I used to have the preconceived notion that there was not really a point to dance competitions. I did not look down upon people that had been a part of competition jazz teams or anything, I just did not understand why people would pay a panel of judges to tell them if they are better than the next person. But since I have been at SMU, I have realized that although at times they can make people develop some odd mannerisms in dance, competitions can play a valuable role in a person's development as a dancer. For instance, since competition jazz teams work so hard on performance quality, it can be quite helpful for when a dancer has to have that performance quality at auditions and during rehearsals so she can get the job or the part. Also, I think that competitions can help people become more confident in their movement. Competitions expose dancers to various styles and choreographers, and people can learn from this hodgepodge of work.
Competition judges have the stereotype of focusing more on tricks and smiles than technique. For a while I thought this was definitely a bad thing, because I felt that technique seemed more important. I have since realized that while technique is highly valuable, it is worthless if you do not give a performance for the audience. A dancer that can emote while performing is much more interesting to watch than someone that uses her technique perfectly, yet fails to have any artistic quality. It seems much easier for a person to work on her technique, than it is to create a performance quality after focusing primarily on technique for years and years. When companies hold auditions, they look for people that can perform the choreography immediately after learning it, a skill that many dancers that competed possess. Since some companies make cuts during a ballet barre, it is also important to perform during the simplest of combinations in order to show the company that you have an artistic voice.
Even if a dancer is incredibly uncomfortable with the movement, she has to fake confidence in order to be successful at a competition. This indubitably helps later on in a dancer’s journey with auditions for jobs and specific parts. With dancers getting choreography thrown out at a quick pace and being asked to reiterate it soon after, a strong self-confidence is imperative to have. Without it, a dancer can become nervous in front of the people choosing the cast and not perform her best. Also, everyone makes mistakes every now and then, so a dancer’s confidence must carry over to commitment to the movement so the audience does not perceive it as an error.
Being exposed to the myriad styles of dance that are showcased at a competition facilitates a dancer’s growth immensely. Becoming aware of how other dancers move has always aided me in achieving various aspects of dance that I struggled with before, and because so many people take part in competitions, there are many to learn from. Watching others can also inspire a dancer to work harder, dance more often, or perhaps even choreograph. I feel that I learn from every performance I watch, and since competitions typically last for hours, there are numerous opportunities to discover something new and exciting.
All together, I feel that my previous negative thoughts on the matter are undeserved, and that competitions and competition jazz teams provide their members with exceedingly valuable skills to go out into the dance world. In a sense, auditions are a type of competition, in that at times you are competing with a number of other people for the same role or job. These skills that help dancers become successful at competitions, such as confidence and performance quality, are also skills that help dancers become successful at auditions. Furthermore, at each competition, dancers get the chance to learn from their peers, as well as get exposed to other dance styles they might not normally get exposed to at their schools and studios. The overall experience of competitions and competition jazz teams ultimately enrich the quality of a dancer’s training to better prepare him or her for the highly competitive field of dance.