Because there are plenty of ways for dancers to budget creatively (Getty Images/everydayplus)

The Dancer's Guide to Competing on a Budget

It's no secret that competition dance is expensive. Like, really expensive. Add in a global pandemic that has left millions of Americans unemployed and it can seem downright outrageous. Still, dancers need to dance! Dreams need to be chased, technique needs to be honed, and vital career relationships need to be established.

So, how can dancers ensure they get in front of judges during this year of economic hardship? Creative budgeting!

We caught up with three financially savvy competition/convention participants who've become experts at taking part in competition dance without breaking the bank. Here they share 15 budgeting tips that will rock your world.


1. Look into credits from canceled events

Last season, many dancers only competed once (if at all) before shelter-in-place mandates went into place across the country. Remember, you should be able to get refunds or credits for COVID-canceled events. Be sure to participate in what you've already paid for!

It can also be nerve-racking to invest money into competitions when events can easily be canceled due to high infection rates. Take comfort in knowing most competitions are offering refunds within seven days of the event. To be sure, check in with competition administration before registering.

2. Take advantage of scholarships

Pandemic or not, scholarships are a great way to cut convention costs, something Center Stage Performing Arts Studio dancer Mya Tuaileva has worked hard to utilize. These winner scholarships cover convention fees for any regional city Mya would like to attend throughout the year, as well as the cost of classes at Nationals, should she choose to attend.

Check to see if any scholarships you earned in the 2019–20 season (or even the 2018–19 season for some conventions, like NUVO or JUMP) have been extended to 2020–21. Most conventions/competitions will disclose this information on their website.

3. Get those early rates

Early rates at conventions are generally less than standard rates. (For example, at New York City Dance Alliance, rates are more than $50 less if you register early.) Plan ahead and book promptly to shave off some extra dollars.

4. Tap into multi-city discounts

If your studio is attending more than one regional workshop in a single year, some conventions give discounts. Take RADIX: Dancers attending more than one 2020–21 regional workshop receive a 50 percent workshop-fee discount for each additional city.

5. Go virtual

Perhaps the best way to save money and still participate in conventions this year is by taking advantage of virtual options. Some conventions are offering virtual weekends well over $100 cheaper than in-person weekends, while still providing quality classes with the teachers you know and love.

6. Participate in costume swaps

All dancers know the expense of competitions goes well beyond participation fees. One of the more unexpected costs is costuming. To help dancers manage this at Woodbury Dance Center in Minnesota, teacher Jessie James collaborated with dancers from Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Utah to buy and sell gently used costumes. "Center Stage parents get to make some money back on costumes they won't wear again, and my dance parents here in Minnesota are saving costs on new costumes," James says. "We have figured out 10 reduced-rate solo costumes for the year so far, and it's been really helpful."

7. Sell old costumes

"I try to sell old costumes to help pay for new ones," says Tasha Tuaileva, Mya's mom. "There is no reason to keep them." Tuaileva generally makes these sales by connecting with dance moms around her studio who are on the costume hunt, but every so often she will make a sale through those who connect with her on Instagram. Dancers may also want to consider reusing their own costumes from previous years, or wearing hand-me-downs from older siblings, if they have the option.

8. Limit the number of extra small-group numbers, in favor of solos

In a normal year at Woodbury Dance Center, senior dancers participate in two numbers as an entire group (generally jazz or contemporary), and three to five extra small-group numbers. This year, to help dancers financially, there will just be one to two extra.

At Center Stage, dancers have some flexibility in choosing how many numbers they would like to participate in. Mya Tuaileva always opts for fewer small-group numbers in order to do a solo, so she can prioritize technique and one-on-one time with her dance teachers.

9. Use in-house choreographers over big names

Though it's always exciting to bring in big-name choreographers, this year it might be financially prudent to take advantage of in-house talent. "My fee is a bit less than bringing in an outside choreographer," Jessie James says. "We have been trying to take advantage of that the best we can. Luckily we have a lot of teachers who are really talented."

10. Revamp numbers from the past

Recycling numbers from previous years (especially those you didn't compete much) is a great way to save on expensive choreography fees this year. "We've taken two or three numbers from last year that we didn't get to compete much, added a few dancers, and plan to reuse them," Jessie James says. "Normally you can't recompete, but this year Break The Floor is allowing it, and from what I'm reading, other competitions are doing the same."

