Competition to Professional: 3 tips for making the jump

By. Brian Henninger

Many professional dancers working in the industry today have come from various competition studio back rounds. Some of the strongest technique seen in dancers today comes in the form of strong studio training and competition experience. While this type of back round can definitely help produce a strong all around dancer, not all of the qualities of a competition dancer will help you within the professional working world. Here are 3 habits that should be broken or at least tamed when entering the professional dance arena.

Get rid of that competition dancer face: There is a strong tendency for dancers coming from the competition world to over perform and display downright obnoxious facial expressions during performances. I’m not sure where this habit comes from but it completely permeates the competition world. Puckered lips, big cheesy smiles, overt “sassiness” The cliches go on and on. While a job may ask for this type of performance quality once in a blue moon, More often then not it is about the feelings of the music and  story your trying to tell that should inform your facial expression and emotion. Make sure to work hard on breaking the tendency to display over the top facial expressions.

Display your talent without losing touch with the music: As a competition dancer you are judged on your ability to perform certain technical aspects, your presentation, and several other factors beyond your performance. in the professional world you are judged on your ability to display a performance quality that the choreographer is looking for so that you can accurately tell the story they are portraying. Most times a competition dancer when asked to freestyle will begin blowing through they’re entire arsenal of tricks and techniques when what the choreographer wants to see is how you embody the music and emotion of the song. Obviously we want to display our talents, but we need to do that in a way that makes sense with the music.

Tell the story, don’t beg for attention: Being connected as a character in your performance can be a bit of a challenge for dancers just coming from a competition back round. When working in the professional world, whether its for commercials, stage shows, theatre, etc, will always involved telling some type of story. Even if your never actually given a character to play, performing as a professional always involves connecting to some type of story. Who are you before you enter the stage? What did your character go through in their story in the hours and minutes leading to the moment you begin dancing? Your character always has a history, an objective, and a reason for telling their story however simple or complex it may be. Work on finding out what that message, and character is so that you can more honestly portray it.

Competition dance is a very beneficial back round to have in your training, but unfortunately the type of performance quality seen most often in competition dancers doesn’t completely translate to the professional world. work on making your transition from competition performer, to professional performer by using these tips so that you can perform from a more truthful, connected place.

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