So far, I have had the pleasure of observing and helping Dancers in a variety of countries. No such experience will give me as much pride and sense of ore as witnessing Dancers from Science in Dance and KS Dance represent Team Italia and Team GB at the CICB International Competition in Florence, Italy.
Science in Dance was there in both physiological and psychological support as well as to cheer on the Dancers in their quest to represent themselves, their school and country in a variety of tough rounds including; contemporary and classical Ballet variations. I was pleased to be asked by Team GB to look after their team, should they need it. With tensions and stakes high, often the body can present nerves and performance anxiety in a number of ways and individuals deal with this in completely unique fashions. However, the mental resilience of these Dancers and their determination to do their best, enjoy and Dance better than ever before shone through and the ladies and gents from KS Dance, Elmhurst, and Tring Park delivered.
So this article is not about physiology or a particular step or skill, rather, this article is my attempt to sum up Ballet competitions, the pressures on young aspiring and the importance for self development beyond Instagram followers and endless videos of Developés and passive flexibility (NOT SAYING ITS NOT IMPRESSIVE).
As a Sportsman and Strength Coach, I recognise the pressure that competition derives. Its impossible to escape from the air of anticipation that is placed before any young Athlete or Dancer. Whether its the Stage, Platform, Lake, Track or Field, the scenario dawns and its you versus everyone else. BUT... Is that what Dancing is about...? Is an audition a competition or rather the subjective selection of a person or group that best fit the tick sheet that a Director or Assessor has infront of them? Or is it even less rigid than that? Does a Director turn up to an audition hoping to be inspired and therefore, with an open mind, do they select someone who makes an impact. That selection is not graded and scored like an exam or competition. Similarly, its not first to the finish line or goals scored (Developés done...) that clinches someone a company position or role. So... Ballet Competitions may not be a true representation of a life in Dance, where you do not necessarily have 6 months to prepare to solos and then dance them out of context from a bigger performance. HOWEVER... from what I witness in Italy this year, Competition serves a greater purpose that is hard for competitors to see no matter which side of the win/lose net they fall on.
It is a chance to show your work in progress. It is a chance to mix with other young Dancers trying to reach their goal of employment in the world of Dance. The performance itself is not the biggest part of the competition. It is the mixing with people from around the world and sharing the same drive. What do the best learn from competition...? probably not as much as a runner up or someone that even missed out on the final. Dancers that go to competitions have the opportunity to learn more than anyone else.
In other words... Do not be afraid to aspire and be inspired by people that have worked at it for a little bit longer than you. Take their advice, share your knowledge and technique, never be afraid to say that you are working towards something bigger. At the time of competition, it is easy to get bogged down by the pressure and fiercely competitive nature of wanting to do Gamzatti better than the other 37 people people who chose to do it. But if you strip that back and figure out why you are really DANCING in a competition the answers will surprise you. Yes! there are summer school and vocational school scholarships up for grabs but they do not necessarily go to the best, it may be someone who connected, showed potential, showed drive or even just threw themselves at it.
The biggest travesty amongst young Athletes can often be self-defeat before attempt. If you do not put yourself out there and fail then it is impossible to know how else you could be improving. Do not envy the people who have knowledge or good physiology but rather see it is a opportunity to gain insight and motivation for what might happen to you.
I work in the art of Strength Training and Science, I am a numbers guy and what I love about Dance in its rawest form is that is not quantifiable, one cannot score it. I know how many degrees of plantar flexion are present in foot anatomy and aesthetics for pointe work but let me worry about that. Learn from those who have worked on their feet, bodies, control, expression, acting.
My best example would be this, we all grow up looking up to someone in our chosen disciplines I do not envy strength coaches that no more than me or have a vast knowledge in a different area of interest, I simply strive to understand how they got to where they are. Once I have done that I can reflect on my own practises and improve.
Dance is no different. Look elsewhere for inspiration, evaluate how you can improve yourself as a performer and artist and Do NOT fear the words No or Im sorry not today. Flip it on its head and use the word YET!
I do believe in competition it keeps us on our toes and gives us aims. But don't lose sight of the bigger picture. Trust your strength of body, mind and character and keep learning regardless of your position in companies, schools or teams and thrive when the pressure is on.
BTW TEAM you were incredible. Congratulations to Cameron Holmes, AUS, on picking up the win and well done Cecchetti Australia.