Taking your students to a competition event is not easy. You’ve logged many hours of choreography and rehearsal, ordered costumes and made them fit just right. And let’s not forget about dealing with the parents. Now you’ve got 20 kids in a strange city, about to go onstage for their big moment. It would help if you could clone yourself. You’re frazzled. But every minute becomes worthwhile when your beautiful dancers take the stage . . . and the trophy! The MC calls your name to come forward and accept the award, and you’re so proud as you stand to make your way to the spotlight . . . oops, in your baggy sweatpants.
This isn’t you, right? Or is it? Competition company directors and judges report that teachers don’t always set the best example for their students. They establish rules and maintain a list of appropriate behaviors for their students, but when it comes to competitions, sometimes they assume the rules just don’t apply to them.
“At most competitions, the idea is for the judges to not be aware of what studio the students are from,” says Doug Shaffer, director of DanceMakers, Inc. “But often we find the teachers are the ones who will transgress the most. They stand up [during the performance] and make it very obvious it’s their studio competing.” He notes that while teachers are not allowed backstage with the kids at DanceMakers events, “every once in a while a teacher will push their way through that door and help their kids up onstage and jump up and down and scream and yell.”
Brendan Buchanan of BravO! Dance and Talent Competition says photography is a big issue. “We firmly state, no photography and no videography during performance.” From a liability standpoint and for the safety of the kids, the policy exists to make the environment as safe as possible. “Even though we make consistent announcements, shut down cameras and put our hands in front of a video camera, people still don’t listen,” says Buchanan. “That’s the most frustrating thing. We even take points off for certain routines where parents or teachers—even though they’ve been warned—continually take video.”
It’s also important that you remain professional. You’re the role model who sets the standard for behavior of both your students and their parents. Applaud for all performances, not just your own. Wish the other competitors good luck. And refrain from making fun of other studios. (Yes, this does happen.)
Sandra Coyte of Starbound National Talent Competition says it’s the parents who are often the culprits of the most inexcusable behavior, but you can help get them in line. “It is imperative that teachers be the ones in charge,” she says, noting that parents should never directly approach competition officials. Coyte’s biggest etiquette pet peeve? Teachers who solicit students from other studios. “It’s highly unethical,” she says.
And as for the sweatpants example, Buchanan says that though every good dance teacher knows to always be prepared, some do get caught with their guard down. Don’t let the frenzy and stress detract from your personal moment to shine—take an extra 10 minutes in the morning to dress for success.
Buchanan recalls one teacher who is particularly shy and refuses to come onstage to accept any awards. “She’s not about recognizing herself, she’s very selfless and puts the kids first. So every year, in this particular city, we know she is never going to come up. We harass her a bit, but she finds a way to not be accessible where we can pick her out,” he says. By avoiding the limelight, this teacher diminishes the experience of her dancers and misses an opportunity to promote her studio. So, don’t be afraid to show off a bit—guilt-free. After all, this is the moment you’ve worked toward.
Illustration by Emily Giacalone