When it comes to competitions, many inexperienced dancers believe that practicing only their routines is enough. However, there is much more to the event…what happens if you bump into somebody? Or you forget a step? How about the noise distractions?
The last thing you want is to mess up just when you’ve got the chance to compete!
While many of these variables are not within your control (such as music you’ve never danced to that’s played by the DJ), the best way to counteract these potential issues is to create a simulated competition event.
What is a simulated competition? And why is it important?
Just like flying/driving simulators, where you get behind the screen and drive in certain environments for training purposes, you can do the same for competitions. Despite not being the real thing, replicating the event and mimicking certain variables in the environment to make the process become as close to the real thing as possible to improve your confidence on the day of your competition.
How to create a simulated competition environment in 5 steps.
1. Have someone play DJ by choosing random songs for specific times.
In a typical dance competition, and the ensure fairness to all competitors, the music is picked at random and played between 1:45-2:00 minutes. Make sure not to play only your favourite songs as there will always be a chance where the DJ just might play something you dislike on the actual day. This will ensure that you will learn to match your tone to the music style and train your ability to pick up the music count within the first 3 seconds of a song.
In case you’re unable to have someone play DJ:
If you’re the tech savvy type, I highly recommend downloading Audacity (a free sound editor and recorder software) and trimming competition standard songs to the recommended time and stitch them up into a single mp3. While the songs are not completely randomized in this situation, these 5-dance mp3 tracks have proven useful for practicing final rounds, measuring out your routine length, and especially during times when you don’t want to go back and forth pressing for different songs.
2. Have someone do round announcements to practice your entrance and exit.
Rookies take note! The competition doesn’t start when you’re dancing! In fact, it starts even earlier: you’re already being judged from the moment you step on the floor for your heat. In fact, the way you present yourself as you take to the floor will affect your scoring as your confidence will show the judges if you’re good to go for another round.
Have one person can act as an announcer between heats and rounds welcoming and thanking couples as you practice everything from the entrance, bows/curtseys right down to exiting the floor. It will become second nature as you practice your entrance and exits, which push you to gain better confidence on the floor.
3. Practice in a large hall or gymnasium.
You’re probably used to dancing at the studio where space is limited. However, when it comes to the real event, it’s usually taken place in a hall or gymnasium where there is plenty more space to accommodate to having more dancers on the floor at the same time.
Suddenly, you’ll have a different feeling in the movements because you may suddenly feel much smaller in an open from from that extra space. By practicing in an open area, aiming to make your actions as expansive as possible to occupy that space and to making yourself present becomes essential.
4. Practice with more couples on the floor at the same time.
We all dislike bumping into one another on the floor and ideally prefer to practice solo (or with our partner) in front of mirrors. Yet running into each other on the floor is the norm in competitions because you will be dancing with many different couples at the same time. Placing yourself in a situation where there are more people on the floor will help you learn to improve your floor craft as you navigate and weave through crowded zones. While it will not be as crowded as the real event, you will learn to recover more quickly while keeping your cool on the floor.
5. Get people to watch and cheer for you on the sidelines.
In addition to points 2 and 3, another factor that will become a distraction is people watching on the sidelines. It’s one thing when you’re only practicing with you’re classmates, but when there is an audience present, you’re suddenly put on the spot as if you’re expected to put on a performance.
Swallow that uncomfortable feeling and get used to it, because when you’re competing on the floor, it is a show of confidence and competence against the other dancers.
Have your audience cheer for you as well, because aside from having people watch you, you may suddenly feel self-conscious from suddenly hearing your name chanted on the sidelines. Again, get used to the noise, because there will be fans cheering for everybody wherever you go, especially if you will have friends coming to watch you on the day.
While the best way to gain confidence in competitive environments is to take part as many competitions as you can, having competition simulations is similar to doing mock exams before the actual event. Imitating the atmosphere of the actual environment, just as it acts as a form of rehearsal, will help you become better prepared for your next competition.
Over to you: have you got your own tips for running a competition simulation? Let me know in the comments below! Share this article with a friend preparing for their competition!
Image source: Porfitron