Making Referrals for Competitive Dancers

We  have recently been asked to refer a dancer to a studio locally. I will be honest at first I didn’t  feel comfortable in doing that. I’ll tell you why. With well over 20 years in and around the dance world, we’ve  learned a lot at Crickets Dance. You learn “people”.  We  have learned that no matter how much you tell someone – they only hear what they want to hear.

Frankly, we do have to refer ourselves “Crickets Dance” before anyone else.  That only would make sense.

You as a parent and your child will have to first visit the studios in your area, and evaluate what you see. Many times parents want their children to be with friends from school.  Sometimes they don’t. There are so many factors to why you might select a studio that have nothing to do with dance instruction.  Social Interaction is big with younger moms that haven’t yet had to deal with the issues of  a bad technical score sheet.

If you are dreaming of your child becoming a rock star competitor, you will have to hire instructors who know more than just recreational instruction. You have choices to make. Sometimes word of mouth is good, but until you visit, observe, and meet with the instructors – word of mouth is just that.  I’ll be honest in saying, there are locations I wouldn’t send anyones child.   Places where the level of instruction is so poor, it is hard to call it dance.  It just isn’t.

I don’t want to add to your confusion. but, I have to say this:

If you have the opportunity to send your child to camps out of town “do it”. What your students come back with, will change the way they perceive dance forever. They will be able to pick their own studio.  They will be able to pick out the fake instruction from the real, right away.

I will make this one referral. Kids Plex in Grand Junction Co. I went there to study with the American gymnastics team one summer. The programs in both ballet and gymnastics are wonderful experiences.  I highly recommend them.  It can be costly to travel, but it is worth the drive in the end.

Generally, the types of referrals I make  have to do with the level that parents want their children to learn and compete at. Money is another factor for some in making a decision to become a competitive dancer.   However, now days I have had to look at the level of instruction  that a studio is capable of, and kind of scratch my head at some. There are locations that are so weak in technical expertise, it’s hard to call it dance. It’s recreational performance.

I do believe that dancers should have some experience with competition at the soloist level. Soloists tend to gain the upper hand very early on in their dance education. Not all – but most.  But your job is to locate that studio or individual instructors that can actually teach technique, and motitate your dancer to excel.

One-on-one instruction, who wouldn’t want their dancer to have it? Hello!

Plan on visiting the studios in your area.  Talk with former dancers who have won titles in the bigger arena’s, like multi-state national and overalls. Attend recitals, watch the parades. Get feedback from your dancers. Then make your choices.

Remember, not all dance is created equal.  Ballroom and Salsa have their forum, just as Modern, Lyrical and Contemporary do.  Ballet and hip-hop are also different.  If you hire outside of your dancers genre you get what you pay for.  You as a parent, or dancer, have to do a bit of homework to make sure you are matching the skills and the technical levels together properly.

Most good instructors will know a host of different dance styles. For example, a jazz dancer may also be proficient in lyrical, ballet, contemporary, and hip-hop.   For those that don’t know, lyrical, ballet, contemporary, and hip-hop make up the standard mix for competitive jazz dancers.  

Sure you have instructors who specialize in just one genre of dance, but if you are into competitive dance, you have to have a mix of instruction.   One part of their mix will probably be within the instructors own  specialty, and in the others parts your instructor will have a level of proficiency(1 to 10). You want to look at a level 5 or better in the secondary proficiencies.

For rural areas there is not a lot of opportunities for dancers (solo and teams) to compete in dance styles like  ballroom, bellydance, and salsa.  Some  rural areas may  have these type of classes for older adults (40, 50 and above) to help keep them active.  But the reality is that most rural dancers  in the K-12/teens/20’s age groups are competing dancers who are trained in jazz, lyrical, hip hop, etc.

It is nice to learn other styles of dance, and we encourage it, but it shouldn’t take away the focus of what you are really good at.  Learn all you can, but be careful that you don’t over extend yourself and lose out on valuable training within your own dance genre.  I’ve seen this happen, dancers who over extend and don’t focus in on their own technique in the area they are good at.

Sometimes more is less, and less is more.

Be careful with  your guidance of students.  They need to be taught proper technique in the genre’s that will help them grow.  Again, don’t over extend the learning curve.  Yes, explore new genre’s of dance, maybe create your next production number around it (Bollywood or musical theater are both  good examples).  Add to your students repertoire, but don’t let it  become a distraction.

Good luck.  We wish you success in your competitive endeavorers.