I have actually really missed having an outlet for all of my issues/questions/insights. I am having a little bit of a dilemma lately and I figured writing about it would help me talk it out, get some advice, or just satisfy my eagerly waiting fans for more dance industry shenanigans!
What are your thoughts about "recycling" numbers for competition at your studio? I'm starting to have very mixed feelings about it, but also very strong opinions about it either way.
If you would have asked me a year ago what I thought about a studio re-doing a group for competition that they had previously done I would have immediately told you I thought it was a cop-out as a choreographer. Lately I'm starting to sway a little to the left!
As a teacher/choreographer sometimes you can really just hit the mark with a group, and it's a combination of the music, choreography and the dancers that really brings it all together. You then try to duplicate it the following year by doing something similar, but it just isn't the same. So why not re-do the exact same number on new students? I know of a lot of studios who do the same groups two years in a row, especially if they are going to different competitions. If that group was really successful the first year, they will just do it again. Maybe keep the same students in it, or add a few new ones. Maybe even change the costume. I don't have a big issue with all of this in general, but my major concerns come up as a business owner. Can you really charge students two years in a row for the same choreography? Is it really fair to make them buy a new costume for a dance they were already in? What must that feel like for a new student to just be put in a group the rest of the students have already done as basically a filler? Are your students really learning anything or growing as a dancer from doing the same choreography again for another year?
So many questions, and really no direct answers that everyone will agree on. As a teacher, choreographer and dance studio owner I could never justify to parents at my studio charging them for a group for two consecutive years. It means to me that not only are their children now growing by learning new things, but it also tells me that I'm relying on my previous success as a teacher/choreographer and not growing myself. However... can I re-do a group for competition and make it fair for everyone involved?
This year I'm taking this "reuse & recycle" concept in two different directions to see how successful I can be with something I was previously successful with. Last year I choreographed a Contemporary Small Group that a group of Inters/Seniors only did at our National Competition. Now, I'm sure this is against all of the rules of Regionals and qualifying for Nationals and blah blah blah, but that's besides the point! The group turned out to be really exceptional and the girls won 2nd Overall Teen Groups for the effort. Now, a part of the success of this group in my opinion comes from the fact that this group reflected the growth my students had during the year, as well as my own as a choreographer. So, I decided that I'd like to 'recycle' this group again this year. I have kept the four remaining members of this group in tact, and have also added a few more students to replace those who are no longer at the studio. I have not charged any of the students who were previously in this group for the choreography time, but they will need to purchase a new costume this year and of course pay for competition entry fees for it.
In the same breathe, I plan on changing the majority of this group piece to now reflect even more growth and new skills from everyone. The dance left how it was in July would probably be stale by March for competition, so I will virtually start all over again in terms of choreography. Same song, same concept, same basic conclusion... but different. Truthfully, if it wasn't different, I would just be bored working on it again!
Now, along the same line, I choreographed an amazing tap group about five years ago that I have never quite been able to top. It was done with a bunch of 10-12 year old students, and ever since I have tried to replicate the success of that group, but I have never quite gotten there. So, this year I have a group of students, ages 8-10, whom I have decided will be the lucky recipients of my past moment of genius! Of course, I have to take into consideration the obvious age different in this situation, but I feel as though these younger students have the talent now that this piece warrants. I don't remember the exact choreography for the entire routine, and I have stopped myself several times from popping in the DVD to remind myself, mostly so that my approach can be fresh this time around. Same song, same concept, same brilliant sections, but an entirely new group of dancers this time around.
I'm not trying to justify my decision to do this, but I don't want to do wrong by my students either. I want them to be excited about new pieces of choreography for the year, keep the parents excited to watch them, and keep myself excited to work on it as well. Heck, I'm not even trying to pretend that I'm not doing it! But, how many teachers can honestly say that they've never re-used a piece of music and approached it with a mindset of doing things that maybe worked previously with that song... I'll bet no one!
I'm sure every dance teacher could talk themselves in circles around reasons for re-doing certain numbers, and maybe that's all I'm doing. But, this is my blog, so I'll justify whatever I want to myself! I will honestly say in regards to this issue that I don't think any piece of choreography is ever as good the second time around. I went to watch another competition last year, as I heard that a studio was going to re-do one of my favorite group pieces I had ever seen at a competition from two years ago. However, much to my disappointment, I did not like it the second time around. The concept and the song were the same, but there was just something magical missing in all aspects that made the dance have less impact and be less memorable. Maybe it was the new group of dancers they had performing it, or maybe even it was because I knew what was going to happen. The group was still fantastic as a whole and they did really well at competition, but I'm going to say not as well as it had previously done.
I don't think the general idea here is any different then what I'm planning on doing, but my intentions in doing so are not to try and match the success of any groups previously. I don't want to re-do that tap group to help myself win more choreography awards, or so the kids win more Overall Awards with it. I don't even really want people to be able to recognize that the group is the same, but maybe that's unavoidable! There are some competitions that have rules about winning Overalls at their competition with the same routine two years in a row, and that I fully respect. Luckily for me that's not an issue, but I'm sure it can be for some people.
At least if I'm going to win another Choreography Award for one of these groups it will still be my choreography that's awarded. If you're going to 'recycle' a group that you saw another studio do last year... well, that's a whole other pile of garbage!