Today 4dancers welcomes Dorothy Stephenson back to share some of her tips for surviving a dance competition–and she should know–she has been to many of them! Here are 5 she wanted to share with readers…
1. Keep Your Head–and Don’t Forget to Breathe
Competition can not only be strenuous physically, but it can be taxing mentally and emotionally. Throughout the course of a competition, you can experience every emotion a human can have. Happiness to be competing. Disappointment when a routine doesn’t go quite your way. The fun, nervous jitters as the announcer calls awards. Sadness if you didn’t place like you wanted, or pure joy when your team takes grand champion. It’s hard to keep yourself in check.
It’s times like this when you need to remind yourself to keep your chill, think straight, and take your time. If you just finished a routine and you know you have one number to change before your next dance, walk/half-run (safely) to your dressing room, but think clearly when you get there. Pre-plan and have your outfits laid out in the order you need them. Calmly (but quickly) change and make sure you have everything you need. Then, re-position yourself backstage in a quiet and controlled manner.
2. Harness Those Pre-Dance Jitters
It’s easy to get worked into a frenzy right before you take the stage. The time right before a dancer goes on is very important. That is your chill time, your preparation time, or your freak-out time. Bottom line is: It’s YOUR time.
Some dancers calmly and silently meditate on the dance or just reflect on positive thoughts to relax their minds and push away negative gunk that might be clouding their concentration. Others might find that working themselves up, getting themselves excited, and going over and over the upcoming dance in their head is the way to go. There are dancers who might casually float around backstage and strike up breezy conversation with other similarly preparing teammates. All dancers have their own “method to the madness”.
It’s important to incorporate proper warm-up exercises into your pre-stage routine. Find what method works for you and stick with it. The other thing to remember is to know your teammates pre-stage methods. If you’re a dancer who likes to work yourself up, then steer clear of a teammate who wants to relax before they go on. Respect your teammates’ pre-stage routines.
3. Don’t Just Walk on Stage, TAKE the Stage
When you take the stage, be confident. Walk out there like you own the place. Have your chin up, strongly take your position and respectfully acknowledge the judges while doing so. As your walking to your position, take deep relaxing breaths and get all the oxygen in while you can. Keep reminding yourself to stay calm, and remember: while the judges are there to score you and notice every little mistake you make, they want to be entertained, too. Luckily, you’re a dancer. “Entertainment” is your middle name! Take those final seconds before the music starts to calm yourself once more.
When the music begins, take everything in stride. Take each movement as it comes, and don’t rush yourself or your teammates. Keep your mind on your routine. It only takes a second to get distracted and make a mistake. Stay focused on the choreography, and make direct eye contact with the judges. Push the energy of the choreography towards them, and use your entire body, including your face, to execute a routine and show the judges how much you love to dance.
5. Stay Positive
For better or for worse, leave the stage with a smile on your face. No matter whether you just completed the dance of your life or your team completely bombed, walk off patting your teammates on the back and telling them how well they did, how proud of them you are, and how lucky all of you are to be dancing. Then, turn the page from that dance and start preparing for the next one.
Dorothy Stephenson began her clogging career in 1990 when her mother enrolled her with the Little Switzerland Cloggers. Today, she leads Little Switzerland along with two other groups – Rhythmic Alliance, a competitive team, and Sundance Express, a professional performance troupe.
She also owns Sundance Studios & Productions Company, a dance studio and productions company specializing in clogging instruction and performance.