Nobody goes into a competitive situation and says, "Come to think of it, I'd actually like to lose." As a teacher, I love to see my dancers excel even more. There's no greater feeling than watching your students' hard work pay off and be recognized for their commitment and talent. And, let's be honest, it also makes us feel good as choreographers when our work is acknowledged by our peers as well.

Competitions are a great arena for creating performance opportunity, learning teamwork and collaboration, seeing what other studios are doing out there, learning from peers, receiving objective critique and feedback and getting to experience exposure to new things and people in the dance world. Remembering that healthy competition is a good thing to keep dancers motivated, on their toes and passionate about learning and wanting to progress, the issues arise in these competitive situations when students get too high or too low about the accolades they receive. As teachers and studio directors, it's our responsibility to rally the team and remind them of what's important going into and coming out of competition season.

It's all about perspective. We know that the scores given are subjective. You have three judges watching your dancers for three minutes and putting a number down (sometimes 200-300 numbers in mind you.) You put a set of three different judges in those same seats and the outcome may or may not turn out very differently. Keeping in mind that the judges are not scoring the progress these kids have made from where they started in September until now. How could they? They don't see them every day like you do. This is where you as teacher need to remind yourself and your students of that. They are getting a mere snapshot of those dancers performing and where we as teachers may inadvertently be looking at scores through the lens of progress, it's very much scored from the view of "in the moment."

So what do we tell our dancers when they don't score as they hoped? The most important question to ask them is, "How do you think you did?" "How did it feel?" Let them start to self assess their own performances and then create a dialogue to debrief together so you know where you need to fix things. If they can learn to be real with themselves and be honest where the work is needed, accepting something less than triple diamond elite platinum might be easier to swallow.

The second question to ask is, "How did you feel when you were performing?" This question is extremely important for their psyche. Were they having fun onstage? Are they living in the moment? That, above anything else is the real reason competition should be attended. Were they having fun? Do they love being onstage and giving it all they got? Did they leave it all out on the floor for their audience? That's more important than the adjudication and creating an experience for the viewers is what a dancer aims to achieve.

One of the proudest moments I had was from an older student this weekend whose solo I've been choreographing for many years. This is probably her last competition and the text I received from her made me prouder than any award she could've ever received. She wrote,
"High gold. Not my best run but what am I gonna do? At least I was enjoying myself onstage."

I thought to myself, she totally gets it. Gone are the years of sobbing tears in the corner because she didn't place. Let me clear too though, it's more than OK to be disappointed as I'm sure she was, she should be. That means we have a desire to strive to be better, but she also understands it doesn't define who she is or who she will continue to be as a dancer; and that's what's pivotal. There will be more disappointment than not in a dancer's career....so in tough love terms, you better get used to it. Thick skin. Brave heart. Strong soul. Clear focus. Onward and upward.

On the flip side, dancers who sweep awards at competition need reminding as well. While celebrating and feeling extremely proud of themselves is crucial to team and studio morale, self esteem and pure happiness, it shouldn't signify a "we got this" attitude towards anything going forward. We are only as good as our last performance and the goal should be to find a balance of maintaining confidence and feeling really good about success but being humble enough to remember that the second we get complacent is the second we begin to slip and lose that hunger to progress.

The main lesson here, stay balanced. Keep it all in perspective. Don't get too high or too low about awards. Take feedback and apply when necessary. Be positive. Keep an open mind.  Celebrate your success. Be true to yourself and dance from the inside out. Maintain a curiosity for learning and a passion for being in the studio. Learn from each other. Be competitive and  motivated. But...never let a gold or platinum award define who you think you are as a dancer.
Go get 'em and keep up with a positive attitude! It will never steer you wrong!

Good luck everyone!
See you in the dance studio,

Jessie