Competition Dance and the Three Little Pigs

Like it or not, competition dance is built on the strong foundation developed by the classical art form ballet.  It could be argued that it is a different animal all together by aligning itself more with the entertainment industry however just as a sentence cannot be constructed before learning the alphabet and a sonata cannot be composed without knowledge of music theory, to learn to dance a form based in Western cultures, studying classical ballet is a prerequisite.

IMG_0289Ultimately, the responsibility is on the parents to educate themselves as to what constitutes a good school just as you would research any private institution you entrust your children to.  Sadly, I’ve heard it from kids and adults alike dozens of times – they thought they were learning to dance all those years they were paying for lessons when in fact, they were being misled. There is nothing more heartbreaking than turning students away from high school and college auditions because their training was sub-par.

Dance is an art form. Along with the other visual and performing arts, it demands knowledge of material that requires long hours of focused study to develop. There are no cliff notes or short cuts. Classes aren’t always fun, exciting, or alluring. But the rewards are huge – becoming a skilled dancer is limited to the students who do work hard. The ‘fun’ is in the achievement!!!  As I tell my dancers – it’s a lot more fun being good (skilled) than not being good! AND, the endless hours of repetition, practice, and skill development creates students with better executive functioning -cognitive flexibility, working memory, processing speed and verbal fluency. For more on those claims see

These are the reasons that I continue to teach dance. It’s a tough career and the competition is brutal but I teach because all children should have the opportunity to be well-rounded, focused, and bright. All children deserve to know the joy of movement. The thrill of being an exceptional dancer is limited to the very few.

I know there will be phone calls from parents saying ballet isn’t fun. “Sally isn’t happy – can we fix that?” Well playing piano scales, practicing the times tables, sports drills, or brushing your teeth aren’t ‘fun’ either but being a skilled dancer is. Understanding this is part of maturing. The thrill of dancing with your peers, becoming accomplished, and having options in life is liberating. While the first two little pigs went off to the fair, the third little pig took the long view and built something that would last. I’m glad my parents did.

Most of my students will not become professional dancers and certainly not ballet dancers. But I tell them I want them to have the option of going anywhere in the world to take a dance class and understand the expectations of dress, vocabulary, and respectful behavior. They deserve that and nothing less. Someday they might contact me as so many students have and thank me for having consistently high expectations of them even before they understood what that was.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s