The Class of 2020 - Caps, Gowns, and COVID-19

The class of 2020 will have plenty of stories to tell their grandchildren about the year they graduated from high school. Highlighting those stories will be tales of loss, quarantine, and what happens when entire families have to conduct school, work, and dance classes all online from home. Impact Dance Adjudicators wanted to give senior dancers something else to remember after life goes on to whatever our "new normal" becomes, and ran an Instagram contest asking them to submit their stories of how COVID-19 has affected their senior year. We chose three incredible seniors who were featured on a recent episode of our podcast, Making the Impact, but we had so many inspiring submissions and we wanted to highlight a few more of these outstanding dancers! [Statements have been edited for length and clarity]...

Bringing Broadway Dance to the Competition Stage

Agnes de Mille. Jerome Robbins. Susan Stroman. Andy Blankenbuehler. From the early years of the musical theatre, dance has served to enhance, shape and further the storyline on stage. Choreographers like Agnes de Mille and Jerome Robbins paved the way for some of the current powerhouses like Susan Stroman and Andy Blankenbuehler to create stunning and exciting new dance for musical theatre. Why, then, does musical theatre dance at competition often end up being a throw away category, usually one of the smallest and unfortunately, one of the weakest? It takes ingenuity, intelligence and a willingness to do some extra work to create a winning musical theatre routine. IDA judges, teachers and musical theatre performers in their own right, Jessica Ice and Ashley Marinelli, share their tips and tricks of the trade to choreographing an award-worthy musical theatre dance number for competition...

Training in the Off-Season - How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer!

Sweet, sweet summertime - lazy days and late nights, sleepovers and family vacations - we look forward to summer as a welcome reward for a productive dance year. While everyone, students and teachers alike, should absolutely enjoy the relaxed pace of the summer season, there is also a wealth of knowledge to be gained from continuing your dance training in between recital and company auditions. IDA judges and teachers Kelsey Nelson, Maddie Kurtz, and Jessica Olinik share with us some exciting ideas for training in the off-season. “To me, summer is the absolute best time to reinvest in our training!” says Maddie Kurtz, recent MFA graduate of SUNY Brockport. “First, it’s a time when we can let go of stresses related to school and other outside pressures, which allows us to devote all of our time and energy to dancing. Plus, if you’re from an area with a colder climate, the warm weather is ideal for flexibility training, which is an awesome bonus!...

What Dance Competitions Taught Me

“Back in my day, we tap danced on concrete, in the snow, uphill both ways! And we never complained!” How many times have we heard something similar from our seasoned teachers? While conditions for dance training may have changed for the better, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from our teachers who grew up dancing in a different time. Since their inception in the 1970s, dance competitions as we know them have changed and evolved into the million dollar industry we take part in every weekend from January through June. Teachers, IDA judges and former competition dancers Michelle Tolson and Christina Yoder reflect on what dance competitions have taught them and how their evolution has shaped their careers. Over the years, competitions have come and gone, but the general idea has stayed the same. Dancers from various studios come together to perform their routines for a panel of qualified judges, and are adjudicated according to style and age. Michelle Tolson, former Miss New Hampshire and teacher in New York, remembers, “My first competition experience was with American Dance Spectrum (now called American Dance Awards) run by the Gold family. When I started competing they only gave out Gold, Silver and Bronze - and they actually gave out all three. I did receive Golds for my pieces and was excited to be recognized with a special award.” Written adjudications were the standard, and not everyone that attended won an award. Michelle continues, ”I found competition at that time to be an amazing place to learn and grow as dancer and choreographer...

From Your Judges: Expectations for Each Age Range at Competition

We’ve all see the child prodigies on YouTube - the young dancers who somehow pull off the most advanced turn sequences and the highest leaps, with the emotional execution of a dancer well past their age. We sit in awe of those children, wondering what must be in the water at that studio! The reality is, however, that those students are precious anomalie. The majority of children in dance class will not excel at everything all at once, and many will struggle with concepts like musicality, creating shapes, flexibility, and retention. The competition stage is a great place to showcase the concepts and steps that each age knows, and judges have certain expectations for each age group. IDA judges Michelle Tolson, Joey Ortolani and Dione Hamza have years of teaching experience in all ages and levels, and share their expectations for all ages. With competitions accepting entries from dancers as young as 3 years old, and with the evolution of levels at competitions, it is important to understand the expectations of judges for all ages and levels...

Bring Ballet Back - Resurrecting the Art Form For Competitive Dancers

“Ballet is the foundation of all dance styles.” * How often have we heard this old adage? Based on what judges see every weekend at dance competitions, it would seem that we don’t hear it often enough! As dance educators, we are the first line of defense against how students view ballet - if we treat ballet as simply a means to an end instead of the exciting, beautiful art form that it is, we are grooming a generation of dancers who will lack the benefits of the discipline, structure, and history that are inherent to ballet. The challenge is how to engage the “fast-food”, instant gratification mentality of today’s dance student to the benefits of long term, methodical study of ballet. IDA judges and teachers Maddie Kurtz, Andrea Tracy, Kimberly Corbett, Cathrynne Reynolds, and Miranda Spada discuss their ideas about how to keep ballet relevant in today’s dance competition world. Unless we’re talking about a strictly ballet competition, it is becoming more and more rare to see ballet routines compete. Many teachers believe that ballet routines will not do well at competition, so they don’t bring them. There may be truth in this, but for perhaps a different reason than you’d think...

