Desiree Robbins, a judge with Tremaine Dance Competitions and the artistic director of the Tremaine National Teen Performing Company, has been on the competition circuit for more than 15 years. She’s seen it all—the good, the bad and the very ugly. As you choreograph new performance routines for the upcoming Regionals season, keep her advice in mind.
What trends do you anticipate for the 2010 Regionals season?
I am looking for a little bit of change in what everybody presents. People are really influenced by “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars.” It brings out the best in everybody’s creativity. I’m looking forward to seeing how people use those ideas to bring fresh, new dances to competition. Just don’t try to directly mimic what you see on television.
What do you never want to see at competition again?
At Tremaine, we call it the “crotchma.” It’s the side tilt kick that everyone is doing. Instead of doing a technical side battement or extension, dancers turn their hips and what opens to the audience is something that should not! It’s an incorrect second battement, but they think it’s right because everyone is doing it. Your hips should be facing downstage and the leg should open up to the side of the stage. When the dancers turn their hips, the battement is no longer technically correct. We’ve allowed it to happen for a few years now and people mimic it. But if you don’t know the proper technique, you’re not going to do it correctly, and you’ll get marked down. The judges are thinking, “If I see one more of those, I’m going to die!”
Describe a standout routine from this past year. What made it so special for you?
There was a number called “Swimmin with Women” by In the Spotlight studio in New Jersey. It was a character/musical theater routine and it didn’t have all those elements of turns and jumps and tricks. It was so entertaining and on top of that, done so well, from costuming to staging. It was clear that the dancers and teacher didn’t worry about it being in competition. It was a period piece done right and for entertainment, not just for winning an award. We’re all still talking about it, including Joe Tremaine.
What should teachers keep in mind when they’re choreographing this year?
Always choreograph to the dancers’ abilities. Don’t try to keep up with others in your area or do what you think other people are doing. Stay true to what your dancers do well, whether they’re great turners or can only do a double pirouette. If it’s done right, judges will appreciate it.
What’s trendy on the competition circuit right now?
I think this year there’s going to be a big wave of people going back to classic, linear jazz. Contemporary is trendy, and we love it, but it’s getting oversaturated. The judges and the audience want to see nice, clean dance numbers where the dancers are smiling and the audience can enjoy them and be involved.
photo by Elite Digital