The Recreational Dancer vs. The Competitive Dancer: To Compete or Not to Compete, That is the Question!
When asked this question by parents I am always honest about my feelings about where I fall in this argument. Most of the time a parent usually already has their mind made up with the visions of sugarplums (trophies) dancing in their heads.
Growing up, my dance teacher was not very interested in the competitive world of dance. Granted this was many years ago and the world of dance was a very different animal, but her focus was on affording her students the best well rounded curriculum possible (which I can never thank her enough for). But she did have the presence of mind to expose us to what the competitive process was like.
Today's competitive world is flooded with thousands of competitions and with the explosion of reality dance shows there seems to be enough dancers to keep these comps filled with young eager dancers whose parents are sure that this is the path to stardom!
You are probably getting that I am not a fan of dance competitions and yes that is true but in moderation there are definitely some great takeaways from being a competitive dancer. Dancers are exposed to all genres of dance, they get to experience all types of choreography and they become eager to learn what the dancer from another school is able to do. They usually dance 3 to 5 times a week and because they are always in the dance atmosphere, they become absorbed in everything dance. They learn to have great stage presence and learn how to connect and engage with the audience and play up to the judges. They learn confidence and how to deal with stage fright and the pressures to deliver a perfect performance. So, as you can see, I’m not all about the doom and gloom of competitive dance! BUT I do need to give you the flip side of the coin.
All of the great takeaways I mentioned in the last paragraph that comp students benefit from can all be achieved without participating in a competitive program. Every single benefit that I talked about can be easier taught and experienced without having the financial burden of paying thousands of dollars for a bunch of plastic dust collectors that validate that your child is the double platinum dancer of the decade!
Today's dancer needs to be well rounded and be able to dance, sing and act! Focusing on just dancing at the competitive level will only produce a one-dimensional dancer and a parent who is left heartbroken when their once enthusiastic dancer decides that dance is not that important anymore or they become totally burnt out from the repetitive monotony of performing the same dance routines over and over with the hopes of winning a trophy.
The financial burden that the competitive dancer places on the family is one not to be taken lightly! Just one weekend competition can cost the same amount of money that a recreational dancer pays for a whole year of dance education. Because competitive dance is so time consuming it leaves the dancer with no time to cultivate the other crucial skills needed if they have any aspirations of becoming a professional dancer. I can already hear you asking why does having a career in dance have anything to do with cultivating other skills? And what skills are you talking about? The skills are singing and acting!
Getting a job dancing, especially on the Broadway stage in today's day and age means you better have a decent amount of vocal and musical theatre training. This can be costly but will be so worth it in the end.