11. Go local

Choose to attend competitions that are close to home. "To save money, I try to help Mya do competitions that are local or somewhere close I can drive to," Tasha Tuaileva says. "We usually only travel to one or two out-of-state competitions per year."

12. Team up with a friend to split travel costs

"I usually like to take another dance mom and daughter with us so we can share the cost of the hotel, or gas if we don't fly," Tasha Tuaileva says. Beyond being cost-effective, splitting travel adds to the experience. "It's a lot more fun that way because you get to spend the whole weekend with your good friends," Mya Tuaileva says.

13. Maximize regular class times if private lessons aren't an option

Many competition dancers add multiple private lessons on top of their packed dance schedules in order to improve their chances at winning competitions. To save money this year, forgo extra privates and maximize regular class time by staying focused and pushing yourself every day. "I try 10 times harder in class because I know I can't just do a private lesson every day like other dancers. I can't mess around," says Mya Tuaileva.

14. Practice at home

If private lessons at the studio with a teacher are out of your budget, rehearse your solo at home. Move some furniture (you're probably an expert at this by now), and work on your own.

15. Get your money's worth at convention

Once you're at convention, make the most of it. As with anything this year, it's not a given, so don't waste your time there. "When I'm in class I try to stand toward the front and in the middle, so when they look out they can see me," Mya Tuaileva says. "I try really hard to stand out. I wear bright colors. I make sure I only talk to my friends before or after class, and I never sit down. I try to be very respectful and focused. I'm there to learn and take notes so I can become a better dancer."

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Because all dancers have experienced it at some point or another (Getty Images/patat)

How Dancers Can Beat Zoom Fatigue

Now that we're more than nine months into the pandemic, there's a big chance you're feeling Zoom-ed out. Read: Totally overusing the video-conferencing app for school and dance classes—and everything else. And according to dance/movement therapist Erica Hornthal, MA, LCPC, BC-DMT, there's good reason for that: "Managing your environment in a virtual space is taxing on the mind, and therefore taxing on the body."

Hornthal attributes these feelings, in part, to a mind–body disconnect that happens when we use the app: Your body knows you are alone in the room, but your mind sees a group of people on screen—and managing this COVID-era reality can be, well, exhausting. But we can also feel Zoom fatigue, Hornthal says, from having to "constantly be present to the third 'person' in the room: the Zoom camera." Uh, relatable!

So if staring at a grid of fuzzy faces—or into the abyss of that cold, dark lens on your device—has you feeling less than energized, here are some ways to cope.


Take breaks from tech throughout the day

Tamia Strickland, a sophomore in the Ailey/Fordham BFA dance program, trains both in person (with a mask, of course!) and online but says there are unique challenges that come with the latter. For one, she says, it's hard "to stay focused and motivated when you are in your basement or living room staring at a computer screen all by yourself—and all day long." These feelings can lead to frustration: You want to stay engaged with the class, but after staring at your computer screen for so long, you start to feel unmotivated.

As a remedy, Hornthal suggests taking breaks from your tech devices when you can. "The last thing you want to do," she says, "is exit a Zoom session and then immediately jump onto your phone." Instead, take a breather from everything virtual, and give your mind—and body—time to recalibrate. "Create space to connect or reconnect with your body when you are off technology," Hornthal says. "Take a walk, practice mindful breathing, embrace nature."

Move for yourself—and on your own

Another way to overcome feelings of online-class fatigue, Hornthal says, is to find time to move on your own—away from the camera on your device. As you begin moving for yourself, try to recognize and notice your own body wisdom. As a dancer, this could simply mean taking stock of what feels good and natural to your body as you, say, indulge in an improv sesh.

Tim Roberts, a Maryland dance studio owner and former performer, says giving his students time to turn their cameras off and work through their own movement has helped keep them motivated. "Opening that space for them is so necessary­ and beneficial, and helps them appreciate the time they do have with me," he says.

If you're not feeling up to a movement break, consider cooling down the mind and body by taking some time to stretch out and take up space in the body, Hornthal says. By encouraging greater body awareness, stretching can help give you more insight into what your body needs at any given point—a physical check-in before you head back into The Land of Zoom.

Tap into your other senses

When you're on Zoom, you're constantly using your eyes—to learn choreography, to support fellow dancers, to catch physical cues from teachers—so it's important, Hornthal says, to give yourself screen breaks. As you give your eyes a rest, take time to whet your other senses: Squeeze a stress ball; smell the outside air; gulp a tasty green smoothie; listen to your favorite playlist. The key here is to take in stimuli that trigger your other senses, rather than continuing to use (or overuse) your sense of sight.

And as a golden rule for your overall Zoom-life health, always remember: "It isn't just dance that is happening online—our entire lives are virtual," Hornthal says. "That means we have to be intentional with our downtime, and turn off technology, so we can tune in to ourselves."

Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Cory Lingner

How Broadway Dancer Cory Lingner Perfected the TikTok Duet

With #SocialDisDancing still very much in place, it's a challenge for dance partners to perform safely, and even harder to perform safely together.

But Broadway's Cory Lingner may have found the solution—on TikTok. He's using the app to tap alongside some of the most iconic movie stars, including Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines, Ann Miller and Shirley Temple. And, no, he doesn't have a time-traveling device.

Lingner has perfected the use of the app's duet feature. On one side of the video is a clip of the tap-dancing icon and on the other is Lingner, dancing in unison. And as a bonus, Lingner's also giving viewers facts about the stars and the performances as they watch.

Lingner's danced in everything from On the Town to An American in Paris, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Carousel. But still, his tapping TikToks may be one of his favorite challenges yet. "I've gotten very lucky to do shows on Broadway," Lingner says, "But I haven't actually gotten to do as much tapping as I'm doing in these videos."

When Broadway shut down last March due to the pandemic, Lingner was in rehearsals for Love Life with New York City Center's Encores! series. Without a stage and a live audience, he's getting his fill of performing from his social media duet series. And it's so popular on TikTok, he's gained more than 8 thousand followers in a mere month.


@corylingner

##duet with @tcm & Gene Kelly!! Couldn’t think of a better way to make my TikTok debut! ##genekelly tapdancechallenge ##tap ##tapdance ##dancechallenge

♬ original sound - Turner Classic Movies

Dance Spirit: How did your "Cory's Duet Series" on TikTok get started?

Cory Lingner: It was kind of just a spur-of-the-moment thing. The very first spark of inspiration was another fellow tapper, Nicole Billow. She actually did the first side-by-side with Gene Kelly from An American in Paris. I watched it and I was like, "This looks really fun." I went ahead and made a TikTok account and made my first duet. I posted that thing with zero followers and by the end of the night, there were 500 followers and it was blowing up with views.

DS: How do you pick which numbers you're going to do?

CL: Well, part of it is going down the YouTube rabbit hole looking up performers that I'm familiar with. The majority of what I've tried to focus on is introducing new performers so I don't repeat dancers too much. The last time that I repeated was with Vera Allen in White Christmas, since it was the holiday.

I also try to find sections where not only I can do the choreography in my limited space, with my little piece of plywood, but also if they're able to stay on a single camera shot for long enough for the 20 to 30 seconds.

DS: How long does it take you to learn the dances?

CL: It depends. If I'm a bit more familiar with it, I can probably pick it up quicker. Sometimes it takes 15 to 30 minutes. One that I worked on that I'm going to share is with Ginger Rogers. That took about an hour and a half. Luckily, I've always been a visual learner.

DS: What do you think about the skill level of some of Shirley Temple's tap steps?

CL: It's remarkable the fact that she did that many films and had that kind of tap dance skill set at such a young age. It is so impressive to me. People were commenting on that video too, writing, "Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize what she can do. That's very impressive."

DS: It seems like we don't see this style of dance anymore, since the Golden Age of the Hollywood movie musical. How do you feel film choreography has changed since then?

CL: This style of dance definitely does feel different. I've always admired it and gravitated towards it. It's fascinating to picture how these choreographers even conceptualized sequences where the stars are dancing all across these sets and sound stages.

I find myself wondering, "Did they have the set to begin with and then worked on it, or did they come up with ideas and then that gave set designers ideas to build?" The rhythms and the tap melodies are pretty bright, and that makes it really fun for me and exciting for anyone watching.