Becoming Your Character - Acting Through Dance

“The Dancer believes that his art has something to say which cannot be expressed in words or in any other way than by dancing.” Doris Humphrey, one of the pioneers of modern dance, may not have had any formal acting training, but her ideas about dance certainly suggest that acting is an integral part of dance. While dance requires grace, strength, technique, and flexibility, among other things, the art form has always included the element of storytelling to communicate to the audience. Max Vasapoli and Robb Gibbs delve into the world of acting through dance in this week’s blog! Competitive dancers are adjudicated on everything from precision to technical excellence, but in the professional dance world, often technical ability can be second to storytelling ability. What separates dance from sport is communication. “Dancers are storytellers bringing a choreographer's narrative to life through their emotional connection, phrasing, and physical execution of the movement,” Max Vasapoli, dancer and teacher from Philadelphia, explains. “Dance is what you do in class, perform is what you do on stage.”

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!

“No man is an island.” If you studied poetry in high school, John Donne’s words are familiar. To bring the quote even closer to home, “no dancer is an island”. While dance can be a very solitary, personal activity, only a handful of dancers go on to be solo artists. Ensemble work is abundant in the ballet, commercial, contemporary and theatre dance worlds, and learning how to work as a team at a young age is crucial to finding success professionally as a dancer (and as a human being in general!) IDA judges Kelsey Nelson, Kimberly Corbett, Maddie Kurtz, and Samantha Jay share their ideas about teamwork in this week’s blog! Kelsey Nelson, teacher and choreographer from Tampa, describes teamwork as “a support system of fellow dancers, teachers, and parents that work together to achieve a goal. Teamwork is holding each other accountable to their obligations and responsibilities, supporting one another's efforts from a place of love and value, and being able to believe that everyone is equally putting in 100% effort every moment of every day. To me, teamwork relates directly to integrity, and without integrity in what you are doing and who you are, you will not have true teamwork and unity.”

Reaching New Heights - Acro at Competition

Cirque du Soleil. Pilobolus. Momix. What do these three companies have in common? The use of acrobatics, or acro, in their performances. From contortion, to weight sharing, to tumbling, in the dance competition world, acro skills have become more and more commonplace to show off power, flexibility and control. As the bar is set higher and higher for dancers, the more it takes to stand out from the crowd, and acro can be a great asset to a dancer trying to book work. How much acro is too much acro at competition? What if there is no safe and adequate tumbling training in your town? Will a dancer find success without acro? IDA judges Jen Garaffa, Jessica Ice, Ashley Marinelli, Miranda Spada, and Christina Young answer those questions and more this week! Everywhere you look at a dance competition, someone is doing an aerial. Or a chin stand. Or a chest roll. Acro skills are being integrated into all styles of dance, but when did this start, and why? “When I was growing up,” says Jessica Ice, teacher and performer from New York, “there was much less acrobatics and gymnastics at dance competitions.

Keeping the Competition Stage Age Appropriate

The world of competitive dance has exploded in the past ten to fifteen years, with hundreds of events to choose from, in cities all over the world. They are an opportunity for growth, feedback, performance and countless other benefits. Dance has always been influenced by pop culture – hip hop as a competitive dance form, for example, grew from the street culture that developed in New York and Atlanta, among other influential cities. Dancers became teachers and began to codify techniques that applied to the different styles of hip hop. As the industry continues to grow and be influenced by pop culture, the more educators and choreographers have a responsibility to tailor the pop culture stylings they use in dancing to the age, development, and ability level of the dancers. Age appropriate music, costuming, content and choreography may be the most controversial topics in the competitive dance world today. IDA judges and educators Mary Roberts, Joey Ortolani, Diona Hamza, Miranda Spada, and Kimberly Corbett weigh in on their opinions about appropriateness in competitive dance. From the get-go at competitions, Miranda Spada, teacher and judge from Buffalo, NY, relies on “first appearances” to determine her thoughts on the appropriateness of a routine – specifically, the title of the entry, costume choice, and song choice. “For me,” she explains, “age appropriateness means the lyrics, song content, song meaning, costume choice, and routine name are all suited appropriately to that age division.

Reaching New Heights - Acro at Competition

Cirque du Soleil. Pilobolus. Momix. What do these three companies have in common? The use of acrobatics, or acro, in their performances. From contortion, to weight sharing, to tumbling, in the dance competition world, acro skills have become more and more commonplace to show off power, flexibility and control. As the bar is set higher and higher for dancers, the more it takes to stand out from the crowd, and acro can be a great asset to a dancer trying to book work. How much acro is too much acro at competition? What if there is no safe and adequate tumbling training in your town? Will a dancer find success without acro? IDA judges Jen Garaffa, Jessica Ice, Ashley Marinelli, Miranda Spada, and Christina Young answer those questions and more this week! Everywhere you look at a dance competition, someone is doing an aerial. Or a chin stand. Or a chest roll. Acro skills are being integrated into all styles of dance, but when did this start, and why? “When I was growing up,” says Jessica Ice, teacher and performer from New York, “there was much less acrobatics and gymnastics at dance competitions.