Competition season has ARRIVED!
For many competitors, this is the season of joy and hard work. A time when many dancers start to prepare and partner up for the upcoming competition (SoCal Tango Festival) as well as the national USA Tango Championship. But who are these competitors and why do they do it?
What’s the fun of getting stressed out dancing in front of an audience? Where’s the fun in taking more time out of your busy week to practice?
The typical USA tango competitor can be either an aspiring professional looking to get performance experience, a passionate artist who loves sharing his or her art with the community, or even simply an adrenaline-junkie/thrill-seeker looking to perform in front of an audience. But for the most part, competitions are popular because they’re fun and extremely beneficial to your dance.
1. The excitement!
Performing in front of a live audience is exhilarating, fun, and terrifying even. It’s all part of the excitement. It’s definitely not for everyone but for one time in your life, to share your personal expression of tango with all of your friends and family, why not? It’s like any other live performance, a piano recital, a sports event, a public speech, a play…it’s performing for a live audience–nothing more.
For some people, it serves to propel their dancing to levels never before imagined. It seems farfetched at first but it really happens. First people say, “Me? Not me. I could NEVER do that!” And then it becomes, “Actually, I think I can do this.” And finally…”I love this. It’s so much fun!”
Sharing your personal art is supposed to be scary. It’s supposed to make you feel vulnerable. You’re exposing your heart, something close to you. But what happens after it’s all done? You feel the love and support from all your closest family and friends. It’s not about tango anymore. It’s about sharing a piece of yourself with everyone around you and we’re all proud of you for doing it.
2. Your dancing improves rapidly
You might be surprised by how much a dancer can improve simply by performing in front of others. This is actually one little known reason why some dancers compete. It’s not actually to win, but to improve. (And isn’t that the REAL “win” anyway?)
Preparing for a live performance makes you take a hard look at your dancing. Reflecting honestly with yourself on what you see in your dance. At the end of the day, the most important judge is you…and preparing for a competition is often times the very first time that a dancer has ever judged himself or herself honestly.
Having a performance date will also put a timeline, goals, and objectives to your dance improvement. Most dancers are improving at a steady pace with no rush to get better. But how nice would it be to give your dancing a turbo boost? Imagine sharing the same mindset as dozens of other dancers who are serious about improving quickly.
You stress out for a couple weeks, learn all kinds of new things, and right after the competition is over…guess what, your dancing has improved 10-fold! Your embrace, your lines, your posture, your technique, your musicality, your connection with your partner…all these things magically improve right after a competition, don’t they?
3. Strengthen your partnership
Signing up for a tango competition can be a great way to strengthen your partnership. It gives your partnership goals and objectives to grow with each other. You’ll have many ideas and things to work on with each other. Instead of waiting for your next performance gig, or simply dancing socially with no goals for growing your connection, you can use the competition to push each other.
Preparing for a competition means you’ll have that much more opportunities to practice with each other, take classes/workshops/privates together, grow together, and alas, enjoy your end-result together in a community performance. If you already like dancing with each other, why not try performing with each other?
4. The professional experience
If you’ve ever aspired to become a professional tango dancer or artist one day, a tango competition can give you indispensable experience. You’ll get to experience the challenge of having a performance date, setting practice schedules, outfits, stage presence, and many of the little things that professional dancers worry about.
This experience will prepare you for the future. You learn how to walk out like a professional, how to deal with nerves and adrenaline. You learn how to perform your best even when under pressure. Best of all, you learn how to be the best version of you.
The Challenges faced when competing?
Some people have strong opinions regarding tango competition. They claim that art is subjective and can never be fairly judged. That competition ruins the true art of tango because now you are dancing for others instead of for your partner and for yourself. Many claim that the competition style is very cookie-cutter and boring, and that all competitors are trying to look the same. The biggest detraction is often that competitors are valued for style over substance.
Some of these statements have truth to them while others are downright assumptions and mis-conceptions.
Competition and public performance has always been a part of many artforms, especially in dance. Look throughout the history of tango and you will see many references to a spirit of competition. Many great dancers performed to share the latest discoveries in the art of Tango. Comparisons were made and whether or not you agreed, the artform had evolved for the better. If you performed, it is because you enjoyed dancing for an audience, not because someone forced you.
There is truth to the claim that competitors all copy a generic style. But would you not find a similar opinion of a pie-baking contest? This “generic competition style” you see is a result of the competition setting a standard for all competitors. Have an elegant dance, nice walk, connection, and musicality. It’s a game for you to showcase your art using these 4 major principles. Some play within the box, others play outside.
Those wanting nothing other than a trophy can certainly claim that the competition is unfair and doesn’t favor their style. Those who can appreciate the chance to perform and enjoy a friendly showcase, will find that tango competition is nothing other then a fun way to grow one’s dance.
- Read on to PART 2 – How to Find a Dance Partner
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