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Competition Kickoff 101


Teacher article



As judges for the past 15 years we have seen a lot of great numbers and some that have missed the mark. Here are a few observations that we and fellow judges have noticed that could be the difference maker for your next number. What is age appropriate and what is not? In many cases children under fourteen are given choreography and costuming that would be totally acceptable for an eighteen year old but for pre-teens comes across as too suggestive and really inappropriate. There is a lot of pressure from music videos to follow whatever trends are current; however, if you can present your ideas to your students in such a way that they will think that they are just the best and "coolest" thing around and let them realize that they can be the trendsetters without coming over in a negative way.

There are so many wonderful shows that have suitable music for younger children such as "The Wiz", "Thoroughly Modern Millie", "My Fair Lady" and "Lion King" to name just a few. Please no "Chicago" it is too sophisticated for younger teens or pre-teens. There is such a wide variety of interesting music available, don't be afraid to try something new and different. Try to stay away from any CD that has a parental advisory. Look in the World music sections at your local music store. This type of music gives you great opportunities to use universal themes that are almost always age appropriate and very unique. Compilation CDs by Bhudda Bar are excellent as are artists such as Keiko Matsui, Herbie Hancock and Santana offer a wide variety of wonderfully interpretive music. Yes it does take time to research and listen to music until you find something that moves and inspires you but it will definitely be worth it and the end result will be fully appreciated by all.

The way that you costume the dancers will greatly affect the way the audience perceives them as well as the way they feel about themselves. Dancers will perform better and more confidently in a comfortable costume that is structurally sound with no fear of "falling out". As a general rule stay away from garter belts and pants and skirts that ride too low on the hips and bra tops for the pre-teen group. Styles that are worn in everyday life often do not translate well on the stage and very often give the dancers unflattering lines. Special attention needs to be paid to designing a costume flattering to all of the body types in the number. Using vibrant colors and interesting fabrics can make all the difference as to how well your costumes are received. For the gentlemen a dance belt is a must to make sure they are properly supported. Please stay away from lycra pants and girls costumes for your male dancers.

Types of choreography are going to make the difference between what is appropriate and what is not. For beginners, try to keep it simple and clean. Use creative staging with multiple formation changes and most importantly technique that the dancers can handle with confidence. Use some kind of theme that the dancers can identify with. If the students have fun with it the audience will too. Try to avoid suggestive moves. For more advanced students pay attention to details with leaps, jumps, turns and layouts. Emphasizing stretched knees and pointed feet and finishing off all arm movements. Make sure, once again, that the dancers have mastered the technique in the studio because you do not want to put anything on stage that is not 100% For competition try to be different. When the same choreography is performed over and over again it becomes monotonous even if it is great.

Try different music and focus on different looks and styles. Creative choreography, use of props and unique ideas will make your dance more memorable than any "tricks" that the dancers do. Costumes or choreography do not necessarily need to be elaborate. Sometimes keeping it simple is more effective and has greater audience appeal. Most dance teachers influence the dancers that they work with and it is important to remember that we are the ones that set the standards not the dancers and at the end of the day letting these pre-teens and young teens ease gently into the adult world at the right time is so important rather than trying to keep up with MTV and letting them think that inappropriate costuming and choreography is acceptable.


5 -7: Simple look for the boy, shirt and tie, pants with suspenders, fedora hat Girl in pretty party dress with panels to give it good movement Burnt Toast Suzie Boggous Great for little tap rhythms. Theme is Ricky and Lucy with touch of comedy.

 8 - 12: East Indian/Moroccan look. Earthy colors with flowing pants and Arabian style jewelry Sabla Todo II Rakataka Arabic style dancing Good use of head, shoulder, ribcage and Hip isolations. Subtle Hand movements. Fun expressive number. Use big fans as a prop.

13 - 15: Afro/tribal feel. Jazz pants sliced up sides and tied at the knee. Top with beaded strings at the bottom to give flow to the costume Buddha Bar Tribal Afro style jazz with primitive overtones Big movements with lots of isolations and a very grounded look. A highly energetic number. Rain sticks are a good prop to use

16 and up: Pinstriped pants, open neck shirt with necktie. James Brown Man's World Sophisticated, smooth style suitable for older students. Music has great dynamics to use pirouettes and leaps.


Angela D'Valda Sirico

Angela D'Valda Sirico

Originally from England, Angela spent her early years in Hong Kong where she studied with Carol Bateman. She continued her training at Arts Educational Trust in England. After moving to New York City she continued her studies with Martha Graham and Matt Mattox. She appeared with the Matt Mattox Company and toured with the first Disney On Parade working with Disney and N.B.C. Contracted to the Teatro National of Buenos Aires she performed for one year and spent an additional year as a featured soloist at the Teatro Maipo, Argentina. Travelling to Madrid, Spain she worked for Spanish television in a weekly variety show Tarde Para Todos and from there decided to form her own Dance Company. With the Company she choreographed and performed throughout Spain in theatres, and on television. Angela met her husband Steve while working together on a television special The Valerie Peters Show filmed in Tampa, Florida. In 1979 they formed the Adagio act DValda & Sirico appearing in theatres, clubs and on television shows such as David Letterman, Star Search and the Jerry Lewis Telethon. In 1982 they were contracted to Europe and appeared in a variety of shows in Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Italy before going to London, England where they appeared as Guest Artists for Wayne Sleep (formerly of the Royal Ballet) in his show Dash at the Dominium Theatre. Angela and Steve have owned and directed their dance studio in Fairfield, CT. for the past twenty two years and in 2005 added music and vocal classes to their curriculum. Angela served as chairperson for the tri state panel of the Royal Academy of Dancing and is Co-author of a Partner syllabus currently used for teacher training by Dance Educators of America. She continues to adjudicate and teach for major dance organizations and choreographs for theatre, television and conventions and was commissioned by Boston Ballet 11 to choreograph the highly acclaimed Brother Can You Spare A Dime? DValda & Sirico are currently in production choreographing the opening to the National Speakers Association convention on Broadway at the Marriott Marquis for August of 2008. Angela is co-owner of Dance Teacher Web designed as an online resource for teachers worldwide.

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