Is it Wrong to be a Competition Dancer?

Nope. No. Negative. Absolutely not. Where did I even get that idea from? Well, in the collegiate realm some people would have you believe that it is wrong to be a competition dancer. I’m here to tell you about where those people are coming from and also how they couldn’t be more wrong in their assumption.

In order to point out some fallacies about what it means to be a dancer in today’s world I should note that there are significant differences between “commercial” dance and “artistic” dance. I put these two definitions in quotations because in the technological and progressive world we live in there are crossovers in both genres. The world of “commercial dance” is glamorous and other worldly. There is a certain amount of fame and fortune to be had if you can captivate the masses by doing things that normal humans cannot. The downside is that fame and fortune are not achieved by all. There is also enormous scrutiny and pressure on what is considered right and wrong by both the audience and the choreographer. “Artistic” dance on the other hand, is self fulfilling and deeply meaningful. It has countless layers and can be appreciated by anyone. It is the glue that binds our societal experiences. The downside is that because there is no right and wrong you can see things that are only beautiful to a small handful and disgusting to the majority. Not to mention, there is a lot of room for BS to defend something that anybody could throw together with little/no effort.The collegiate dancer is more akin to the artistic side of dance. Their vision of a competition dancer embodies everything that is commercial and small minded about the audience of the dance world. It’s a sweeping generality and not one that holds true for every member of that community- performer or audience. This is no different than the ability of some people to create prejudice from stereotype.

There is no real ignorance on the part of a competition dancer unless he/she embraces it. A dancer from such a background can be (and has been in numerous occasions) just as artistic, if not more so, than many a conservatory based dancer. But it comes with a mindset of acceptance. To put it plainly, you cannot show up to a ballet class with a rhinestone cut-off bra anymore than I could show up in a Paul Taylor class my sneakers and a beanie. What any dancer should avoid is being placed into a category.

I’ll say it again: What any dancer should avoid is being placed into a category.

In any audition, all we have is our individuality. If that is taken away from us, how will anyone know the difference between us and the dancer standing next to us? Sometimes that’s the point. The Rockettes are a clone army of perfectionists. No one person stands out unless the choreographer wants them to. But even at the audition, there needs to be something that distinguishes the fact that you should get the job while the person next to you doesn’t. If all you ever are, in class or on stage, is a competition dancer then there aren’t too many people that will have a use for you. The same way that if I presented myself as a dancer who can ONLY Tutt; I would limit myself in both mind and body. And as a limited performer how can anyone be expected to keep up with dance as an art form. Movement is constantly evolving because a true artist does not exist in a vacuum.

So for those who seek a collegiate dance program and/or a conservatory based system of performance and repertory, I say keep doing what you’ve always been doing but be open and willing to change. There are pros and cons to any kind of dance training but the most important teacher is life experience. I have always admired the extraordinary things that competition dancers push themselves to accomplish. I am even more admiring of the things they accomplish when they grow into artists as well.

On a personal note: Don’t ever let a bunhead look down on you. If they’re eyeballing you that hard it’s because they themselves are too closed minded to be true artists. But for the love of Martha, please wear tights and a leotard to ballet….