Dance Competitions

I grew up in a time where there were no High Golds. Yep, and, to blow your mind even further, there wasn’t even a Platinum. Or a Crystal, or a Double Platinum, or Double Diamond Crystal encrusted Platinum. I know, sounds crazy, but it’s true. I grew up in a time where you either won or didn’t win. Notice I did not say “lost”. Because we never really “lost.” Losing implies that, according to one definition, we “failed to advance or improve,” and that wasn’t the case at all.

Back in the “olden days,” “glory years,” whatever you want to call it, dancers went to competitions to share their passion and literally emerge themselves with the dancers around them. Without Youtube, FB, Instagram, and all the other forms of social media out there now, the only time to really see and, be “inside” the world of dance outside of your own studio was to be at a dance competition. It was, at times, the only outlet to sharing and seeing what else was out there. New tricks, cool concepts, different styles. You always left with more insight, knowledge, and inspiration because there was no other place to get that from. And let me tell you, it was amazing.

Times have changed. Dance is so accessible. We can google anything we want and are constantly be exposed to dance everywhere. Our expectation of what “winning” is has been changed also. As the bar gets set higher, so does the need to receive the awards and trophies. We no longer accept Gold as the highest, we needed something MORE…we needed a High Gold. When High Gold wasn’t enough we then added a Platinum or some other higher up medal.

A while back I was reading a chain of complaints written to a competition on a dance competition forum. All of them were from dance parents of children who did not receive the “Platinum” or “Crystal” that they “deserved” (notice my use of quotes on deserved). All of them speaking only on the type of medal their child had not received. As I read through each critique I got more and more upset. I was upset in knowing that, regardless of the experience that child might of had dancing on a stage, performing, and being immersed in the dance world, the only thing that mattered was the medal.

A few weeks after reading that I was at a competition and a little girl brought me a Gold medal she had found in the parking lot. It had clearly been out there for a while and was not in good shape. As she handed it to me she said “I found this in the parking lot, I doubt anyone will come back for it.” I said “oh, why?” She replied, “because it’s just a Gold so they probably don’t want it.” I was haunted with the idea that maybe this dancer who had received this medal had purposefully left it in the parking lot because it wasn’t what she thought she “deserved.”

When did Gold not become good enough? When did dance only become about the medal?

In 10 years, will you remember what medal you got for your small group jazz number? In five years, will the medal you got help you land that big dance gig you auditioned for? If you are struggling with the answer here it is “no.” Absolutely not. What you will remember is the costumes, the dance, the fun you had backstage, the funny moments, the memories, maybe an eight count or two of your favorite part. It sounds cliché but it’s true.

If you are too old to be competing and are still reading this. It’s not just medals. It’s that audition you didn’t get, it’s acceptance, Facebook likes, Instagram followers, choreography awards, etc. It’s not “win or lose,” every experience gives you a chance to improve and that, in itself, is a WIN. It’s also memories, experiences, the details that you will remember years from now. Maybe you have a child that dances. Are we making sure to talk about the memories, the inspiration, the real stuff that they will actually remember?

I couldn’t tell you whether or not each of the thousands of performances I have done got standing ovations or rave reviews. I couldn’t tell you what medals I got or what place I got or which dances I have choreographed have gotten awards. But I can tell you some really great stories, some hilarious memories, and some life lessons about this great big dance world we live in. And that, my friends, is the real “Double Diamond Encrusted Platinum”.