How to win dance competitions
5 Great Tips For Dance Competitions
Today 4dancers welcomes Dorothy Stephenson back to share some of her tips for surviving a dance competition–and she should know–she has been to many of them! Here are 5 she wanted to share with readers…Photo by Catherine L. Tully
1. Keep Your Head–and Don’t Forget to Breathe
Competition can not only be strenuous physically, but it can be taxing mentally and emotionally. Throughout the course of a competition, you can experience every emotion a human can have. Happiness to be competing. Disappointment when a routine doesn’t go quite your way. The fun, nervous jitters as the announcer calls awards. Sadness if you didn’t place like you wanted, or pure joy when your team takes grand champion. It’s hard to keep yourself in check.
It’s times like this when you need to remind yourself to keep your chill, think straight, and take your time. If you just finished a routine and you know you have one number to change before your next dance, walk/half-run (safely) to your dressing room, but think clearly when you get there. Pre-plan and have your outfits laid out in the order you need them. Calmly (but quickly) change and make sure you have everything you need. Then, re-position yourself backstage in a quiet and controlled manner.
2. Harness Those Pre-Dance Jitters
It’s easy to get worked into a frenzy right before you take the stage. The time right before a dancer goes on is very important. That is your chill time, your preparation time, or your freak-out time. Bottom line is: It’s YOUR time.
Some dancers calmly and silently meditate on the dance or just reflect on positive thoughts to relax their minds and push away negative gunk that might be clouding their concentration. Others might find that working themselves up, getting themselves excited, and going over and over the upcoming dance in their head is the way to go. There are dancers who might casually float around backstage and strike up breezy conversation with other similarly preparing teammates. All dancers have their own “method to the madness”.
It’s important to incorporate proper warm-up exercises into your pre-stage routine. Find what method works for you and stick with it. The other thing to remember is to know your teammates pre-stage methods. If you’re a dancer who likes to work yourself up, then steer clear of a teammate who wants to relax before they go on. Respect your teammates’ pre-stage routines.
3. Don’t Just Walk on Stage, TAKE the Stage
When you take the stage, be confident. Walk out there like you own the place. Have your chin up, strongly take your position and respectfully acknowledge the judges while doing so. As your walking to your position, take deep relaxing breaths and get all the oxygen in while you can. Keep reminding yourself to stay calm, and remember: while the judges are there to score you and notice every little mistake you make, they want to be entertained, too. Luckily, you’re a dancer. “Entertainment” is your middle name! Take those final seconds before the music starts to calm yourself once more.
When the music begins, take everything in stride. Take each movement as it comes, and don’t rush yourself or your teammates. Keep your mind on your routine. It only takes a second to get distracted and make a mistake. Stay focused on the choreography, and make direct eye contact with the judges. Push the energy of the choreography towards them, and use your entire body, including your face, to execute a routine and show the judges how much you love to dance.
5. Stay Positive
For better or for worse, leave the stage with a smile on your face. No matter whether you just completed the dance of your life or your team completely bombed, walk off patting your teammates on the back and telling them how well they did, how proud of them you are, and how lucky all of you are to be dancing. Then, turn the page from that dance and start preparing for the next one.Dorothy Stephenson, Photo by Kathy Cobb Photography
Dorothy Stephenson began her clogging career in 1990 when her mother enrolled her with the Little Switzerland Cloggers. Today, she leads Little Switzerland along with two other groups – Rhythmic Alliance, a competitive team, and Sundance Express, a professional performance troupe.
She also owns Sundance Studios & Productions Company, a dance studio and productions company specializing in clogging instruction and performance.
Your Comprehensive Guide to Surviving Dance Competitions
Competitions offer dancers the opportunity to showcase their talents and gain valuable feedback from judges. But they can also be mentally and physically stressful, with demanding, long days of performances. How do you keep your mind and body in top condition to avoid injury or burnout? We spoke with experts about how to take care of yourself before, during, and after competitions.
Weeks and Months Before Competition
Strive to be technically and physically well-rounded.
