THEY GET IT! by  Kimberly McCluer, June 8th, 2019

Every year before nationals I give my thoughts and pointers on how to be successful at nationals. This year I am writing using the words of our Senior Scholarship essays to teach how not only to succeed at nationals, but in life with dance as your choreographer!

For success in life and at nationals these suggestions and life lessons by recent TOP high school dancers will take you far…..

1. Have a strong work ethic! If you expect a high adjudication and final placement YOU must put the work into it. Blood, sweat and tears are no lie when it comes to success. If you fail to practice, don’t’ attend rehearsals, are on your electronic devices over dance or while at dance or competition, if you put dates ahead of dedication and don’t take critiques from teachers, it is going to show in the final results. Few are so naturally gifted that they can get by with these things happening and still achieve the dream. YOU must work hard and that is no matter if a soloist or part of a group of any size!

2. Make connections through dance. Participate in extras at nationals. Do the Charity Dance Down where there’s always something to learn and you are helping someone else. Participate in TOP Starz and make friends there. Most of you are there
because you love to dance. Make friends from other studios. Smile, speak up, congratulate, applaud, and watch other dancers. You never know when that friend or connection through dance will be someone you need, or will spend time with, in the next level of dance. This is so true. One of my biggest dance connections was made when I was 17 and she was 12 (Tina Cooper). Who would have guessed we would be yearly guests in her and her husband’s beautiful Clay Cooper Theater in Branson each year. From encouraging each other, to working together, we are all in this together. Might I add, be kind in shared dressing space. Few venues have a separate room for each studio. Sharing really is caring (remember that from Kindergarten?). Notice how small a star dressing room is? It’s because the chorus room is most common. Share and be kind….this is important for moms to remember too!

3. Stand Out! Give your all to your performances. Your performances should not be the same as a run through. It is simply not going to cut it. If you don’t go full out someone else will! As a soloist you have to leave it all on the stage whether your dance calls for high energy and sassy, or deep emotion, it has to be big! If you’re on a team, you have to be the one to sell it, because maybe your sell will be what encourages another to sell and on and on. If nothing else be the one to watch in the group no matter if front row, second row or in the back! The judges see you! You can be the one to gain points or take them away! No one is hidden, most judges have danced in every position and they will find you!

4. Don’t let a slip, a fall, a missed cue, or a fall out of a turn define you on stage. How you recover from it is what matters. No one is perfect. Very few (if any) perfect routines come across a stage. Don’t lose your face, your energy, or your passion because of a mistake.

5. Not everyone wins! Judges are giving you feedback and feedback can sometimes be criticism. Accepting the criticism is the only way to get better. How you, your parents and your teacher(s) react to criticism and feedback can either build or destroy character. Character for the studio, character for the dance parent, and ultimately character for the dancers.

6. Be punctual! It’s important to be punctual to practices and to your assigned times at nationals. The schedules that you are given are put together to give you a chance to compete within your age group and your categories and levels, Show up late for your dances and the judges will notice (we hear them talk about it all the time in the staff rooms). Dancers are taught to be punctual to class and the same respect is needed during competitions. Being punctual is respect and respect will get you far! I might add, a full-out run through of every routine is probably not going to happen during a competition block if you are in multiple dances. Practice hard in the studio, perform hard on the stage.

7. Let your performance tell a story. The choreography is your paper and your performance is your words. A great performance will entertain people, draw people in and move people. Those routines will stand out. Be a storyteller!

8. Attend nationals because dance makes you happy. For a truly dedicated dancer, dance is your happy place! Dance because you love it. An award or big trophy is only icing on the cake. It should not define you, or effect your love of the art of dance. You already have the cake, icing makes it better, but cake is still amazing all by itself!

9. Be kind: kind to your teammates, kind to your teachers, kind to your parents and family who are there for you. Be kind to the show staff, the venue staff and the hotel staff. Say thank you often! Kindness gets you further in life than arrogance ever will.

10. Regardless of the results you are resilient. Whether you win Overall or just take home an adjudication award, dance makes you a better version of yourself!

All of these thoughts were gleaned directly from among the 35 essays submitted for TOP Scholarships. Wise word from dancers and from our future! THEY GET IT!

Best wishes to everyone competing in the next few weeks.