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



3 Responses to Competition Levels: Necessary, or Not?

  1. Danielle says:

    This is only our second year competing, and most of our students before that were recreational students. I grew up dancing for only ballet companies, and competitions were always looked down upon, so I never thought it would be something that I would be interested in having my studio be a part of, until I went to watch a competition a couple of years back and loved it!

    So, would you recommend that we enter our students in the highest level for each competition? If so, how do you explain to the dancers and more so, the parents, if they don’t score as well as what they would if they were in the suggested level by the competition? Last year we competed at the recreational level because I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and this year we were planning on entering in the intermediate level. Thanks! 🙂

    • Chasta Hamilton Calhoun says:

      Hi Danielle!

      Thank you for your comment! I completely agree with you about loving the competition experience. I loved it growing up, and I am thrilled that I can share it with my students. I’m sure your students love it, too! There are so many valuable lessons to be gained through the process.

      When there were just two divisions per competitive event, usually “Recreational” (a word I don’t really like) and Competitive, I would always enter my students in Competitive because I wanted them to strive to proficiently compete at that level, even if it meant ranking lower (and our class hour requirements correlated with the competitive division requirements).

      For parents, I include a clause in our Competition Handbook that states:

      “Competitive Designation:
      Please note that the Competition Team is a competitive organization and will enter students in the appropriate division of each competition based on the rules set forth by the competition organization.”

      Since many competitions have expanded to three levels, I have had to adjust my entry systems to strictly follow the rules set forth by the competition (usually based on hours in class per week). This is where I’m finding the system to be disadvantageous.

      It sounds like you have the best interest of your students at heart, and I hope you have a wonderful competition season! Please keep us posted!


  2. Elisabeth Berry says:

    I work at a dance studio that began competing last year, and I began choreographing for them this year. They only competed in one competition with one dance. This year we are expanding and multiple students are doing solos and duets as well as a few group numbers. My students spend at least three nights in the studio (if not four, five, or six), but they are not at the same level as the “Dance Moms” type competitors. Our studio’s primary focus is on performance and creating well trained dancers, however most of the students cannot perform clean octuple pirouettes!! I’m struggling with what type of competition and what division they should be placed in. As far as hours they usually meet the highest competitive level, but they have not grown up in the competitive environment. I also as a choreographer am not familiar with the competitive scene and feel that my choreography may not be up to par with those who have much more experience. Do you have any suggestions for our situation?