Q: I’m about to attend my first-ever competition with my team. Do you have any advice on how to keep myself organized and my dancers calm?
A: Congratulations! Attending your first competition is exciting—and nerve-wracking. In the time leading up to the competition, I give every student a list of hair and makeup supplies that they will need and what jewelry, tights, shoes and costume accessories are necessary for each piece. At my studio, a hair and makeup class is compulsory for dancers and their moms (if the dancer is under 13), for which I bring in a cosmetologist to offer tips.
As the competition date draws near, I give out a “dressed and ready” schedule, with a list of times that I need all dancers in costume and makeup, ready to warm up. (This is generally one to two hours before their competing time.) This allows me to make sure that everyone is properly dressed, makeup is good to go and all headpieces are pinned in. At this point, we ask all parents to leave the warm-up area.
The dancers warm up together, with one of them or an assistant leading the group. Then I play the song for the group, so they can do a mental walk-through of the routine. After that, I have them dance the routine full-out to counts. The last thing we have right before the dancers head backstage is a motivational talk in a circle. I ask them to imagine themselves onstage, doing a great job. I try to keep this positive energy present all the way until they walk out onstage. We promote good sportsmanship and encourage our dancers to wish other dancers well when they enter or leave the stage.
Competition day should be all about the positive. Save the judges’ critiques for later when you’re back at the studio, where your dancers can hear and learn from them.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.
Starting this Saturday, the Children's Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side will have an interactive dance exhibit called "Let's Dance!" Basically every facet of dance is featured in the exhibit: kids can explore lighting design with a special child-friendly lighting box; choreograph with the use of props, signs and costumes; create accompaniment with percussion instruments; manipulate posable figures; see incredible dance photography and video; and, best of all, interact with the dance portal, where they can watch, learn and interact with professional and student dance companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dancing Classrooms, Mark Morris Dance Group and Martha Graham Dance Company. Whew. That's a LOT of great stuff.
Kathleen Kelbe, Pembroke School of Performing Arts | Pembroke, MA
Total budget: $100,000
Project timeline: 3 months (ongoing)
Kelbe expanded from 1,600 to 6,000 square feet. She used Rosco's SubFloor and Adagio vinyl and broke her extensive renovation into three phases.
Ellen Marshall, Off Broadway Dance Center | Fulton, NY
Total budget: $60,000
Project timeline: 3 months
Marshall renovated a Methodist church into a 4,000-square-foot studio, with Stagestep Flooring Solutions' marbleized gray Timestep in her two studios.
Diana Griffin, Fusion Dance Company | Palm Harbor, FL
Total budget: $40,000
Project timeline: 45 days
From restaurant to studio! The checkerboard ceilings were a restaurant leftover that Griffin decided to keep. Her O'Mara sprung floors were self-installed in her 7,000-square-foot space.
Barclay Gibbs, Dance Conservatory of Maryland | Bel Air, MD
Total budget: $10,000
Project timeline: 2 days
Gibbs chose Gerstung Floor Systems' AirBase 600 for her 2,000-square-foot studio. This semi-permanent flooring will travel with her, should she change locations in the future.
Nigel Burgoine, Ballet Theatre of Toledo | Toledo, OH
Total budget: $4,000
Project timeline: 1 day
In her work as director of physical therapy for New York City Ballet, Marika Molnar relies on tools like bands, balls and Pilates equipment to rehabilitate and strengthen dancers. She says there's a place for such tools in daily dance classes, as well. Resistance and stability tools can help students develop strength and even break bad habits. "Say someone is compensating because of a weakness or restriction—that's what they're always going to do," she says, even after a teacher corrects them repeatedly. "If you give them something that makes things a little unfamiliar, their brain has to participate more. It becomes not only a physical exercise but a cognitive one." The dancer learns in a new way, and improves.
Molnar has collaborated with Pilates expert Joan Breibart and PTs at Westside Dance Physical Therapy to create a series of tools and exercises with dancers' training and recovery needs in mind. Here, she shares three of her favorites.
Christy Wolverton had a student who often either missed class or seemed to be sick. "When you're in our pre-professional company, attendance is huge," says Wolverton, owner and director of Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, Texas. She tried to be patient with the dancer and communicate with her parents to get a better idea of what was going on at home. "When she was diagnosed with a serious illness," she says, "we were relieved that we didn't come down on her for something that wasn't her fault."
Laura Glenn can still remember the excitement she felt watching the Limón Dance Company perform at Central Park in the summer of 1962. "I turned to the person next to me and whispered, 'He's going to be my teacher!'" she says. Two weeks later, she started as a Juilliard freshman, where she indeed studied under the legendary José Limón before joining his company in her second year.