Turn Your Competition
Videos into Cash
Even if you didn’t win a medal, your competi
tion solo could pay off—literally. Simply enter
a video of your performance (or any clip of
yourself dancing) into Harlequin Floors’ scholar
ship contest, hosted on theworlddances.com.
Each month, four performers are given $250 to
help them achieve their dance goals.
Ask a Competition Director
What does it take to really wow judges?
“It’s hard to impress with the amount of
pirouettes you can do or the height of your
extension anymore because dancers get more
advanced every year. But when somebody
puts soul into their work, that stands out. If you
enjoy yourself onstage, the audience will enjoy
watching you. If you’re miserable, that’s how
we’re going to feel.”
—Larissa Saveliev, Youth America Grand Prix
What’s the biggest hurdle in competitions today?
“How the parents react. Because their behavior
gets mirrored by the dancers. It’s the parents’
job not to turn into fighting soccer moms. They
need to keep themselves together and learn
how to lose.”
—Joe Tremaine, Tremaine Dance Conventions
How can dancers use a convention
strategically as a networking opportunity?
“Put yourself forward in class in the most
positive way possible. Talent is important, but
so is polite persistence.”
—Ray Leeper, NUVO Dance Convention
So often, a great competition soloist
sweeps the awards for an outstanding work
they’ve thoroughly mastered—but then
falls apart when trying to learn anything
else. How can you avoid a similar fate? By
approaching your competition prep strate-
gically so it can enhance your training.
Dance a character outside your comfort zone.
When selecting variations for their students, Slawomir and Irena Wozniak at
Master Ballet Academy in Arizona often
look for roles that contrast the dancers’
natural temperaments. “To get hired you
must show range,” Slawomir says. The
happy prince, full of love, has a different approach to the same steps as a cocky
Basilio from Don Quixote, and learning
the distinctions can enhance your artistry.
Push for tougher choreography.
Kelly Burke, artistic director of Westchester Dance Academy in New York state,
sees dancers improve when given something to aspire to. “Knowing we’ll have a
weekly private session to rehearse the solo, I
give dancers choreography that’s technically
harder than what they can do,” she says. “Of
course, I’d never let them perform it until it’s
done correctly.” If your solo is well in hand,
ask the choreographer if you can shoot for an
extra turn here or a riskier weight shift there.
Analyze every step.
If you have a one-on-one with your teacher
to fine-tune your performance, don’t stop
at cleaning up arm placement. “Look at
all the technical details,” says New York
City Dance Alliance faculty member Suzi
Taylor. “Go beyond checking your lines and
examine whether you’re using your back to
support your arms and overall alignment. Is
your supporting leg fully turned out every
time?” These details translate to everything
else you do.
Study your transitions.
Burke finds that when she spends a whole
Build strength with musicality.
coaching session on specificity in the mo-
ments between steps, her dancers wind up
doing a lot of work on technique that sup-
ports the rest of their dancing. Look at engag-
ing turnout as you step up from the floor or
identify where your weight is as you come
out of a turn, she says.
Matching the music can stretch your limits.
Take a juicier approach to a développé when
the music swells, for example, and over time
you’re sure to feel stronger in your supporting leg and in the extension. “Playing with
the way you approach your port de bras in
the solo may bring some upper-body clarity to your other movement,” says Taylor.
“That’s improving your total carriage, the full
Fill in the blanks on your own.
Use your competition solo to dive deeper. If
there’s something you’re struggling with in
your solo, pay extra attention to it in class. Or
give your brain a workout, and run the variation starting on the opposite leg. Do a little
research to establish an emotional connection
to the work. “Maybe you need to read about
French history or dancers who have come
before you,” Wozniak says. It could make a
difference in front of the judges and in your
overall understanding of the movement. n
MORE THAN A SOLO
Use your coaching sessions
to improve your overall
technique. BY KRISTYN BRADY
o m Slawomir Wozniak working with Gisele Bethea and Michal Wozniak
one of the June
Joe Tremaine and dancers