“The best thing you can do to be really healthy throughout competition is to be thorough in your technique work year-round,” says Jenni Green, PT, MS, CFMT, and owner of PhysioArts. She also advises dancers to keep up their cross-training, even with low-impact exercises when competition rehearsals ramp up. “Cross-training outside of dance is very helpful—especially things that are symmetrical, because often dance is asymmetrical when you get into choreography,” she says. “Pilates, yoga, and Gyrotonic are all great. Straightforward ‘gym fitness’ can be helpful, too—things like basic glute, hamstring, and quad strengthening.”
Train your mind.
Quinn Callahan, artistic director and owner of The Rock Center for Dance in Las Vegas, says, “If we’re rehearsing a piece in the classroom, we will visualize the judges or the audience. Putting dancers in different scenarios helps them stay focused onstage, because they’re going to do what their bodies and minds are used to doing.”
Amp up your self-care.
“The weeks leading up to competitions are always hectic, so it’s important to take care of yourself,” says Ava Wagner, a student at Larkin Dance Studio in Maplewood, MN (and second runner-up on “World of Dance” Season 3). In addition to maintaining a regular schedule of technique classes and rehearsals, she focuses on “lots of stretching, drinking water, getting good sleep, and consuming extra vitamin C.”
Ava Wagner performing a solo (Showbiz Dance, courtesy Wagner)
Night Before Competition
To ensure their bodies are optimally rested, marathon runners don’t do long runs the day before their races. Similar advice applies to dancers: “I know for dancers it’s going to be impossible not to run your piece, but you don’t need to run it full-out,” Green says. “You can run it for memory, or you can even do visualization: Play the music and visualize yourself dancing, which actually fires all the synapses as if you were actually doing it.”
Handle logistics early to avoid day-of stress.
“Make a packing checklist. Keep a dance notebook to remind yourself of everything,” says Callahan. By the day before competition, you’ll already be packed and ready to go. ”
Fuel up with a nutritious dinner.
“You want to have a solid meal that has a good amount of protein and healthy, rich carbs—like healthy grains, quinoa, or brown rice. Eat that dinner kind of early,” says Green. (If you eat too close to bedtime, it may make it harder for you to sleep, but the timing is less important than the quality.)
“A good night’s sleep is especially important the night before you compete. As hard as it is, I always try to go to bed early,” says Wagner.
The Rock Company dancers performing (courtesy Break the Floor Productions)
Day of Competition
Eat a solid breakfast.
“You want to have protein at your breakfast in combination with carbs and a little bit of fat. Don’t just grab a bagel on your way to the competition, because that’s not going to sustain you,” says Green.
Make your first warm-up count.
“You want to do a nice, thorough warm-up at the beginning of the day,” Green says. “Make sure that you’re getting your body warm with active motion. It could be a ballet barre or Pilates mat sequence—things that get your body temperature up and get you moving. Then, depending on how technical or quick your piece is, you might want to practice more specific moves.”
Avoid fatiguing exercises and passive stretching.
“These are things to avoid in any warm-up—not just for competition, but anytime you’re dancing,” Green says. “It’s not the time to do 100 sit-ups, or passively sit in the splits or straddle and hang out there—which is what dancers love to do. It’s not great right before you dance: There’s lots of science to show that your muscles are actually weaker right after you do passive stretching.”
Don’t over-prepare for that big trick.
“You want to make sure that you’re preparing yourself for what you need to do, but you’re not creating an overuse injury by repetitively doing it. What I prefer is to do the trick in a smaller-scale way, to make sure that the components are there—the balance, the flexibility, and things like that,” says Green.
Find a moment of peace.
“Having things like meditation apps can be very beneficial. It’s good to take a moment, or take deep breaths before you go onstage, because the more tense you are, the more tense your muscles will be—and that can actually set you up for injury. Staying calm is really important,” says Green. Callahan advises dancers to combat nerves during performances by “focusing on you, the movement, and being present. Dance your fullest and enjoy the experience, because you’re never going to get it back.”
