Q: As a studio owner, it's important to me to make age-appropriate choices for music, costuming and choreography. Unfortunately, when we go to competitions, the pieces that aren't age-appropriate are winning. How do I explain these wins to my students and their parents?
A: It's important to remember that views on age-appropriateness can be relative and may fluctuate depending on the demographic of where a studio is located. That being said, we all need to remember we are teaching children. We are the adults, and we must hold ourselves responsible for our music, choreography and costume choices.
I've been to a number of competitions where my students have come in second to routines that push the boundaries of age-appropriateness. Whenever this happens, I'm very honest with myself and take a hard, professional look at what those routines had that mine did not. I've found, more often than not, that those routines were on the whole stronger than mine. Maybe those students displayed a more advanced level of technique and precision than my students. Or maybe those dancers were more in sync with each other and presented a better overall performance than my students. This then becomes an opportunity to explain to my students (and their parents) that those routines were not rewarded because of the costumes they wore or the music they danced to. They won the competition in spite of those factors. I then suggest increasing the number of training hours for my students, to improve both their technique and performance, which would give them a leg up in future competitions.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.