But remembering your material possessions is just the first step toward competition victory. What will help you persevere as the pressure builds are the mental and physical pointers that you acquire through experience. No one knows this better than those who have graduated from competition dancer to professional. DS called upon four past comp winners who successfully transitioned to the professional world to divulge what really makes a difference when you’re under the circuit lights.
Finding a balance between being well-rehearsed and overdoing it can be one of the hardest lines to find leading up to a competition. But as Teddy Forance (past Teen Dancer of the Year at American Dance Awards and Master Dance of America at Dance Masters of America who has gone on to tour with Janet Jackson) can attest, sometimes the best way to anticipate the stress of competition is to push yourself to the limit in the weeks beforehand.
“Preparation is a nonstop process,” Forance says. “My teacher always said to do numbers full out so that you grow every time you’re in the studio. Then by the time you get to the stage, you’re on another level than you were a month ago; you don’t have to think about the steps.”
Remember, it’s not just about getting the choreography ingrained in your body. It’s about making that choreography come alive by committing physically and emotionally each time you dance.
Competition isn’t a vacation. You have sacrificed time and money to follow your passion, and there’s no reason to throw that all away for an extra dip in the hotel pool.
“The number one priority when competing should be you,” says Dusty Button, 2006 Youth America Grand Prix bronze medalist and current member of Birmingham Royal Ballet. “It’s easy to get distracted by your surroundings, especially if you’re not used to it. Keep your mind on the task at hand and get yourself warmed up and ready to go.”
But Not Too Serious…
Conversely, if you get too wrapped up in the performance, you might psych yourself out before it even happens! Find little things to enjoy while preparing to go on stage, like putting on your favorite shade of lipstick or going through a special plié combination.
“When I’m getting ready, the first thing I like to do is come up with a playlist,” says Taja Riley, 2007 winner of New York City Dance Alliance Teen Outstanding Dancer and assistant to Travis Wall at NYCDA. “I find a couple songs that remind me of the dance I’m about to perform. But I avoid playing my performance song all the time because people tend to get tired of the song they’re dancing to.”
Keep It Fresh
Fatigue is inevitable at competitions. Yet it’s not just the amount of dancing that you have to be cautious about. It can be difficult to feel inspired by a routine you’ve performed 30 times already. Reinvigorate your piece with new energy—every time!
“There’s always room to grow, even if it’s the same piece,” Forance says. Set challenges for yourself. Find a new body part to focus on each time you go on stage, whether it’s cleaner arms or sharper feet. Don’t coast on the fact that you performed the piece well the last time around.
Riley agrees. “If there is an improv section in my piece, I change it up a lot, so people look forward to something new every time I’m on stage.”
Additionally, be receptive to your surroundings. “What’s cool about competitions is that you’re in a new space each time,” says Jodi Adkins, a dancer with the Pretty Girls of Dance who competed at Starquest, Showstopper and Rainbow Connection and now judges competitions. Each theater, judge and audience has a unique energy, Adkins says. Let that help you keep your routine fresh.
Interacting with competing studios is also one of the great benefits of competition. Dancers from other studios may approach training and performing differently than you do. Look at this as a valuable learning tool, not a cause for animosity.
“Everyone is there for the same purpose,” Button says, “and there’s absolutely no reason to be a diva when everyone is trying to support one another.”
Being able to adapt to new styles will help you when working with choreographers in the professional world later on.
“Open your eyes and watch as many performances as possible to soak up the styles,” Forance suggests. “You can find your own style by letting people influence you, without letting them take over your own originality.”
Compete With Yourself
“I don’t see competitions as win or lose,” Riley confesses. “Personally, if I don’t feel good about my dance, I’m not going to be satisfied whether I get a platinum or an honorable mention. It’s about how I feel when I get off stage.”
“The outcome really depends on the energy of the day,” Adkins says. “You have to realize it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go your way.” On a different day with different judges, the outcome could have been totally different!
The only thing you’re really in control of is your attitude and your own performance. Stay focused on the reason you are at a competition—your love of dance—and do the best you can for yourself and for your team. With a little hard work and dedication, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll be dancing alongside experts in the professional world! But for now: Remember to pack your makeup. And an extra bit of passion.
It's time to get your pirouette on! From September 5th to September 30th, we're hosting a contest to find out who's the best turner of them all.
Put together your most impressive turning combo. Post a video online. Share your turns with us and thousands of other dancers around the world. And if our editors think you're the top turner, you'll win a fabulous prize.
All of 18-year-old Kaylin Maggard's dreams—from scoring the title of National Senior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals to winning the 2017 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search—are coming true. And to anyone who knows the gorgeous contemporary dancer, that's no surprise.
From the moment the Dance Spirit staff met Kaylin, it was obvious her humility and talent would take her far. Not only did she go full-out during the photo shoot and class at Broadway Dance Center, but she was always cheering on, laughing with, and supporting her fellow CMS contestants Haley Hartsfield and Michelle Quiner. During the voting period, the social media world was abuzz with praise for her work ethic, positive attitude, and generosity.
Since her CMS trip to NYC, Kaylin's moved from her hometown of Columbia, MO, to the Big Apple for her freshman year at Juilliard, and is busy getting acquainted with the city. As for the future? She's taking it one opportunity at a time, but something tells us we'll be seeing this contemporary queen reach new heights every year.
Instagram star Kylie Shea has built a following of nearly 170,000 with her playful workout videos, which combine traditional fitness activities, like jumping rope or running on the treadmill, with pointe shoes and sassy choreography. Shea's effortless cool-girl-next-door vibe and solid ballet technique make her vids totally irresistible.
Now Shea's using her platform to address the body image issues that tend to plague dancers. In a poignant video, she sheds her clothes and tugs at her skin. The caption explains her relationship with her body and the pressure she feels to maintain a certain aesthetic as a dancer.
Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."
That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.
Think about it: How often do you see a ballet pas de deux for two women? Almost never, right? Sometimes, choreographers will forgo the traditional danseur-ballerina pas to make a duet for two guys, since they can lift and partner each other easily. But a dance for two ballerinas is a rare thing.
That's part of what makes "Duet," a new video by director Andrew Margetson featuring Royal Ballet beauties Yasmin Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell, so compelling.
"Dancing with the Stars" pro Lindsay Arnold has become a mainstay on the hit show—this fall marks her ninth season! America has fallen in love with her larger-than-life stage presence and vivacious personality. Specializing in Latin ballroom, Arnold trained in Utah with teachers including fellow "DWTS" veterans Shirley and Mark Ballas. After high school, Arnold planned to study physical therapy on a full academic scholarship at Utah Valley University—until landing a spot on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 9. Catch her on Season 25 of "DWTS" this fall!
J.Crew's putting a whole new spin on its brand —literally. The popular clothing line's inspired ad campaign has a group of cute male models showing off their best moves in a series of playful dance battles. When we saw one of those models throw down the gauntlet with a rather impressive series of chaîné turns, we knew he had to be a trained dancer, and we were right: He's former New York City Ballet corps member Joshua Thew. Dancer and model Smith Reesie also shows off in a seriously impressive freestyle.