Popular

How to Keep Dance Competitions from Ruining Your Friendships

Ellie Wagner (center) at Hall of Fame Dance Challenge's 2018 Nationals (photo by Hall of Fame, courtesy Wagner)

Each competition season comes with a range of emotions—emotions that tend to test even our strongest dance friendships. We spoke with comp-world veterans about how to deal with five common friendship-ruining competition scenarios, so you can keep the "forever" in "BFF."


Your bestie was chosen to be highlighted in your routine, and you're instantly envious.

It's natural to feel that way when other dancers get opportunities that you want. Of course you're happy for them, but it's hard to not take it personally.

When faced with this situation, Abigail Werner from Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem, UT, recommends channeling your envy into something more constructive. "When I get jealous, I just tell myself to work harder, and make sure I congratulate the person who got what I wanted," she says. "They earned it, and that's how I would want to be treated, too."

Ellie Wagner, a dancer from Larkin Dance Studio in Maplewood, MN, says she tries to look at the bigger picture in times like these. "You'll dance with these people at least until you graduate high school," she says. "Cheer your friend on, because your team should feel like family."

The same dancers win every solo comp, and it's souring your friendships.

Joanne Chapman, owner of Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, ON, Canada, says competition should move you forward, not pull you down. "It doesn't matter if your friend always gets first overall with a triple-titanium-platinum and you don't. Judge yourself through your own eyes. If you've made progress from the last time you performed, you've succeeded."

After years of dancing together, Werner's team members have learned to deal with serial winners by remembering that individual successes benefit the team as a whole. "We're all one big family, and we want each other to do well," she says. "There've been times where we've each wanted to win the competition and someone else has beat us, but over time we've learned that we have our own abilities that work together to make something beautiful."

You're the dancer who's always favored, and your team's annoyed.

Chapman says dancers can salvage their friendships by being gracious and humble when things go well for them. "In my 45 years in the business, I've never seen a dancer who was the whole package," she says. "Never forget everyone has something to work on."

That said, Werner recommends keeping your head up if you suspect people are belittling you behind your back. "You've worked hard to get to where you are, and the people talking badly about you are probably just jealous," she says.

Abigail Werner and partner Matthew Bezzant representing the USA at the Backpool Dance Festival in England (photo by Blackpool Dance Festival, courtesy Werner)

As someone who's experienced a few negative comments herself, Wagner also feels the best thing to do is be kind. "Hear them out when they're frustrated, and then kill them with kindness. If they say you're getting opportunities you haven't earned and you know that isn't true, continue working hard and encourage them to do their best, too."

You're starting to think politics are involved at competition, and are tempted to gossip about your suspicions.

While politics have been known to play a role in competition, think before you attribute someone's successes to favoritism. "Don't waste time sitting in the audience talking about how someone might not have earned their win," Wagner says. "Those feelings are natural, but it's what we do about them that'll decide how our friendships turn out. Learn from what others did well. Turn something negative into a positive."

You just won, and your teammate is obviously upset about losing.

Werner experienced this last summer while attending Radix's Nationals. "I got into the Top 4, and I could tell one of my teammates was really discouraged," she says. "She seemed less confident in class, so I made sure to cheer her on and congratulated her when she got noticed. She's an amazing dancer, and just needed to be reminded. I had the power to boost her up, so I did." Focus on being a good person—and friend!—first, and a good dancer second.


A version of this story appeared in the December 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Friendship Goals."

The Conversation
Health & Body
Via @chelshightower on Instagram

From competing on "So You Think You Can Dance" to performing on "Dancing with the Stars" for seven seasons (and earning an Emmy nomination for her work on the latter), Chelsie Hightower has lived the pro dance dream. Though Hightower retired from "DWTS" several years ago and now teaches and choreographs in her home state of Utah, she admits that her dance career exceeded even her own high expectations. "I've accomplished things that I didn't know were possible," she says.

But most fans of "DWTS" would never have guessed that while filming, the talented and seemingly fearless ballroom pro was facing her fiercest competitor off-camera. Hightower has struggled with anxiety for most of her life, but the issue became especially severe during her years on the show.

With the help of therapy and other coping exercises, Hightower has found healthy ways to manage her anxiety. Now, she hopes that sharing her experience will inspire other dancers struggling with mental illness to get help.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Past "SYTYCD" hopefuls at The Academy (Adam Rose/FOX)

More fabulous TWall routines. More passengers on the Hot Tamale Train. MORE CAT DEELEY BEING DELIGHTFUL.

That's right, y'all: "So You Think You Can Dance" was just renewed for a 16th (!) season, to air this summer on Fox. And audition dates have already been announced.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
It includes this familiar face! (Erin Baiano)

Something's coming, I don't know when
But it's soon...maybe tonight?

Those iconic lyrics have basically been our #mood ever since we first heard a remake of the West Side Story film, directed by Steven Spielberg and choreographed by Justin Peck, was in the works. THE CASTING. THE CASTING WAS COMING.

Well, last night—after an extensive search process that focused on finding the best actors within the Puerto Rican/Latinx community—the WSS team finally revealed who'll be playing Maria, Anita, Bernardo, and Chino (joining Ansel Elgort, who was cast as Tony last fall). And you guys: It is a truly epic group.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Dancer Tony Bellissimo on the field at Super Bowl LII (via Instagram)

The Super Bowl is America's most-watched television event. Last year, when the incomparable Justin Timberlake took center field for the halftime show, more than 106 million viewers were watching his every move—and that's not even a record!