Wagner dancing in a solo performance (Showbiz Dance, courtesy Wagner)
When a routine is finished and you step offstage, turn your focus to your next task: “Get ready for your next number regardless of whether it’s an hour away or if it’s five minutes away,” says Callahan. This is practical (Hello, quick changes!), but also helps you stay present and avoid worrying over how your last performance was received by the judges. “No matter what happened on that stage—whether it be good or bad—it’s over. Enjoy the experience and process, and not necessarily the outcome,” she says.
Don’t stop moving right after a performance, and prepare for the next one thoughtfully.
“Walking can be helpful to bring your heart rate and body temperature back down. What I wouldn’t do is come right offstage and then sit down. Try to stay a little bit mobile. Then before the next dance you’ll have to do a warm-up, but maybe not as thorough as the first one, and more specific to the types of things that you’re going to need to do in that next piece,” says Green.
Bundle up during downtime.
To avoid cooling down completely, Callahan advises dancers to “make sure that they’re wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants, so their bodies are kept nice and warm” if they have long breaks between pieces. “A really important thing to remember is to take breaks when you get them,” says Wagner. “This is a great time for your body to rest and recover. ”
Watch other performances—but take time for yourself if needed.
“Dancers should be watching to support other schools and learn. But we also know that they’re not robots, and if they do have a lot of time, sometimes they need time to themselves as well,” says Callahan.
Nourish yourself throughout the day.
“We always bring a large refillable water bottle to stay hydrated and pack healthy snacks to fuel our bodies at breaks,” says Wagner. Green suggests a banana or a handful of raisins half an hour to an hour before performances to provide bursts of energy.
Dancers from The Rock Company performing a group piece (courtesy Break the Floor Productions)
Eat a recovery snack within 30 minutes of your last performance. Green advises something with 10 to 15 grams of protein and carbs, such as chocolate milk, a hard-boiled egg and half a bagel, or peanut butter on a banana: “The carbs restore energy levels and help reduce muscle breakdown, and the protein helps build and repair muscles to help you recover more quickly. ”
Now go ahead, sit in that straddle!
When you’re finished dancing for the day, bring on the passive stretching: “After your last performance, you can do all the juicy dancer stretches that everybody loves to do,” says Green. “Passive stretching, in addition to gentle warm-down movement…can be helpful to cool down the body and restore it to its baseline after high energy use all day. At the end, when your body won’t require immediate access to strength and agility, it is OK to lengthen the muscles, as opposed to doing this before dancing, which inhibits the muscles from performing at full strength and agility.”
Customize your recuperation.
“If your muscles feel fried and achy, then an Epsom salt bath is really great,” says Green. “If your joints themselves are feeling sore, then you might want to go with an ice bath or icing the joints. Elevating the legs is always great, especially if you’ve been on your feet a lot, and foam rolling can be helpful.” Wagner has taken the idea of icing to a whole new level: “In extreme cases, I have even done cryotherapy. It’s amazing how quickly you feel its results!”
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This magical world of beauty and grace. It draws you in like a whirlpool. Once in it, it is already difficult to get out and become the same as before. Dance is a small life, with its passion, conflicts and struggles. Street or ballroom dancing, hip-hop or rock and roll - no matter what style the characters dance in. Having passed all the tests, they triumph not only over themselves, but also over the injustice of life.
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Super DJ (2002)
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Step sisters (2018)
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TOP movies tagged with "dance competition" : Step Up 2: Streets (2008), Street Dance 2 (2012), Step Up: All or Nothing (2014), Street Dance 3D (2010), Battle (2019)), To the Beat of the Heart (2011), Dance with the Heart (2019), Street Dancing 3: All Stars (2013), Girls on Top: French Kiss (2006), Grease (1978), Street Dancer 3D (2020), Dancing Without Rules ( 1992), Last Tango in Paris (1972), Happy New Year (2014), Super DJ (2002), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Break (2018), Who are you dancing with? (2017), Faith, Hope and Love (2019), Step Up 3D (2010).