This year for the first time, my studio went to a huge, awesome national competition and convention. I was so excited because we’re from a small town where there aren’t a ton of dance opportunities. We do well at our local competitions, but when we got to Nationals I was totally lost the whole time.
I wasn’t overwhelmed by the crowds in the convention rooms or anything, but I couldn’t keep up in any of the classes. It wasn’t really that the moves were too hard for me, it was just that the class moved so fast, and by the time I had nailed one eight-count, we were on to the next. I feel like I didn’t get anything valuable out of the whole experience, and I was so frustrated the whole time that I didn’t really have fun. The teachers were awesome and everyone was nice, but I feel like I didn’t do a good enough job.
Anything reassuring you can tell me so I don’t give up on conventions?
First, your first convention experience—despite how frustrated you’re feeling right now—definitely wasn’t a bust or a failure since it led you to assess your current dance situation! You may have had a discouraging time, but it’s clear you want to move forward and be better. You’re clearly not a quitter, which is a valuable trait for dancers (and humans in general).
That being said, we totally get it. Conventions are hard work. You’re expected to take a ton of classes each day on top of competing and maybe trying to rest and recover at some point. And yeah, the classes seem to move at a rapid-fire pace. But of course there are lots of dancers who are right up front, keeping up with the speed of class and doing just fine, right?
The first thing for you to remember: It was your first convention! It’s very unlikely that any dancer out there showed up to a major convention for the first time and blew it out of the water (OK, maybe Travis Wall, but…exception, because he’s pretty superhuman). You stuck with it and did your best, which is an accomplishment in itself. If you didn’t give up, didn’t walk out of the room, and didn’t get on the next flight back to your home studio, then the experience wasn’t a failure—really! New experiences just take some getting used to.
A few things to keep in mind:
- If you do need to drop down a level, say from the teen room to the junior room, that really is OK and there is absolutely no shame in doing so. You mentioned that the choreography wasn’t too difficult, but the pace will probably be a little slower in the lower level or younger classes. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad dancer or that you’re not at the level people expect of you. It just means you’re new to convention and want to get used to the way things work.
- If you are definitely in the right room, then stay put and just do your best to stick with it. In this case, practice really does make perfect. The more you expose yourself to convention-style classes and choreography, the faster you’ll be able to pick up the moves. Like anything else, you just have to be willing to stick with it, frustrating as it may be throughout the journey.
- Ask for help! Teachers expect dancers to have questions while they’re teaching. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask for clarification or for something to be repeated if you’re falling behind or if something was unclear. (We bet you won’t be the only dancer in the room with the same question. Other dancers will probably silently thank you for being the brave soul to speak up.)
- Stand where you can see. You don’t have to fight for a front-center spot, but make sure you’re standing somewhere in the room that will best serve you.
- Fake it until you make it. If you’re performing the choreography and you mess up or you’re not sure what you should be doing, fake it! Freestyle until you can pick it back up, and just keep moving. The worst thing you can do is give up or stand there blankly.
We’ll see you next summer at that big convention again…right?