Q: I’m so sick of seeing other competition teams doing fouetté turns to the same old song, but I worry that deviating from such an obviously successful formula won’t translate into competition success. What do you think?
A: I understand exactly what you mean! Although we all have our “tried-and-true” turn series, it is important to keep evolving. Attending dance conventions is the best way to keep up with the latest dance trends in choreography, style, transitions and costuming. Attending regional and national conventions helps keep my staff and myself current and motivated. Think about ideas that inspire you when you start to choreograph. This year, I did a piece called Evolution; it was based on the idea of the evolution of man, a subject that has always fascinated me. Because I was invested in the idea behind the piece, it came together easily. Don’t be afraid to go in a totally different direction from what you normally see onstage; daring to be unique will make your choreography automatically stand out.
Try to avoid doing too many tricks in routines. It is important that dancers learn that transitions—even how they walk or run—speak more about them as dancers than the number of leg-pull turns they can execute. I am constantly stressing the importance of strong technique. A développé to second, no matter how high it is, is only impressive if your hips are square, your supporting leg is pulled up and both legs are turned out. Try concentrating on other aspects of performance that often get overlooked in trick-filled competition routines, like expressiveness, clean spacing and épaulement. Your students will mature as dancers, as a result.
Try not to pass up opportunities to educate yourself further in dance; keeping up with our own dance education helps us to continue to teach and motivate our students.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada.
Photo courtesy of Dance Teacher Summit