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Are ballet competitions worth doing?

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My daughter is 7, and has been in ballet classes for 4 years.  She's very keen, and has started asking about doing competitions.  Her dance school specialises in another style of dance, and those students often compete, but not the ballet students.  She adores her teacher, works hard, and has been in two recitals.

So is there any harm at giving her a turn at competing?  It's something I have no experience in.  Her teacher said she'd help with choreography and extra training, and she'd be competing under our school's name.

Part of me says it could be fun, and give her a bit of a chance to push herself a bit.  Another part worries that it's just part of a huge money-making industry and it won't really help her in the long run.  

I'd really appreciate some guidance, thank you.

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The skills and confidence a child gains from competing is immeasurable. You can literally watch a child grow before your eyes. However, it is expensive and incredibly stressful there are some quite overbearing mums to be polite. Also, unlike exams where there is a set standard competitions can be purely down to the individual adjudicators like and dislike. I've experienced many of those. Anything from the adjudicator not liking a performers National boots. I kid you not . A child's newfound confidence can be wiped out in seconds by inappropriate comments. As long as you sit down and talk with your DD about the highs and lows before hand. If possible visit a few as spectators to gain a glimpse into the world of Dance Moms. It's quite a eye opener.

Finally select any competitions carefully as some are more classical based others maybe more MT.

 

Good Luck and have fun. Your wallet won't be laughing. Lol.

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If it's festival, then it can be a fun thing to do. I know a lot of people are anti festivals, I did them for a few years late teens and they really made me learn how to perform and opened my eyes to the whole other level of dance beyond my rather mediocre school! Working hard towards a goal can be a good thing & generally you get some good comments on areas for improvement.

 

Lots of children enjoy the whole friendship aspect of it. I think so long as it's just an addition to her normal classes, it doesn't become too serious (winning at any cost!)Of course people want to place but I think the emphasis should be going out and doing a good performance.

 

It can get expensive of you end up doing multiple solos but if you be realistic about how far you want to get involved/how many to do etc. Normal festivals aren't a money spinner as far as I'm aware fees go to cover costs of theatre/hall hire, aujdicators, medals etc.

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There are many different levels of competition, from little local festivals to regional championships to national affairs. Also, some schools want you to compete every 2 or 3 weeks, others every few months. My dd has competed at mainly local, friendly competitions for several years, only about 3 times a year. She really enjoys it and has made lots of friends. Personally I think that too many competitions would interfere with ‘proper’ training, but 3 or 4 a year is fun and helps build confidence on a stage in front of an audience. 

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I agree with BlueLou. I would strongly recommend going to watch one first so your dd knows exactly what is involved.

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DD did a few festivals before managing time became an issue and enjoyed some more than others. I think she enjoyed it most when she was entered in groups - everyone had such a nice time and supported each other- lots of fun and not so much pressure . :)

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DD did a few festivals before managing time became an issue and enjoyed some more than others. I think she enjoyed it most when she was entered in groups - everyone had such a nice time and supported each other- lots of fun and not so much pressure . :)

Agree with Jazzpaws – groups are so much more fun! DD did 10 competitions in 2015, but only 5 this year because of compulsory Saturday Scholars (JA) classes. A lot depends on what your weekend commitments are like. It has helped my rather reserved DD to develop expression and performance skills, as well as resilience (for critical adjudicator comments and also what to do when your CD skips/jams/stops!).

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I wanted to thank everyone for the fantastic warm welcome, and for all the advice!  I feel like I've landed in a safe place to discuss dance and have learned a lot already from your forum :)

We are going to watch a competition in Glasgow in November, and go from there.  She's looking at song choice options and wavers from being really excited to being worried about stage fright.  We'll see what happens.  She's so young, yet when she's in class she's super focussed and really competitive... she was intent on becoming the youngest person to do splits in her group, and when she sees the older girls she watches everything they do.  It's beautiful to watch her develop this skill.

Thank you all again!

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My profile picture is of me at 11 at a festival and I adored doing them. Dancing on stage from an early age made me the performer I became professionally. We didn't do many -about 3 a year, but at the peak I did six solos, 2 to 3 duets and groups. I think the duets and groups were particularly helpful in preparing me to dance professionally - most of us start as part of a corps de ballet - solos come later - and it's important to learn to control the ego and be part of a group working together. I never really did it for the competition, but because I loved being on stage. With the right attitude festivals can be a very positive and rewarding experience. I hope she'll have fun!

Edited by Dance*is*life
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I'd love her to participate in a group - she's only done group work so far (for recitals), but I think it would take some of the pressure off.  But her school doesn't participate in any competition except for Highland, so maybe if I can find a few other girls in her ballet classes that might be able to organise a group number.  But I feel like I need more information and experience myself before I bring it up to any of the other dancers and their parents (and our teacher).

Edited by ScottishDancerMum

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Be aware that it will take up quite a bit of your time as well, especially if she gets the festival 'bug' quite badly. Finding and booking halls, driving to rehearsals, scouring charity shops for props.. Not to mention doing hair and make up until she is old enough to do her own. I speak as someone who has just spent the entire weekend unpicking costumes to be refurbished! On the plus side, we have had some terrific fun travelling round the country, making friends and just having a good old dance. And it teaches performance skills like nothing else

Edited by Guest

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If the dance school does a good job, it's also good marketing for them!

 

I agree, but the school is so involved in Highland that often the ballet and tap students are simply in it to strengthen their Highland skills.  But I adore her teacher and my daughter does very well with her - she'd like to send her to an Associate program audition when she's about 9 or 10.  I would change schools but for now my daughter is learning and is happy, so I'll do what I can to supplement this part of her experience.  

 

It would be easier if she liked Highland, but she just loves ballet :)

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If you and your DD are both happy with the school and teacher, then just sit tight. She is still very young to be starting competitions and there is plenty of time. My DD started ballet at 5 but would have run a mile from performing on her own at 7. She only started competitions when she was almost 11. Two years later, the novelty has worn off but not the nerves!

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I say go for it! :)  

 

As other's have said the risky part is not placing and the impact that can have on confidence so it's definitely worth a mum-to-dd talk about judges (and I've even had to say that sometimes they don't know much about ballet, or sometimes they aren't even watching haha). 

 

I think the biggest benefit is the extra training and the 1:2:1 time with a ballet teacher who will be training with a different outlook. They can benefit so much from training with a teacher who wants everything perfect in their eyes before they put their student out on stage representing their school. It's a different focus completely where for exams for example a teacher might have a whole exam group to consider and there can be an element of "it's good enough" rather than striving for perfection. 

 

And I would definitely go for a solo rather than a group at this age given the choice, and my reasons being that it's not as much pressure in a solo than a group. If your DD goes wrong or freezes in a solo then it's not like having a guilty feeling of letting a group down and if one person's timing or movement is out in a group it's much more noticeable than in a solo. 

 

In a solo she can rehearse over and over and be really confident before she goes on stage, whereas with a group that rehearsal time can be restricted by availability and maybe costs to others when it involves studio hire. 

 

I think if you don't over-do it with excessive competition focus, get drawn into the mama-drama, you would really enjoy it :)  Children get so much out of developing their performance skills and confidence and this filters through into classroom work.  Finding competitions or festivals that give good feedback can be really useful for your DD and her teacher too. 

 

You should probably be able to find lots of videos on youtube to watch for various american style competitions (Starpower and Destination Dance both have ballet categories) where videos are allowed/purchased and reading the youtube comments can be interesting too.

 

For first time competing I would also look for a "levelled competition" that has levels for novice, or advanced competitiors so it's not too daunting.

 

Good luck :)

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I would definitely go for it. My dd started doing competitions at 5 & over the years she has got so much confidence out of taking part in them.

