With DanceLife Unite happening this weekend what a great time to post this article from Christine Denny about what adjudicators are looking for at dance competitions.
So often I hear competitors and parents asking that age old question – ” what are they looking for?” when attending dancing eisteddfods.
Having just finished adjudicating the Bundaberg Eisteddfod and conferring with a number of other experienced dance adjudicators I thought I would write a list of what they are usually looking for.
And here are the TOP SEVEN:
4. Dynamics/Light and Shade/Energy Level
6. Preparation and Confidence
So what do these mean. Well here is a brief explanation.
Whether you are performing a classical solo, funk routine, song and dance or a tap the technical base to the performance is of utmost importance. The line through your legs and feet, your posture, strength and control of what you are doing, kicks, jump, turns, chaines, developpes, jetes, fouettes, etc etc
All these things are the foundation to the routine. It is these elements that give you the base on which to build so it is important to get these elements right so they you can “put the icing on the proverbial cake” afterwards. No amount of personality can cover poor technique – so you have to put in the time to develop the technique requires for your routine. In a tap routine this also means securing all your rhythms.
This is a tricky one as you want to perform at your peak in a competition. So you don’t want to perform a routine that is too difficult for you to master – but equally you don’t want to do something that is too easy! If you perform a really difficult routine well than of course you will do well, but if the solo is beyond you at the time of performance and you mess it up ( fall out of turns, come off pointe etc) then you can’t possibly do as well. Similarly if you do a really simple routine brilliantly it can’t compete with someone who has done something with a much higher degree of difficulty well. So look closely at your content and match it well to your capabilities!
PERSONALITY AND SHOWMANSHIP
You can be the best dancer in the world but if you are boring to watch than people will not be interested. You need to connect with your music and choreography! Tell the story and bring the steps to life. And if you have lyrics in your music then it is more than likely your choreographer has used those in the routine. So you must listen to the lyrics and connect with them and then to the audience. A performance that has emotion as well as technique will always go down far better with an adjudicator then a routine that is only technical. So – get the technique right and then add the passion and emotion. If you want to do your best in a competition then you have to cover all areas of your performance and the personality is what “sells the routine to the audience”!!
DYNAMICS/LIGHT AND SHADE/ENERGY LEVEL
It is very important that you have a lot of energy when you perform. If you appear lack lustre on the stage then the audience will have a lack lustre response to your routine.
However it is important to remember that every routine requires light and shade. That is elements of relaxation and elements of force. If you hit every movement with aggression and force the routine will end up looking forced and stressed. If you hit everything with no force or energy than you will look weak and lethargic.
The key is to approach all movements with force, suspension and then relaxation – this will create dynamics and give your routine light and shade. In tapping you need to create this light and shade in the sound as well as in the visual aspect of the performance.
No tension, no stress – just a free flowing solo with elements of energy and relxation!!
This sounds so obvious but often it is the case that the performer has not developed the required style for the choreography and routine. For example – if you are dancing a Broadway piece from say CHICAGO then you need to research the musical and develop that specific Fosse Style! If you are dancing a classical solo in a Spanish style then you have to give your port de bras a lot more attack and energy to bring out this flavour. If tapping to a funky selection of music then you need to have relaxed arm lines and a casual approach – using your traditional arm lines will look silly and not work at all. And when dancing hip hop you need to give it a relaxed funky edge or it doesn’t quite work. It is not enough to simply dance the steps. You need to perfect the style required! So watch some video footage that shows the style you are aiming for and try to replicate what you see.
PREPARATION AND CONFIDENCE
Again – this sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many people get out on stage and are not prepared at all. You must know with absolute certainty that you can perform all the required elements of your routine with confidence and if not you need to change them before you compete.
You should know the week prior to the competition how your routine is progressing and it is then that you should decide what the final performance will be. For instance:
a) If your classical solo is on pointe but you are having trouble with some steps then you need to either take the solo off pointe until you are able to perform it with confidence or simplify/change the challenging steps to something you know you can do. You should remember that age does not determine whether or not you dance on pointe but rather the strength in your technique should decide this. Regardless of your age you should only dance en pointe when you have the strength to o so safely and competently. Otherwise this is quite dangerous!
b) You should know exactly what all your rhythms are in a tap routine. It is not going to help your marks if you are faking the steps and rhythms , so if you are unable to do the rhythms set – change them to something more simple that you can cope with. Similarly, if the music is too fast and you can’t keep up – slow it down for the competition and then work towards the faster speed for the next eisteddfod.
c) If you know that you can’t do 16 fouettes at the end of your Brodway Jazz routine then change that section to something else and keep working on it for the next time you perform it.
d) If you have been given a well known piece of choreography to dance, then you must research the piece and understand where it came from and how it should be performed. The adjudicator will have an expectation of how these well known /iconic pieces should be performed. If you are going to do them – you need to do them well or it just doesn’t work!! Examples are anything from shows or ballets like: CHICAGO, CATS, HAIRSPRAY, A CHORUS LINE, WEST SIDE STORY, ANNIE, CARMEN, GISELLE, SWAN LAKE etc etc etc
Always wear something that is flattering to your unique body shape and figure. A well fitting costume in a flattering colour will add a lot to your performance. So don’t be tempted to wear something that you saw in a magazine or in a picture somewhere if it doesn’t work for you. And generally speaking cream and beige eye shadow with red lipstick is the most effective on stage. Avoid green or blue eye shadow unless it is for a character type makeup!
So there you have it. Some tips to help you get the best out of your Eisteddfod experiences. And remember – the only person you should be competing with is yourself. If you have done all the preparation you can and have performed well on the day then that is all you can hope for and you should be happy with whatever the adjudicator’s result is.
Remember – dance is subjective and while most adjudicator’s do have an educated opinion – it is just that – their opinion – and results may vary from time to time!
That is what makes dance so wonderful – everyone sees it in a different way and it doesn’t fit neatly into a structured box!
But if you cover all the elements listed above, your performance is more likely to appeal to a greater number of people and adjudicators!
So – watch everyone else and appreciate what they have to offer. And most importantly enjoy the opportunity to get up on the stage and dance!!!
Till next time