Q: How have you seen competitions evolve in the last few decades?

“I’ve been competing since I was 7, and I’ve spent more than 40 years being a part of it. When I first danced, we used records! It was just a contest—you went out and the costumes weren’t very elaborate and your dancing was basic. The group dancing was a big thing, but it definitely didn’t have an edge to it. Since I started my own studio, it’s grown immensely. The edge is over the top. I tell my kids, ‘Everything we do for competition, you will never do as a professional dancer.’ No one’s going to ask you do nine pirouettes and then a side aerial.”
—Robin Dawn, director/owner, Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts, Cape Coral, FL

“The level of ability and talent has grown so much. When we first started doing competitions, it was a big deal to do a double pirouette, and now that’s kind of like walking. There are just so many competitions, and I’m not sure they carry the same amount of push for kids. It’s just a fact of life; it’s not so special. In my day, after winning a trophy, you’d keep it forever. Now, if these kids kept every trophy they won, they’d have to have a whole separate room for them. And I think that’s a positive builder of self-esteem, but I also think it’s hard to understand when you really accomplish something.”  
—Devin Moss, director/owner, Classic Image Dance,
Chandler, AZ

“The facilities went from being high schools to full auditoriums. We had to travel two to four hours to get to a convention or competition, and there were only one or two events that even came to your town. Now they’re five to 10 minutes down the road. As far as studios go, competition is definitely one of the big selling points. That’s what kids want to be involved in.”  
—Heather Owens, founder/director, Upstate Carolina Dance Center, Easley, SC

 “When I was training, there were no dance competitions. But I’ve seen a huge change. My studio began competing around 1985. That’s when costumes weren’t crazy, everyone was very unique, lyrical wasn’t even a category, hip hop wasn’t a category. There was a lot more togetherness between the studios, and the teachers were getting along better. Then, probably in the early ’90s, some of the stronger studios started coming alive. It really affected the art of dance—there were more tricks, everyone had $200 costumes and dancers were looking the same. Granted, the dancers were amazing, but the creativity was missing. Now I’m very pleased to see that studios are getting more creative; even the bigger studios are stepping out of their comfort zone. I think So You Think You Can Dance has helped a lot. It’s very inspiring, seeing these great choreographers take a song we’ve all heard 100 times and do something completely different with it.”
—Suzi Zeppardo, director, Dancing Images, Moreno Valley, CA












Q: What has happened to style and artistry?

“Some studios have been doing contemporary for a long time, but people weren’t ready for it. Now all of a sudden it’s gotten really big, and I think all of that is the exposure on TV, on So You Think You Can Dance. Mia Michaels and Wade Robson are incredible! The choreographers are really allowed to express themselves a lot more, and I think it’s good to have all facets of that. We’re leaning a lot more toward modern, which there’s never been a lot of exposure to, because there’s always been the basics—tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical. Now it’s a blend of everything. I always tell my kids, ‘If it feels weird, it’s probably right.’ I mean, Bob Fosse turned everything in. A lot of kids may be thinking of joining companies where they might not have ever thought about that before. Pilobolus? Look at them—they do some bizarre stuff that is just out there.”  —Dawn

“Certain studios with a certain look and style go to certain competitions. It’s all about tricks and costumes. And they’re amazing kids, don’t get me wrong. But you’re not seeing creativity in that kind of venue. I think if every competition was like that, it would be sad because the artistic part of dance would be missing.”  —Zeppardo





Q: How much more financially challenging is it to participate in competitions these days?


“It is so expensive! It’s a huge financial undertaking for families, and that’s hard, because a lot of the most talented kids just can’t afford it, and it sort of hinders them from being able to continue. It’s not good enough just for them to take class anymore; they all want the limelight. We’re looking at $10,000 worth of events a year, which most studios probably can’t afford to do.”  —Moss

“All the rhinestones, the design and the time that goes into making costumes different and trying to make your kids stand out more than other kids . . . actually, it comes and goes. Now, you can kind of get away in a lot of the lyrical numbers with fewer rhinestones; you can go to Victoria’s Secret and buy something without spending $200 to $300 on a costume.”  —Owens




Q: If you could change one thing about competitions, what would it be?

“I wish that people would be able to take constructive criticism better, and put weight into the dancers and the training. Sometimes I feel like everybody walks out with a gold, and a lot of the young teachers—and parents are probably the worst—go back thinking, ‘Wow, we did so good.’ I can remember my kids competing in the Hoctor’s Dance Caravan twice a year, because there were no other competitions, and it was first, second, third—that’s all there was. Now there are so many on the weekend, and there are just so many choices. I will say this, though: I think it’s a good thing to compete because it builds good character. It takes someone with a lot more character to be a good loser than to be a good winner. Anybody can win, but in the business they’re going into, they’re going to get a lot more ‘no’s’ than ‘yes’s’ and they’ve got to be able to handle that.” —Dawn

“It’s difficult that there is so much competition between studios. Instead of really having an appreciation for others, a lot of people are just worried about winning, which takes away from your ability to learn from each other. I take students to competition for the sense of accomplishment and, yeah, it’s great if we win, but it’s also to see what’s out there and to have the educational aspect of it. So I would like to see a little more emphasis on the benefits and the education, and keeping classes that go along with competition. I really admire the events that offer a showcase, things that are a little bit different so you can support each other more and not worry about winning all the time.” —Moss

“Probably the time frame. Pretty much everything’s gone to three-day events now, and as far as scheduling, you’re there from 7 in the morning to 11 at night, and it gets really tough to come in on Monday and start teaching again. You’re just exhausted. It’s because the competitions are growing so much and they’re packing in as much as they can and extending the time they have the auditorium to the last minute.” —Owens

“I would like a universal language for divisions. That gets so confusing! I think it’s great that some events have levels and some don’t—that’s necessary. But if we could all have the same language on what’s a mini, what’s a junior. However, you have to be very careful with that line so you don’t take away the artistry of the pieces.” —Zeppardo







The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Teaching arabesque can be a challenge for educators and students alike. Differences in body types, flexibility and strength can leave dancers feeling dejected about the possibility of improving this essential position.

To help each of us in our quest for establishing beautiful arabesques in our students without bringing them to tears, we caught up with University of Utah ballet teacher Jennie Creer-King. After her professional career dancing with Ballet West and Oregon Ballet Theater and her years of teaching at the studio and college levels, she's become a bit of an arabesque expert.

Here she shares five important tips for increasing the height of your students' arabesques.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via Instagram

Happy Father's Day to all of the dance dads in the world! Whether you're professional dancers, dance teachers, dance directors or simply just dance supporters, you are a key ingredient to what makes the dance world such a happy, thriving place, and we love you!

To celebrate, here are our four favorite Instagram dance dads. Prepare to say "Awwwwwwwweeeeeee!!!!!!"

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jennifer Kleinman, courtesy of Danell Hathaway

It's high school dance concert season, which means a lot of you K–12 teachers are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed. The long nights of editing music, rounding up costumes and printing programs are upon you, and we salute you. You do great work, and if you just hang on a little while longer, you'll be able to bathe in the applause that comes after the final Saturday night curtain.

To give you a bit of inspiration for your upcoming performances, we talked with Olympus High School dance teacher Danell Hathaway, who just wrapped her school's latest dance company concert. The Salt Lake City–based K–12 teacher shares her six pieces of advice for knocking your show out of the park.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox