I’d like to write a short post based on a comment by Nichelle Strzepek at http://danceadvantage.net. She read my last post on making boys dance slowly to learn the basics, and said the following:
“I have found it particularly difficult to impress the importance of learning to do things correctly with competitive dancers (again, my experience in this realm has been at recreational schools that compete). It seems for these students the eye is too often on the prize and not the work it takes to get there. I also think we live in an instant gratification culture and it becomes increasingly challenging to get kids to see the value in working slowly and methodically.”
In my experience, focus on competitions can, indeed, take away from technique. We saw that happen to Julian. Plus, for the last few years, Julian’s teachers have encouraged him not to compete. They said that the time spent learning dance routines took away from time spent perfecting technique. (Not to mention that the judging at competitions is not always so great, but that’s another whole subject.)
When Julian danced at Dance Attack Los Gatos, one year they would have a recital and the next year they would call their “technique year” and not have a recital. This allowed teachers to focus on technique all your long rather than stopping mid year to teach choreography and focus on all the stuff that goes into putting on a show. I thought this made a lot of sense, and Julian learned a lot more during those technique years.
I think he learned a lot about performing while he was on the Dance Attack Los Gatos performing/competition team, but after the second year we actually thought his technique had gone down hill. That’s when we pulled him out and enrolled him at Ballet San Jose School.
So, for whatever it’s worth, here’s my two cents worth: I think competitions have their place, especially for boys, who tend to really like competition. They also help kids learn how to perform. That said, I do think they can take away from technique, even though to win at a competion you really should have to have good technique in your performance. I think the focus gets put on the performance over the technique, though.
Now, in a perfect world. your son’s (or mine’s) performance or competiton routine should require him — or rather his teacher should require him — to have perfect technique before he gets up on that stage before the judges.
I think that “in class” competition can be a very good thing since it can give a young man the chance to measure himself against someone who is a peer.
It’s so easy for a boy, or anyone for that matter, to say to himself,
“Oh, that’s impossible.
He’s a professional.
She’s a GIRL, girls can do that. I can’t”
Seeing other kids who CAN only drives home the realization that with work and discipline “so can I.”
In that sense, competition, when it is among peers and when it is based upon a healthy desire to keep up and move forward, is a great motivator.
Competitive dancing (as in contests, for prizes and such) however strikes me as something one wouldn’t wish to do too much of. It moves dance away from the status of an art form that requires discipline and precision and turns it into a display of pyrotechnics, where the WOW! GOTCHA! effect that draws gasps becomes the most important aspect of the performance.
Sure it’s fun to strut your stuff now and again. The rush of performing keeps most artists going, but technique is what makes the difference between dancing with ABT and Dancing With The Stars.
I agree with the above commentator that competition can definitely provide necessary motivation, but a dancer should be able to move from the extrinsic motivation of prizes such as medals, trophies and “platinums” to the intrinsic motivation of wanting to be the best dancer they can be. True for male and female dancers.
Great blog, glad I found it!
I totally agree with you, too! Unfortunatley, for some reason too few young dancers ever make that leap. The challenge lies in finding a way to help them find that inner desire to become a great dancer for the sake of becoming a great dancer.
Great comments on this post (particularly your last one, nina, about making the leap). I have to agree that competition itself can be an excellent motivator, can improve performance skills, (and to add a few often cited benefits) can expose students to dance styles/choreography/movements/teachers that they wouldn’t normally experience, can foster ties and friendships and community among participants, and can encourage and teach teamwork.
Competition has the POTENTIAL to do all of those things. The question I think that students/parents/teachers must ask themselves is DOES it or IS it doing those things. And if not, why? What’s missing?
Well, I started to add way too much to the above statements. I have been mulling over a blog post with this theme for a while and it is obvious to me that I need to get around to writing it. I do want to stress that some competitions and schools seem to be “getting it right” and may be reaping the benefits of competition. However, with the popularity of competing among schools that spend a very limited amount of time on learning quality dance/performance technique, my fear is that there are many for whom the potential benefits of competitive dance remain untapped.
Very good points…and I think one person getting it right is Denise Wall. Just look at the dancers she turns out. And her competition team is by invitation only and is considered “pre-professional.”