Many parents question whether or not to allow their child to dance in a competitive program. There are many benefits to competition as well as a few negative. I would like to take some time and clarify some of the pros and cons. It is my goal to help all parents understand the specifics of the competitive dance program so that they may decide if it is the right program for their children.
Competition dancers can start as young as 5 years old. I do not recommend beginning any earlier than this; I suggest that at this age children should be accepted by teacher recommendation. First year competitors may put a lot of pressure on themselves until they know what to expect, as the competition atmosphere is quite different than that of a recital. Usually after the first competition, a dancer will know if competition is right for them. If they love the spotlight, performing to the audience and giving it their all, competition will most likely be a good fit for the dancer.
A competitive program can be as simple as attending a class once a week, or as demanding as joining a dance company that holds 3-4 rehearsals per week. I suggest that all new competitive dancers start out slowly and then work their way up to a level of rehearsal and dedication that fits their lifestyle and schedule. It is definite however that the more one dances/practices the better and quicker they will improve. If a dancer is taking a competition class that rehearses once a week, I highly recommend adding a ballet technique class on top of that. Most studios can schedule these classes back to back therefore the dancer would only have to attend one day a week. This is a great way to see if he or she likes not only competitive dance but the commitment as well.
Competition dancers usually attend several local competitions a year and an optional national event located out of state. Some studios may decide to only attend nationals every other year. It really just depends on the clientele, the program itself and even the economy. Competitions also range in entry fee prices. Each competition company sets and charges its own fees; the dance studio has no control over this. The entry fee prices range from $30.00 for each dancer in a group to $80.00 for a dancer to take a solo routine. The competition venue is usually held at a local high school or performance venue. Most competitions do not charge a fee for the parents to watch, however I have heard of several that do and I personally stay away from those, as parents have already paid the entry fees.
Dancers in a competitive program gain so much more than just technique. They learn to work collectively as a group, as well as the importance of synchronization and timing. When teaching a competition class, teachers will stress this a bit more adamantly, as the pressure is a bit higher than in a non-competitive class. At competition there are usually three judges that score on technique, timing, costume, stage presence and overall performance. Dancers who compete learn to perform all aspects necessary for a good score and hopefully an overall award. Competitive dance programs help to make the dancer less intimidated, more confident in their abilities and themselves. Dancers quickly learn to take and apply corrective criticism, which helps them tremendously later in life.
With all the above being said I am a huge fan of competition as I feel it really helps and prepares the dancers for life later on. All these aspects are learning tools to help them when they go off to college or into the working world. I have found that people who have competed in dance are able to handle the stresses and demands put on them easier in everyday life. I would however strongly suggest checking out the studio and the program that is offered and make sure it will work for you and your family. Although competition can be very expensive and time consuming, it can also be very rewarding.