 

I agree with what annaliesey says about chatting to your dd about the judges etc as it can be disappointing for them if they are not prepared for what happens when it comes to awards. I have always told my dd that we go to competitions to get feedback & anything else is a bonus. Keep it fun for your dd & avoid any dance mom drama & you will have a really enjoyable day out.

 

It is time consuming & certainly the costs can mount up but on balance so long as you don't get too carried away it is very worthwhile in terms of both the 1:2:1 time learning their solo & the performance experience they get performing it on stage.

 

As far as groups go you may find once other children at your dd's dance school see her out enjoying ballet competitions they may feel they want to have a go too. Definitely though a solo is the best place to start & is less pressure for your dd too.

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I agree Too tu. 

 

Festivals and competitions in whatever format are also an excellent opportunity to watch other children of the same age from other studios and their standard. 

 

Everyone can become quite blinkered through no fault of their own to what the standard is outside their own studio/ballet school. It can be a real eye opener, both good and bad. 

 

 

May I add on costumes;  

 

Select costumes wisely, character/themed costumes can be harder to reuse/recycle for another comp/festival with different choreography. Costly errors, I'm sure we are all guilty of. 

 

If your DD is entering a few routines in her first ever festival, borrowing or hiring from other parents at the dance school can assist when spreading the cost. Then you can balance out new with borrowed. Just be mindful of spending too much on the tutu. Expensive items and stunningly beautiful which gets any budding ballerina excited but can outgrow very quickly. 

 

Final note on costumes for any newbie, if you can't already hand sew.  Get lessons now and learn fast.  You will need that skill no matter what shape, style or colour the costumes come in! And NAME everything    ;) Have fun

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May I add on costumes;  

 

Select costumes wisely, character/themed costumes can be harder to reuse/recycle for another comp/festival with different choreography. Costly errors, I'm sure we are all guilty of. 

 

If your DD is entering a few routines in her first ever festival, borrowing or hiring from other parents at the dance school can assist when spreading the cost. Then you can balance out new with borrowed. Just be mindful of spending too much on the tutu. Expensive items and stunningly beautiful which gets any budding ballerina excited but can outgrow very quickly. 

 

Final note on costumes for any newbie, if you can't already hand sew.  Get lessons now and learn fast.  You will need that skill no matter what shape, style or colour the costumes come in! And NAME everything    ;) Have fun

If you can't borrow or hire one locally have a look on eBay for costumes too or there are some selling groups on Facebook where parents are selling on costumes their dc's have outgrown & you can pick up some beautiful costumes on there. Definitely set a budget that you are comfortable with for your costumes & stick to it because it is all too easy to get carried away & beautiful costumes don't necessarily have to cost a fortune.

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Just a couple of observations: while kids are growing, an option for classical solos is to get half tutus (ie just a skirt) and a pretty leo. You can get/make overlays to pretty them up, but keeping the leo separate means you can keep using the tutu skirt as they grow out of leos.

And the other thing is that my DD always says she feels much less pressure in a group routine, where there is team spirit and you can glance at each other to check you're going the right way – whereas in a solo it's all eyes on you and everyone knows if you mess up!

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DD started in a duet with a friend which meant they had someone else to share the excitement and nerves with (and I had another mum to share costume dilemmas with!)

They both then started solos.

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I just wanted to check back now that we've seen a festival!  We watched for the afternoon session - senior song and dance, junior tap, juvenile ballet (but unfortunately couldn't stay for the end presentation).  I thought the dancers were lovely and so talented!  I had a few conversations with mums and a few of the girls - they really enjoy this and some had been competing since they were very small.

I understand this was a championship festival, so the level was higher than what my daughter would be expected to reach at her first few times out, but I felt in exception to one or two skills she needs to work on, she was at the same level as the Juvenile group (ages 7-9) and she's still keen to try it.  

A few observations and questions...

