Competition

Judges Panel

When competition season rolls around, it’s inevitable that you’ll get a bit stressed out. Your brain is jam-packed with worries, from remembering to pack (and put on!) all of your accessories to making sure you spray down your wispys. But the things you’re freaking out about may not be the things that matter to the people you’re hoping to impress.

Dance Spirit talked to seven judges to get the scoop on what you should worry about (your technique) and what doesn’t matter (whether you polished your tap shoes). So put your concerns on hold for a minute and read on to see what the judges really value.

You think… “I forgot my hairpiece! We’re going to lose points for sure.”

But really… Ashley Barnett of L.A. DanceMagic says any type of costume inconsistency in a group routine is distracting and takes away from the overall impression of the piece. But very few judges will lower your score for a minor appearance flaw. “I don’t want the whole group to be knocked down on a score because one person forgot a rhinestone choker,” says Lisa White, a judge with Starpower.

You think… “I messed up in a group routine. If we don’t get a good score, it’s my fault.”

But really… Judges rarely mark down for individual performance flubs, especially if you recover well. “Everybody makes mistakes,” says Bob Woodard, who judges for PrimeTime and Showbiz. “The judges only get upset if you make a mistake, then fall apart. Just keep going, keep moving. You don’t have to be perfect all the time; what matters is how you react.”

You think… “The judges love eye contact.”

But really… The judges we spoke with said getting stared down by dancers actually makes them kind of uncomfortable. In general, “Keep your focus up and out,” advises White. “But it’s nice if you connect with us for just a second or two.”

You think… “The number that’s scheduled to go on before mine is good—I’ll look bad if I go right after it!”

But really… It doesn’t matter when you go on. “We’re judging you based on you, and it doesn’t matter who goes before or after you,” Woodard says.

Do entrances and exits matter?

To some extent. Though the judges may not score your entrance and exit, they do pay attention. “I’m watching you as soon as you come onstage,” says Lindsey Glick of MOVE Productions. Ray Leeper the executive director of NUVO adds that “everyone takes into account first and last impressions.”

You think… “I hate the convention portion of the competition. I just want to perform. I’ll stand off to the side with my friends until class is over.”

But really… Poor participation in class might affect your competition score, depending on the judge. “If I see a kid screwing around in class, and then see them dancing as hard as they can at the competition, I can’t help being biased,” says Mandy Moore of JUMP. While the judges try to be open-minded, they will remember bad attitudes. “If two routines get the same score and you have to break the tie, you’re likely to pick the piece danced by the kids with good attitudes,” Woodard says.

You think… “The judges already scored my routine—now I can change into my pajamas for awards.”

But really… Some judges frown upon dancers who don’t look polished for the duration of the competition. “Someone has taken the time to judge you and give you an award, and you should look respectable to receive that award,” Moore says. “Remember that you’re representing yourself and your studio.” So what’s appropriate awards apparel? “I like when dancers wear their studio attire to show team spirit,” Barnett says.

To lip sync or not to lip sync?

Not to lip sync! None of the judges we talked to like when dancers mouth along with the lyrics during a performance. “Dance is about speaking with your body,” Leeper says. “Lip syncing is unnecessary.”

You think… “The judges are here to rip me apart.”

But really… They want you to be great! “We’re on your side rooting for you,” says NUVO’s Ray Leeper. Adds Robert Bianca of Showstopper, “Everything we say is to help you improve.”

At the end of the day… Your score is a reflection of someone’s opinion on that particular day. “Dance is subjective,” says Bianca. “Each judge will look at each routine a different way.” Adds Moore, “Competition doesn’t determine the success you’re going to have or what kind of dancer you’re going to be. Don’t let it define who you are as a dancer.”

Use competition as a chance to grow as both a performer and as a person. “Dance because you believe in what you’re doing,” Bianca says. “There might be someone who can do more pirouettes than you can, or who has higher extension than you do. But no one can be more you than you. So show us you.”

Live it up!

Every weekend, competition judges sit through hundreds of routines. If you want them to remember your performance, you have to show that you’re enjoying yourself onstage. “You can do 12 pirouettes in a row, but if I don’t see your personality, I’m not into it,” says judge Lindsey Glick. “If you can whip out a clean double with confidence and you’re living it up onstage, I love it.”

A Few of Their Least Favorite Things

The judges reveal their biggest pet peeves.

