• Lesley Mealor

Competition Kindness: Etiquette at the Event!

Check out our podcast episode on this hot topic! Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts!


Judges are often asked about their pet peeves at dance competitions. Many people expect these pet peeves to be about technique, costume choice, or choreography. The most common complaint, however, has nothing to do with actual dancing. IDA judges cite poor etiquette from dancers as one of their biggest concerns at dance competitions. From behavior backstage to your conduct during awards, judges and staff are always watching and taking note of how you treat one another. This week, judges Marissa, Colin, and Jackie address the competitors to outline the expectations of good conduct at competition.

From the moment you audition for, or are chosen to be on your studio’s competitive team, you are held to a higher standard.

Marissa points out that “being part of the competition community automatically puts you in a more serious category. When you hold yourself to that level of seriousness and discipline, etiquette is the first step.”

In terms of attending competition, this discipline can look like warming up properly before you dance, checking in on time with the backstage manager, and being a leader for younger dancers. By being ready ahead of time and learning to “go with the flow” in case of a last minute change in the schedule, you are practicing how to be a productive team member and contributing to the overall success of the whole day, for everyone involved. Jackie says, “The dance world is very small and no one remembers what score you got or your overall ranking - we remember your character and attitude.” In fact, many competitions give a “Studio Spirit” award to the studio that exemplifies outstanding character. Remember, someone is always watching!

The regional dance competition world is truly a community. Many personal and professional relationships have been formed over the years through competitions, and today’s dancers will be no exception. IDA judges are industry professionals who may one day hire a dancer they remember from a competition. “We see hundreds of dances throughout the weekend [... and] they can blend together,” says Colin. “But if someone is above and beyond polite, courteous, and respectful, [they] will be remembered. The same goes for bad sportsmanship, negative attitudes and rude behavior.”


Jackie agrees, “You never know who the dancer standing next to you might become and how your lives will intertwine.”

Take the time to congratulate other dancers, really watch and enjoy routines from other studios, and acknowledge that everyone has worked hard to present their work to the audience. Show respect to your fellow competitors by staying out of the wings during routines and maintaining composure while cheering (of course, cheer for your friends! But excessive shoutouts can be distracting to the dancer, the audience, and the judges). A note to families and friends in the audience - as with any performance, remember to silence your cell phones, and refrain from walking through the aisles while a routine is on stage. Parents and teachers paid a lot of money to attend competition, and deserve to see their dancers perform with no interruptions!

Much of the poor etiquette presented at competitions happens during awards. Marissa remarks, “I am constantly surprised by the amount of talking, laughing, and overall oblivious behavior to what the emcee is awarding. Consider your behavior when you take the stage to perform. Why would it be any different during an awards ceremony? You’re still on stage. You’re still representing yourself and your studio. It’s important to act like it. Be present and pay attention, [and] show support for your fellow dancers.” It can be hectic, hard to hear, and crowded on stage during an awards ceremony. However, please do your best to quickly make your way to the staff member who hands out the awards when your routine is called. Nothing indicates that a dancer does not care more than sitting in a sea of people and reaching for an award, and forcing the staff member or judge to try and come to you. Have a clear plan of who will receive each award, pop up quickly, be gracious, and say thank you.


Colin mentions, “I love when I see studios give standing ovations when overalls are announced, regardless of which studio it is. Supporting your fellow dancers is so important, now and throughout your career.”


That small but effective gesture of goodwill is always noticed and appreciated by judges and staff members.

Dance competitions are lessons not only in technique and presentation, but in personal growth and character development. By accepting awards with grace and humility, regardless of medal placement, you are representing yourself and your studio in a positive light, and that is more important than 32 fouettés ever will be. Go forth, dance your hearts out, and be kind, always!


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