Dance Competition Pros and Cons

‘Ballet is not a SPORT but a revered ARTFORM’ - Miss D

I have reiterated this phrase a million times since childhood. Luckily, the elite professional Ballet School I attended for 8 years didn’t allow entry to such amateur events as dance competitions and I must have unconsciously imbibed this sentiment then.


As a Classical Ballet Dancer and company member of the State Theatre Ballet Company of Wiesbaden, I did dance in a beautiful choreography at the International Dance Festival in Cologne, Germany. Each year young aspiring choreographers were urged to present their works over several days in the hopes of finding talented and as yet unknown choreographers. Multiple and excellent incentives and prizes were offered to further encourage what seemed like a total lack of new choreographers at the time. It was a wonderful event with a worthy vision.


Dance Competitions nowadays are a very tricky and hotly debated subject, and don’t even get me started on ‘Subjectivity’ which really negates the idea that it is a competition in the first place! In every sport there is some form of clock, tape, time, line or finishing score to determine without doubt the winner - so how does this equate in a dance competition? It just doesn’t!


The more ‘Flash and Trash’ type of competition event seems to wish to emulate the sporting world by encouraging multiple turns, dance tricks way beyond the age and comprehension of the dancer (and presumably their teacher), and a propensity of flashy costumes often consisting of as many sequins on as little a costume as possible. On the other hand there are some well planned, artistic, dignified and performance-enhancing dance competitions that reward clean technique, pure artistry, meaningful musicality and authenticity of dance style, presentation and costume.

So after experiencing all of the above at some point in my professional teaching life, the following eight Pros and Cons are very much a personal (subjective) choice coming from over 35 years background as a Corps de Ballet Dancer through Soloist to Ballet Company Director now turned Classical Ballet Teacher.


PROS

  1. A Performing opportunity in front of new, often knowledgeable audiences.

  2. Working towards a set meaningful event furthers technical and artistic progress.

  3. Having a goal with a set date motivates students to work harder on a daily basis.

  4. Teaches students about structured planning, breaking down and learning dance(s) correctly.

  5. The right sort of competition offers amazing exposure for Vocational students.

  6. Experiencing how to win or lose with dignity helps build much needed resilience.

  7. Performing is FULFILLING and FUN and for many students is as natural and as essential as breathing.

  8. Can help develop self confidence and self esteem in young nervous dancers.

CONS

  1. Finding the right competition is not easy for the inexperienced parent/teacher.

  2. Parental, dance friends and teacher expectations may cause fear and anxieties leading to a lack of confidence, poor performance due to excessive nerves and even imagined injuries.

  3. Unpleasant dramas backstage amongst tense parents, teachers and dancers.

  4. Some dancers/parents begin to focus on the winning rather than performing element.

  5. Disappointment due to judging outcomes can cause jealousy, anger and other negative emotions that can last for months or put students off dance forever.

  6. The costs (extra training, entry, costume, travelling etc.) of some competitions can be prohibitive.

  7. Basic technique class can get neglected whilst repetitive rehearsing and performing of technical feats (often too young) can lead to serious injuries and loss of career hopes.

  8. Too many competitions can lead to Burn Out if not managed properly.



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