Friday, February 6, 2015

Hey, Competitions, We Have Something to Say!

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The other day, I read an article from Dance Studio Life magazine.  It's a few years old, but I still thought it was an insightful read.   It got me thinking though, about all of the things I'd like to tell THEM, the competition directors.  I am, after all, the customer.  Sure, the studio owner chooses the competitions, the kids perform, but I am the one paying for the service.  They should know what I think too, right?  Of course, I wanted to make sure I hadn't left anything out and I wanted to include everyone - so I asked the Twitter-verse what they thought: teachers, parents, dancers. 


We were all mostly on the same page.  But here's what we generally want to be able to let the competitions we attend know:

Pricing: Please stop sheltering the studios.  Many studios add an upcharge to their fees and as long as the parents were told ahead of time, that's ok. But, as mentioned above, we are the ones paying the fees and we feel like we have the right to know what they actually are.  

Schedules: When you sell out months in advance or your cut off for submissions is 30-60 days before the competition date, why on earth can you not give us a schedule sooner than 6-7 days prior?  This is especially inconvenient for those of us that travel to competitions, have to take time off of work for Friday (or earlier) starts, etc.  Especially frustrating is when you won't put a nationals schedule out until a week prior.  We understand that there's way more that goes into creating a schedule than we realize, but a skeleton would go a long way to keep us happy.

Rules: The only rule I see being routinely enforced is no photos/videos.  While I understand the safety of the dancers, protecting choreography angle, I really feel like that one is enforced because you lose money if people don't buy YOUR videos and pictures.  The rules I want to see enforced are those related to the appropriateness of the routine - no 7 year olds dressed like and dancing to a song about prostitutes.  Other rules are more specifically addressed in other points.

Awards: The overwhelming consensus (and you all talked about this a lot in the article)  is that they are out of hand.  A gold is the best award at one competition and the worst at the next.  Then another has a triple platinum.  Another has a titanium award.  And it's been a LONG time since I've seen a silver given out.  Can't we just agree on one awards system?

Levels:  If a dancer can execute a perfect triple into a tilt drop, they're not novice. You know it. They know it. Their teacher knows it.  Stop rewarding them with the diamond ruby sparkle award and a 1st place.  Move them into the appropriate competitive category, like your rules say you'll do.  The same applies to an intermediate dancer who is in 15 numbers.  If they can rehearse 15 numbers in 6 hours or less, I have a bridge to sell you.

Overbooking: Please stop starting regional competitions on a Wednesday or Thursday.  School should come first.  Book a 2nd weekend if you have to.  Or open a second room.  But if you do that, please make sure that the 2nd stage is as of the same quality and safety as the main one.  I'm not calling anyone out, but one I attended last year with two rooms was a nightmare.

Social Media: DO IT.  Answer questions.  Respond to complaints. Retweet nice things we say about you.  And post.  Don't just throw up a Facebook page and let it gather cobwebs.

Information: We've not returned to competitions more than once because of lack of information or misinformation. Make sure that whomever is speaking for your company knows what they are talking about.  And most importantly, return the studios' phone calls and emails.  Even the small studios.  Again, not naming names...  On the reverse, one of our favorite places to go is one where the director is open and communicative with our studio owners.

Judging: Don't ignore the smaller studios.  Please make the critiques useful.  We know the costume is pretty.  Work a lunch break into the schedule if you have to.  But it would be great to get critiques that don't feature the judge chewing into the microphone. And hold your judges accountable for giving everyone a critique.  One year, I sat and watched a judge enter a score after about 15 seconds for every single novice and intermediate number.  He only watched the advanced numbers.  All. Day. Long.  


Of course, we don't know if any of them will read this post.  So, the best thing you can do is offer your feedback on Dance Competition Hub.  Competition owners and vendors are taking notice and reading our feedback, so keep posting it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Torn

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I’m really torn.  We are getting to the point in the year that I just want it to be competition season.  Costumes have been ordered (some are even in).  Numbers are finished and being cleaned.  I just want to watch some dance.  Luckily, we have two performances coming up in the next month, but still… for a competition junkie like myself, nothing beats spending hundreds of dollars in entry fees, hotel fees, and gas money and spending 2 or 3 days in a dark auditorium eating stale Cheez-its and drinking lukewarm water from a bottle that may or may not be mine (because after a few hours, there are half empty water bottles everywhere).     But, here’s where I’m torn.  My oldest dancer is a junior.  She’s almost done with competition dance. I still have two younger dancers, but it will never be the same without all of my girls. So, I don’t want to rush it.  But yet… maybe March can just hurry up and get here and THEN time can slow down.  I hate winter anyway.

