How to be a good ‘contest’ audience member

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Competition season has kicked off with the newest kid to the block, the Savoy Cup. I wanted to cover a couple of ideas around what it means (to me) to be a good competitor and audience member.

People enter competitions for all sorts of reasons. It might be a personal goal to focus on improving their dancing, it might be that they love to perform and we don’t have enough opportunities to do that in lindy hop, or it might be that it scares them and they want to push through that fear.

Whatever the reason they are competing, be supportive.

As an audience member – for the love of all that is holy – CLAP! CHEER! GIVE THEM ENERGY! Whether or not you know them. Whether or not it’s perfect. It’s part of the audience/performer contract. If people are nervous, having the crowd behind them can be so uplifting.
Be aware that sometimes we are so moved by a performance, or so distracted by watching that it’s hard to clap along, but do your best.
Smile at the performers, if feels so much nicer to perform for people who are interested and supportive.
Acknowledge them after the performance and congratulate them, or ask how it felt. When you see them in the hallway, at the nearby restaurant or on the dance floor. Competitions bring up all sorts of emotions – a kind word goes a long way.

If you’ve never competed before, try it sometime (it is often fun) and decide what success means for you going in. Often, ‘winning’ is just having the courage to share something you love with a group of people who also love that thing. It can be such a thrill. Best of luck to those competing at events across Europe this summer and to those hitting up ILHC and Camp Hollywood last this summer.

 

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Definitions of Success

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I’ve been thinking about the idea of ‘success’ lately in relation to dance. What it means to be successful, to find greatness and what that means for different people. This past weekend I went to Rock that Swing Festival in Munich and competing brought to light some familiar feelings and insights around competing that I thought I’d share. These are definitely coloured by my experience as a figure skater, solo dancer, jack and jill participant, partnered swing dancer, opera singer and burlesque performer. They are by no means groundbreaking, but might be helpful to someone else especially as people start preparing for London Swing Festival in May.

1. Define success before the competition. Why are you doing it? For the love of performing? For the thrill? To challenge your personal dancing? To place? Decide what success is before and then whatever the outcome take a moment to celebrate afterwards. You’ve worked hard.
2. Be kind to yourself. Unless it’s a showcase of some kind, you don’t get to pick the music, sometimes you don’t pick your partner or even the texture of the floor. The moment you walk on the dancefloor you’re winning – so don’t let other s#$% affect your state. Go back to what you defined as success. Sometimes it’s winning, sometimes it’s just sharing what you love with other people. If things go wrong, let them go. It’s just dancing! (I personally struggle with this, but you really do have to do it.)
3. Only wear things you’ve danced in before. This is something that I see far more in burlesque then lindy hop, but it still applies. Practice or social dance in the things you want to compete in. You’d marvel at how many things go flying or rip or tear when you haven’t tested them out. Wear that necklace or dress and make sure it’s not going to be more memorable then your performance.
4. Consistency is key. Practice your routine. Film yourself, watch the video and look for things to celebrate AND things to improve. Let yourself get comfortable with particular movements, tempos etc. It’s the easiest way to alleviate stress.
5. Look up. Maybe smile. Whether it’s burlesque, swing dance, cabaret – whatever – it’s about connection. Look up and connect with the people in the audience. Invite them in, make them a part of your success. They want you to do well and are on your side, let them give you energy. You’re in this together! That’s part of what makes dancing, performing and competing fun. If you lose this part it lacks the joy and life it deserves – that you deserve.