In a time when we are trying to promote unity and fair play among our children, consideration and support, an end to bullying and equal recognition, the idea of our dance students “competing amongst one another” is a tricky concept. The world has come to a place where every child is rewarded just for doing their best and “everyone is a winner,” which is by all means a wonderful approach to building a child’s self-esteem. However, there is the other side of the coin where parents and teachers alike must prepare children for what the real world is really like, especially if that child has aspirations of becoming a professional dancer. Unfortunately, no one is going to give you a trophy or an “A for effort” at an audition for a Broadway show or ballet company just because you attended. Harsh reality??..... Yes. True reality……Also yes.
So, how as studio directors do you maintain the spirit of camaraderie among dancers while still promoting a healthy spirit of competition? It’s not an easy feat for sure, but there is something to be said for the dancer who is self-motivated by seeing their peers perform well and excel and it becoming the catalyst for their own progression and goal-setting. The truth is, there is very little that you have to do except monitor the environment, check in with students regularly and oversee how students interact with one another. By no means is this to say you are to encourage your students to pit against each other or create animosity or jealousy. That is definitely not the healthy approach to this, nor productive in any capacity to the child’s training or your business. What I am saying is, dancers are naturally going to watch one another, whether it be in class or a friend’s solo rehearsal, etc. It’s just what we do as dancers, we compare ourselves and we self-analyze and critique. This is not always a negative thing if done in a healthy mindset with tons of positive support behind it. Now, the balance to this is to ALWAYs reaffirm and remind students that no dancer should obsessively compare themselves to another because it’s like apples and oranges. No two are alike and each always possesses something that the other doesn’t. That’s the beauty in learning and being inspired from one another. What should be their focus is taking control over their own technique, their own training and cultivating what those unique qualities are; which is going to make them succeed. This is what should drive them and push them to the next level.
My point is this, as studio owners, if you are creating an environment of support and team-work, where dancers truly learn the meaning of “ensemble- work,” along with a zero tolerance for jealousy, spitefulness and malicious energy, the times when that competition amongst dancers does arise is going to surface as more of a positive motivation. This is where dancers are now inspiring each other to want to do better themselves rather than tearing each other down in order to be at “the top of the pyramid.” There is a vast difference between the two approaches and teaching philosophies. What dancers will find along the way as well is that having a tough skin, perseverance and the wherewithal to work and toil to get ahead may indeed be a bumpy road in their dance career. And that’s OK. Others may in fact be better technicians, performers, auditioners, etc…. BUT, they will always be competing against someone in their lives at any given time, within the dance world or not. And that is an important thing they do need to learn and recognize. The lesson for them is to find a way to applaud others’ achievements and successes and realize it doesn’t minimize who they are and what they are doing as well. It should be recognized as a prompt to want to excel and be inspired.
Think about this….wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could create an environment where someone else’s talent and accomplishments was less of an intimidation factor and more as a motivating tool to better ourselves. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this could be achieved while still recognizing the support team that always stands behind you whether you rise or fall? So, the next time there is a bit of healthy competition going on in your studio, don’t get alarmed or immediately feel the need to call it out….watch and monitor how this competition develops. As the studio owner, navigate it towards the positive framework you know it could be to help your students inspire one another to succeed.
See you in the dance studio,