I love the rush of quick changes, the boredom of having hours between numbers, cheering for solos, checking out the costumes from other studios, trying to calculate if we have enough time to eat a real meal before the next number, carrying 9 Starbucks orders in one hand, watching the kids swim together at the hotel, scoping out other dancers at the hotel breakfast.  I want to sit on the floor with an overpriced program and a highlighter and frantically search for a free outlet to charge my phone.  I love sitting in the dressing room and watching the dancers interact with each other. Dressing room conversations between the dancers or with my fellow moms or teachers are some of my happiest memories. 

Competitions are one of the few times that I can say I enjoy getting up at the crack of dawn and staying up until midnight or later multiple days in a row.  We are all always tired as we drive two or three hours home at midnight on a Sunday night – but it’s precious time with my dancers that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  There’s something special about the whine of a 7 year old who has been at the venue all day, the look of frustration in the mom’s eyes.  I just want to tell her to enjoy it.  Because it’s not going to last forever. But I won’t.  Because I’ve been there too and I don’t want to get smacked. ;-) 

I’ve promised myself I won’t rush it.  We’ll enjoy the time between now and March.  But what I wouldn’t give to be in a dark room with stage lights, smelly kids, rhinestones, and flustered stage moms.  It’s my favorite thing.

p.s. I've taken a page from a friend of mine who just moved her and some of her children ACROSS THE GLOBE for a yet undetermined amount of time.  She said she's not going to worry her life away.   She said she is going to "live in the moment rather than dissolving it by obsessing about the future and needing to know with a surety what that will look like."  She's wise.  I want to follow her lead.  So, if you see me playing with a tube of E6000 or trying to hang a one legged, strapless costume onto a hanger for fun, remind me.  :-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Apply False Eyelashes

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This is a skill that takes practice.  You don’t want to be doing this on your own, for the first time, right before a performance.  These steps will help you learn to be a skilled eyelash technician.


  1. Stretch – Just as dancers have to stretch, it’s recommended that you are nice and limber before taking on this task.
  2. Warm up.  A quick jog around the block should help you build up your cardio strength for this physical undertaking.
  3. Prepare your supplies: Several pair of eyelashes, eyelash glue, catnip, bandages, water bottles, protein bars, a cat.
  4. Open the catnip.
  5. Feed catnip to cat.
  6. Turn off the lights.
  7. Spin in circles 10 times.  (You can reduce your spinning to 5 circles if your dancer is over the age of 8).
  8. Find the cat.
  9. Place eyelashes on the cat.
  10. Hydrate. (Both yourself and the cat).
  11. Bandage your wounds.
  12. Instagram your cat.
  13. Eat a high protein snack.
  14. Now you’re ready to practice on your child.
  15. Open a new pack of eyelashes.  Now, throw them away.
  16. Open another pack of eyelashes.
  17. Open the lid on your glue.  Rub it all over your hands.
  18. Carefully place glue on the edge of the lash.  Don’t get too much, or it will ooze. Don’t use too little or they won’t stick.
  19. Wait the magic number of seconds until the glue is tacky.  This number can be calculated by taking the relative humidity and dividing it by 3, then add the weight of an apple and divide by purple.  This number is ever-evolving.
  20. Ask your child to shut her eyes.  Carefully place the lash just above her natural lashes.  Don’t put it too far down or you’ll glue her eyes shut.  It’s really hard to dance that way.  Not impossible, but hard.  Don’t put it too high or she’ll have what we call “Shark Lashes”  - two rows of eyelashes.
  21. Instruct your child not to move until the glue is dry.  Refer to the above formula for the appropriate amount of time.
  22. Ask your child to open her eyes.  Remove the lash and repeat the previous four steps.
  23. Once both eyelashes are successfully and appropriately applied, instruct your child that she is not to sneeze, blink, cry, or yawn for the next 12-14 hours.
 

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