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 

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