Dance competition season keeps dancers on their toes

Sydney Gastman, staff writer

While dancing for 16 to 20 hours a week may seem like a lot, the dancers at Rock City Dance Center (RCDC) wouldn’t have it any other way. With the dance competition season underway, juniors Blair James and Annie Niswanger have been putting in hours upon hours of practice after school and on the weekends in order to continue their success at competitions all across Arkansas and beyond. They often go straight to the dance studio after school, but it seems to relax them.

“Dancing is such a good way to express how you’re feeling. Just being able to move around to any music makes me feel so much better after a rough day,” Niswanger said.

Dancers at RCDC practice all year for the three-day competitions in the spring. So far, the competitive dancers have travelled to St. Louis, Dallas, Memphis, and Hot Springs and have been doing well, winning in many of the categories they have entered for their technique and performance.

“Competitions are hard to understand for anyone who is not involved. At competitions you are given ‘adjudication scores’ which put you in three brackets: gold, high gold, or platinum,” James explained. “Platinum is the best and means you scored high. Then you are placed in a top ten. Not everyone and not every group places so it’s always an honor to place.”

Dancers are judged by three different people at every competition. Because everyone has his or her own opinion, competitions play out differently each time.

“At one competition you will be loved by the judges, and at the next you’re not what they want. In the end it’s all about understanding that competitions are for growing not winning,” James added.

James, Niswanger, and the other dancers at RCDC maintain a positive attitude toward competitions regardless of their outcomes. They most strongly value having fun and doing what they love in the company of their friends.

“Every competition is so much fun, particularly the awards part. My whole studio will play games on stage and have dance circles going on before they start the awards, and it’s always so funny,” Niswanger said.

Styles of dance at competitions include ballet, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, jazz and musical theater. James’s favorite is ballet because she finds it relaxing, and she loves wearing her pointe shoes. Niswanger’s favorite is contemporary, which combines elements of ballet with a modern twist.

“It’s just about moving, not about the tricks. It’s really about just zoning in your artistry as a dancer,” Niswanger said.

For these competitive dancers, dancing is their passion. Both James and Niswanger love being on stage. It is their favorite part about being a dancer.

“The adrenaline rush I get from performing for tons of people with my closest friends is one of the best feelings in the world,” Niswanger said.

Dancing may be a blast, but it’s not easy; it takes dedication to be successful. James is aiming to become a commercial dancer when she grows up. She continually puts in hard work to grow as a dancer. She even got the dedication award last year for being the most dedicated dancer at her studio.

“I love dance because it completes who I am as a person. It gives me a way to express my thoughts and feelings without having to say any words,” James said. “I love everything about it honestly, from how simple but beautiful a pointed foot can be to the most complicated dance move. I just really love everything about it.”

The competition season gives passionate dancers like James and Niswanger an opportunity to showcase their talents, finally presenting what they have been practicing all year long.