Ask the Experts: Cleaning Competition Routines

Q: No matter what I do, my competition routines are never as clean as I want them to be. What are your tips?

A: In my classes, when I’m working with one group, the other group knows to go through the steps and counts together to make sure they all match. No one stands still and waits for me to tell them what to do. I teach them to do that from a very young age. Here are a few more cleaning tips that I’ve come up with over the years, through trial and error.

  • Train your eyes to find the student I call “Waldo”—the one who’s different. Standing at the back of the studio and watching the dancers’ reflection in the mirror works best for me.
  • When clarifying choreography, I ask one of my stronger dancers where her head/arms/legs are on specific counts, and then I get the rest of the class to match.
  • For turns, make sure everyone spots on the same count to keep the revolutions in sync.
  • With younger comp dancers, number their corrections to turn remembering corrections into a game: “Oh,” I’ll say, “you got three out of four corrections right that time!”
  • Make a big deal out of it when a student masters a step or applies a correction—and have the rest of the class applaud her.

And most importantly: Clean your routines as you go; don’t leave it all until the end. Rehearsing the steps the wrong way makes corrections harder to implement later.

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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