Although the weather is cooling down, the rapidly approaching competition season may be bringing your stress level to the boiling point. Stress can take a toll on your physical, mental and emotional health, and make for a miserable competition experience. But help is on the way. We’ve gathered advice from three pros to help you banish anxiety and sail through this season with a smile.

THE EXPERTS

  • Kelly McEvoy: Director, The Dance Centre, Skippack, Pennsylvania
  • Anthony Morigerato: Choreographer and teacher, New York, New York
  • Anna White: Dance instructor, Melinda Leigh Performing Arts Center, Mobile, Alabama

THE ADVICE


Plan in advance to reduce stress in the long run.

McEvoy: If 90 percent of the choreo-graphy is done before the school year starts, that gets rid of 90 percent of the stress. Then you have time to tweak your choreography and play with the timing and the spacing, and that’s very important. We schedule a three-week intensive in the summer, and by the end of August, the teachers are required to have 90 percent of their choreography completed.

Communicate for success.

White: A couple of weeks before competition, we give the kids a checklist of everything they need. They have to bring a two-gallon Ziploc bag for every dance they’re in, and we actually pack their clothes together in the studio. We have index cards that tell them what color tights and shoes, and they pack all that in the bag, too. Right before each competition they get new index cards with the name of their dance, the
number and what time it’s supposed to be performed. That way, when they get to competition, they can just look at the cards and say, “Okay, my hair’s supposed to be like this.” That takes stress away from the teachers because we don’t have 85 parents coming up to us saying, “Is her hair supposed to be in a ponytail or down for this dance?”

Schedule “me” time.

Morigerato: Take time for you. For me, simply going to see a movie or just doing something that’s not related to dance or teaching is enough to ease my mind. It’s refreshing to be able to come back and get the work done after that because you’re energized.

White: I set up an exercise schedule. Whether it’s playing tennis or running, I try to keep that up so I have my own personal time, which is the first thing to run away during competition season. I’ll plan to take a bubble bath or play tennis with a friend and have lunch afterward. It helps my sanity knowing that, even if it’s just once a week, I have that time just for me—and I’ve scheduled it in, so I’m not going to burn CDs for competition all day and I’m not going to fill out worksheets. I have that hour to look forward to.

Remember that laughter is the best medicine.

White: Having a sense of humor plays a big role in being a competition teacher—you can either laugh off the mistakes that students made, or you can laugh off the nervousness. Or, if you forget something, you can laugh it off and say, “Okay, let’s make the best of it and keep going,” because otherwise it becomes too stressful.

Being backstage can be so cutthroat with some of the other studios. We encourage the kids and staff to meet the other instructors and dancers and joke around with them and start friendships. When the students see their competitors as friends, and when I see my social peers and teachers as friends, it really helps to respect others and makes it more relaxing.

Check your perspective and remember why you are there.

McEvoy: You can’t take it too seriously. We don’t go to win. If we win, that’s a bonus. We go to take class, experience different master teachers, see different schools and find out how other kids dance. That takes the stress off a lot. I’m happy as long as they do their best and they act professionally. That’s huge for me. I don’t care about the trophy; I care about how my kids act, how my kids dance and whether they have fun. Performing is just part of the experience.

Morigerato: I love what I do. If stress is really too much of a factor for people, then they shouldn’t be involved in competitions, because the stress they carry can get passed on to their students, and that’s not a conducive or productive environment for teaching children.
Students eventually become a mirror of their teachers. They become what they’ve learned. So if you’re a teacher, you should really love it. You shouldn’t be in it for kids to win plastic. You should be in it for them to learn to be
better dancers and use competition as a tool to help them realize that goal. And if the teachers were able to think about that a bit more, then competition wouldn’t be as stressful and it would be a better environment for the kids, the teachers and the parents. DT


Dana Grunklee is a dance writer and educator living in New York City.

In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.

Keep reading... Show less
At age 12, doctors advised Paige Fraser to stop dancing and have surgery. Instead, she chose physical therapy and team of chiropractors and massage specialists to help work through her condition. She has just begun her 5th season with Visceral Dance, based in Chicago.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, when viewed from the back, has one or more curves. The vertebrae are abnormally rotated, which creates twisting and more prominent visibility of the rib cage on one side, and it is most commonly seen in adolescents ages 10 and older. Most cases cannot be reversed, but they can be controlled, for example dancer Paige Fraser who despite suffering from severe scoliosis, has thrived as a dancer. Dance teachers can play an essential role in spotting the condition at an early stage.

“Teachers can help to notice that scoliosis is there in the first place," says Sophia Fatouros, a New York City–based dance teacher and and former professional ballet dancer who has struggled with scoliosis since she was 12. “Parents do not always see their children in tight clothes, like leotards."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

Keep reading... Show less
Videos

When choreographer Cristian Faxola learned he had two days to create, develop and shoot a music video as an audition to choreograph for The Squared Division production house, he and his team embraced the challenge.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of Arizona State University

Many parents discourage their teenagers from majoring in dance because of fear that their child will become a struggling artist in an unforgiving city, only to end their career in injury. But a dance degree can lead to other corners of the profession, such as marketing, physical therapy and arts administration. "Parents always say their children need something to fall back on," says Daniel Lewis, former dean of the dance division at New World School of the Arts. "They only see the stage time, applause and flowers. But there's choreographing, teaching, PR—the careers are endless."

Others are more concerned with disappointment. "Your daughter doesn't have to be a major ballerina with ABT to be successful," says Lewis. "If she wants to be a dancer, she'll find the work. There's a certain amount of training you have to achieve before you even get accepted into a good college, so if you have the talent, and the drive, you can make it."

As mentors, teachers can be monumentally influential on students' college decision processes. Read on to hear from three dance majors who feel grateful they chose this path—and share their words with your students!

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
To show her support for local studios, Kelly Berick requires all her students to be enrolled in an after-school program. Photo by Stephanie Csejtey, courtesy of Akron School of the Arts

When Kelly Berick began teaching high school students at Ohio's Firestone Community Learning Center within Akron Public Schools 21 years ago, she was newly engaged, newly licensed to teach K–12 dance and thrilled to land what she considered the perfect job. Her enthusiasm quickly soured, however, when after two weeks of teaching she called a local studio to introduce herself. "The owner told me her students didn't like me, didn't like what I was doing and were going to quit my program," she says. Her class of seven became a class of three.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored