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How to Stand Out in a Dance Competition

How to Stand Out in a Dance Competition

Ariel Hsieh

June 10th 2021

You’re at a dance competition, choreography fully rehearsed, in full costume and makeup, and you are ready to go and show your best! But as you look around, everyone else is also in amazing makeup and costume, and each person is also ready to give their all! Among all these amazing dancers, with all the glitz and glamour, what can you do to stand out?

Have you ever passed by people dancing to live music on the street or at a concert? Perhaps they don’t have much in the way of dance experience, they’re clumsy in their movement, no impressive leaps or moves. Overall, you know… they’re not good at dancing.. But, there’s just something about the way they move that just draws you in. You can’t help but smile when you see them move, their joy and happiness in dancing just draws you in and you can’t take your eyes off their dancing. Or maybe there’s just one dancer during a group dance that always draws your eye. Is it because they’re the best dancer in the group, or is it something else? What is it about these dancers that makes them stand out? When you are competing against so many other people, all equally talented and well prepared, it is this secret charm that will give you the edge over all the other dancers. So what is the source of this charm?


Confidence is key. Everyone gets performance anxiety. It’s your big moment, and you might be afraid of messing up. What if you forget your choreography in the middle of the dance? What if you fall? What does my face look like? Is my makeup ok? Is my costume secure? Every little thing can heighten performance anxiety and decrease your confidence during your performance. But what is that bad dancer in the street doing? They don’t care that you are watching or judging them. They are dancing in whatever way that makes them feel happy. It may not look pretty or impressive, but their joy in dancing is infectious! They aren’t worried about the next step in the choreography for there is no choreography. They are dancing in the moment, not worried about what they have done, and what they will be doing. They are fully present in both mind and body in the movements they are producing in the present, and that complete presence is what draws us into their dancing.

What does that mean for you when you are competing? Be confident, be present. Don’t let your mind wander and worry about what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future. You have practiced this performance so many times, your body remembers exactly what comes next. Trust your body, and let your mind and body always be present in the moment. Be confident in your movement. Even if you mess up your choreography, the judges and audience won’t know that unless you let your confidence slip. And even if you do mess up, remember how impressed you are when you see another dancer make a strong recovery from a mistake! Don’t you want to be that person that makes an amazing recovery? Mistakes aren’t the end of the world unless you let it affect the rest of your performance. Don’t worry about what the judges or the audience thinks. Don’t worry about anything that has already passed, or psych yourself out about what will come in the future.

Feel the music! Enjoy feeling your body move to the music, and let yourself feel whatever emotions that come from the music and movement. Music has the power to deeply move people and induce strong emotions, and dance is using our bodies to portray that emotion. If your song brings you joy, then let yourself feel joy and smile! If your song is sad, let that sadness show. You are telling a story through your dance, and you want to let the audience know the emotions that people are feeling. Humans are extremely social creatures, and facial expressions are the most important forms of communication that we possess. We can see in a person’s face when the face doesn’t match an expected emotion. We may feel unease and dissonance if someone is smiling in a sad situation, or crying in a happy moment. As a dancer, you want to lead the audience through the emotions you are portraying in the dance. If you are only focused on dancing perfectly, what is your face saying? If you are worrying about your performance, that will show in your face and detract from your performance.