An open letter to dance competitions

I am a former dancer and current dance studio owner. I have heard the same comments time and time again and have felt this way for sometime. I will no longer sit back and brush off “that’s just the way it is“. The first step to change is voicing a concern. As a business owner myself, I take my customer feedback very seriously and I hope you do too.

I love dance competitions for what it can provide for dancers. I grew up competing and have some of the best memories from that time. However, we all know the world has changed...we are more advanced in every aspect, I feel...except for protecting our kids.

Many parents and studio directors are at the mercy of competitions to give their dancers experiences and the opportunity to work hard, learn team building and invaluable performance skills. While there are amazing pre-professionals at many competitions, it’s important to remember that these competitions are geared towards children, and we can do a better job for them.

Reasonable hours:

Competitions often start on Friday mornings and go to nearly midnight. Since everyone knows that children (unless homeschooled) have school Friday mornings, why not start competition AFTER school hours at 4 pm. They are often also competing at 11 pm, then have awards and frequently need to be back at the auditorium at 6 A.M. for another day of competition..this is pretty extreme to expect young children to do this and doesn’t set our children up for success in my opinion (and that of many others). I’m all for teaching discipline and making children work for their goals, but I also believe in setting them up for success. Parents spend hundreds of dollars for solos. Is it the best idea to let their two minute time to perform be at midnight or 7 am after a long night of competing? Dance studios are truly at the mercy of competitions in this case. I’m all for people making as much money as their heart desires, but it comes off greedy when you aren’t considerate of appropriate hours for children, the very community you are supposed to serve. How about start at 8 A.M. and make sure awards aren’t past 9 P.M. giving dancers plenty of time to arrive early and be prepared and still get to sleep at a reasonable time?

Oversexualized routines:

I hear concern about this at EVERY competition from parents, fellow studio directors and even judges, yet changes are not being made. I recently watched a documentary about Larry Nassar and his victims and it is so disgusting that many people knew of his wrongdoings and brushed it off. I will no longer sit back while nothing is done about this. While it is not the same as sexual assault, we are NOT protecting our children by allowing the adults in charge to brush this off...for what? A few extra dollars? In the name of art? Take a stand! I challenge you to DISQUALIFY inappropriate routines regardless of their talent. It will force dance instructors to use their talent for age appropriate choreography. Until a standard is set, changes won’t be made. We all know the cringeworthy routines with provocative costumes and kids basically humping the floor. I understand dance is an art, but I’m not talking about the teens performing a Fosse number, I’m talking about the 12 & unders dancing to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” with costumes and moves, missing just a stripper pole.

I know competitions have good intentions but until a standard is set in place, changes won’t be made. I am sick of getting the runaround and having to make excuses for an industry that I don’t think is really doing their best or taking this seriously.

We could say “it’s show business” but we are much more educated now as far as different experiences that can be detrimental to a child’s success, mental and physical health.

Take a stand with me! Let’s do better as an industry to serve our children!


Cristina O’Connell

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