Editor's Note: The Competition Issue

It’s that time of year when those of you who direct competition teams are preparing for the coming season. This issue includes some great tips and advice on everything from choreography to stage makeup to costume ordering, plus the handy Dance Teacher Competition Guide with contact details for all the top events.


Whether or not you are convinced of the benefits for young dancers, competition is a growing reality of dance training. There was a lot of discussion about it this year at the Dance Teacher Summit. As many have pointed out, one thing competitions do is increase performance opportunities for students. “Competition teaches kids to be professional,” Mandy Moore said during a panel about judging. “They learn to be on time, to groom themselves, to win with humility and lose with grace.”


Our cover this month is another hot topic. With the rising popularity—and notoriety—of “Dance Moms,” we felt compelled to visit Abby Lee Miller in Pittsburgh to find out what happens when a successful studio owner goes public with her business in such a big way. In “Sorting the Reality from the Reality TV," writer Rachel Zar will tell you who Abby was before the show and how she’s faring with her new-found fame. But little did we know that our photo shoot would become part of the spectacle. While photographer Matt Murphy captured Abby in his lens, the “Dance Moms” production crew wired us with mics and turned their cameras on us. It’s easy to forget they’re in the room once you’re involved with your work!


Speaking of the Summit, it was the most successful ever. More than 1,800 of you joined us this summer in New York City. We had a great time! Check out the photos in our print and iPad editions.

Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

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Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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