Hip-hop teacher Gev Manoukian talking with dancers at West Coast Dance Explosion (courtesy Manoukian)

Here’s How You Can Stand Out in the Crowd at Dance Conventions

Whether it's your very first dance convention or you're a seasoned weekend warrior, you're undoubtedly hoping to catch the eyes of your favorite teachers, and dreaming of getting pulled onstage to demonstrate a combo. With hundreds of other talented dancers in the room, however, it's easy to feel (and actually get) lost in the crowd. We asked three veteran teachers on the convention circuit for tips on how to best grab their attention.

Meghan Sanett leading class at Tremaine Dance Convention (photo by Tony Bellissimo and Ried Martin, courtesy Sanett)

1. Show Off Your Style

If you want teachers to think you're the real deal, you have to dress the part. Meghan Sanett, who's taught on Tremaine Dance Convention's faculty since 2014, explains, "With all the filming that goes on these days, take the opportunity to express yourself!" Gev Manoukian, a hip-hop teacher who's toured with West Coast Dance Explosion for nine seasons, views attire as a way to quickly match the vibe of each dance style. "As a hip-hop dancer, the feeling is more than half of the dance itself. You want to feel comfortable and loose," he says. From a leotard and leggings for ballet to funky sweats for hip hop, wear clothes you can easily swap between classes.

2. Raise Your Voice

Don't be afraid to speak up when the teacher asks a question like "Can I go on?" or "Do you understand?" Manoukian explains, "People forget that even though we're teachers, we still care. We want to make sure kids are having a great time and learning, so I conduct my classes as a conversation."

Manoukian teaching a hip-hop class (courtesy Manoukian)

3. Be Smart About Space

It may be tempting to spend all your class time in the front. But that area is typically super-crowded, and it's difficult to learn choreography and focus on the teacher when you have zero space to move. Manoukian says, "If you don't have room in the front, go to the very back and separate yourself from the crowd. That will actually make you stand out more." When it's time to perform in groups, Sanett appreciates when dancers venture front and center, even if they don't have the combo perfectly. "It definitely can be nerve-racking to get up there, but that's what dance is about—facing your fears and showing up," she says.

Jojo Gomez poses for a selfie at Artists Simply Human (photo by Joe Duarte, courtesy Tiffany Tahan)

4. Be Kind, On and Off the Floor

Conventions are all about energy, so your attitude will definitely make you stand out. Jojo Gomez, who's on faculty at Artists Simply Human, says, "Dancers tend to forget that we aren't just watching them in class, but throughout the entire weekend! We watch how they treat others. Their parents. Their peers. And we also look out for attendance—we will know if you skipped class." Sanett agrees that your attitude can make or break your convention experience. "Don't be intimidated by dancers who might be more flexible than you, have stronger technique, or have something you think you don't. Welcome all of those incredible dancers into your world to inspire you to keep pushing harder in your training. And if you see a dancer that you can't keep your eyes off of, tell them!"

Sanett performing at Tremaine (photo by Tony Bellissimo and Ried Martin, courtesy Sanett)

5. Stop, Look, and Listen

As much as you want a convention teacher to notice you, keep in mind that you're not in class to show off. When someone is speaking, always stop moving and give them your full attention. "I wish that kids would respect each other more when they're asking questions, because it's often about a detail a lot of people are missing, and I don't want to have to repeat myself," Manoukian says. Speaking of details: They make all the difference. Manoukian explains, "When you take a minute and just watch, you start picking out and applying those little details. And self-correction in a convention setting is definitely something that makes dancers stand out."

6. Do Your Homework

You can never be too prepared for class, so do some research before every convention weekend. Even a 60-second scroll of a teacher's Instagram can clue you in to their dance style, personality, and the kinds of dancers they like. "We all have different teaching styles. The more you know about how a teacher conducts class, the easier it'll be to conduct yourself properly," Manoukian says.

Sanett demonstrating a combination (photo by Tony Bellissimo and Ried Martin, courtesy Sanett)

7. Fight Until the Finish

Even if the class isn't in your best style, you still have a chance to stand out by giving it your all. As Gomez puts it, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. I look for individuals who are fearless and willing to put themselves out there." Sanett agrees: "Confident dancers definitely stand out to me. I find that my eye naturally goes to those who aren't afraid to take risks and show up on the floor prepared for anything to happen," she says.

Gomez performs at Artists Simply Human (photo by Joe Duarte, courtesy Tiffany Tahan)

8. Dial Down the Intensity

While it takes all kinds of focus and dedication to stand out at a convention, if you're not having fun along the way, you're doing it wrong. Manoukian especially warns older dancers to keep it light. "They have this tendency to try to be perfect, and it's because they want to get it right, but sometimes that energy reads as closed off," he says. "Teens and seniors shouldn't forget why they started dancing, why they enjoy it. We understand that sometimes you will look bad, or silly, but that's OK; it's part of the process." Gomez encourages dancers to look past the weekend and focus on the big picture. "Conventions are purely about the experience," she says. "Not the competition. Not the trophies. They're about inspiration and growing as a human."

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.


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