"It's Raining Men," performed by students of Deborah Agrusa

Debbie Roberts is a pro. For the past 32 years, she has owned and directed Showstopper American Dance Championships, which boasts a 54-city regional tour as well as three national championship events each year. She says family-friendly events are her calling: “Where, other than at a competition, can you see teenagers hanging out with their parents and grandparents on a Saturday night?”

What are the biggest trends on the competition scene right now? Everything we’re seeing is “So You Think You Can Dance”–influenced. We created a contemporary category at Showstopper this year, because that style is so popular right now. The styles, costumes and music we’ve been seeing on the show are spilling over right into our competitions. The kids love it.

As an industry veteran, what types of routines do you most enjoy watching? I love watching big production numbers. We get to see the whole studio coming together, from the little kids all the way up to the

seniors. And of course it’s best when the routines surprise me with something really creative.

Most memorable for me are the ones where the kids really love what they’re doing and you can see it in their faces. The dancers are prepared, they have great technique and it comes through in every ounce of their bodies.

One in particular that comes to mind is “It’s Raining Men,” performed every few years by the teen dancers of Deborah’s Stage Door Center For The Performing Arts in Rochester Hills, MI. It’s her trademark. People will run into the auditorium to see it because she makes the routine so fun, and it’s always a little bit different than the year before. One year the dancers all bedazzled their umbrellas with rhinestones. Another year the girls all came onstage with wet hair. It’s age-appropriate and always done well.

What do teachers need to know about bringing their dancers to competition? On the business end of things, make sure you are extremely organized. Get everything done—don’t wait until the last minute—so that you’re not stressed out at the competition. Order your costumes early and get all your entries in by the deadline. And keep your studio parents involved and in the know. E-mail them all the information they’ll need about competition weekend.

On the dance side of things, prepare your dancers with the foundation they need for their routines. It all comes back to great technique.

What is the biggest mistake you see dancers making at competition? Being too stressed out. As dancers, you have to do your homework before you get to competition. You have to know your routine by then and have everything together. If you’re completely prepared, you can have fun when you get there. You’ve worked so hard to be onstage for those few moments, so get the stress out of the way beforehand and make the weekend a positive experience.

What is your advice for first-time competition dancers? Take it all in. Embrace the competition experience as a whole and learn from the other people there. Competitions provide incredible opportunities to see dancers at all different levels. Don’t come into the weekend with blinders on. Open your eyes to everything instead of just focusing on yourself. There are so many great routines to see and there is so much for you to learn.

—Alison Feller

Photo by Take 2 Productions, courtesy of Showstopper

Dancer Health

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

Keep reading... Show less
Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

Keep reading... Show less
Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

Keep reading... Show less

Because the chassé is often neglected during the execution of this traveling step, Judy Rice asks her students to do a minimum of a six-inch chassé before transitioning into the pas de bourrée. She encourages dancers to pay close attention to their shoulders and hips in effacé, too. "Kids tend to open it up. They look like they're fencing," she says. "You don't want that." Both shoulders and hip bones should be facing the corner.

Keep reading... Show less





Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!