As wonderful as dance conventions can be, dancers often feel a bit intimidated by the experience. Eight seasoned competitive dancers shared their dance convention experience and what they learned throughout years of attending dance conventions.
I attended my first convention at the age of eight. One of the classes I took required the dancers to improv for a bit and act like birds. I had never been exposed to improv before and immediately decided I did not like this teacher because the class was outside of my comfort zone and I felt silly. Fast forward a few years and this teacher became one of my favorites and I looked forward to attending her class each year. If you take a class and you feel uncomfortable, know that you are being pushed outside of your comfort zone and that’s a good thing even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. You will be a better dancer because of moments like the one I had.
One of the best decisions my Mom ever made was to take me to a dance convention that none of my friends were attending. I was so nervous, but up until then I always stuck with my friends from the studio and would stand where they wanted to stand and not always push myself. By going by myself, I made several new friends and even though I was a little initimdated at first not having my “group”, I learned that I put myself out there more because no one had a predetermined view of my ability. I highly recommend it.
One of my favorite things about attending dance conventions is how much it opens up your world to the talent that is out there and instead of being threatened by it, be inspired by it. It’s easy to only focus on the talent of your own studio or the studios in your area, but when you attend a dance convention and take class with other dancers from studios you aren’t as familiar with, you can see their technique and dedication to becoming better dancers. It’s fun to be focused and working hard with like minded people.
I learned that scholarships are nice, but you don’t have to earn a scholarship to have a great weekend. Training at a competitive studio, I felt pressure from a young age to earn scholarships – to make my Mom proud and to feel like I was a good dancer. I learned over time that when I stopped focusing on that so much that I enjoyed the classes more and really focusing on becoming a better dancer. The experience was so much better and so was my dancing. The scholarships eventually came and while I was proud, it did not change my experience in the classroom.
I learned how important it is to manage sleep and nutrition on exhausting convention weekends. When I was younger it was all about going to the hotel pool and staying up chatting with friends. I soon realized that I needed my sleep and a good balanced diet or I would not be able to perform well in classes or on stage throughout the weekend.
You are going to make mistakes in class. You may not pick up the combination as quickly as the dancer beside you. In the beginning, I would get embarassed, but I soon realized that everyone around me was so focused on themselves that no one was paying attention to what I was doing and how many mistakes I made. I also learned that while I may not nail the tap combo, there will be a class that is more my thing and I will feel more confident in that.
I learned that I focus much better when my Mom doesn’t stay in the room. When I was younger, my Mom always stayed in the room to watch and I didn’t think any thing of it. As I got older, I realized how much feedback she would give me and how she was comparing me to other dancers and giving me suggestions on how I could improve. My Mom is amazing and she meant well, but her advice and constant watching didn’t work well for my personality. It got to the point that throughout class, I would look to her for validation that I was doing okay. We had a conversation about it one day and I asked that she let me take classes on my own. Her feelings were a bit hurt at first but it was the best thing for me. I felt free to learn without being judged. The convention experience improved for both of us after that – no arguing, no more me feeling not good enough and getting too much advice. If you are comfortable being without your Mom, go for it. She can enjoy her day and you can too.
Take every opportunity to audition. For some studios its optional and for some it’s mandatory. If it’s optional at your studio, do it anyway. Dance may end up being your passion and if you push yourself to do auditions when you are younger, you gain valuable experience. Also, don’t go into it expecting to earn something, go into as a challenge to improve yourself. Block out the noise of what’s going on around you and focus on you, the rest will come.