Your Body

The "I" in Team

You're used to dancing solos at competition, but now you've been cast in a large group piece. Or maybe you're one of 35 girls on your dance team, and your coach wants everyone to perform the choreography exactly the same. It's hard not to feel discouraged. How are you supposed to stand out—not to mention become a better dancer—when you're part of a crowd?

Tempe Dance Academy team (Photo by Propix)

Dancing in a large group has unique challenges. You're often aiming for complete synchronicity and picture-perfect formations. Whether you're taking the floor at dance team Nationals or dancing the Kingdom of the Shades scene in La Bayadère, if you're performing with a group, the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts.

But that doesn't mean you, as an individual dancer, aren't important, or that you can't use your time with the group as a chance to grow. Here are some tips on maintaining your individuality while sharing the spotlight.


Focus on What You Can Learn

Are you frustrated because you want to work on your triple pirouettes, but the choreography in your group routine calls for everyone to do doubles? There's a time and a place to work on skills that aren't part of a group rehearsal. Save those extra pirouettes for class, or practice them on your own. In the meantime, try to acknowledge what dancing in a group can teach you.

Look at the other dancers in the group. You probably don't all have the same strengths and weaknesses. Think about what you can learn by watching your peers. “It's easy to make comparisons to other dancers," says Dr. Kate F. Hays, a performance psychologist and founder of The Performing Edge in Toronto, Canada. “Instead of thinking, 'I'll never have extensions as high as hers,' ask yourself, 'How is she doing X in a way I could translate onto my own body?' Nonjudgmental comparisons are a vital part of working in a group setting."

This shift in mindset can be especially crucial if you're competing within the group for featured roles. If someone gets a part you wanted, look at what she did right—and try to figure out how you can emulate it.

Put Your Role in Context

If you're performing in a group, it's not all about you. So what is it about? “When I'm in a group piece, I remember that the choreographer made the dance that way, with certain people doing certain things, for a reason," says Danni Coen, a high school junior who dances at Tempe Dance Academy in Tempe, AZ. “Then I can look at it and say, 'Wow, I'm so lucky to be part of presenting this piece to the audience.' "

Tempe Dance Academy at competition (Photo by Propix)

Find Your Niche

Chances are, your group isn't going to be in complete unison the entire time you're onstage. “There are always moments in our routines where we highlight individuals with certain skills," says Audrey Perkins, a senior on the University of Louisville Ladybirds Dance Team. “Every dancer has something special to offer."

If you get a moment in the spotlight, make the most of it. And if it didn't happen for you this time, keep trying. “You have to know your role on the team," explains Justin Su'a, head of mental conditioning at IMG Academy, “but you also have to realize that your current role might not be your role forever. Don't ever stop working hard. The people who get to the next level are the ones who put in extra effort to show they're ready."

Keep in mind that you can contribute to the group offstage, too. Perkins says senior Ladybirds often take on leadership responsibilities, organizing extra technique classes, helping other team members polish certain moves and assisting the coaches.

Remember Your Motivation

If you're frustrated about being in the middle of a group rather than front and center, take a step back and think about your motivation. “Reminding yourself that you love what you do can help to put things in perspective," says Su'a. Even if you're one of 100 dancers onstage, you're getting an opportunity to do the thing you enjoy most.

Photo by Jayme Thornton

Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.

Keep reading... Show less

Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.

Keep reading... Show less

When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.

In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.

The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."

Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.

Keep reading... Show less
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)

Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.

She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.

Keep reading... Show less
Blankenbuehler (far left) with the rest of the "Hamilton" creative team scontent-iad3-1.cdninstagram.com

So book your tickets to Tulsa already, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Your Body
Amanda LaCount showing off her skills (screenshot via YouTube)

There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Tavaris Jones dancing with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Scream Team hip-hop crew

We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)

So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored