Q: I’m about to attend my first-ever competition with my team. Do you have any advice on how to keep myself organized and my dancers calm?
A: Congratulations! Attending your first competition is exciting—and nerve-wracking. In the time leading up to the competition, I give every student a list of hair and makeup supplies that they will need and what jewelry, tights, shoes and costume accessories are necessary for each piece. At my studio, a hair and makeup class is compulsory for dancers and their moms (if the dancer is under 13), for which I bring in a cosmetologist to offer tips.
As the competition date draws near, I give out a “dressed and ready” schedule, with a list of times that I need all dancers in costume and makeup, ready to warm up. (This is generally one to two hours before their competing time.) This allows me to make sure that everyone is properly dressed, makeup is good to go and all headpieces are pinned in. At this point, we ask all parents to leave the warm-up area.
The dancers warm up together, with one of them or an assistant leading the group. Then I play the song for the group, so they can do a mental walk-through of the routine. After that, I have them dance the routine full-out to counts. The last thing we have right before the dancers head backstage is a motivational talk in a circle. I ask them to imagine themselves onstage, doing a great job. I try to keep this positive energy present all the way until they walk out onstage. We promote good sportsmanship and encourage our dancers to wish other dancers well when they enter or leave the stage.
Competition day should be all about the positive. Save the judges’ critiques for later when you’re back at the studio, where your dancers can hear and learn from them.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.