COMPETITION by Kimberly & Eric McCluer, June 2nd, 2018

Every year at this time I feel compelled to share my personal thoughts on competition. Maybe it’s because I want everyone to have the same insight into national success, maybe it’s because Nationals can be a bit scary for me! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE nationals. I LOVE the Parade of Champions! These nightly showcases are my favorite part of the season. I don’t get to watch as much during regionals as you will often find Eric and I on a computer working all the details for the next show. I have only missed the Parades one year when I was sick with pneumonia.

My national insights always focus on an item! It’s six feet tall, made of plastic, metal, and shiny sparkly stickers. It can bring tears of joy and tears of sadness. It’s probably why many studios are rehearsing in the studio as I write this. And it should NOT be, in my opinion, the main factor in your national experience. Yes, it’s a trophy! The Overall trophy! This focal point can make many a dance momma or dance dad see red (although they are purple this year). Let me explain to you the variables that need to happen to achieve this award for any performer or group, in my opinion and from my unique perspective.

The odds of winning is a huge factor, it’s kind of like Vegas for dance! Your odds are roughly 11 to however many dances in that division or break down. In some cases those odds are sometimes more than 1:100. Wow, bet on that and win! Just kidding, not trying to encourage gambling in any way! This is just the honest first variable. I believe the second factor is what you are doing now and what you have done ALL year! PRACTICE! All studios have rehearsals, each studio has a different amount of rehearsals and each studio has a different variable of productivity at these rehearsals. I say this because each group is made of up of different kids and KIDS is the key word here. In order to win the six foot holy grail of National trophies each dancer must be productive! If you are in a group, and I consider a group to be a duet and larger, then each group member must do his or her individual part at 100% or better. Most studios have groups with dancers that give 110% and dancers that give 60% all in the same routine. Here is the reality, most of the time the teachers know who these dancers are and here is the truth…..the part where they say the truth hurts……the judges are able to figure it out too, in just 3 minutes or less. That is how you end up with a group score, you put your 110’s with your 60’s. 70’s 80’s and 90 percenters and get your scores of 94ish national TOP average I would say. The bottom line is if each dancers gives 100% or more your odds go up and up and up! But, EVERYONE must give it all, at practice and during performance and not just the PARADE performance, but the first round performance as well. You get one shot at making it so you must perform hard each time. Dancers here is a tip for you as well, you should be practicing at home!!!! Dance is like anything, the more you put into it individually the more you get back. They studio is where you learn, but what you do on your own is where you grow and achieve! Parents, reality is your dancer will put into it what they want to. You can buy the costumes, put on the makeup, encourage them, yell at them, cry with them and whoop and holler for them, but it is them and only them that decide if they are a 60% dancer or a 110% dancer. The overall trophy most certainly will go to a team with mostly if not all 100% dancers, performers and practicers. If you have one of those types of groups then teachers congratulations, you’ve already won!

There are of course some other basic, every competition variables that must play into your day and your shot at this trophy. Is the whole team feeling well, physically and emotionally? This is where the word KIDS come in. They are KIDS! I will say it again, they are KIDS! I sometimes think that we adults forget that. They are learning to cope with emotions and they haven’t mastered that (have any of us?). Things like friends, and family, and studio drama, adult drama, and sickness will play a part in that days performance. Costumes: Something to consider, put your costumes on a few weeks before nationals and make sure they still fit. Kids grow and grow and grow. Let me give you words of wisdom here, not one judge cares if you wear under the costume natural coverage if needed. Adding tights to a costume that didn’t ride up in January might be a good option. Remember, it is too late to make costume adjustments 10 minutes before the competition. Plan now! If hats fell off at every competition all year, maybe no hats at nationals. Teachers consider every simple adjustment for the best outcome. Learn from what worked at regionals and what didn’t. You do not have to keep that turn series in the dance if it was never mastered by all, or maybe all the dancers do not have to do it at same time. Make these minor changes now.

Finally, whether we like it or not, luck plays into it too. What time do you dance? Are you first, last or somewhere in the middle? I have seen it be a good thing on either end. I have seen judging teams score higher early, and higher later….you never know. That is why you have to bring it no matter what time in the lineup you dance….you can be unforgettable at 7:30 AM and unforgettable at 7:30 PM….it’s up to you dancers! And studio drama, please leave it home for this one important week. I have seen some of the saddest things happen at nationals because of studio drama. I have seen teachers leave, I have seen kids sit alone on stages, I have seen teachers cry, parents yell and kids stand quietly in the corner just wanting to dance. Teachers, remember every studio loses dancers every year for all kinds of reasons… kids graduate, they move, economy, sometimes it’s drama related, but it is what it is. There will be good, bad and ugly. It’s up to you to decide where you will focus your energy. Please focus on the good for everyone’s sake.

I will conclude my thoughts on “the trophy” with something I rarely hear said, but know to be true:

“They were good too!”

TOP ten scores are often tenths of points away from each other, because, “They were good too!” and that’s just how it worked out this time. I honestly believe if the adults teach the kids this, then the final results will be a happy nationals filled with FUN, FRIENDS and FAMILY. And that is what it should be, for the KIDS!

See you soon!

Thanks for your continued support and understanding!

Kim and Eric