Reflections on Past Writings

Recently,  I went back and re-read some of my old posts. It’s interesting to read your past writings (for many reasons).

When I started blogging about dance competitions, I did a much better job of explaining the levels, the awards, etc. than I do now. As the years went on, it felt redundant, and I quit doing that. Instead, I talked about our schedule, the judges, the venues, the results. I suppose the original posts were more interesting to read. They certainly would have been more helpful to people who are researching the different competitions.

Originally, I started this blog as a way to help other new dance moms navigate the crazy world of competition dance by sharing what I have learned. I posted about what people could expect at competitions, what to pack, rhinestoning costumes, what different things mean at different competitions, etc. Now, I guess I write more because I enjoy it.

When I don’t post for a while, I am always surprised when people ask me when I will post again. It brings me back to 10th grade (maybe 11th). I had a writing teacher that would tell me she couldn’t wait to read my next paper. She would tell me she enjoyed my point-of-view and my writing style. She always made me feel important, even though I always thought she was full of it. Looking back, it was probably because of her encouragement that I later became the editor and main contributor to my college newspaper. It was likely because of her that I was asked to edit the newsletter for a Consulting company I used to work for, and contributed to our church’s newsletters with articles about Child Development. It might have even been because of her that I started blogging. She gave me the confidence to think someone might care to read what I write.

As I’m now in the middle of our last year of competition dance, I’ve gotten lazy about writing all the details. I’m trying to just enjoy the car rides with my daughter, the excitement of what each competition might hold, and all the amazing dances I get to see each weekend. That said, I am also starting to feel like this is my last chance to help other moms new to the experience of being a Dance Mom. Maybe I should start adding all the  details back in? Maybe no one really cares to read all that. I have two competitions we’ve attended that I haven’t written about, and one that I might go back and add more “helpful” details about. I haven’t decided which direction to go with those posts.

My husband has been encouraging me for years to write a book on the subject. I always doubted that I have enough insight, or enough wisdom in this area to write a whole book. I am not a perfect dance mom. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve argued with my daughter, I’ve irritated our studio owner. My daughter has showed up to competitions without hairspray or enough bobby pins, she’s been missing needed items… I might be able to give my opinion on different aspects of being a dance mom, but what if people disagree with me? The doubt, and the what ifs, are what hold us back- they are what hold me back. Other books have since been published about being a parent in the competition dance world. Maybe I missed my opportunity. Maybe, I will be bored next year when I’m not spending every Friday night working at the dance studio to help pay for my dancer’s tuition. Maybe I will decide to attempt a short book, and publish it as an e-book… maybe, I will just say goodbye to the world of competition dance, and just be a tap student again.

I’ve made many friendships through the dance studio. I don’t doubt that many of those relationships will continue. I’m pretty sure I will miss being a Dance Mom. Then again, I might just enjoy having my Spring back.  As the new chapter of life takes shape, I don’t know what I will write about. Only time will tell.

Advertisements

BravO! Dance Competition 2019

Two weeks ago, we were at the Ames Center in Burnsville for Lake Area Dance Center‘s first competition of the year for our whole studio, BravO! National Dance & Talent Competition. The weekend started for us on Friday night, with my daughter’s two solos. There were a total of 71 Senior BravO! level (Advanced level) solos. I was really proud of Grace, she did so well on her dances! She really got into her character for her musical theater solo, and got into the emotion of her contemporary solo. She felt great about her performances, which is always a good thing. She scored platinum with both. A big accomplishment for her!

Saturday, Grace only had her Production dance. Production amazes me every year. It always exceeds expectations. All of our competitive dancers are part of this routine. I don’t know how many dancers there are in all, but it must be somewhere between 75-100 dancers on stage at once. I know it gets chaotic backstage and in the wings, but on stage, it looks great. The minis are always so cute, when they come out with little pitter-patters across the stage. Studio ownner, Maria,  does a great job of highlighting strengths of different dancers in different sections. Production got a platinum score, and took first in the line/production category in the Junior level Encore! (Intermediate) division. They also received the Standing O!vation Award, which combines choreography, showmanship, costume, technique, etc.

Grace with her two Platinum Score plaques.

We went early to watch the Minis, Petites, Juniors, and Pre-teens’ large groups. Grace also wanted to help with props, and assisting where needed. We ended up staying to watch small groups, and a few of the solos too. It was fun to see all the dances we don’t usually get to see, though it made for a long day.

