Growing up as a competitive dancer on the East Coast, I was always so excited when my dance teacher gave me the privilege of competing a solo or duo/trio. During the week, our classes were dedicated to multiple Ballet/Pointe classes, Jazz, Tap, and Modern technique. Every Saturday, we would rehearse competition dances and only run a group dance once or twice. Usually, it was up to me to rehearse my solo after a Friday night class, in the basement of my house, or if it was warm enough outside - on my lawn (not kidding)! The growth of competitive dance nationwide seems to portray the idea that the more money we spend, the better our children will do. Of course, with the increase in dance competition shows and the overall boom of the dance world, we now have a higher standard to meet, but it should never be at the sacrifice of technique.
As a dance instructor and choreographer, I do not offer solos to students I do not feel are ready to compete in the solo category. I do absolutely understand the argument of, "Why should we deny a child a solo who wants one?" but in my opinion as dance instructor, why not instead offer that child an hour of private lessons every week, working on their technique and skills, and then reward them with a solo for the following competition season. This will encourage the dancer to work harder towards a goal, instead of "buying" a solo. As a judge, it is extremely frustrating to see a dancer come out in 3 or 4 solos and not have the technical abilities to execute the choreography.
Gone are the days of flipping through Discount Dance Supply and picking out a pretty, yet affordable costume for competition. Don't get me wrong, as a judge I love a gorgeous, custom, rhinestoned costume, but not if the dancer is only going to wear it for one season and toss it in the back of the closet. No matter how beautiful or elaborate a costume is, if a dancer has no technique and sloppy feet, they might as well be wearing a sheet.
Please do not misunderstand me; this has nothing to do with financial means, but everything to do with technique. I may not be a parent myself, but I see how much parents want their children to do their best. If you have the financial means to buy a new solo costume every year and pay for multiple competition routines, then you absolutely should. However, I believe it is important to make sure that if you are investing 100 percent in dance competitions, then you need to invest 100 percent in technique classes as well.
My main point in sharing my thoughts is finding the balance. As a teacher, I want my students to succeed while competing, as well as in the professional world that is waiting for them. There is a life beyond dance competitions, and how can we possibly prepare them if we are neglecting technique classes? As a judge, every time a routine takes the stage, I am rooting for them to "wow" me, and I know that comes with being well rehearsed. So, finding the balance is up to you as their teacher by laying the foundation. Maybe instead of one hour of rehearsing a Jazz routine, a half hour is spent on technique and the rest of the class spent on cleaning the dance. Whatever the choice may be, just remember it is our job to preserve technique and to stress that message to our students
Christina Fuschetto is a professional dancer, master class instructor, dance adjudicator, and choreographer, currently based out of California. She has performed nationally and internationally with Broadway Christmas Wonderland (Dance Captain/Swing), Christmas on Ice (Dance Captain), Dancing Queen, Le Grand Cirque, Legends in Concert, DSP Live! The US Concert Tour, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. She has had the opportunity to be the rehearsal director for Dublin Worldwide Productions, assist the Rockette Summer Intensive at Radio City, and workshop production shows for RWS Entertainment. Christina has choreographed for multiple competition studios on the east and west coast, winning national overall top scores and choreography awards. She has a passion for dance she loves to share with her students and is a mentor for senior dancers who are ready to work professionally.