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Hair Spray, Crazy Parents and An Early Morning Road trip. It Feels Like Comp

Nicole Decsey reflects on her time in the competitive dance world and the responsibility dance teachers have to their students.

Where did the writers for A Dance Way of Life begin their dance careers?

Surprisingly Rachel and Nicole both had very different starting points to their dance lives.They tip toed along unique paths that eventually brought them together. Nicole began her training at a competitive dance studio whereas Rachel trained at a pre-professional ballet studio.

Everyone’s path is different, but a comp background isn’t always looked at favourably once you make it into the concert dance world. However, as Nicole will soon point out, comp dance is highly underrated…

I have been dancing since the age of three and can attest that competition dance gave me confidence, consistent training, a support system of friends that I will forever have and most importantly exposure. In my time at a competitive dance studio, I was exposed to many aspects of the dance world, such as the work that happens backstage, the training year after year to get just a little better, the need for a performance quality on top of technique when you are on stage and the comradery that takes place when you share something so personal with others who have the same interests as you. I learned and grew from many amazing guest artists throughout my training such as Linda Garneau, David Norsworthy and Jacques Monfiston, to name a few. I was also introduced to Cawthra Park through the many senior students at my studio who attended their highly regarded high school dance program. The dance program at Cawthra is where I began to learn modern and where I was able to enhance by ballet training.

But for those students who don’t receive outside training, their transition into the professional world can be very different. And this, I believe, is where the stigmas around competitive training come from.

In the comp world, high priority is given to winning awards and practising tricks over and over. When you come out of a comp training program, you can probably do fouettés, pump turns, aerials, scorpions and switch splits, but likely lack the depth of movement that comes out of a concert style training program. Sadly, in some studios the ballet training is also lacking simply because the students don’t take enough ballet classes. In some of these institutions the students are only required to take one ballet class a week and because many of them do not compete in ballet it is not always taken as seriously as jazz or lyrical.

In my opinion comp students should experience the modern dance world.They should have professional artists coming to their studio and giving them a different taste of dance if they are going to continue in this art form professionally.

Because of the winning mentality at comp studios, some of their students have a really hard time transitioning into the professional world where awards and trophies are no longer handed out. They have become used to being the big fish in a small pond, and that is not always the case once they make it into the “real” dance world.

This being said, you should never underestimate the talent that comes out of the competition world. Yes, about 90% of comp students will not pursue a career in dance, but for the other 10%, whether they be concert or commercial dancers, it is important for professional artists to help them get ready for the rigors of a career in dance. Because dancers can come from anywhere, and the defining moment for many artists comes from the teachers in their lives who push them and inspire them.

This season, remember that every child has an untold amount of hidden potential. You could be molding the next generation of artists no matter where you are teaching, and these students need you to be the teacher who believes in them, who understands their potential and who prepares them for their future, whatever that may be.

Throughout my competition training I had many amazing teachers, but there was one teacher in particular who did these things for me and shaped me into the dancer I have become. Thank you, Lisa Auguste for always pushing me to be better and for seeing my potential. Lisa took her concert dance experience and used it to prepare me for the world I would one day become a part of. I would not be who I am today without her. You may not inspire everyone as a teacher but for that one student whose life you change, it is all worth it.

Everyone’s journey is different, we all have different paths to tread that will lead us to our destinations. There is no right way to choose, there is only the right way for you. Some dancers have been training all their life, some start in high school, some compete and some start with a company. Each option has its own angels and demons. The competition world may seem light years away from the concert dance world of abstract performance art, but it’s only one small jété away. So, teach at studios, judge at competitions, bridge the gaps between these different worlds and make the whole dance community richer for it.



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