Q: I’ve noticed that my students get burned out this time of year, when competitions are in full swing and we’re really starting to rev up recital dances at the studio. How do you make sure your dancers stay on track?
A: I can definitely relate. We start competition routines in November and begin competing in April and May, and we start our recital dances for non-comp classes in January (the shows are at the end of June). With school exams, ballet exams and a few guest choreographers between January and June, dancers can get burned out.
Our competition dancers do 8 to 12 hours of classes per week, which I think is standard. But unlike many studios, our comp dancers keep the same routines for competitions and recital—we don’t do separate routines, because we don’t finish competitions until mid-May. (And doing another dance would require more choreography and costumes.) So only solos, duets, trios and, occasionally, small groups require choreography and rehearsals outside of class time.
Teaching our dancers that it is their personal responsibility to keep choreography straight is essential. During school exam time, we try to give the high school comp dancers time off to study for their exams, but they are expected to remember all of their choreography and corrections when they return to the studio. And when we do a couple of competitions in a row, we give everyone the Monday after to relax, catch up on homework or just recuperate.
During the comp season, we offer open classes every once in a while just to give the dancers and their brains a change of pace. We encourage our dancers to set goals for themselves and keep reminding them throughout the year to continue to work toward those goals.
Joanne Chapman is owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.
Photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy of Joanne Chapman