- are there rules in regards to content and skills?  I mean, if a 5 year old can do a triple pirouette, can they include it in their program? (not my little girl... just asking in general!)  

- one of the mums told me that some of the dancers use the same program for years, in every festival they do.  She said they just keep improving it :)

- the programs were limited to 1 min 30 seconds for Juveniles, 2 min for Junior and Senior, plus extra time allowed for the Song and Dance category.  Is this typical?  (If we work on a number this winter for 90 seconds, will we need to change it?)

- All the girls in the juvenile ballet group wore pancake tutus.  I asked one of the mums if this was usual, and she said they all wear them - no one wants to stand out not wearing one.  I guess I better start saving then!  (She really liked a non-pancake tutu, but we have the winter to look for a second hand one)

We thought it was a great experience, and we're looking forward to diving in!



 

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Rules vary from festival to festival, and it's always worth checking. 1min30 is typical for a solo for younger competitors and 2 mins for older ones but the age at which it changes can vary. Remember these are maximum times,dances can be shorter, though most people try to be as close as possible to the time.

The only formal rule I know of regarding content is about pointe work which is not allowed below 13 years of age generally. Otherwise there is nothing formal,though I have heard many adjudicators over the years comment negatively about dances they don't feel are age appropriate. I think most people would agree that it is better to do something that is safely within a dancers abilities and to do it well, than to do overly difficult steps badly.

As to how long to keep a dance for, again it varies and different schools have different habits. If can take a few outings for a dancer to feel really confident with a dance, and there are often a few niggles to iron out initially. Therefore it can be counter productive to change too often. (Not to mention costly, if you need a new costume!) But equally,things can go stale if a dance is kept too long. I could always spot when my DD needed a dance changing as boredom would creep in and her performance quality would drop. Outgrowing a costume is also a common catalyst for change!

Good luck with it all. There are pros and construction to festivals but they can be great fun.

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Hi scottishdancermum - glad you enjoyed it!

 

1) the teacher can put in whatever choreography they want. It's generally better to do simpler moves with good technique then the other way round. Performance skills important also.

 

2) Some schools do a new dance each year - others less frequently and may update. No fixed rules.

 

3)Maximum ength of dance is usually set.

 

4) re: tutus. The majority near us use pancake tutus but certainly not all and you shouldn't be marked down because of it. For the first outing I would recommend a cheaper style of tutu or buying a 2nd hand pancake in case she doesn't like festivals! Can recommend the Facebook group 'ballet tutus and dancewear for sale secondhand or new.' You may be able to get one locally from someone at your dance school or some dance shops keep second hand costumes.

 

Good luck!!

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The big thing round our way is not only to have age appropriate routine and music, but also age appropriate costume.

 

DD tends to change dances every couple of years as she outgrows them! ... you can't have a teenager with a tooth fairy dance for example!

 

Enjoy xxx

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Great comments! My DD has only ever had second-hand tutus. Her first was a pancake one, which was much harder to travel with as it had to be kept flat (we had to fly to a comp in the grandparents' town so they could see her dance). I see the older girls at our dance school lending tutus to each other and bringing them to class rolled up in a big carrier bag, ie much easier for travelling with! So I would not say she needs the completely flat tutu. I've heard of young girls dancing classical dances in a leo and chiffon skirt, but of course you don't want yours to be the only kid not in a tutu. The most important thing is for them to feel good in their costume, and I don't think you would ever be marked down for a costume unless it was very badly fitting or inappropriate. Having said that, there is a fine line between a tutu 'just fitting', and the next time they wear it you can see from the rear view that it has gone right up their backside – which usually means it's time for a bigger one! Bear in mind too that adjudicators have different preferences – we just had one who was all about feet, which meant my DD was not going to do well! She also had a negative comment when she wore foot undies for her first barefoot dance, as she was worried about the stage being sticky for turning. So you can't do everything right and should just focus on the things that are definitely set, ie maximum dance length.

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