To compete or not to compete, this is a posing question for any studio owner in terms of the “type” of studio they are going to market themselves as. Are you a traditional training facility, solely focused on classical training methods; creating technicians and performers who will go onto company work? OR…does your studio’s curriculum focus more on being fiercely competitive, where emphasis is also placed on training elements considered to be “current” while stressing endurance in order to prepare students to compete weekend after weekend? OR…. are you a balance of the two; with a strong focus on traditional training methods while providing your students with one or two regional competition opportunities a year in order to expose them to new performance venues and gain objective and constructive feedback from professionals as they would at an audition? All are valid and personal, yet take very different form. Each studio director is responsible for setting the tone as to whether they will be labeled a “competition studio” or not and it’s up to you to decide where in the spectrum you care to take to take your students.
It’s essential to contemplate what your views are on it and give weight to where you feel comfortable and what your dancers will enjoy and benefit most from. Whatever path you choose it should always be with the intention to motivate dancers and provide opportunities for them to be challenged and excel. Along with performing opportunities, you want to promote collaboration and teamwork and a platform for them to shine. Unfortunately, there are those however, (though hopefully few and far between,) who use competition to pit students against each other, scream at them in order to threaten their progress because they know no better way, diminish their self-esteem and allow horrific examples of parental behavior to be displayed in anything but a supportive and nurturing way. These are extreme examples but sadly, this type of radical glorification of the competition world and support of this type of studio behavior is one reason why competitions get such a negative wrap.
There are however, many positive aspects to exposing your students to competition dancing. It is crucial however to blaze your own trail. Demonstrating your studio’s individuality and artistry is pivotal and will go a long way. Far too many times we see those that fall into the trap of “following the crowd” that solely present the bare midriffs, tricks and bad technique, provocative content that is not age appropriate, putting pieces up on stage that are mere replications of things we’ve seen a hundred times before, etc. An important thing to remember is to be original. Take the road less traveled and think about how you want your students to represent your studio. It’s not just about putting the same carbon copy of things you see every studio do season after season. It’s not about restaging works you’ve seen a hundred times on dance performance shows. It’s not about duplicating a master-teacher’s choreography from a convention. It’s about putting fresh, youthful and creative works of art on stage for students to enjoy and love dancing while teaching them the skills they will use no matter where they go in life. Dancers will learn lessons which are important for any career they enter into; teamwork, time management, collaboration, professionalism, self-esteem, performance ability, passion for craft, recognition for hard work and merit, artistry…..These are all things that can be brought to the competition arena if you and your faculty set the precedence to do so.
Remember, it is also important to always create a balance and have our students perform in many different venues to expose them to different performance experiences. Not everything needs to be about competition either. I myself, come from a traditional training studio which did not compete, but as an adjudicator now, I objectively see both the positives and negatives of what it can bring. Like anything, again, it’s about balance, good taste and professionalism. The directors are the ones who need to keep our young dancers in check and help create the best experience for our students, no matter what venue they choose to dance their hearts out in.
Good luck to all this season!
See you in the studio,