“I can’t stand numbers that are under-rehearsed and aren’t clean. We want everything to be fine-tuned. Pay attention to the details.”  —Ray Leeper

“The worst thing you can do is run offstage. Unless you’re having a major costume malfunction, keep going.”  —Bob Woodard

“I’m tired of seeing the ‘crotchement,’ the kick to the front that everyone is doing now—it’s so awkward!”  —Lindsey Glick

“Dancers shouldn’t run into each other onstage. Fix traffic problems in the studio.”  —Robert Bianca

One of the most beautiful things social media has brought us is the ability to feel like we're up close and personal behind-the-scenes with all our favorite dancers. And one of our favorite stars to Insta-stalk are actually two casts of 36 scintillatingly synchronized precision dancers. I'm talking, of course, about my mild obsession with the legendary Radio City Rockettes.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
(via @tran247fitness on Instagram)

Have we mentioned lately how much we love dance dads? Especially ones who show up to their daughter's ballet class sporting a tutu, like Thanh Tran.

Keep reading... Show less
Thinkstock

You've seen it a million times: A glamorous, toned dancer posts a perfectly styled shot of her colorful smoothie bowl. The caption gushes about how great you'll feel if you eat "clean"—but what does that actually mean? DS asked registered dietitian/nutritionist Rachel Fine and holistic health coach (and founder of The Whole Dancer) Jess Spinner for all of the dirt.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.comfor a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm being bullied by one of the girls at my studio, and it's awful. I've talked to my dance teacher and confronted the bully directly, but it hasn't made a difference. What should I do?

Faith

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
(Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy BAE)

Consistent turns are a must for aspiring professional dancers, but pretty much everyone struggles with pirouettes at some point. Luckily, since we're all beholden to the same rules of physics, there are concrete steps every dancer can take to reach his or her top turning potential. “Three is the new two when it comes to pirouettes, but the secret to turning is technique, not magic," says Bojan Spassoff, president and director of The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.

Falling out of your doubles? Aspiring to go revolution for revolution with your class's star turner? No matter where you lie on the turning spectrum, our 360-degree guide to pirouettes will help you improve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Ray Batten (left) teaching class at Wagner Dance and Arts in Mesa, AZ (courtesy Batten)

You rehearse your group routine to perfection, but when the big performance rolls around, everyone turns into speed demons. It's the runaway-train effect—and it only takes one loud tapper, or zippy turner, to throw the whole group off the music.

While nerves and excitement are partly to blame, the ability to keep to tempo begins in the studio. A well-developed sense of musicality is your best defense against the dreaded speed trap. "When you understand how the steps fit with the music, going too fast won't just feel like rushing," says Jeremy Arnold, lecturer of tap at the University of Texas at Austin. "It'll feel wrong." How can dancers develop that musicality? It all starts with learning to listen.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Angela Sterling

Bunheads, this one's for you. They say you can tell a Nutcracker by its "Snow" scene—and we fully believe it. There are so many versions with extra goodies—olive branches! Fake snow! Sleds! Choirs! Snow queens!—and each brings a special something to the holiday favorite. But do you know which ballet has what?

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo (Photo by Nathan Sayers, courtesy Pointe)


You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Read more at pointemagazine.com!

(Lucas Chilczuk)

Let's face it—spare time is pretty tough to come by when you're a dancer. You're either rushing to get ready for rehearsal, rushing to rehearsal, a combo of the two, or in rehearsal (or performing, or in class, or at an audition...you get the picture). Well here at DS, we understand the struggle is REAL, which is why we've rounded up our favorite foolproof makeup hacks, approved by resident #LazyGirl when it comes to makeup (spoiler alert: it's me). On to the hacks!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Kalea Hidalgo (Photo by 567 Photography, courtesy Stacey Hidalgo)

Kalea (pronounced kah-LAY-uh) Hidalgo knows how to move. Her decisive, dynamic dancing commands the stage: She gobbles up space so confidently it's hard to believe you're watching a mere tween. Unsurprisingly, that presence and power have started turning heads in a serious way. Not only did Talia Favia choreograph one of her solos in 2017, but Kalea also recently signed with Bloc Talent Agency in L.A. and, last summer, placed first overall in the junior contemporary solo category at Radix Nationals.

"When you're out on the dance floor, don't ask for permission—ask for forgiveness."—Kalea Hidalgo
Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored