The topic of levels  at competition is an interesting subject because I mixed feelings on the issue, so I am going to discuss my inner debate. When I competed, the competition circuit was very straightforward and upfront with awards presentations: everyone competed together and routines received a gold, silver, or bronze. There certainly were not “mega diamond platinum” awards and receiving a gold was a true honor. Now, gold is often the lowest achievement given at varying awards ceremonies.

I also understand that the competition circuit has grown tremendously and levels have been added to make the playing field “more fair” to the participants since competitions often host studios of varying locale, length of training, technical degree, class hours, etc. From a business perspective (on the competition’s behalf), the rationale is smart, and I get it.

At the same time, does it not seem as though it would be equally fair to have everyone compete together? After all, it is a competition, and if you are going to compete, I feel that you need to be prepared for whatever the event may bring. Life does not offer a “competitive division”, an “intermediate division”, and a “recreational division”, so why should a dance competition? With varying levels, are we preparing our students in the best possible way for job interviews and auditions? When you walk into to an interview/audition scenario, you do not select the division in which you want to interview/audition. You have to be as prepared as possible .

Plus, does separating students into divisions make anyone feel better in the long-term? The competition experience is about much more than a ranking or a trophy; the experience emphasizes achieving personal bests, goal-setting, working as a team, and building self-confidence (to name a few). If parents and studio owners subscribed to this philosophy, competitive events could be richer learning experiences for everyone. With many competitions expanding beyond two entry levels, the registration process has become baffling. Every competition has different justifications of their leveled names and rules for group entries. Should entering a dance competition be a confusing process?

At the end of the day, think about it: are you using competitive experiences to truly benefit the growth, education, and training of your students? The paradigm shift has stemmed from studios, and I am having a difficult time understanding the rationale. Trophies collect dust, but true training and inspiration gained from the experience is something invaluable that will have a lasting impact on your students and your legacy. And, that is something that is way more valuable than any “double titanium crystal diamond” trophy.

award trophy