After a year of tumult, virtual events and constantly moving targets, it's more than reasonable to wonder: What exactly is the state of the competition world?
For months, we didn't see our favorite friends and teachers unless it was through a screen—now, against all odds, programs are rising from the ashes to bring you meaningful training and performance opportunities both in person and online. We asked four prominent competition/convention directors to give you the inside scoop on what to expect from this season (and, yes, that includes Nationals).
First: Things are going to be OK<p>If you ask leadership from 24Seven, NYCDA, Showstopper or Radix Dance Convention, the trajectory of the dance convention/competition world is on the upswing. "As numbers improve and restrictions are eased, we're ready to kick it into high gear," says Radix director Eddie Strachan.</p><p>Programs have returned to their regional tours, tackling unique pandemic hurdles as they strive to create as "normal" an event as possible. "Things are definitely looking up," says 24Seven director Danny Lawn. "For us, an event this past weekend felt as close to normal as it has in a long time."</p><p>According to Nikki Cole, director of marketing and media relations for Showstopper, the competition world is an inspirational place to be right now. "The dance community has come together in remarkable ways to bring positivity, hope and light to dance studios by getting kids back onstage," she says.</p>
Right, but what about Nationals?<p>Good news! Every competition/convention we've spoken with is committed to hosting Nationals this year, one way or another.</p><p>COVID willing, Showstopper, Radix and The Dance Awards all hope to hold a normal Nationals (you know, in-person), but it's important to remember that things are always subject to change. "We are ready to hold Nationals as normally as possible, but if we still need to have safety protocols in place during that time, then so be it," Strachan says. "We are just trying to push through each month to see what the next one brings."</p><p>Capacity for both the Florida and Las Vegas Dance Awards is still to be determined by the tide of the pandemic, but as of right now, registration is open to those who are interested. Regardless, Lawn says dancers can anticipate something magical. "The directors are so good at shifting plans and making everything special," he says.</p><p>For NYCDA, things will look a little different. Rather than hosting one event in NYC, director Joe Lanteri has decided to hold two separate summer events: one in Phoenix, AZ, and one in Orlando, FL. "We are committed to making it feel like a true NYCDA Nationals," Lanteri says. That means it will still include award-winning choreographers, artistic directors and college-scholarship auditions. Safety precautions that have been a staple throughout the year will continue, but the details of how many dancers can attend are still to be determined by the ever-changing state of the pandemic.</p>
Regular temperature checks are required to participate at the majority of events (Evolve Photo & Video, courtesy NYCDA)
Okay, so what does "in-person" actually look like these days?<p><strong>Schedule Shakeup</strong></p><p>In order to host as many dancers as possible, and avoid cross-contamination between studios, scheduling at conventions and competitions is a bit different this year.</p><p>"If you're only allowed 200 dancers in the venue at a time, that's really limiting for four different age groups," Lanteri says. NYCDA's workaround? In some venues, a split schedule. Morning classes are reserved for mini and junior dancers to take class, and the rest of the day is reserved for teen and senior dancers. "That alone doubles our capacity."</p><p>In order to avoid eating and congregating en masse, 24Seven is staggering lunch times, as well as class start and end times.</p><p><em>The takeaway?</em><em> First, pay close attention to the schedule the competition gives you: It's going to be different from years past. </em></p><p><em>Second, if you have a younger sibling, your parent or guardian will likely be running back and forth like crazy all weekend, so be sure to tell them how much you appreciate them.</em></p><p><strong>Mask Up, Temperature Check and Complete That Health Survey!</strong></p><p>These days, your mask is your golden ticket to any convention or competition. Other than the moments immediately before you walk onstage to compete, and immediately after you finish, your mask will be on your face for the entire weekend. (Some cities even require them onstage.)</p><p>"We completely understand that none of us like to wear masks," Strachan says. "But we all like to dance in person, so if that is what it takes, that is what we have to do."</p><p>Beyond masks, regular temperature checks are required to participate at the majority of events, as well. And NYCDA teachers and staff are going the extra mile to keep you safe. "We have a partnership with a testing lab, so every week, everyone on the NYCDA team is PCR tested before they get on an airplane," Lanteri says. "The lab sends someone out to the cities with us, and most of us test again while we're there. I personally also test every Monday when I get back to my home base."</p><p>NYCDA also requires each of their dancers and attendees to fill out a wellness survey every day along with getting a temperature check. This gives them access to a wristband that shows they're clear to participate. </p><p><em>The takeaway? </em><em>These competitions and conventions aren't messing around. Nothing is more important to them than your safety.</em></p>
We can practically promise that celebrating a win will feel just as good in a face mask (courtesy Showstopper)
Many competitions are spreading out chairs for audience members to encourage social distancing (Evolve Photo & Video, courtesy NYCDA)
Congratulations to the March Cover Model Search Editors' Choice video winner, Blu Furutate! Watch her solo below, and be sure to enter the Cover Model Search here.
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If you're a college student, there are some guarantees. The dining hall food will be bad. Your communal shower will be gross. You will sleep through class (at least) once. And at the end of it all, you will walk across a stage and move the tassel on your hat and—finally!—graduate.
But not even college traditions are immune to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Because while dining hall food may remain terrible, communal bathrooms disgusting and alarm clocks just a little too quiet, graduating in the midst of a global pandemic will be different.
And that's not just because, at many schools, COVID protocols will require that your graduation be held virtually. Dancers today are graduating into a different job market—one plagued by company closures, performance cancellations, and significant challenges facing the arts industry as a whole.
We know, we know. It sounds pretty bleak. But with vaccination rates rising and live performances slowly returning to stages, there is a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. And to make sure you're ready for graduation (even in a time that nobody could have prepared for), we spoke with faculty at two top dance schools about what students can do differently this year to prep for life postgrad.
How this year will be different<p>It's undeniable that the dance job market will look different this year. "Funding in general is more scarce," says Bruce McCormick, assistant professor of practice at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. "Many employers are taking care of their own for the moment, keeping the dancers they have employed and not hiring new ones." So in that sense, it may be more challenging for new college grads to get hired to dance.</p><p>But this doesn't mean that there <em>aren't</em> jobs to be found. "Everybody is revolutionizing how we work," says Giada Matteini, teacher and academic director at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and director of Tisch's Second Avenue Dance Company. Companies are creating more digital work than ever before, and are learning to be more creative in how they present content. And in this, there is room for growth.</p><p>This also means that hiring directors may be looking for slightly different skills. "If they're changing the format of how they're presenting work, they might be looking for a different kind of dancer," says Matteini. "If companies are going to incorporate more outdoor space, or more videos, or more intercontinental relationships, who knows?" Because of this, you may want to broaden your scope—consider companies or jobs that in an ordinary year you might not have. You never know where your perfect fit might be found.</p>
Bruce McCormick leads a virtual ballet class at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance (Mary Mallaney, courtesy USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance)