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Dance festivals


balletmum20
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Depends what you're looking for, how you approach them and to a degree which/how many festivals you do. My DD has done festivals since she was 5 and has greatly enjoyed them, at least as much for the social and fun side as the actual dancing. I think that if you view festivals as a performance experience, where you may or may not get useful feedback and where your child is going to have fun with their friends, then yes, they are worth doing. However, the quality of dancing and adjudication can vary considerably and there are some schools/teachers/parents/children who take festivals extremely seriously (especially winning) and that can sometimes lead to unpleasant atmospheres.

My DD has learned a lot of valuable lessons from doing festivals, though probably more "life lessons" than "dance lessons". She's learned things like how to be a good loser and a gracious victor, that there's a certain correlation between practice and performance, and that life isn't always fair! She's also made some good friends, learned how to deal with some not so nice people, had lots of fun with her friends and teachers and developed a lot of confidence on stage which has helped her both in dance and other spheres of her life. She's also learned a lot about commitment and team working through the duets, trios and troupes she's in.

And she has tried a variety of dance genres that she might not have tried otherwise, discovered that she can actually sing pretty well and on occasion had really helpful feedback from adjudicators. Quite recently an adjudicator explained something to her that she'd been struggling with in classical greek and I could see that it was a real "lightbulb" moment for her as she suddenly realised what the problem had been.

But there are down sides too. It costs a lot of money. And time. Sometimes the adjudication is either poor from the technical point of view, or harsh, which can be hard for less resilient children to deal with. You do come across "stage mums" screeching at their offspring backstage sometimes - but I guess you get that in any competetive pursuit.Probably not the best environment for a more sensitive child though.

I'd always recommend going to watch a couple of different festivals before deciding if it's something that you want to get into. You also need to bear in mind what else you have available to you. We live in the back of beyond and performance opportunities are not that easy to come by, so festivals have been great at enabling my DD to get on the stage and perform. If we lived somewhere with easy access to youth ballet companies etc I might have been less keen for her to do festivals and preferred other opportunities. It's horses for courses. My personal view though is that if you see the festival as your servant and not your master,enjoy the positives and don't take it all too seriously then you can have a great time.

Edited by Pups_mum
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My dd has been doing them for about 2 years and loves them -BUT they very time consuming, very competitive and a lot hard work and expensive re- tutus and costumes if you have solos, duets and numerous groups as we do.

 

However they are fun and enjoyable if you take them for what they are which is a way to build performance confidence on stage and make friends. If you are lucky enough to get through to the semi's and finals which happen bi-annually the competition is fierce and of a very high standard.

 

They are a good way of measuring the standard of other dancers of your age and most of the adjudicators we have had are high up and well known in the dance world so always good to get noticed.

 

However we only do them alongside very good RAD, ISTD, grade and vocational classes and they are an xtra fun thing as my dd loves to get on the stage and dance!

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I think pups-mum has summed it up really well. My dd has enjoyed festival competition for a number of years (my avatar is her performing lyrical modern). Some great camaraderie and friendships with dancers beyond her own school and great learning that adjudication is one person's opinion on one day- rather like attending an audition. I'm sure it has done wonders for her performance skills and confidence and the timing of wins early last year were a great foundation to go into her vocational school auditions.

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I must admit that sometimes I wish that dd's school did Festivals, as I'm sure my very quiet dd would benefit from more performance experience. She dances because she says she just HAS to, and would take class every hour of every day if you let her, but for the dancing and not the performing!

 

However, she already dances 5 (soon to be 6) days and won't give up her Associate classes for anything, so perhaps it's just as well her school doesn't do Festivals! Not sure we could afford either the time or the money. :-)

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My daughter also did feativals up until she went to vocational school aged 11. From festivals she learned to peform to an audience as well as learning some tricks eg make sure your head is not held to high etc, where to spot. It was a lot of practicing and hard work which was not always enjoyable if done at home. My daughter has not got a competative bone in her body so for her it was not about winning, she just loved being on a stage and always has done from a very young age. The worse side of festivals is dance mums. They suddenly think that they are the adjudicators and will say things such as that child did not deserve to win because........... I remember my daughter winning a classical greek dance which she danced beautifuly only for a mum from our own dance school to come up and say you didn't point your feet hard enough. This went over my daughters head but not mine and I did have a word with this lady. Festivals can be enjoyable but extreamley time consuming and both you and your child have to make a huge commitment to them.

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I agree with everything said above. My DD has done festivals since she was 5 and still continues now, she has been very successful right up to All England level. She has met and made many friends from all over the country along the way and looks forward to certain festivals as she will see children she has made friends with over the years. However I do think as said above they should not be taken too seriously, as often the best dancer does not win on the day. The adjudicators that are All England affiliated tend to be of a higher technical knowledge but even they are not always consistent!!!

 

A small local 'non-qualifying' ie; not affiliated to All England is a good place to start, but these tend not to be of a particularly high standard. I know of some Mum's who constantly speak of their dc's winning everything at their 'local' festivals and therefore thinking their child must be outstanding. They then go to a bigger All England festival that attracts more entries from farther afield and they don't get placed. I think what I'm trying to say is manage your child's expectations, don't go expecting them to be placed every time, instill this in them without knocking their confidence (not easy!) and most importantly have fun!

 

The performance side of festivals is very important as is confidence and humility. These all increase with experience and as said above are very good life lessons. You can get a very good idea of your child's level compared to others their age and if they are consistently placed then you know they have 'something'. However the child that wins the ballet class consistently is not necessarily the child that will go on to vocational ballet school. In fact I know of many children my dd's age that have gone to vocational ballet school having never won a festival ballet class. Also its not always the festival winners that win at other competitions such as Janet Cram and the ISTD Ballet and Tap Awards, they are looking for something different. At auditions for Associate programes its not always the festival dancers that get the places either as a different set of criteria is being looked at there. A child that practices and practices a festival solo and then is successful at a festival with said solo isn't always as good at free work in an audition, its a different sort of pressure.

 

A good balance of classes, festivals, other competitions, youth ballet and Associate programmes will ensure a well rounded dancer. However its not a necessity to do festivals to be a good dancer, they are a fun thing to do if you have the stamina and the money tree at the bottom of the garden ;)

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Wow what great well rounded responses - very little to add!

 

My daughter has competed since she was 3 and agree there are huge ups and downs. Its a great learning curve in the world outside a dance class - not only dealing with fellow dancers but their parents also!

 

When my daughter was in vocational training she missed festivals terribly (cant say I did ;) ) and when she came back it was the one thing she was desparate to pick up again as she missed performing so much. She was welcomed back by her old 'friends' amazingly well and its a very lovely social time now which is great. As they get older, they are a great support unit for one another. I think its much more stressful when they are tiny.

 

I think it teaches them to have confidence in applying what they have learnt in class, also learning how to improvise when things 'go wrong' and to think on the spot.

 

Some adjudicators are harsh, some helpful, some constructive and some you wonder just what they were watching but overal they generally pick out good technique and performance skills with a touch of personal preference - so never expect to agree with them!

 

There are pockets of amazing talent around the country and some competitions are a lot harder than others. Probably best to go and watch a few before making your minds up.

 

They can be time consuming but once costumes are purchased, dances learnt its not so expensive - depends how far you want to travel etc., it can be as expensive as you want it to be.

 

Would agree that festivals are another herb to add to a recipie - it all helps to make a well-rounded dancer.

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However the child that wins the ballet class consistently is not necessarily the child that will go on to vocational ballet school. In fact I know of many children my dd's age that have gone to vocational ballet school having never won a festival ballet class. Also its not always the festival winners that win at other competitions such as Janet Cram and the ISTD Ballet and Tap Awards, they are looking for something different. At auditions for Associate programes its not always the festival dancers that get the places either as a different set of criteria is being looked at there. A child that practices and practices a festival solo and then is successful at a festival with said solo isn't always as good at free work in an audition, its a different sort of pressure.

 

I think that's a very good point. I've often heard mums arguing about whether festivals, associate schemes, youth ballet companies etc are "better" than each other, but I think that's a pretty meaningless comparison as they are all totally different. It is really comparing apples with pears. I think that all these different experiences have something to offer, some more to particular children than others. As long as our children are doing things that are helping them develop as dancers, and people, and, most importantly to my mind, they are enjoying what they are doing then I think it's all good.

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As a dancer I used to love festivals - I hated the stress and the endless panicking rehearsals but everyone being there together, and the 'togetherness' that you get in a good school with a good presence at a festival is great. I hardly ever got placed with things so when I did it felt brilliant, but it was nice to just get on stage and perform.

 

As a teacher, I have mixed feelings on them. One has to be very careful as they do end up being ultra competitive between parents and can get quite nasty even within one dance school eg in a couple of schools I've worked at, parent's have been allowed to 'dictate' certain things about the dances that their child gets to do, eg who choreographs it, when they get new music etc. You would think that this would be a no-no but in a lot of dance schools the pressure of keeping a parent happy, particularly when they pay a lot to the school, wins out. No-one thinks about the feelings of the teachers when "so and so would rather teacher X for their lessons now, please". You can easily generate a culture playing one teacher off against another when you have multple teachers creating competition work in multiple dance genres. It needs careful organisation, or a very supportive and collaborative team who are ALWAYS 'singing from the same hymnsheet' as it were.

 

Finally - please do spare a thought for your teachers - especially if they are not the school owners - who come to festivals to support their students. They probably won't be getting paid to be there, they certainly won't want to sit in the audience with a load of competitive mums when they want all their students to do well, and they won't want to hear things like "please can you make my DD's dance harder? That girl just did a triple pirouette.... should my DD be doing a triple pirouette? You didn't put a triple pirouette in her dance! That's why she didn't win...." :-P

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There was only one school in all the years I taught which participated in these dance competitions/festivals. The school had a very strong curriculum in tap, jazz, modern/contemporary dance - but very limited ballet. I was hired to build up the ballet component. The underlying reason was that the students needed ballet to enhance their other dance skills. The school also had a reputation of being very competitive - usually came in the top tier finals.

 

I found the school utterly consumed by this competition agenda. Raging mothers, crying students, harried teaches quitting, returning, quitting and returning - all within 60 minutes of one class.

 

As much as possible I ignored the chaos around me and just proceeded to teach ballet as I had been taught - with no intention of entering in any sort of competition. i've never liked the idea of ballet competing in any case (I can't speak for other dance forms or others who feel differently).

 

The competitions overwhelmed class time of the other teaches which needed to be spent building technique. Students (and parents - mothers mostly) spent their energy on where their children stood in the lineup, what color their costume was, who's split was wider, etc. I think it comes with the territory. Makes sense that if one is competing against another school, one is also competing in one's own school and the classmates therein (why does she get to stand in front and I don't?)

 

To some extent this threatened to infect the ballet class. In preparing for a school recital (not a competition) the "stars" of the jazz class automatically assumed they were the "stars" in the ballet class. However, after months of rehearsal when I asked each student to perform the dance individually - the "stars" hadn't bothered to learn the dance since they assumed "stardom" in one class ipso facto made them a "star" in all classes.

 

However, ballet doesn't work like that. If you don't do the work - the work doesn't do you. Pandomonium reigned when the "stars" who hadn't bothered to do the work ended up in the back row. The columns holding up heaven shook. But ballet takes no prisoners. When I invited their mothers in to see them perform individually and they saw the incontrivertible evidence that their "star" didn't know the dance - there was silence.

 

And, so the quiet, hard working non-stars got to lead the dance in the school recital (not a competition).. The upshot was that the rabid competition atmosphere eventually killed all the other sections of the school - but not the ballet. We just kept plodding along with classes everyday, eventually the girls got their pointe shoes. I added a class on makeup. We went to professional performances together. The ballet parents were happy. The students were happy. I was happy.

 

But - eventually the rage outside the door of the ballet class actually killed the school.

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A lot depends on the size of your DD's dance school and how much emphasis they put on competitions. My DD's school is quite small with only a few dancers regularly compete. The teachers support the local festivals but have lives/families of their own and do not travel further afield so we are very much left to fend for ourselves - no bad thing!

 

Some schools put a lot of focus on groups others not so much - what kind of involvment is your teacher thinking BalletMum20?

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Thanks for all your views and comments, my daughter is 7 year old, and she goes to quite a small school,where only a few do festivals at the moment and only 3 times a year, but her teacher asked her if she would like to do the next festival, which she wants to, but im not too sure, I hate all the competition as at her age it should all be fun, and i do know that the childrens parents who do festivals at the moment there has been big falling outs. The only positive thing is that nobody at our school is the same age as my daughter so she would not be dancing against anyone from the school, as i would hate this to ruin my relationship with all the ballet mums there.

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I would imagine festivals are a bit like marmite ... you either love or hate them! Fortunately, dd was never keen and in fact has only entered a couple of competitions over the last several years and didn't particularly enjoy the atmosphere (and neither did I). Our personal preference has always been to invest time and resources in her technical training and not doing festivals certainly hasn't held her back in any way whatsoever. She has also had plenty of opportunities to perform from time to time over the years in school shows, nyb etc, which she of course absolutely loves.

