Ask the Experts: Are Competitions Necessary?

Q: I stopped taking part in competitions 10 years ago because I didn’t like the way they turned nice people into not-very-nice people. But I think my students have lost some of their edge, as a result. Do you think studios need to take part in competitions in order to train the best dancers?

A: Competitions are a great way for dancers to set goals, showcase their talent, get some professional feedback on their work and gauge their progress. They also inspire teamwork among your students.

But it’s true that competitions often come with a few drawbacks. Over the years, I’ve seen it all: I’ve had parents who take competitions too seriously and put way too much pressure on their children. I’ve attended competitions where other studio owners’ negative attitudes have made for some very stressful weekends. You can set a good example by keeping in mind that good sportsmanship starts with you and your faculty. When you compete, make sure everyone—students and parents included—is on the same page and demonstrating the proper attitude. Competition should never be about beating someone else; it’s about growing with each performance.

Remember that many studios have wonderful, supportive attitudes. I have seen kids from different studios sitting together onstage at the awards ceremony, cheering for each other and being supportive of the new friends they’ve made. This past season, one studio gave every other studio at the competition a card signed by all of their dancers, with notes saying what they admired and learned from their dancers. At another competition, one studio stood up and cheered every time an overall winner was announced, regardless of which studio it was.

If you still feel hesitant to start competing again, know that competitions aren’t the only way to train strong dancers. Conventions are another way of inspiring your dancers, and you can attend many of them without competing.

Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.

Photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy of Joanne Chapman

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