Backstage: A Legit Day in the Life of a Dance Competition

Backstage: A Legit Day in the Life of a Dance Competition

When you hear "dance competition," what comes to mind? If you're like most people, visions of overly dramatic Dance Moms episodes and screaming dance teachers might skip through your head. But, let's break it down - what is a real Aussie dance competition or eisteddfod actually like?

Here's the scoop, as seen through the eyes of a seasoned attendee. And believe me, it's nothing like what reality TV might lead you to believe!

Pro Tip:

First things first, most dance competitions aren't just a one-day affair. They typically run over several days, especially in New South Wales. Organisers do their best to make sure you're not spending half your life at these events by separating schedules based on age and skill level. If you're lucky, you might have just one or two days of competition, but if you're a dance mum or dad with multiple dancers, you could have a few days work ahead. But it's fun, and you'll enjoy it! Depending on the time of year, the event may fall on a weekend, or if you choose to attend a larger event, it may be held over a week or two of the school holidays.  

In days gone by, there was an informal "dance season" for eisteddfods, but with dance's growing popularity, the competition scene has evolved significantly. While it might seem overwhelming to follow the competition calendar, the good thing is, it keeps dancers conditioned, involved, and motivated for their next performance. Plus, it's a fantastic day out where you can catch up with your ballet buddies - bonus!

Cracking the Syllabus Code

Before the dance-off begins, the organisers will send you the syllabus, which is like a rulebook for the competition. It might look intimidating, but don't stress: it's there to ensure fairness and clarity for all competitors. Here are a few tips to tackle that syllabus:

Figure out the age conditions for your dancer. Some use the start date of the competition, while others use January 1st. This guides you on which age group to enter.

Check the length requirements for music and how to provide it. Most solo routines are 2-4 minutes long, so make sure your music matches. Going over time can lead to penalties.

Skill levels matter. Competitions categorise dancers as novice, intermediate, open, or advanced. Winning a lower category usually means moving up. Keeping records is a great idea to avoid accidental mismatches.

Check the proposed dates for each age group so you can plan ahead. But remember, these are subject to change, so book accommodation with flexible cancellation policies.

Game Day

Now, let's fast forward to the big day. Dance competitions usually kick off bright and early. If it's in winter, brace yourself for some chilly mornings. Make sure to pack warm-up gear and cover-ups for those transitions between routines. Oh, and don't forget the essential drive-thru coffee or insulated mug filled to the brim. Trust me, you'll need it.

While some venues offer food, it's always a good idea to have some snacks handy. You will need plenty of cold water, so don't forget your Claudia Dean World Power Bottle. Fruit, nuts, muesli bars, and sandwiches are excellent choices, but avoid anything too messy. Nobody wants salsa stains on their tutu, right?

Packing and Prep

Before you hit the road, it's wise to pack your dancer's gear bag the night before. The mornings are early and hectic enough as it is. Make sure you've got:

Dance underwear (skin-toned high cut briefs work wonders).
Stockings or tights (convertible tights are a versatile choice).
Costumes (don't forget the tutu bag and props for character dances).
Spare stockings or tights (you never know when you'll need them).
Hair accessories galore (bobby pins, hair nets, hair spray, you name it).
Dance shoes (the key to looking sharp on stage).
Make-up and cosmetics (for that perfect stage face).


As you arrive, follow the program's instructions to ensure you're on time. Arriving at least 45 minutes before your dancer's performance gives them time to adjust to the bustling environment, find a station in the dressing room, and mentally prepare for their moment in the spotlight.

It's also a good idea to have your dancer's hair and makeup done before arriving. Dressing rooms can be crowded, and you don't want to feel rushed. Help your dancer warm up with some basic exercises and stretches. A yoga mat and split bricks can work wonders to ensure they're limber and ready to hit the stage.

And here's a pro tip: if there's no barre available, make use of handrails for a makeshift warm-up.

Time to Shine

Backstage, your dancer should get their name marked off on the list, typically a couple of sections before their performance. It's normal to feel nervous, and it's a sign that they care about what they're doing. Encourage deep breaths and a few warm-up exercises to shake off tension. Remember, the dance itself is only a few minutes, and it'll be over before they know it. Strut or gallop onto that stage, and enjoy every moment.

The Final Countdown

Now, it's judgment time. The adjudicator sits at the front of the stage to assess the performances. They might offer feedback via a written report or recording into their microphone, providing constructive criticism or praise. Adjudicators are there to help dancers improve their craft. After each section is done, they'll announce the results. Some competitions even give out prizes and awards of encouragement. Regardless of the outcome, remember that just stepping onto the stage is a tremendous accomplishment. Cherish every moment of watching your dancer shine, capture it with photos and videos, and create lasting memories.

In the end, dance competitions are all about celebrating the hard work, dedication, and passion that go into this beautiful art form. So, put on your dancing shoes, or just some comfortable ones, and enjoy the magical world of dance competitions - it's a show you won't want to miss!

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