Here's How to Resist Competition Rivalries

Illustration by Lealand Eve

It's competition weekend, and you're beyond excited to perform with your studio—until you find out your biggest rival's going to be there, too. It's a nerve-racking, and common, experience. How can you make sure you have the best weekend possible even when facing off against your greatest opponent? Here's the lowdown on making every competition a positive experience.


Break the Ice

Talking to your rival might seem strange, or even scary, but Gary Pate, director of Starpower International Talent Competition, says it's something he always encourages at their events. "Make an effort to walk over and shake the hand of your competitor," he says. "If you take a chance and get to know your rivals, it might completely change the way you think of them. It's so important for dancers to take advantage of opportunities to branch outside the confines of their own studios."

Anne Forrest, director of Inspire School of Dance in Naperville, Illinois, also encourages students to reach out to rivals. "Be the first to go up to another competitor and say 'hello,' and the first to tell them 'good job' after a performance, too." She suggests trying to make one new friend this way every time you compete. Beginning a conversation will alleviate some of the tension between you and your rival.

Get Inspired

There's a big difference between rivals who watch each other and become jealous and those who watch to learn. According to Forrest, "If you choose to become inspired by your rival's talent, you have an opportunity to improve your own dancing." After all, competing would be boring if you didn't have any real competition. Observe talented rivals and see what you can learn from their gifts. "I always ask dancers to find the places where their fellow competitors excel," Forrest says. "Then, we talk about how those talents can be the motivation that pushes them to improve and be their very best."

Don't Hold the Applause

Make an effort to share encouragement with rivals before and after a performance. Witnessing moments of good sportsmanship backstage is something Pate loves. "I've seen students from one studio form a line to congratulate and cheer on dancers from another as they come off stage," he shares.

Brian Young, owner of Sweatshop Dance in Denver, Colorado, and his dancers have a unique way of offering congratulations to fellow competitors. "After the award ceremony, we don't keep any trophies or medals we receive. Instead, the dancers find someone from another studio who they believe deserves extra praise for their performance and offer the award to them," he says. "It might sound cheesy, but younger dancers especially get such a kick out of this, and it's a really great way to reach out, spread positivity and create unity among rival studios."

Turn to a Teacher

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, someone else will be determined to make a situation negative. Young says this is where teachers can step in. His studio has a "don't engage" policy when students are faced with negative competition interactions. "If a dancer is in a situation and feels she can't represent the studio well with words, I expect her to take herself out of the equation and come find me," he says. Forrest also encourages students to come to her if they can't handle a situation on their own. "If a rivalry becomes negative, pause before you respond," she says. "Unless you can think of a positive way to answer, just walk away and find your teacher."

The Bottom Line

It's difficult to have dance competitions without some rivalries, but it's possible for those rivalries to promote positivity rather than negativity. Respect those you're going up against—and don't forget that one competition weekend doesn't define who you are or how much talent you have

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