Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Wait 'Til You See My Smile"

Don't you wish there was a way you knew in advance what you're getting yourself into when you attend a new competition!

I had a friend, Laurel, from University who opened up her own studio around the same time that I did. We keep in touch via the internet on how were doing, and sometimes even quick problem solving about studio situations. Last year we ended up going to the same competition, but we were both so busy we never really got the chance to catch up in person. Her studio is in Whitby, which is a smaller town outside of the big city of Toronto, so her clientele is probably vastly differently than mine... but we share the same growing pains!

Recently I saw that she had posted about her experience at her first competition of this year. Her kids are fairly new to the competition scene and she was really proud of one of her groups for placing in Overalls for the first time. I remember that feeling as well, and she definitely should feel a great sense of accomplishment.

However, what I think was the greatest part about her taking pride in this accomplishment was that she was very honest about her successes. She was quick to reply to her own post that she has a hard time deciding what competitions to go to every year based on the fact that she wants to keep it in perspective for her students. She likes going to competitions with more seasoned studios so that her students can watch more advanced dancers and learn from them. But in the same breathe, she doesn't want them to feel discouraged competing. She also stated that she doesn't like going to competitions with all studios like her own, as she doesn't want to give her kids a false sense of what their current abilities are.

I think that is really awesome Laurel... not just about your studios successes at competition, but the fact that you have a very clear outlook!

I feel the exact same way, and have always preached that to my students. I like to go to competitions with those "bigger" studios so that my students can see what's out there. But I also want to keep in check the fact that my studio has not been around competing for 20 years yet. I know for a fact that the parents at my studio don't like attending those smaller competitions where there is very little competition for their kids. I appreciate that perspective, but I also don't want my students to be discouraged about going to bigger competitions with studios three times as big as ours. It is a really hard balance to maintain, especially when you have no idea who is going to any competition before registering for it.

This year we are attending an American National Competition that we have never previously done. I was very hesitant about switching our National event this year, because if we attend Regionals and dislike the competition, we are committed to going to their Nationals regardless. I called the competition director in the summer to discuss all of my concerns and I quickly decided that it was worth taking a chance. One of my major concerns was that they had quality studios attending their event, or more important that they catered to all sizes of studios. To me, it shouldn't matter how much your entry fees equal, it should matter about the performance. I expressed my same concern about the adjudicators they hire, but she was quick to assure me that I would be pleased with their Competition. So we'll see!

Forrest Gump would be accurate in describing dance competitions as a box of chocolates... you never quite know what you're going to get, even if you've eaten them before! Just because they ran a great competition one year, does not guarantee that the next year will be as enjoyable. Is the event only great based on which studios show up? Some might argue that it is. Some would disagree and say that the adjudicators are the ones that really set the tone of a competition and therefore, are the most important part of its success.

What types of studios are you trying to attract if you're a competition director? Do you want only a handful of studios with hundreds of entries each? Maybe they have egos to match! Or do you want 40 smaller studios to come to your competition? Maybe that's too many people to try and make happy! Where does my studio fit in with your type of competition?

I don't really have all the answers, but maybe studio directors should be more inclined to ask those types of questions to competition directors... especially before you send them a non-refundable cheque for thousands and thousands of dollars on behalf of your clients!

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