This last Sunday April 17, 2011 in Lakeland, FL a dance competition was shut down. In the early afternoon, approaching the peak attendance for the Starbound dance Competition at the Polk Theater, the local fire marshal took the stage for a speech that got everybody in the theater up on their feet with full attention. He announced that the overcrowded theater had dancers, parents, and their appropriate costumes blocking all emergency exits and needed to move. If they did not heed his warning to abide by the building’s fire code, the entire competition would be shut down.
Dancers and parents that once flooded the lobbies in sardine-like fashion; shoved their way to the alleyways behind the theater. Dance teams would practice outside until it was their turn to hit the stage. Yet after all of this movement, all three levels of seating in the Polk theater were still packed and dancers still roamed the lobbies with their bags of costumes and parents in tow.
Not even an hour after the first announcement by the fire marshal was made, the competition was officially canceled. Everyone in attendance was told to vacate the building.
It’s always interesting to note how our struggling economy affects different aspects of American life. One of the most lucrative and widely available industries in dance is centered around the exploding culture of dancers in dance competitions. They have their own little world that is now being turned upside down in the face of hard financial times. Where there were once dozens of competitions popping up around any given region during the late fall and spring, there are now one or two extremely large competitions per season per region. These remaining organizations have stayed in business by taking on as many teams as they possibly can and extending their stay at rented theaters for the long weekend (Friday, Saturday, AND Sunday). The judges are told to appease every team that shows up, no matter how terrible they might be, so that they will want to come back the following year. With money being so tight, they also have to take risks and accept teams late with no attendance cap.
This weekend it looks like the risks finally caught up to one dance competition.