Q: We go to a Nationals event every two years. Two years ago we attended a very strong competition/convention Nationals. We did not win a lot, but we did learn a lot. This year I am getting a lot of pushback from parents to do a more low-key competition-only Nationals, where we stand a better chance of winning. What type of Nationals do you take your dancers to and why?
A: Choosing a Nationals can be very challenging. We all want our dancers to feel good about themselves and how they did, but we also want them to grow and learn from the experience. What works best for us is this four-year approach.
One year we take the entire competition team—minis to advanced—to a low-key, fun (but good competition-only) Nationals. We pick a competition that takes place the beginning of July, right after our June recital show. It must be located in a family-oriented area with lots of hotel and vacation-rental options, and that gives parents the option to either fly or drive.
Another year we have an "educational summer," where we encourage the dancers to take classes at different conventions and experience new teachers without doing any competitions. The idea is to let parents have the summer off to do their family thing.
For the two off years, we take the older competitive groups to a high-level convention/competition Nationals to compete against the best studios and take classes with the best faculties. We might not win a lot, but sometimes we learn more in a loss than in a win. We have a saying around here that it's better to soar with the eagles than cluck with the chickens. Strong competition will always make you and your dancers work harder to be the best you can be.