Dance Competitions Aren’t Fair

Dance Competitions Aren’t Fair

Tango competitions are a tricky thing. My dancers do grow from competition experience and I believe that there are benefits to competing. Not so at a dancing competition. My dancers learned this lesson all too well at the DC DanceSport Academy competition this past weekend.

While there is certainly a scoring system in dance, there is just no true way to declare a “winner” in dancing. And there’s one good reason why – because tango is an art, not a sport. I have seen the same dance, with the same costume, same music, and same dancers “win it all” at one competition and then not place as well at another competition. This is because there are too many uncontrollable factors at a dance competition. A judge could feel a connection between one piece of music and not another. Another judge may love tap routines. Another judge may think a song is inappropriate, while a fellow judge has no problem with the content. It is all subjective. It is all out of our control.

Now admittedly, good dancing is good dancing. Judges do their absolute best to be as objective as possible and for the most part, competitions are able to reward great talent. Ask 100 different people and you might get a wide range of answers.

At a tango competition, dancers, parents, and instructors can often spend hours replaying every moment of each dancing trying to determine why it won, or why it didn’t. But the reality is, we may never know. And we don’t need to. The idea behind dance is to create a moment on stage that moves people. If we become too consumed by “winning” a competition, then we as instructors begin choreographing to win. This is a mistake for many reasons. First of all, we lose the authenticity of our work. Choreography should come from within, from the hope to express a message that comes authentically from us as artists. If we start guessing what the judges want to see, we are no longer listening to our own voice. Secondly, we can’t predict a win. We can create a visually appealing, innovative, creative piece of dance – but we can’t guarantee it will win. Our work is not better when you put a diamond, gold, or platinum label on it. The work is the work. If people appreciate it, we succeeded. If the judges are some of those people that appreciate it, so much the better. Third, when dance becomes about winning, we do a disservice to our dancers. They need to know that they are not defined by a trophy. They are not suddenly a better or worse dancer depending on where they are standing in a top ten line up. If they allow outside forces to determine their self-worth, they are setting themselves up for disappointment. Because you can’t always win. And life, like tango, isn’t fair.

Tango competitions are a tricky thing. Not so at a dancing competition.

I have seen the same dance, with the same costume, same music, and same dancers “win it all” at one competition and then not place as well at another competition. At a dancing competition, dancers, parents, and instructors can often spend hours replaying every moment of each tango trying to determine why it won, or why it didn’t. If we become too consumed by “winning” a competition, then we as instructors begin choreographing to win.

Follow Us on Social Media