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My dd did a few festivals when she was about 6 or 7, she enjoyed them and did well coming back with a few medals, she loved wearing a tutu and wearing a bit of make-up!, however i found them expensive, what with the private lessons she needed to learn the solos, and the travel involved. I withdrew dd from festivals, her teacher didnt like that as the school was quite heavily involved with the all england competitions. I personally think a child can still do v.well in dancing without doing festivals, if they have talent & potential it will get noticed, especially if considering auditioning for associate programmes later on. My dd stopped festivals a few years ago, but is now a rbs ja, and has reached elmhurst finals! The only benefit i can think of with festivals is they develop stage confidence, & performance skills.

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I think festivals also allow them to 'use' the skills they learn in class. If they dont perform then it could all become a little clinical and technical - festivals certainly dont carry any weight with vocational schools however, the skills they learn from taking part in them are appreciated.

 

Rather than entering your daughter into the next festival why dont you go and watch and see first hand what goes on. A lot depends on how busy you are as a family and if you like to go away in the school holidays as a lot of the festivals take part during half terms.

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My dd is doing her third year of festivals and absolutely loves them, and they needn't be too expensive or time-consuming provided you limit them to one or two each year, or whatever you can afford. My dd's confidence on stage has really developed, and performing is what ballet is all about, or at least what my dd loves best about ballet, and festivals are often the only chance for many children to perform solos on stage. I don't find them to be over-competitive and the children at my dd's dance school are very supportive and encouraging of each other (as are most of the mums).

 

As long as you make sure the emphasis is on fun, maybe try out a couple of dances to see if she enjoys the experience? And just ignore the pushy mums!

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I agree with BankruptMum - go and watch, see what it involves and how you and your daughter feel about participating. Some people love it, others are not at all keen but the best way to find out is to go and see for yourself. Also, make sure you find out from your teacher exactly what is going to be required in terms of commitment, rehearsal times etc before you start. It's much easier to put limits on how much time/money you are prepared to invest in this sort of thing beforehand than it is to cut back or say no to things later on.

Regarding the falling out with other mums, yes, I have seen this kind of thing happen, but it doesn't have to be that way. My DD has been doing festivals for nearly a decade now and neither she nor I have lost any friends over it, but we've made lots of new ones. Maybe I'm a bit harsh, but in all honesty, if someone was going to fall out with me over a festival placing then that probably wouldn't be a friendship that I'd think was worth keeping.

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It is certainly a good idea for dance students to have the experience of performing.. It does build confidence and gives the student a goal - something to which to apply what they are learning. Something exciting to look forward to. If one should decide that festivals are not the way to go but would still like to perform there are many other routes to go.

 

I always considered it part of my responsibilities as a teacher to provide performing opportunities. Of course there is the school recital. But beyond that I used to line up a series of places and venues for them to perform:

 

Dance at the local public (in the American meaning of the word "public") schools as part of their Christmas/Holiday show. Since many of my students attended the local school anyway, this wasn't hard to do. The schools usually loved having the dancers come in - brightened up many a holiday program.

 

In addition - village fairs, nursing homes, day care centers, senior centers, any kind of local celebration, street fair, churches, senior residences, conventions, etc.

 

It's surprising how many places were happy to have the young ballet dancers come in. We all found it very gratifying when after a performance a group of seniors would come over and tell us about the dance classes they had taken as children and how our performance had brightened their day.

 

This was all at least as gratifying - or more so - as bringing back a trophy. An additional benefit was the students had to quickly adjust to unforeseen (though I always checked it out beforehand) problems as each venue was different. This gave us lots of performing experience without the other aspects of competing.

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I do think festivals teaches children the life skills that are often missing in schools nowadays such as competition, winning and losing, things not always going your way despite you trying your hardest, resilience, and as mentioned performance skills. Also how to manage nerves and about being gracious in defeat and when winning! My daughters' dance school does comps 2-3 times a year and we have had mainly positive experiences on the whole. Often it can be a little fraught back stage with nerves running high but this is to be expected. Any 'unpleasantness' between any children or parents is nipped in the bud by the dance teacher often with the threat of removal of the private lesson so no more comps. It's a family run school and we all go with the attitude of supporting each other. Obviously the kids end up going against each other but any places the school gets the kids see as a positive even if its not their turn that day. I think it does prepare children for the harsh world of auditioning and even interviews as in the real world not everyone can be a winner!! You just have to keep your feet on the ground and take it all with a pinch of salt. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don't. It's just one persons opinion on that day. I for one enjoy them but I do need a stuff drink at the end of the very long days!

Also to add both girls come home having made new friends that they get to see again each year!

Edited by eloise_please
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