Pros of Competing
Competition and convention season is upon us and our Academy Alliance Director, Ricky Ruiz answered a few questions about the pros of competing.
Q. How long has The Academy of Dance Arts been participating in dance competitions?
A. I've been at the Academy since the 2010/2011 school year and the studio participated in competitions long before I began teaching here.
Q. How do you choose the competitions you will be attending each year?
A. I always take our most advanced and serious students to 1-2 competitions with conventions. NYCDA is my personal favorite because I very much believe in their philosophies and appreciate their focus on connecting students with dancers, teachers and organizations that are prevalent in the dance industry. VIP is a regular dance competition that our students have always enjoyed, so it is also a tradition to attend their Chicago event, and we have participated in their Nationals a few times as well. Outside of that, most of our competition decisions are based on the convenience of when they hold their Chicago event.
Q. How do you come up with new, fresh ideas for award-winning routines?
A. Awards are not my focus when I create pieces for the Academy. I make my decisions based on what I believe will push the dancers that year as compared to the year before, and diversify their training to make them as well rounded and open to new ideas as possible. The pieces reflect concepts and skills that they have been working on in class and are also a reflection of where they are in terms of maturity and age. The older company dancers are more experienced and therefore get the most difficult and varied pieces in terms of style and content. Many times the pieces are awarded but it's important to remember that's just the opinion of 3-4 people who happened to enjoy the piece and scored it higher than the other dances they may have seen that day. Dance is subjective and it's impossible to know what dance will be award-winning. There have been many times when I thought something of ours was wonderful and it wasn't recognized at all, and many times I thought something of ours could have been better and ended up winning an entire competition.
Q. What are some advantages of competitive dance?
A. It definitely is a good way to build confidence and a comfort level with being on stage. At dance competitions dancers don't have the ability to go on stage and work their pieces before they perform (the way one does for a show that has a proper tech rehearsal). They literally get thrown up there and are expected to remember their corrections, be mindful of the stage and their spacing and perform for an audience. That's a lot to juggle, and the kids do this over and over again without even realizing it. It can also be a good way to network with other dancers, teachers and choreographers. The dance world really is pretty small. Dance competitions are also fun- it's a great way to bond with your teammates, and watch your hard work come to life.
Q. How do you teach the dancers to win humbly and lose gracefully?
A. I don't put a lot of focus on it. One thing I say to every group when they are little and competing with me for the first time is that I could care less if they win or lose. It sounds harsh, but it's the only way they'll actually understand. I've never made a big deal about a person or a group doing well at competition. No matter the outcome, we come back to the studio and do the same thing: review the video of their performance, listen to the judges critiques and keep working to make things better. In a lot of ways, over trophies, I think the kids value my opinion. If I think they knocked it out of the park, I'll tell them, and they know I wouldn't just say that to make them feel good. They also know I'll tell them the things we need to keep working on. That's why it works, because we never take "winning" or "losing" all that seriously.