The Competition Level Placement Conundrum

We’ve all seen it. The top overall high score winner of the intermediate category is triumphant in their win and gets their chance to speak on the mic – he/she says they have been dancing for 13 years. “Excuse me? 13 YEARS?!” You are not intermediate. This brings me to the discussion about competition level placement.

A common inquiry in the dance competition world is how are the dancer’s placed into their levels at competition? As if the competition world isn’t confusing enough with their “Triple Sparkle High Platinum Diamond Award”, we throw in all of these divisions: Recreational: Novice, Rising Star Intermediate: Shooting Star, Pre-Competitive Advanced: All Star, Competitive, Professional: Pro-am so on and so forth.

So, where should your dancer be placed?

The answer is… where the instructor and directors think they should be, based on the competitions guidelines and rules.

Every competition is different, and assigning levels is clearer at some more than others. Typically, level descriptions provided by the competition are a guideline to help the directors and teachers in determining the appropriate division for the dancer. Sometimes, they have firmer rules (i.e.,hours of dancing, years of experience etc.).

Placing dancers includes, but is not limited to, calculating EACH person’s hours and level of experience. Level placement is sorted out first by years of dance, then hours of dance per week, followed by competition involvement with groups with a separate consideration for experience with solo, duos and trios. Skills achieved in the studio also impact placement for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels which do not always harmonize with the levels of competitions.  As for groups – majority rules and sometimes the competition will just populate the level by a 50% rule.

This whole process is not something we take lightly, so we begin considering levels at Company Auditions. A question I have asked myself – why aspire for the “Select” team but then be inclined to compete at a lower level at competition? After placement, we assign classes and company requirements – Why? To grow to be a competitive level dancer.

Back to my first example, the pre-professional dancing in the intermediate level. This is wrong, and most dance professionals agree. Competitions do have the power to move a dancer if they are in the wrong category or level. It is not a mystery when someone has been entered into the wrong level – they are doing quadruple pirouettes, into a back tuck, followed by a leg extension that (although beautiful) looks inhuman. This type of technique does not come to a recreational dancer. That being said, competitions do not always have the knowledge of how many hours or years of dance that child has taken.

What is competition?
Competition: a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage.

In dance competition terms…
A contest for a trophy, distinction, or gain.

The trophy has too much power. Our focus should be on the other two – honor/distinction and advantage/gain.

It is important to give these children distinction in other ways. What did they do better this time than they did last time? WOW your leap was absolutely breathtaking this time I can really tell how hard you have been working on it.  At the end of the day, kids want to win yes – but ultimately, they want to please their parents and teachers. When we are proud, they are proud.

Students are not gaining anything by competing in a level that’s beneath them and are taking away from the others in that level. Each level deserves a fair and courteous competition experience. A cycle of improper placement supports lackadaisical work ethic. I want to encourage effort, and just showing up shouldn’t get you a trophy.

I have many students who have had to face defeat (and I may disagree with their placements) and still return the next day to improve and I believe they are better people because of it. This just makes the well-earned victories even sweeter. Work until you are in a position to win, until then learn that losing is an essential part of life. I am here to promote self-confidence and true self esteem – not ego inflation.

With grace and consideration,
Rachel Newton


Life’s a Dance

What is dance?

Dance is ultimately, movement.

Also, dance is fun. Dance is healthy. Dance is cognizant. Dance is liberating.

In its performing art form, it might consist of choreography or freestyle. The choreographic design is when this movement is the foundation of the choreographer’s overall vision. Freestyle is improvised. Both require training and practice.

I have been teaching dance for 17 years, and training for 26 of my 31-year old life. Seven of these years I have held the title of artistic director  and owner at my dance studio. Dance for a child is the beginning of a story – and that story doesn’t end for many, many years. “It takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.”– Malcolm Gladwell. This is over 10 years of training for most dancers.

Beyond the recitals, tutus, tap shoes, hairspray, and bobby pins, dance offers life lessons that I have carried through my youth, high school, college, into the business owner I am today. I truly believe my dedication, drive and passion began my first day of dance. I slept in my ballet shoes more often than not that point forward.

“Stand in line”, “stand up tall”, “listen to directions”, and “respect your teacher and classmates” are lessons that are instilled during class time. Stay healthy, stay strong, respect your body, work for your goals, find time for your homework, find time for your friends and family, be a team player, learn how to lose, learn how to win and accept who you are not only as a dancer but as a person – are all lessons that come hand in hand.

This blog will discuss a wide range of dance related themes, and address where dance can take your child. Dance has carried me through all of the stages of my life and my goal is to share my current knowledge while learning something new every day.

Here, I strive to cultivate a relationship between myself and readers, I invite comments and feedback to integrate in future posts, while passing on useful information.

Dance is a career. Dance is brave. Dance is creative.

Why do you or why would you send your child to dance class?

With grace and consideration,
Rachel Newton