What's it like to perform for such an incredibly huge audience? Dancer Tony Bellissimo has plenty of experience with high-pressure dance gigs, having worked with artists including Rihanna, Britney Spears, John Legend, and Chris Brown. But stepping out alongside Timberlake during last year's halftime show was a next-level experience. We talked to Bellissimo about how he scored such a coveted job—and how he handled the pressure.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
screenshot via @donte.colley on Instagram

Y'all, it's time to call a spade a spade: The first month of any New Year kind of sucks. It's way too cold, you're probs failing at one or two of those ambitious resolutions, and spring (with its exciting performing opportunities) feels so very far away. And yet, in the midst of so much darkness, a hero has emerged. His name is Donté Colley, and you're about to double-tap every single thing he's ever posted.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Joe Toreno

It's almost 2019 and the ballroom dance scene is positively booming! From prestigious world championships to TV shows, kids are at the core of all this hip-shaking action—and we're so here for it. These eight up-and-comers in particular are shaping the field. They're the next generation of superstars to make the leap from technically exquisite ballroom-ites to bona fide celebrities.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Everyone loves a good meme, and dancers are no exception. Here are 10 of the best dance memes on the internet.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher
Joanne Chapman teaching turns (photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy Joanne Chapman School of Dance)

Think back to your newbie dancer days. Can you remember your introduction to spotting? It might've involved staring hard at your own reflection in the mirror as you wrestled with your first pirouette. Or maybe your teacher had you put your hands on your shoulders as you attempted a series of half-chaînés across the floor.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
It includes this familiar face! (Erin Baiano)

Something's coming, I don't know when
But it's soon...maybe tonight?

Those iconic lyrics have basically been our #mood ever since we first heard a remake of the West Side Story film, directed by Steven Spielberg and choreographed by Justin Peck, was in the works. THE CASTING. THE CASTING WAS COMING.

Well, last night—after an extensive search process that focused on finding the best actors within the Puerto Rican/Latinx community—the WSS team finally revealed who'll be playing Maria, Anita, Bernardo, and Chino (joining Ansel Elgort, who was cast as Tony last fall). And you guys: It is a truly epic group.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Where did we put the much-debated Season 13? You might be surprised. (Adam Rose/FOX)

It's crazy that "So You Think You Can Dance" is gearing up for its 16th season! Time flies when you're revolutionizing dance on TV, right? The show's definitely come a long way since its premiere back in 2005, and tbh, there hasn't been a single season we haven't loved. But which season did we love most? Here's our (sure-to-be-controversial) ranking of 14 seasons of "SYT" goodness.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Thinkstock

Dance teachers have to deal with a lot. While open communication with your teacher is obviously key, lame excuses for less-than-great behavior are guaranteed to get on her nerves. Always avoid these seven excuses that will 100 percent get your dance teacher's blood boiling.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
via @dynamicdancestudios on Instagram

There are dance routines, and then there are dance routines. Andrew, a 21-year-old dancer with Down Syndrome, performed the latter on the new British reality dance show "The Greatest Dancer." He brought the audience to tears as he unabashedly freestyled to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop The Feeling."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
The Broadway cast of Hamilton (Joan Marcus, courtesy Sam Rudy PR)

Today, January 11, is #AlexanderHamiltonDay: A very happy 264th birthday to Alexander Hamilton! Thanks to this most unlikely of Founding Fathers—a brilliant and ballsy orphaned immigrant who dramatically rose, then fell, then rose again—we have possibly the most successful musical of all time. We also, of course, got priceless GIFs such as this one:

*When your crush walks over and you're trying to act natural but your friends are all like*

Aaaaaaaaaaanyway, while we can't get you "in the room where it happens" with tickets to the show's current Broadway, touring, or Puerto Rico productions—the last of which opens tonight!—we CAN offer up some fun ways to fête A.Ham's day of birth. Just you wait:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo by 4Star Productions Courtesy Spirit of Dance Awards

The second round of 2018 Future Star winners showcases dancers with singular talent and ability. We're thrilled to celebrate their success!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Screenshot via YouTube

Every once in a while, the stars align, things fall precisely into place, and the perfect marketing campaign is born. Such is the case with New York City Ballet's new trailer for their upcoming run of The Sleeping Beauty, which was conceived and directed by company soloist Sean Suozzi.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
via @torysport on Instagram

Washington Ballet's Nardia Boodoo is turning heads these days, and not just at the barre. The brilliant ballerina shines in Tory Sport's latest commercial and we can't help but feel a little bit of pride as our March 2018 cover star brings ballet to the masses. What better way to show off stylish and comfy athletic wear than with Boodoo's strong and luminous dancing?

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Hall works with students at Dance Conservatory of Charleston. (courtesy Dance Conservatory of Charleston)

As the name suggests, summer intensives are, well, intense, encouraging you to eat, sleep, and breathe dance for a significant chunk of the summer. But they're not for every dancer—or every summer. Maybe you're not ready to be away from home just yet, or you want to spend your last summer with family before going off to college. Intensives can also be expensive, and not every household has the financial flexibility to cover the high cost of auditions, travel, room and board, and tuition. Whatever your reasons for seeking alternatives, it's important to recognize that, when it comes to summer study, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. "The most important thing is to keep dancing," says Lindy Mandradjieff, owner of the Dance Conservatory of Charleston in South Carolina. "Without the added stress of school, you can improve as much in one summer as you would in an entire school year." Here's how to keep up your training even if you don't plan on attending an intensive.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways