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Is clean or challenging choreography more important?


Dance Teacher Talk : Clean vs Challenging Choreography on DanceKellyStyle.netYou’ve been there. The step is hard. A few of your dancers get it. And they get it right away. But sometimes, it feels like the back line isn’t quite big enough. So what side do you fall on — clean choreography or challenging choreography? Do you split the difference? Of course, it always depends on the class. Here’s what a few fellow dance teachers had to say when asked,

What’s more important, being clean or having challenging choreography?

Clean, clean, clean!
Miss Kathy 

This is a tough question! In the end I believe being clean is ultimately going to help your dancers score higher. However, the choreographing should be a challenge for your dancers when they first start their routine so they have something to push for. I’m never afraid to give them a challenge, but then edit things that don’t work out before heading to our first competition.
Eva M. 

I err on the side of challenging choreography although I try to hit that sweet spot in the middle! I want the students to have some new challenges but also to show what they are great at so they can have confident performances.
Elise H. 

I think what determines how difficult of choreography the dancers need is simply what level they currently are. Keeping them challenged always is essential, but reinforcing cleanliness and precision is equally as important. In terms of competition, I believe clean, less difficult choreography tends to score better than super difficult choreography that isn’t clean.
Mr. Brian 

How do you juggle clean vs. challenging choreography? When do you draw the line? Share your tips in the comments.

** Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **

How to Deal with Dancers Feeling Inadequate

How to Deal with your dancers feeling inadequate at competitionWe’ve all been there. In the studio, at convention, or in our own heads. We’ve all felt a little bit out of league sometimes. So, I asked some of my favorite fellow teachers,

How do you deal with dancers feeling inadequate at dance competitions against other studios with a great reputation?

The had some great ways of dealing with, and preventing, the pain, frustration and overwhelming feelings that can come along with that “not good enough” attitude that gets stuck in our own and our dancers’ heads.

I emphasize the importance of focusing on their individual performances and not on overalls. They can only control what they do on the stage and what they do in preparation (technique class!!).
Elise H. 

Remind students they are competing against a score, not another dancer. Also teachers should make sure they place students in correct categories. Don’t play dancers off one another.
Miss Kathy


I try to focus my students on personal progress. Have you put in your best efforts in rehearsal? If so then your best is all you can do. We celebrate the little victories like moving up in their adjudications or not being corrected by a judge for something they’ve been working on. Also, I make sure to point out really great performers from other studios and encourage my dancers to watch and learn from how they command the stage.
Eva M. 

I think it’s important to prepare the dancers in the rehearsal process to not be intimidated by other studios. Reinforcing that their confidence in what they are bringing to the stage should be their focus is important to me. At the same time, being inspired by other great dancers is always encouraged.
Mr. Brian 

How else can we get out of our own heads and use more advanced dancers to inspire us and our students? Share your thoughts in the comments.

** Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **

Judges’ Table with Taryn

Name: Taryn Molnar LancasterTaryn Molnar 1

Time Judging: Five Years

Competitions: Bravo!, Starquest, Access Broadway

What’s the best/most memorable number you’ve seen at competition? A tap solo to spoken word (written by the dancer). I cried!

What’s your biggest performance pet peeve? Over-the-top, inauthentic faces. Choreography/costumes that are not age appropriate. Unnecessary use of props/sets.

What are you looking for when judging? Story-telling, energy, and of course, stretched feet!

Any advice for dancers? If you love what you are doing, we will love watching you.

Any advice for teachers/choreographers? Talk with you dancers about the “purpose” of the choreography — What does the song mean? Who are you when you dance to it? what do you want the audience to feel watching you?

I would much rather see something different than something “popluar”. Think outside the box!

Taryn, thank you so much for taking time to give us more insight to what the judges are looking for. Do you have a question for the judges? Do you want to sound off about your judging experience? Get in touch.

Judge’s Table with Lesley

Name:Lesley Mealor

Time Judging: Three Years

Competitions: Headliners, Elite Dance Cup, NYLA Dance Competitions and Conventions

What’s the best/most memorable number you’ve seen at competition? A hip hop routine to Rhianna’s “Raining Men”. The style was perfect, the dancers hit it so hard, and I still think about it a year later! They were really engaging and you could tell they were having a blast.

What’s your biggest performance pet peeve? When a dancer messes up, or is unhappy with their execution of a step, and they show their feelings on their face. No matter what happens, your “performance face” must be on!

What are you looking for when judging? Potential. Oftentimes, the best dancer is not my favorite dancer. I look for dancers with the potential to be better. The dancer who has a sparkle in their eye. Dance competitions are about challenging yourself to be a better dancer.

Any advice for dancers? NEVER stop taking ballet. You will thank yourself when you’re older. Take each opportunity to compete as an opportunity to challenge yourself to go further than you did last time. It’s not about the trophy. I truly believe that.

Any advice for teachers/choreographers? Please please please put your dancers in tights. Please make them take ballet. Please encourage community within your studio. Generous dancers are the ones who will be the most successful, not only in the industry, but in their personal lives.

Thanks, Lesley, for giving us an insight to the judge’s table!

Do you have a question for the judges? Do you want to sound off about your judging experience? Let us know.