Competitions have changed a lot through the years. The dancing has gotten better, the costumes have gotten smaller, and the awards have become more confusing. Back in the good old days (yes I’m that old), the awards used to be one of two systems – either 1st, 2nd, and 3rd or Gold, Silver, and Bronze. They were easily recognizable and everyone knew where you stood at the end of the day. In the new era of “no dancer left behind,” we have elevated these awards to a whole new level. I recently returned from a competition where the award levels include Gold, High Gold, and Lightning Gold. That way, no matter what you score – you still won Gold. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why they do it. This way every dancer feels like they achieved the top level. However, I hate to break it to you, but your kids are not dummies. You can call the levels whatever you’d like; these dancers still know what 1st, 2nd, and 3rd means.
As we continue to elevate dance awards, where does it end? I often joke with my dancers that soon they’ll be competing for the overall, top platinum, diamond, sparkly gold pillar of awesomeness. So, I am calling on all of you dance teachers, dance parents, and dance supporters in general to stop the madness! Your dancer knows how well they did regardless of what you call their award. Let’s start being honest with our dancers by praising their achievements, commending them on their strengths, and giving them an honest assessment of where they need to improve.
In fact, let’s take it one step further. How about we, as the adults in charge of their dance education, allow them to fail and still feel valued. It is up to us how much power we allow that diamond pillar of awesomeness to have over our dancers. They are looking to us to set that standard. Of course we want our dancers to do well, but if they don’t place well at a dance competition, that should not define their sense of self worth. So let’s not allow it to.
During last year’s competition season, I set my own goals for my team that had nothing to do with their placement level. I told them I didn’t care what award they brought home because we would know whether they were successful based on our own measuring stick. I told them I would be proud even if they brought home the Aluminum Foil Award – my own tongue in cheek reference to the crazy placement system that has taken over the dance competition circuit. I figured if Platinum was the new top level, then Aluminum Foil had to be somewhere near the bottom.
That competition day, my dancers performed beautifully, and placed well, although to be perfectly honest I can’t remember exactly how well. What I do remember is watching their faces light up as I passed out my own hand made awards to them – foil wrapped ding dongs with a label on which I had written “Aluminum Foil Award of Awesomeness.” My dancers cracked up, hugged, cheered, and celebrated over these silly little ding dongs. These foil wrapped awards got more attention, talk, and selfie posts than their actual trophy.
Your dancer wants to feel successful, and valued, and appreciated. But I promise that aluminum foil does the job just as well as sparkly platinum – as long as it’s wrapped in love!