Tiare Keeno successfully straddles the worlds of concert and commercial dance. She began her training at one of the country's premier competition studios, Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem, Utah, before eventually transitioning to a top-notch classical conservatory, Classical Ballet Academy. All the while, she kept a close relationship with the razzle-dazzle of conventions, attending many each year before joining Nevada Ballet Theatre in 2012. "I've always said I wanted to stay open and try new things," Keeno says. After graduating from The Juilliard School in 2016, she moved to Macau, China, to work on the creation of a new Cirque du Soleil show, and performed in Al Blackstone's Freddie Falls in Love at The Joyce Theater in 2019, before landing her current position with BODYTRAFFIC for the 2019–20 season.
"The best judges come from the competition circuit," says Jill Wolins, who trains adjudicators for the Star Dance Alliance and Starpower National Talent Competition. "If you competed as a kid, you have proper respect for how hard these dancers work. It's not easy to do what they're doing."
Wolins began judging competition events in 2001 in between dancing as a Rockette and performing on Broadway/national tours of The Producers, The Will Rogers Follies, Sweet Charity and Grease. And, yes, she came up on the circuit herself, before earning a BFA from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Q: Our recitals are too long when we have both competition and recreational dancers performing, so I'm considering having two separate performances. Do you have any advice on how to do this without creating drama?
Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.
In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.
We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.
From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!
Q: I own a studio in a city that has a competitive dance market. I've seen other studios in my community put ads on Instagram and Facebook for open-call auditions in April, long before most studios have finished their competition season and year-end recitals. Is this fair?
Zoey Anderson is the role model competition kids need today. As trends for the rising generation move more toward versatility and comprehensive training, 25-year-old Anderson is a professional who actually has been able to do it all. While training at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem, Utah, in ballroom, ballet, jazz, contemporary and hip hop, she flew back and forth to L.A. for gigs like the Macy's Passport Fashion Show, a Pepsi One commercial and the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Always a ballroom competitor, in 2010 she became the Ballroom National Smooth Champion.
After high school she moved to New York City and honed her classical and concert skills at Marymount Manhattan College. After graduating, she joined Parsons Dance, where she's performed professionally ever since. In 2018 she was nominated for the Outstanding Performer Bessie Award.
On doing it all "From the time I was 10 years old, I knew my main goal was to end up in New York City, either in a company or on Broadway. Of course, at my competition studio in Utah, those weren't the opportunities that were available to me—ballroom and commercial gigs were. I'm the type of person who gets completely wrapped up in whatever they're doing. I can't help but love where I am at any given moment. I've always understood that the more styles you know, the more you have under your belt to offer an employer. I've made sacrifices in order to pursue multiple avenues of the dance world. At the end of it all, I've just enjoyed the journey."
On her plans for the future "I'm definitely going to stay within the concert world for as long as possible. I want to do it until my body says I can't anymore. I could see myself pursuing certain Broadway or commercial opportunities down the road that aren't as time-consuming or taxing on the body. I'm hoping to get a master's and then teach in a university setting. My college years were so important for me in terms of finding myself as a dancer, and I want to be that kind of support to others. It's humbling to give back after everything that I have been given in my life. "
On what she wishes the rising generation of comp kids understood "There are endless possibilities. It's about showing up, doing your best, putting yourself out there and taking risks. Expose yourself to as much as possible. The connections you make will be hugely beneficial to you. There will be auditions and opportunities that you'll be tempted to skip because they are different than your end goal. Don't do that. Don't limit yourself to one Broadway show or one company or one artist. Go for everything you possibly can. Each job is a stepping-stone closer to your dream—or even, something else that's better altogether. Lastly, the comp world is not the end-all/be-all. It's a learning experience. Don't think your placement at a competition defines your future. I can't tell you how many times I came in as first runner-up, and yet here I am."
Whether you consider "Dance Moms" a guilty pleasure or a legitimate depiction of competitive studio life (or maybe you just don't consider it at all, these days), you're definitely aware that change is brewing for the Lifetime TV show. Abby Miller (DT, October 2012) just announced she's leaving the show after seven seasons and under less-than-ideal circumstances (bankruptcy fraud claims, feuds with producers). And it appears that "Dancing with the Stars" ballroom performer Cheryl Burke (DT, October 2009) will be taking the helm—at least according to Burke's latest Instagram posts: