Do This, Not That
The judges are fine with you making a mess onstage—as long as you clean it up afterward! (Cory Jones/C Event Pics)
Competition weekends should be easy enough, right? Rehearse your stuff beforehand, arrive at the venue with your costumes ready to go, hit the stage, dance full-out and, later, graciously accept whatever award you’re given. And while it’s your onstage performance that matters most, competition directors and judges are paying attention to your offstage etiquette as well. A bad attitude, sly eye-roll or sarcastic dig at your competitors could be just the thing to turn your platinum into a “thanks for showing up.” So what do comp pros love—and hate—to see from dancers? We got five of them to spill.
DO rehearse before you come to compete. In the studio, dedicate yourself to learning the ins and outs of your routine. Then, when it comes time to dance onstage, you’ll be free to enjoy and experience your moment rather than fear it. —Katy Spreadbury, JUMP
DON’T rush around. Get dressed and dance in your costume before you’re in front of the audience, paying attention to possible malfunctions or issues that can be resolved before you step onstage. Focus on your grooming: Do you have enough makeup on? Do you look like you put care into presenting yourself? —KS
DO check in on time. Backstage managers always recognize prompt dancers. —Melissa Burns, Turn It Up Dance Challenge
DON’T check in and then disappear. When you check in, you’re telling us you’re ready to perform. If you forgot something and need to go back to the dressing room, let the backstage director know. —MB
DO give yourself the luxury of time. Time allows you to relax and take care of the innumerable things that come up before your performance. Leave enough time to warm up and stretch. —KS
DO remember it’s not the audience’s job to love you—it’s your job to entertain them. So go out there and do your job! —Jackie Sleight, L.A. DanceMagic
DON’T be late. Tardiness doesn’t just affect your own experience onstage. If you’re not ready, for whatever reason, it translates to onlookers as a lack of care and respect. That’s not the reaction you want from your audience. —KS
DO realize you’re part of a larger picture. Everyone involved with the competition, from the judges to your peers, wants the weekend to run smoothly and efficiently. Do your part to keep things moving. —Ayodele Casel, L.A. DanceMagic
DON’T make someone else pick up after you. Be mindful of the backstage space you share and clean up after yourself. —AC
Clapping for everyone: always a major DO. (Cory Jones/C Event Pics)
DO be courteous to backstage managers. —Ray Leeper, NUVO
DON’T warm up or rehearse in the wings while another group is onstage. If you can see the judges, they can see you, too. —RL
DO show everyone how much you love dancing. Smile when speaking to people in the dressing room or when you’re addressed backstage. Say thank you when you’re handed an award or recognized in any fashion. —KS
DON’T scream and yell during a serious performance. Although your enthusiasm for the piece is appreciated, it’s distracting to the judges, performers and other audience members. —RL
DON’T clap just for your studio during awards. One of my biggest pet peeves is when dancers clap only for themselves. We’re all at competition together to learn and have fun, and we need to support each other. —MB
DO be aware that your behavior during competition is a direct reflection on your studio. Represent it well. —AC
DON’T use lots of large or elaborate props. Less is more. —MB
DO tell yourself, “I’m happy to be here and easy to work with.” That attitude will get you far with the crew and other artists. Plus, it will help you keep a positive mindset before your performance. —JS
DON’T let the results of a competition dictate your reaction to the experience. Too often we see students disappointed or disheartened at the end of a competition based solely on the medals they hold in their hands. Dance competitions are progress reports. They do not predict your future. Use competitions as opportunities to get practice onstage, observe your peers and learn something. Medals don’t make you a winner—doing the best you can and leaving with a sense of what more you’d like to do with your dancing is the true prize. —KS
DO make new friends and connections. You never know who you’ll run into down the road. Keep in touch with teachers, directors and fellow competitors after the event ends. —MB
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.
But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.
Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.
There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.
Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.