New Blog, New Dance Year, New Challenges!
By Kimberly McCluer, August 18th, 2017
Congratulations! We are ALL starting an exciting new season of dance! For us at TOP it will be year 21, but for me personally, it will be year 50 of dance experience. I started my dance journey at age 3. Yes, things change with time, but also, like any foundation-based sports or activities, many things stay the same. I am going to challenge you this year with some thoughts and ideas as you are starting to build for the competition season. Many of the following thoughts come from the past season and from conversations with teachers, parents and judges. Here you go… do you accept the challenge?
Challenge #1: Happy Teen Routines
I challenge you that for every dark and teenage angst filled routine you do you counter it with one happy, lively piece. Perhaps a music theater, jazz, character or tap number. We live in a dark time right now, and I know kids, especially teens, love to express themselves through dance and performance, but why must all of Teen and Senior day be dark? Let’s not forget to teach them how to be happy, to express happiness and to show the love of dance in happiness. Let’s teach them how to smile! Challenge yourself to be different. They might surprise you and if each group has two very different styles the scores might surprise you too. You never know what the judges will like on any given day. Give them thought provoking AND high energy happiness and let the magic happen.
Challenge #2: Fewer Props
Less is truly more! Honestly guys, when you look at the Overall Parade of Champions winners each year, props are seldom a factor. Judges are judging dance, and while props can add to a routine when used correctly to tell the story, they do not make or break the actual judging of DANCE. Keep in mind time limits to get props on and off. Keep in mind the limits of your parents as you haul them back and forth. Keep in mind that all venues are not equipped with sliding overhead doors and enough storage for multiple warehouses of props, or parking for trailers. Keep in mind the safety of the props and the dancers. Please read the rules and regs for props and the use of liquids and glitters. Do not be disappointed at TOP or anywhere else when the backstage guys say you can’t do something that breaks the rules. The rules have been set in almost every case because of a very bad experience, we are not just being mean!
Challenge #3: More Dance, Fewer Tricks
I know you have been hearing this, but after spending years watching Theme Park shows, professional Broadway numbers, and college/professional auditions I see the true value in it. Dance more, less tricks. Also, do not add the turns to numbers unless they are clean and perfected. I have seen too many times routine scores suffer when a turn series was attempted poorly. Keep in mind too that all of the dancers in a routine do not need to do the turns. Be creative, everyone on stage does not have to do the same choreography all of the time. Tricks can enhance a performance when done well, but so can actual movement. Also, do not repeat the same trick over and over. If in doubt…Dance it out!
Challenge #4: Be OK With Not Always Winning
A real winner is a great loser! Take some risk with choreography. Be willing to challenge a soloist with two different styles of solos (not just two contemporary) even if one style is not their best. We go to dance to learn. We should also go to competition to learn!
Challenge #5: Really Listen To Your Song Lyrics
A nine year old must be able to understand the lyrics and portray that. It also must be about something that a nine year old should be portraying. If a song is about intimacy it should probably be reconsidered until a much older division, if at all. Please think about it. I hear judges all the time express how uncomfortable the are with a song choice. This is not the child’s fault and judges sometimes don’t want to go there, but it can, and does, reflect on the overall score. It is just human nature. Also, be creative, there are thousands of songs in every genre, don’t use the TOP 40 for this year. If you are looking at TOP 40 go back a decade or more. You do not want to be one of 10 with the same music, or one of 3 in a row at a competition.
Challenge #6: Dance To Entertain Your Audience
I thought I only had 5 challenges, but this one just came to me. I have been asked many times, “How do we get an act in Kidz Roc?” Part of the secret is we need show routines, not necessarily traditional competition routines. We need music theater, high energy jazz, Broadway tap, country clogging, hip hop with clean lyrics. We’re looking to entertain an audience here. It’s like America’s Got Talent, we can’t put 2 hours of contemporary performances on the stage. We must come up with variety! I am not going to lie, last year it was tough to find teenage acts that fit the ticket. Understand also that we love to spread the invites around. The show was designed to showcase as many of our wonderful studios as possible, but we only have time for 15-17 acts in any given year.
Well there you go! I hope you will all accept at least one of the challenges. These are not just my opinions, these are things I hear week in and week out. I hear them from studio owners, teachers, judges, dance professionals, and see it with my own little eyes. I also in no way mean to insult traditional competition routines, routines with props, or any of that. There is a place for all of it. These are just observations on how to be creative and how to mix it up a bit to give everyone the best opportunity for success in the coming dance season!
Here’s to 50 years of dance!