Dance and Competition.

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Lately, I've come to learn that some people think the idea of dance competitions are not great. They think that combining dance and competition takes away from the beauty of dance and that it diminishes dance as an art form.

I don't agree. And, I don't think competition in dance is limited to dance competitions.

Dance competitions are a place where my students can shine! They get to perform on beautiful stages, wearing glittering costumes. They get to show the judges, but also themselves, what they've achieved in the studio. And it's just fun! Who doesn't love being surrounded by dance lovers all day long.

And, I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure that famous dancers, like Madonna, Debbie Allen, Donna McKechnie, and Ann Reinking are very competitive. How else would they become stars?

And, even in ballet, I am sure there is competition. I'm sure Baryshnikov was feeling a bit competitive with Gregory Hines, and that's how he figured out how to do eleven pirourettes!

I'll be honest, winning is great! Who doesn't love to win and get awards? But competition is more than that. Now, back to the studio to prepare for next week's competition! Wish us luck!

Gloria Gaynor survived and so will I.

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When I was seventeen, I performed a compelling self-choreographed solo to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." It was a show stopper. People are still talking about how it inspired them to stand up and face daily challenges. It is always humbling to know that a performance touches your audience.

That's why I'm not really fazed by the review of our recital. I've faced tough judges my whole life, and I don't let them get the best of me. I know my dancing and my dancing knows me. Dancing isn't just my profession, it's my emotional outlet. It's where I find strength. Not just the graceful strength that comes from hours and hours of practicing plies, jumps, and turns, but emotional strength. After all, my job as a professional dancer is to convey a story, not only with my facials, but with the emotions that run through my whole body.

I'm keeping this week's blog short because I've got too much dancing to do. Perhaps a remake of my "I Will Survive" solo is on the horizon!

The toughest judge is me.

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As you know by now, both through watching me dance and hearing my story, I have had tough critics my whole life. I've been fortunate, blessed really, to be pushed to be the best. My mom, Miss Doreen, always held me to a higher standard. Master teachers asked me to work harder than the others, put me on the spot, and I stepped up!

That's why I am my own toughest critic. The "feedback" from others is fine, but I steer the ship, I make the dances, I drive my own improvement. That's why I am a professional.

The years and hours I've spent in the studio are why I have succeeded. Living up to others' expectations have been secondary to my own desire to succeed as a competitive dancer, teacher, choreographer, and judge.

Some of the competitions today like to say that "you are only competing against yourself." While I don't think this is true at the actual competition, because we do like to win (and you know we can LOL!), this is true for me in the studio.

And that is why my students look up to me. Not only because I deliver the hard corrections when they need to hear them, but because I do the hard work too.

And I can stand hard corrections myself. I appreciate the time Miss Claudia took to come to our studio, and I hope she works as hard as we do to keep growing and learning about all kinds of dance. Dance is dance and we are all in this together! We will be happy to see her again in the future!

Performing is hard but rewarding!

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Now that you've seen me under the lights, in front of a large audience, I am sure that you can see the joy that dancing brings not only my audience, but me!

When I am performing, all of my hard work pays off. Not only the hours spent in the solo perfecting a routine, but the years of training to get here. The hours (AND HOURS) of ballet classes. The recitals and conventions. Classes with guest choreographers and master teachers. And of course, regular consistent classes and practice, practice, practice year round.

And the sacrifices that being a dancer requires! The missed social events at school, the doing homework in the car on the way to dance class, spending family vacations at dance competitions. "I can't I have rehearsal" isn't just a hollow statement. It's a motto for serious dancers like me!

My hope is that the audience feels just a little bit of the joy that dancing has brought me when they watch me up on the big stage. If I can help the audience escape their troubles through my dancing, even for a minute, then Mission Accomplished!

Of course, being a winning dancer, choreographer, and teacher helps too! My abilities to make and perform a winning dance that captures the judges' attention makes for an all around entertaining and engaging experience for the full audience.

I hope that Miss Claudia who has never seen me perform before as well as all audience members can feel that joy in my dancing.

Love to dance!

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You watched my interview with Miss Claudia, the reporter/critic, so you heard (and saw!) how much I love to dance! That has always been the case! And, I truly believe, it is why my dancing is always improving. It's why I push my students so hard. I want them to feel what it is like to be the best!

Here’s me in my first year in the senior class (at Miss Karen’s we call them the Dazzlers). I was the youngest dancer, but honestly, I was probably ready to join them two years before I did. Miss Doreen has always held me to higher standards (thanks mom!).

When I joined the senior team (only 12 years old!), I had to work hard! I had to really work on my technique to keep up with the big kids. Because I was in the advanced class, I couldn't solely rely on my cute facials to grab focus, I had to really emote. And, I was challenged with really advanced ideas for dances with partnering, solo moments, and high speed formation changes.

BUT I LOVED IT! I WAS HOOKED!

I'm sure that Miss Claudia and Mr. Victor could feel my passion and my dedication as I shared my dance with them. And, I have to say, I was surprised that I revealed so many secrets about how to win at competition dance. But, I'm not worried. Because my students are passionate too, they are In It to Win! (just like their teacher!) They are the best because they are learning from the best (and they deserve the best)!