Photo by Ali Yahya via Unsplash

6 Ways To Move Forward After A Competition Disappointment

Every dancer wants to open their competition score packet and see high marks that sing their praises. But a less-than-stellar score can quickly sour what was meant to be a positive learning experience.

While winners walk away with cash prizes, glistening trophies and scholarships to their dream schools, it can be tempting to let a low score be your one-way ticket to self-pity city. But with the right mindset, even a lackluster competition performance can be made into a constructive rather than destructive experience.


Sit Down With Your Dance Teacher ASAP

Communication is key to getting the most out of your competition experience. Photo by Stocksnap.


Schedule a meeting with your dance teacher as soon as possible to look at your scoresheet together. They can help you identify areas of improvement and brainstorm a plan to move forward. Withdrawing out of embarrassment only takes away from the time you could be using to improve; tackling what went wrong right away can help you get back on track and avoid dwelling on the negative.

Know That Some Things Are Subjective

Every judge draws from a different background of experiences that influence the way he or she scores. Photo by Unsplash.

While you shouldn't dismiss all of your feedback, know that judges might bring in personal preferences. Some might appreciate subtle artistry and soft port de bras, while others are looking for high extensions and an exciting stage presence.

Mariaelena Ruiz, director of the professional training program at Cary Ballet Conservatory, encourages her students to keep this subjectivity in mind when they look at their scoresheet. "If one completely did not like you but then the other four were consistent in what they said, then you just take it with a grain of salt," she says. Focus on the corrections they've offered but don't get too caught up on comments that are a matter of personal preference.

Focus on Your Progress

The time you spent preparing for the competition likely led to improvements in your technique and artistry. Photo by Michael Afonso via Unsplash.

Preparing for a competition typically means clocking in extra hours and can lead to vast improvements in both your technique and artistry. Rather than obsessing over how you stacked up against your competitors, look at how much you've improved in the last few months. The gains you make during the preparation process mean more than a pretty trophy anyway.

Consider Pursuing Other Dance Opportunities

Try trading in competitions for master classes. Photo by Danielle Cerullo via Unsplash.

If you find that you're more concerned with winning prizes than growing as a dancer, it might be time to take a break from competitions. When Ruiz sees her dancers struggling to pull themselves out of the competition blues, she encourages them to seek out other opportunities that aren't competitive in nature. Consider signing up for master classes or filming some of your favorite solos that you could use for future auditions.

Use It As a Life Lesson

Competitions can help you build resilience, which is a valuable asset in the dance world. Photo by Brooke Meyer.


The dance industry is an incredibly competitive field, so every dancer needs to be equipped to handle disappointment with grace. Kristy Blakeslee, director of KJ Dance in Plano, Texas, sees competitions as an opportunity to teach students life lessons they can apply outside of the studio. "One day somebody will accept us and the next day maybe somebody doesn't accept us, and it's something that we have to become accustomed to and prepare our minds and our hearts for," she says.

Remember That Even Great Dancers Have Bad Performances

Remember when Misty Copeland caught an outrageous amount of flak for struggling with Swan Lake's infamous 32 fouettés? Or when Isabella Boylston fell flat on the floor during her debut in La Bayadère? Even ballet goddesses aren't immune to bad performances and reminding yourself of this can help put things into perspective.

Latest Posts


Brandt in Giselle. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

contest
Enter Our Video Contest