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The debate over competing multiple solos often comes up every year. With students and parents alike, sometimes the notion is to showcase their talents in every genre and take center stage as much as possible. While it's commendable for a dancer to possess the confidence and commitment to take on all that choreography, it can become overkill and work against the dancer competing.

There are some important things to consider as studio director if this is something you are contemplating for your dancers. The first and most important thing being, setting up your dancers for success. Is competing two, three, four solos really the best approach to doing that and giving them a great learning experience? Some food for thought, sometimes less is more and leaving the audience wanting more is key. If your dancer is competing three solos keep in mind that the first solo is always going to make the judges take notice. Of course it is, it's the first time they are seeing them onstage by themselves. However, each time a dancer comes out, an adjudicator is instinctually going to get more and more critical of the dancer; particularly when we are starting to see the same thing over and over.

In order to combat seeing the "same thing wrapped up in a different bow" trap, be sure to find eclectic choreographers with distinctly different styles for your performers so the dancer has variety in their solos and demonstrates a wide variety of movement. Now, that's impressive to see. If a dancer can morph themselves stylistically, it showcases a maturity and understanding of nuance and interpretation of an individual choreographer's unique language and movement profile. Remember, there is no need for anyone to see a dancer do three contemporary solos that basically looks like the one they just performed an hour ago. I don't care how talented the dancer is. Again, think about variety. Can you present your dancers in different genres? Perhaps one contemporary solo and a pointe solo? Or a lyrical solo and a tap solo? Vocal and jazz? Maybe throw in one solo and a duet or trio instead? What are their strongest concentrations? What will highlight their talents best? Give the judges something to sit back and say, "Wow, this dancer is well versed and has exceptional training."

The other thing to be mindful of is dealing with very young dancers and multiple solos. Yes, they are precious and adorable and we all love seeing their budding talent and dynamic developing performing personalities on stage, but having a five year old come out two or three times can be a bit much. Think about the reasoning this child is really doing all these solos? Is it the parents desire to see their little dancer up there or is this five year old prodigy so insanely talented she absolutely must share her talents? Think about it honestly and present accordingly. One really great, age appropriate solo for a young dancer that is well executed and rehearsed will usually go farther than two or three that are basically showcased just for the sake of doing a solo.

We want to give our dancers the best opportunity; to inspire them and challenge them, whether it be at competition or in class. How they represent themselves and present their talents should be overseen and mentored by you. You are responsible for leading them in the right direction. Being given a solo should be a privilege, not an expectation and it seems that mindset has gotten lost a little in recent years.  You used to be asked if you wanted to do a solo and selected because of your hard work and accomplishment. That still holds true in many studios, but not enough.

Think of it this way, if being given one solo is an honor, how does it look if we allow dancers to compete multiple solos just because they want to and pay for them. Try to find the happy, diplomatic medium and remember the priority should always be for the dancer to have the best performance experience possible. We want them to walk away with constructive feedback to help them develop and feel good about their well deserving-accomplishments at the end of the day.


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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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