It happened about 10 years ago. As usual, I had a fantastic group of senior dancers who were especially kind and thoughtful to the younger kids dancing at the time. They took time to compliment their performances, helped them with quick costume changes, and posed for pictures with them without giving it a second thought. At one of our final competitions back in the day, a few groups did really well, and for the first time, we had won a lot of overall awards. The studio was young at that time, and in previous years, I would sit through overall awards ceremonies taking notes and dreaming that one day they might say ‘Premiere Studio of Dance’ for one of the coveted top spots. Well that day happened and a few of our groups (and a duet and solo), managed to take the overall award! I was so proud of the students, and judging by their faces and attitudes in the weeks following, they were proud of themselves too.
At recital that year, the seniors wore their hair down for a few routines. The very promising group of juniors idolized those girls! And by the time finale for the Saturday night show rolled around, I had had SO many requests from the junior kids to have their hair down during that last dance that I relented and just said ‘yes’. Well, the look in those kids’ eyes when they came backstage with their hair done ‘like the big girls,’ was something I will never forget. While this may seem like a meaningless moment, I now look back on that moment as a critical tipping point for the studio’s competitive team – a moment that STILL has importance today.
That summer, 90% of those juniors attended summer camp, and the rest took summer classes. They were eager to learn the ‘moves’ the seniors were doing – which at the time were technical feats like pirouettes and grande jetes, things I, as a teacher, now take for granted that my competitive level dancers can do. Fast forward to competition season the following year, and guess who was taking home overall awards? The juniors! For the first time, THEY were being recognized. And obviously it was because they improved immensely from the previous year, but I also believe they improved because they BELIEVED they could win and be recognized like the seniors did the year before. They wanted to be like the big girls they looked up to! That generation of juniors went on to encourage and inspire countless groups of younger students, and today, they are dancing at college and university, working in Toronto, and performing professionally.
I am constantly amazed how the level of technical ability and quality of performance continues to improve year after year. I know the amazing teachers at my studio push our students to excel, and to be their very best, but the BELIEF and CONFIDENCE that Premiere Dancers exhibit during performance time is something for which I have to thank an original crop of seniors. Today, the culture of success, mentoring, and support is and intrinsic part of our studio’s competitive team, and at competition, every team member shares the same goal. That goal isn’t always a specific mark or award (although, that is a nice bonus) but rather, it is the feeling of accomplishment and success that accompanies hard work and quality performances on stage. As I sit back and think of all the amazing performances from Showcase 2016 I can’t help but think that the tidal wave of success is still building.