Competition, especially ‘Dance Competition’ has come a dirty word. One associated with aggressive dance moms, nightmarish dance teachers, barely there costumes, false eyelashes, and ‘trick’ fuelled routines. There is a lot to unpack there – but the realities of competitive dance in my life are very different.
Our competition dance team is just that – at team, even a family. Our instructors set the example by supporting and helping one another all year long. Whether it be a discussing song or concept idea – or gently telling someone their costume design is truly a disaster – we do it with kindness. And we do it because we care.
This trickles down to our students who, when led by example from parents and teachers, do the same. They cheer each other on. They share in victories, and in defeats. They offer a high five, or a shoulder to cry on. And more often than not, they encourage the uncontrollable giggle after a minor glitch on stage.
I see dance Moms and dance Dads devoting not only their hard earned salaries, but also their time and energy to their dancer(s). They too support each other! When items are misplaced, spares are found. When there is NO space left to change, it is created. When life happens, illness, heartbreak, and joy are shared. Often, dance Moms and Dads remind me of all the kindness that really does still exist in this world.
That being said , within the industry, other dance teachers and studio owners are quick to dismiss the ‘competitive studio.’ Our teaching is said to be limited to acrobatic inspired tricks and other technical feats (60- pirouettes anyone?), and the artistry is non-existent. But those naysayers haven’t been to one of our Showcases or Recitals! Our choreographers are artists and teachers with a voice, and they are proud to share it. We talk about feminism, equality, the environment, love, heartbreak, body image and social justice! We make people laugh, cry, and most importantly remind our dancers to make the audience FEEL something with their performance. Dance is so much more than the steps, it is how your portray them. And through that portrayal, each dancer finds their voice. And THAT to me is really what ALL dance is about! Empowering young men and women to find not only their voice, but to encourage them to dig deep and discover, what it is they most want to say.
I no longer get angry when someone says ‘Oh, you’re a competitive dance studio’. I remind them that we are much more that that! We are a community of parents and teachers doing our absolute best to encourage and grow smart, confident, and empathetic adults for the future of not only the dance community, but our city and world as a whole.
Competition is not a dirty word. It is the common thread that brings so many different people and families together with one goal: to help grow and inspire our children together, and share a few giggles along the way!