DS: What is some of the feedback you've been getting?

CL: Oh, my goodness. It's so lovely, all the comments and messages. There was a grandmother that said, "I think you just inspired my 3-year-old grandson to start taking dance." It warms my heart. From what I'm reading and seeing, it still resonates with so many people.

DS: What are some dream duets that you need to do?

CL: I've gotten a lot of people up requesting the Nicholas Brothers. They're the best. I'm going to try to see if I can find something to do them justice and try to keep up with them. But with my little piece of plywood, there's no way I can do their iconic jump into the splits because I'd get splinters.

There were other duets people were recommending, like James Cagney. So I'm trying to find a moment when he stays still. I learned "Moses Supposes" from Singin' in the Rain many years ago, which would be really fun to tackle again. Maybe I'd do that one in two separate sections, so I can do one with Gene Kelly and one with Donald O'Connor.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer and choreographer Hope Boykin (center) after teaching a master class at the Center for Civil and Human Rights (Emily Hawkins, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

4 Dance Works Honoring the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Social justice has a been a prominent theme in many Black American dancemakers' repertoires. Today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day­—and in the midst of ongoing social and political turmoil in America—this theme carries new resonance.

Dr. King's legacy has spurred the creation of many dance works, with many creators using his words to respond to the social issues of the moment. So, today, in celebration of MLK, Jr. Day, here are four of those dances which honor the legacy of the late civil rights leader.


"r-Evolution, Dream." by Hope Boykin

Set to a soundscape that includes music by jazz musician Ali Jackson, narration by Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom, Jr., "r-Evolution, Dream.," performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, debuted in 2017. Choreographer—and Ailey vet—Hope Boykin was inspired to create the piece on a visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. "I got a chance to listen to Dr. King's voice and watch the footage of his funeral with the casket running through the city," Boykin said in an interview with the L.A. Times. Boykin says she was especially stirred by the cadence and sound of his voice.

Moved by the timeliness of Dr. King's teachings (over a half century after he first orated them), Boykin set out to create a ballet that, in effect, translated some of his most famous sermons and teachings into movement. The ensemble piece, which also features solos and sets of pas de deuxs, is a powerful reminder of the long fight ahead for racial equality in America.

"Bodies as a Site of Faith and Protest" by Tommie-Waheed Evans

First performed by Dallas Black Dance Theatre in 2018, "Bodies as Site of Faith and Protest" also transcribes Dr. King's words into dance—only this work zeroes in one particular speech: Dr. King's "We Shall Overcome."

The most resounding imagery in choreographer Tommie-Waheed Evans's work is the clump of dancers at center-center, who march and march with searing purpose oozing from their eyes—yet seem to arrive nowhere. It's as if Evans puts on display the historical, present, and future conditions of the Black American: That the battle for equal protection under the law will be ongoing.

"Dougla" by Geoffrey Holder

In response to the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, Arthur Mitchell, then a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, felt compelled to take action. His efforts would culminate in the formation of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

The ballet troupe performs everything from classical rep to new works—one of the most iconic is Geoffrey Holder's "Dougla," with movement that depicts the wedding of a Dougla couple, in which one partner is of African descent and the other of Indian descent. The ballet features a spectacle of costume, with a thumping, grounding pulsation of drums beneath movement that, in of itself, is bold and unafraid of making a statement.

Perhaps most memorable about this piece are the moments done in unison, when everything is "working together at once," as Carmen de Lavallade, who helped restage the piece for DTH in 2018, said to theNew York Times. The power in these moments of togetherness conjures scenes of Americans marching in unity for social justice, echoing the very reasons Dr. King worked to lead change before his death.

"Deep Blue Sea" by Bill T. Jones

In an interview with our sister publication Dance Magazine, Jones says the work deals with one overarching question in particular: "Are we really still this beacon, this light on a hill, this conglomerate of disparate groups and stakeholders that we call American democracy?" As a young child, he believed that the Black community could overcome the effects of systematic racism, said Jones to DM. Now, he has less faith—and "Deep Blue Sea" dives into the reasons why.

Intended to be performed at the Park Avenue Armory, the cast included not only the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, but also nearly 100 members of the New York City community.

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