Sunday was our scheduled long day. Grace had 9 dances over about an 8 hour span. The morning was filled with her three small groups (tap, contemporary, and the Graduating Seniors – also in the contemporary division). It was my first time seeing all these dances. The tap one looked so fun, contemporary looked very together, and the Seniors one was so sweet! All three scored Elite High Gold. Next came large groups, starting with our Line that combines Pre-teens, Teens, and Seniors. The day continued on with one dance after another. My poor girl was exhausted, and hungry by the end. I got her popcorn chicken to nibble on as she was able, and she had other snacks in her bag, but there just wasn’t a lot of time for eating. She was on Spring Break the following week, and slept most of Monday. Most of her routines scored Elite High Gold, with tap and hip hop scoring Platinum.

A few notes about this competition:

  • The programs were a reasonable price at $10, but there weren’t any places to write awards. I always appreciate when they do have those sections. On the up-side, the pace of the awards was not so fast that you couldn’t keep up to record them. They were very good at announcing the numbers (with the exception of one judge announcing her special awards).
  • I mention this with almost every competition, but when awards are being announced, they should really turn the music off. It’s distracting, and can make it hard to hear.
  • I liked the shorter sessions between awards. It made the awards sessions go faster too.
  • I don’t understand why they only give one medal to duets/trios. Two-three people earned it, they should each get one.
  • I appreciated that at the awards session for Seniors, they acknowledged the Graduating Seniors, and asked them to stand up. It was weird to see Grace among them.

    BravO!, Honoring Graduating Seniors.

  • Tap sounds were picked up with microphones. You couldn’t see them from the audience, but tap sounds were loud enough that you could often hear them out in the lobby.
  • I liked some of the different awards they gave, such as the “Excellence in Showmanship” award which gave the winner a goody bag of swag, plus a scholarship to a summer intensive (one of our dancers won this one), and the Scholarship Award that gave the winner a larger ($300) scholarship to a summer intensive. My friend from high school was there, and her son won this award. It was so cool to see familiar faces on that stage! They also had a raffle that gave gift cards to Discount Dance Supply, and garment bags from Dream Duffel. I enjoyed seeing the variety of interaction that we don’t often get to see at competitions. I’m sure the sponsors appreciate their mentions as well! 😉
  • Being the “New guy” at a competition can be somewhat frustrating. This is our 2nd year at BravO!, many of the other studios there come every year, and/or attend their Nationals. We were very familiar with other studios there, as we have seen them at the Masquerade Nationals we attend every year, or at other competitions. We saw some great routines, which is part of the fun of attending competitions. These routines, as well as some of ours, scored very high. The frustrating part came when the Top 5 in different categories became what seemed to be predictable. I’m not saying anything was “rigged”, or that judges were playing favorites. Some routines were very clearly entered in the wrong category, others were given higher scores that I would have given. I know I’m not a judge, but I have been attending competitions for years. I just didn’t agree with some of the judges’ choices or scores… I just hope the critiques justified the scores, and/or were helpful.
  • Overall, this is a fun competition. Grace told me it felt like a big party. The music and lights at the beginning of awards’ sessions are exciting. The announcer is a little over-the-top with his commentary, but he is also very entertaining. I enjoyed most aspects of the competition. On to the next one!

 

Guest Choreography

Over the past several years, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC) has branched out into having guests choreograph different routines. Most years, it has been small groups or solos. The exception has been that the Senior Hip Hop group was the only large group having guest choreography. Choreographers have included teachers from other local studios, and, in more recent years, other professionals from the dance world.

The benefits of having guests choreographers are many. Dancers who learn from a variety of instructors, whether it be guest choreographers, or through Master classes or conventions, become better dancers. They get to learn new techniques and styles they might otherwise not experience.

Grace’s first experience with a guest choreographer was 3 years ago. She was in the Senior Hip Hop Group. Katelyn Bloomquist (formerly Rademacher), was the choreographer. The routine was called “Bake Shop”. It was a fun routine, with a unique twist on hip hop and baking. 🙂

2017-2018 – “Ya Ya” with Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker

The next year, her hip hop routine, “Starving”, was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel. It was a smooth hip hop routine. They got special judges’ awards for their style and performance. Last year, her hip hop routine was also choreographed by Anthony Gabriel, with Cory Booker as a co-choreographer. This was a hard-hitting routine called “Ya Ya”. Our dancers again received judges awards for this routine, with comments about how different this routine was from any they had seen from LADC before.

2017-18 – “Love Me or Leave Me” with Kaleena Miller

Last year, her tap small group was choreographed by Kaleena Miller. We have been to many of her tap shows before, and are big fans of her style. Last year’s piece was called “Love Me or Leave Me.” Her rhythmic tap style made for a happy, fun routine that challenged our dancers. This piece was also selected to perform in the 2018 Twin Cities Tap Festival. This year’s tap small group routine has also been choreographed by Kaleena Miller.

 

2018-19 Graduating Seniors – lyrical small group with Katelyn Bloomquist.

This year, Grace has 5 routines (including the tap small group listed above) that are guest choreographed. She has lyrical and contemporary small groups, both choreographed by Katelyn Bloomquist.

Her hip hop large group has been choreographed by Erik Saradpon. Once again, this is a very different style of hip hop for their group.

 

2018-19 Hip Hop with Erik Saradpon

 

She is also part of a new Heels large group that has been choreographed by James Kinney, and Alex Nordin. This group routine has a completely different feel than any our studio has performed before. The girls were all extremely excited when they finished their choreography session with these two!

2018-19 Heels routine with James Kinney and Alex Nordin

Grace loves all of her dances she has learned so far. It’s going to be a great Senior year!

BravO! Dance & Talent Competition

This year, Lake Area Dance Center went to a new (to us) competition, BravO! Dance & Talent Competition. This was our last Regional Competition of the year. It was a great way to end the season!

I really liked this competition. Many parents and dancers said it felt more like a show, which made it even more fun. They had the lights go down between dances, which several dancers that I talked to said they liked. Before the awards sessions, there was a musical intro, light show, etc. It really built it up, making it fun to watch! On the screen on the sides of the stage, it said what award they were giving, which helped when trying to follow along with all the extras that we weren’t familiar with. The emcee was quite entertaining too. He had some corny commentary while props were being set up or taken down, or if there was any downtime while waiting for a group to finish a costume change. It was pretty funny (if you like cheesy humor).

Another nice thing about this competition, was that it wasn’t spread out over several days. It was very small – 2 days, and done! The downside that came with that, was that there were a lot of FAST costume changes. There were typically 4 dances in between each routine.

The Venue

This competition was held at Chanhassen High School. The theater was very nice. Acoustics were great, the stage was a decent size, There were two downsides of this venue. The first was that there were a million stairs to get down to the dressing room. There was no elevator accessible. When you have 8 costumes, and all the shoes that go with each dance, that bag is really heavy to carry down! With so many quick changes, going up and down the steps super fast was exhausting (for the parents, and we weren’t even the ones dancing). I don’t know how the dancers did it! The other downside of this venue, was that there were no concessions. The upside, is families could bring in food, which meant potentially healthier choices, and less cost to families. The boutique did have candy and water (maybe pop too) for those who needed something quick.

The Breakdown

One thing that was new (and a bit confusing), were the levels that dancers competed at. The first level, was “Encore!”, which would be the equivalent of recreational or novice. Next was “O!verture”, which would be like the intermediate level. Finally, was the “BravO!” level, which is the equivalent of the advanced level.

Categories were broken down by age, which made it seem like there were a lot of divisions. For example, within Junior, there was Junior (9), Junior (10), and Junior (11). There were also a ton of different awards they gave out at the overalls. There was the Entertainment Award, Outstanding Performance, Choreography, Standing Ovation, and Costume Award. There were scholarship opportunities (for dance intensives in Chicago), a Discount Dance Supply gift certificate raffle, and an Excellence in Showmanship Award. For this last award, the winner got a bag with a few goodies from Discount Dance Supply.

Another thing that was a little different was the scoring. The highest scores received a Platinum. Next, was Elite High Gold (we are used to High Gold at this level). I believe Gold was next, though, I don’t recall seeing any given.

During awards, they always called the teacher up for the 1st place winners. It was sometimes a bit awkward while we waited for the teacher to come up. They almost should have sat the teachers on the side of the stage so it would have been easier for them to get up there, and/or waited to interview the dancer until the teacher was there.

Duets/trios only got 1 medal. Participants could purchase a 2nd/3rd medal from the boutique if they wanted to. This caused some frustration for some of the younger kids when they placed. The only other thing I didn’t like about awards, actually had more to do with the program. It wasn’t overly expensive (I think $10). What I didn’t like about it, was that it didn’t have a place to write the awards. They did awards in a way that it was not too bad to go back and forth through the program to write them down, but I always appreciate being able to just sit on one page.

Something I noticed this year, was that there were a couple of studios that always stood up for the 1st place winners. Plie Dance Company did that at this competition. I love the sportsmanship that this shows!

The Results

Our studio did pretty well. “Gaga”, our Production dance, got 1st place, and the Standing Ovation award. “Studio 54”, our disco themed Line dance that has our preteens-seniors, also placed 1st, and got the Entertainment award. Several of our other large and small groups placed, and most got platinum scores. Grace’s solo got a Judges’ Award for being a Joy to Watch. The judge said she had a smile that made her want to watch her routine. It was such a great moment for Grace, since that was one of her goals all year! She also scored a platinum. 🙂 Some of our friends stayed after large groups to watch her… It was such a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Year to Go

This past weekend, LADC had their annual dance recitals. I will write about those later. While watching the afternoon recital, I started to reflect on the fact that Grace only has one year of competitive dance to go.

tweeted the following, as a summary of how I was feeling. “Watching all the Seniors at the dance recital today got me feeling emotional. Mostly I was thinking about how hard it’s going to be next year, but also, I adore those girls that are graduating!”

This year, Grace has really found a love of performing. I have never seen bigger smiles on her face as she danced. My mom commented at the recital about how much joy she was oozing while she danced. It has been fun watching her improve so much each year! After next year, I will miss the competition scene, even though they tend to get stressful at times. There’s something about being at dance competitions that I just love. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I really enjoy sitting in the audience, watching the dances from all the different studios. I love watching Grace perform, but also all the other dancers from our studio. I have watched so many dancers grow up over the past 7 seasons. When I watch the littles on stage, it’s like watching nieces and nephews dancing. I feel as proud of them when they win, as if they were my own family members.

As I was thinking about my feelings, I realized I shouldn’t be sad. I will still be around the studio as an Adult Tap student. That said, I won’t have those extended amounts of time there, where I will be able to get to know the other dance families. I will miss working at the front desk, and being able to help Maria wherever I can. I will miss being that obnoxious parent that is around every corner with a camera (especially at competitions). I am currently the studio “stalkerazzi”… I enjoy taking pictures not only of Grace and her dance friends, but also of other kids. I enjoy being able to share them with other parents, and our studio owner.

I was thinking about all of this as Miss Maria was honoring the Seniors. Every year, she pulls each of the Seniors and their families to the stage. She honors each one with some thoughts on her experiences with each of them. When she was talking to them, she said she wished she had enjoyed the moments she had with them just a little bit more. She talked about trying to enjoy each of their lasts with them through the year… I’m going to try to remember that next year, as we go through one last after another… last first day of dance (after 14 years), last solo, last competition, last recital, last Nationals… I’m going to try to enjoy each of those “in the moment”, and try not to be sad about them. I’m going to enjoy each conversation I have with each of the dance families, knowing that it won’t be the last time I see many of them…. Most of all, I’m going to try to enjoy every second I get to watch Grace on stage, performing her heart out!

It’s going to be a tough year, but will also be amazing, because it will signal the beginning of many new firsts…

 

 

Masquerade Regionals – 2018

Grace and her fan club – Kennedy and Maddy

Our studio recently attended Masquerade Dance Competition, traditionally, our favorite competition of the year. It was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. It ended up being a 3-day long weekend for us (some were there even more than that).

Grace started the competition weekend by going to school for half a day, then we went down to Burnsville for her solo. She was really nervous, as Masquerade tends to bring some of the Best of the Best dancers in the Twin Cities. She REALLY wanted to wow the judges so she would be selected for Parade of Stars (being invited back to participate in the Opening Number at Nationals). She was hungry, but wouldn’t eat beforehand. She was too nervous. Just as she started her solo, her leg started spasming. She danced well in spite of this. I only knew something was wrong because I saw a quick flash of pain go across her face for a split second. I was worried she had re-sprained her ankle. Unfortunately, this was not her year for Parade of Stars. She scored a High Gold on her solo.

Miss Maria did Grace’s hair for her solo. So cute!

Saturday, we were back for Production. It looked so good! I wrote a note that said that I thought it was much better than the last competition! They got a platinum score, and 3rd overall. This was the day all the minis-juniors did all their large and small groups. By the time it got to production in the afternoon, you could tell they were all tired! This was true across pretty much all the studios. It was a long day for those little kids, without much time to rest.  The judges must have been pretty tired too, because the music was so loud! I think they were trying to make sure everyone stayed awake. The down side, was that they kept it fairly loud during awards too, so it was a bit hard to hear how some dances did. Usually, we do not have this issue at this particular competition. Luckily, we could still hear the tap sounds, though, I did not see microphones on the stage.

Studio 54 – a disco themed Line featuring our Preteens-Seniors. (photo creds to Miss Maria)

Sunday, Grace had the rest of her dances. It was a 12-or-so hour day for our preeteens-seniors. In true Masquerade style, the day started out with tap for our large and small groups. I’m glad they got to do their tap dances while they still had full energy. By the end of the day, they were all pretty worn out! Despite their exhaustion, all of the Seniors’ dances scored a platinum. Blue Moon, their musical theater dance got Audience Choice, and a “Class Act” Judges Award. YaYa, the Teen/Senior Hip Hop group, got a “Passive Aggressive” award. The judge commented on how their look (hair down, hats on), their hard hitting dance, etc was so different that what Lake Area Dance usually does. Their Line dance, Studio 54, got called back to do an encore. It was so much fun! Encore is one of the things we love about Masquerade! Another, is the ability of the audience to vote for their favorite dance in each category. When you download the Masquerade app, you can vote with the free version. If you want to pay for it, you can get live updates of what dance is on stage, how long until the next awards session, etc.

I heard a lot of parents at this competition asking about the color levels. At Masquerade, dances either compete at the green, gold, or purple level. Green is the equivalent of a novice or recreational level. Gold would be intermediate, while purple is the advanced level. If you’ve never been to Masquerade before, this can be confusing. The dances are scored similarly as most competitions. Judges score each routine, and then dances are given an adjudication based on their score. The highest “score” a dance can receive is Platinum. Next is High Gold, then Gold, then Silver, and finally, bronze. Most dances we have seen score somewhere in the gold – platinum range.

Hanging out with dance moms and friends who came to support our dancers.

Overall, this competition was fun as always. It has become very comfortable for us, as we almost feel it is an extension of our dance family. We look forward to our next competition, which will be a new one for us.

 

 

Legacy Dance Championships – 2018

A couple weeks ago, our studio had its first studio-wide dance competition of the season, Legacy Dance Championships. It was a great weekend. We were lucky in that we only had to be there 2 days.

This competition was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. This is always our favorite venue. It’s nice to be in a place that feels so familiar!

My daughter’s day started with her tap small group. She loves this dance, as it was choreographed by one of her tap idols, Kaleena Miller. The dance is in a style of tap that is different than what Grace is used to, but is also a great challenge. I really enjoy this dance too, so it was a fun way to start the day! She then had her large group dances – tap, contemporary, Line (a disco themed jazz dance including all competitive dancers preteen-seniors),  and musical theater. That evening, she competed her solo. I love her dances this year!! Her tap dance is so much fun (and funny). It was choreographed by Lake Area Dance Center‘s owner, Maria Pomerleau (as were the musical theater, and Line). Her solo is a tap solo to “Cheek to Cheek”. I LOVE it soooo much! Instructor Madelyn Lee choreographed the perfect dance for her! It makes me smile when I watch her. Due to her platinum score, she also got invited to be part of their Nationals Opening Number. Unfortunately, I think all of their Nationals are at times that we can’t go, but it was a huge honor for her to be invited.

Grace and Madelyn. I wish these two could do a tap duet!

Sunday, she had her hip hop dance, which was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker. It’s a hard-hitting routine that provides a good challenge for our girls. Grace also had to fill in for a dancer in the Teen Hip Hop group she assists with. One of the girls sprained her ankle really bad a couple days before the competition, so Grace was asked to fill in. Finally, our studio had their Production dance, which is Lady Gaga themed. It took first overall of the production dances. Very exciting!

Some notes about Legacy this year:

  • For the first year that I can remember, the volume was not too loud. In fact, they turned the music down during tap dances in order to help the judges hear the tap sounds. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. When Grace’s small group went, the very beginning was a little off. When I was talking to her later, she said they had turned it down so far, it was very hard to hear the music. Luckily, they recovered very quickly.
  • YaYa – Senior Hip Hop

    The judges each gave out 3 Special Awards. The interesting thing, was they didn’t present their own awards. Grace’s tap dance, “Stronger”, got a Judge’s Award for being clean, and accurate.

  • I don’t remember them offering scholarships in past years, but this year, they did. One of our Petite Small Groups, “Take Off With Us”, got a Choreography Award and a scholarship to Dance Dreams (what sounds like a convention, from what I could tell).
  • DanceXcel had impressive sportsmanship. Whenever the first place overall dance was called, the entire studio stood up to clap for them (whether it was from their studio or not). What a great ethic to instill in those dancers!
  • This had nothing to do with the competition, but the venue ran out of food by mid-day on Sunday. When people are there all day, and can’t leave, it really stinks for them! I left to go get food for us and our studio owner. This was the one and only time they actually let people bring food in.

Despite the busy scheduled, we still had a lot of fun. Her dances were great, and they scored well. We couldn’t ask for anything else. 🙂

 

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: