular, are ART forms and not sporting activities. Sport can be judged in metres or minutes as in a sprint or a swimming contest, whereas dance is a performance art where artistry combined with musicality, technique, visual effects and stories should stir the emotions of an audience who show their appreciation with applause and hopefully with a continuing attendance at further dance performances.
Dance students need at least eight years of serious training to become a professional dancer and to achieve the desired levels or artistry, technique, acting ability, and musicality. Many never attend a competition, as in reality, the one has really nothing to do with the other.
However, casting all these comments aside, dance competitions can not only be extremely useful, but become a full time recreational occupation throughout a dance student's childhood.
Firstly, there are many dance students who absolutely love their dance classes, work long hard hours and who sadly, through physical or other limitations, will never get a job as a professional dancer. For these students, the competitions are an amazing, regular and exhilarating performing opportunity - a chance to feel like a real dancer, with costume and make up, to be up in the spotlight on a stage with wings and lights and a captive audience, to have rehearsed and perfected a solo.
Then there are the dance students who don't wish to become professional dance artists, but who are in a natural competitive nature and relish the chance to pit themselves against others.
Working towards a dance competition can help many students to achieve technical goals within a certain time frame, especially if they don't like or have access to dance exams or assessments.
For talented dance students at small or remote schools, the competitions can be a way to see who else is out there, to find out where they stand in general dance standards and in the grand scheme of the dance world. They might be the biggest fish in their own little dance school, but need to know whether they will still be amongst the best at national or international level.
And then there are the dance Mums - no, I won't go there!
There are competitions and competitions, and knowing which are right for you, your child or dance school is important.
Many competitions are run purely for profit and winners are encouraged to attend more and more finals - at a cost, of course.
There are also the glitzy, whose costume is the skimpiest with the most sequins, full of tricks instead of technique type of competitions. There is also the type of competition where 'who knows who' and a horde of one's own screaming fans help sway the judges' decisions.
There are many quieter, dignified dance competitions where audiences are encouraged to act as 'theatre audiences' and not sports fans, to limit screaming and screeching to outside the venue if at all, and who encourage a sense of performance and a respect for other performers. These dance competitions provide a theatrical, rather than a sporty, atmosphere with more experienced judges and promote the performing rather than the winning aspect.
And, of course, there are the elite professional dance competitions which even some of the internationally acclaimed dance school students attend. Often at these competitions, elite international professional dance schools offer talented competitors a dance scholarship or summer school opportunity, and where even dance company directors might attend to search for talented graduate corps de ballet dancers. These competitions always provide judges who are top dance industry professionals. It is all simply a matter of standards, cost, location, timing and, ultimately, personal taste.
If you feel you are not at the right competition - just leave, pack up and go home. Go and enjoy a good dance class or visit a professional dance performance. Look for the right competition for yourselves next time around by asking a wide variety of other dance students, teachers and parents. You can also read the dance journals and carefully scrutinize the various competition Facebook pages and websites.
And remember, the judges decision is the opinion of one person on one particular day. They may prefer small and petite rocket pocket dancers over tall, thin and elegant dancers, or blond over brunette, or the pink tutu over the plain blue one. What counts is whether you enjoy the competitions experience or not.