The Evolution of Competitive Dance
Just a few decades ago, as competitive dance emerged as a leading influence in the dance community, the structure was virtually the same across events. There was one level of competition and three possible outcomes: first place, second place, or third place. First place would net the winner a trophy, while second and third place winners sometimes received ribbons … or nothing at all.
Gradually over time, competitions began feeding into the growing societal mentality that most, if not all, participants should walk away with some kind of special recognition. Awards grew beyond gold, silver, and bronze to include descriptions like “titanium,” “platinum,” “high gold,” “elite,” and more. It became harder to discern which award, exactly, meant “first place.” This is especially true when different levels of competition came into play where students were put into levels below their ability just to win.
In order to make every child (and parent) feel good and want to return to the event, competitions were diluting the value of winning. Out of this shift, we now see a pretty confusing set of categories and awards across events! And it’s becoming more and more common to see a waning work ethic among young dancers, who don’t see any reason to work harder if they’re just going to win anyway. We also see where dancers have a false sense of confidence because they’ve been placed in a level too easy for their ability. Now this is not the dancer’s fault, but rather the teacher who is placing them in a level too easy for their talent or acknowledging their real competitive level. How is this helpful for a dancer in real life?
At DK Dance Productions, we know that real life is NOT like this! We know that life beyond dance competitions is different. Not everyone will get into their first choice college; not everyone will get every job they interview for; and not everyone will succeed in every relationship. Everyone doesn’t always win at everything … and that’s actually OK, because there is always something to learn.
We understand that as dance educators, if we don’t push back against the “everyone gets a trophy” mindset, then it will have a negative impact on our students. It’s important to us to teach them that even though they may be recognized at a competition, those results do not equal their worth or potential as human beings. They are so much more!
Our philosophy on competition is that it provides an incredible performance experience for our students, allows them to work towards a goal, and exposes them to unique scholarship opportunities. We LOVE providing this outlet for our students! But we also want to emphasize that “winning” is not the most important part, because winning at many competitions means something different now than it used to.
Success, at DK Dance Productions, is all about hard work. It’s about making your best effort, bouncing back when something goes wrong, being a good friend, treating others with kindness, and building teamwork. We believe that a commitment to dance develops all of these qualities, which is a personal reward much more fulfilling than any triple-platinum, high gold, elite plastic trophy can ever accomplish.