Studio Owners

12 Performance Tips From Competition Judges Who Have Seen It All

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Help your dancers improve their performance—and scores—with this advice from veteran competition faculty: Martha Nichols, Judy Rice and Suzi Taylor.


Connect with your ensemble.

Everyone can be dancing at the same time, but not necessarily together, because they don't acknowledge each other. "Relax and have a good time," says Martha Nichols of New York City Dance Alliance. "Be grateful to be up there dancing with the people who you like. Be truly present onstage."

Mind the musicality.

Dancers need to listen to the music, and teachers need to work with their students to actually listen.

Here's an example of Keone and Mari Madrid finding magic in their musicality.👇

Pay attention to transitions.

Be creative with transitions so they're transparent (we don't see them). In other words, don't use skipping to go from one combination to another. Transitions separate the amateur from the professional.

If you're looking for inspiration, we're big fans of Chad McCall's seamless transitions set on these Orange County Performing Arts Academy Dancers. Give 'em a look!👇

Choreograph well within the technical ability of your dancers.

Don't be seduced by tricks, and keep choreography appropriate to the technical level of the students. "Resist the urge to stick poorly performed fouettés in each number," says Judy Rice of Artists Simply Human. "It's a holdover from the days of mandatory tricks."

This Sabrina Phillip combo? Yeah, it definitely fits the technical ability of the dancers. Plus there isn't a single fouetté in it! Excuse us please—we're drooling.👇

Be consistent when it comes to style.

Don't stick a classical pirouette in a hip-hop piece.

Kyle Hanagami knows how to make each piece of movement feel entirely appropriate to the genre he's choreographing. This one is a must-watch!👇

Wings are for exits and entrances.

Dancers should not be visible in the wings, and they should be clear on which wing to come and go from. Go over this with your dancers before you get onstage.

Brightyn Brems, Dance Awards 2017 Mini Female Best Dancer winner, demonstrates how to stay out of sight while in the wings.👇

Start strong.

First impressions count. Even the way you come out onto the stage and stand is important.

Travis Wall's "Strange Fruit" on this season of SYTYCD has one of the strongest starts we've ever seen. Honestly, we've got chills. Give it a watch.👇



Avoid unflattering angles.

Turn or angle movements to avoid crotch shots.

Here's Tate McRae showing off her lines with the perfect angle.👇

Costumes should match the tone of the piece.

An earthy number set to a cool indie song should not be costumed in hot-pink dresses with sequins and diamonds. It's confusing. And factor to consider, seeing tiny tots covered in bling while gyrating to a suggestive song is a hot-button issue for judges, so make sure the costumes are age-appropriate.

Here's a 2015 throwback for you. Justin Bieber's costume team deserves a bonus for staying on point with this video.👇

Just say no to stirrup tights with shoes.

Stirrup tights are fine with bare feet, but they cut the line with shoes.

Check out Dyllan Blackburn in her winning mini jazz solo at Radix Nationals 2017. She steered clear of the stirrup tights/shoe combo. #winner👇

Tags have to go.

Cut the tags out of your costumes and use a Sharpie to mark out visible brand labels on shirts.

Like this👇

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Wear the pair.

The trend of wearing only one shoe so you can turn needs to stop. No professional company does this and neither should anyone in a competition team.

Here is a video of Shaping Sound performing on The Ellen DeGeneres show with cohesive footwear. It's all or nothing, and we think they nailed it.👇



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