Rehearsals have started for our 2018 Competition routines! It's an exciting time, but if you're the competitive type it can lead to the thought or question 'Why isn't my child in the front row?'.
Here are some reasons why ...
1. The dancer's ability isn't at the level required for the dancers in the front row.
If there are 5 dancers in the front row, these will often be the 5 dancers in the group who have the highest level of ability, including strong and correct technique and excellence performance quality. If your dancer has auditioned to be part of a dance competition team, chances are that all members will be at a high standard so this means that the front row of 5 may be the most exceptional out of the 15 dancers, may have more experience than others, or may have a unique skill/trick also. Remember technique means that the details of the movement are correct. Your child may be able to turn around 2 times but if their demo-pointe is low or their fingers separated, their pirouette is not consolidated yet.
2. The dancer may not be ready for a 'leader' role in the routine.
Dancers in the front row are effectively the 'leader' of that particular dance break. All dancers in the group must follow the front row in time, to ensure that the group dances in unison. A student might get nervous on stage and rush the music, so would therefore be better placed in a 2nd, or 3rd row so that they have a dancer to follow when those nerves come in.
3. Height. Competition dance routines are adjudicated on many aspects including the visual effect of the routine. It's important that the students are positioned in a way that makes sense according to the presentation of the choreography. For example, if there is a line of 5, the teacher may organise for all 5 dancers to be the same height or the tallest will be placed in the centre. This gives a symmetrical visual effect.
4. The dancer's work ethic may need improving. Sometimes, a student may not be placed in the front row of a routine due to their work ethic. Whilst exceptional ability and talent can often lead a student to be positioned in the front row, work ethic is also a major factor. If your dancer doesn't show regular attendance, doesn't arrive at class on time and warmed up, doesn't show evidence of practice at home, or often gets reminded by the teacher to be quiet, they may not be suitable for the 'front row'.
5. Suitability. In netball, some players will be selected to shoot the goals whilst some players are selected to defend. Dance is no different. In a Jazz routine, the choreographer's job is to select the the most suitable candidates to perform certain tasks or skills in a routine. Perhaps the 'front row' will be required to perform a double pirouette? The teacher will then select the 5 students with the most technically correct pirouette to perform that section of the routine. Perhaps the students in row 3 will be required to perform an aerial? That row will all be positioned there according to their aerial ability and which leg the take off from.
6. Casting. Most pieces of choreography have a theme, storyline or concept. For example, if a routine is based on Beauty and the Beast, the teacher may choose the most balletic dancer to be cast as Belle (as she is a princess) and the tallest dancer to be cast as the 'Beast'. Casting often isn't about the strongest or most experienced dancer being rewarded with a main part but about which dancer will best portray the character.
7. The student may have a unique skill or trick. Sometimes dancers are positioned in a routine in a specific place because the choreographer has something planned for them later in the routine. For example, a teacher may adore the way a student acts and have a small acting role mid routine where the student pops up at the back and lip syncs to the audition. Competition teams are adjudicated on their positions and transitions from position to position so the student needs to be carefully and strategically placed in all positions in the lead up to this 'special part'.
How can you get your child into the front row?
Unfortunately, there isn't a secret to get your child to be the featured or front row dancer in a routine but here are some tips below:
1. You can do everything in your power to assist your dancer in being the best dancer, student and performer that they can be by organising their uniform, dropping them off to dance on time, encouraging practice at home etc.
2. You can also discuss the above points with your child to help them understand that there are many different reasons why a dancer may or may not be in the 'front row' and that some of these things can be controlled (work ethic) but some things are out of their control (casting).
3. You can assist your child in having a positive mindset when it comes to positions in their competition troupe. For example, asking your child 'where are you positioned in the team?' or 'what role have you received in the routine' prompts positive thinking and a positive response. Comments or questions such as 'so are you shoved up the back?' or 'the teacher probably doesn't like you' prompts very negative thoughts and responses in regards to team positioning.
4. Encourage the dancer to work hard in class and enjoy being part of a team. Every member of the team has worked hard to gain a place, so celebrate your child's involvement in the group, regardless of the role that they've been given. Teachers are working hard to encourage all members to enjoy the team environment so put your trust in the teacher as they also want your child to feel special. Teachers are aware of student abilities and chances are that if they know a student may not be ready for the 'front row', they are finding an alternative way to make the student feel included and special.
5. Wait for the routine to finish. Don't be too early when assessing your child's involvement or role in a routine. Routines are adjudicated on positions and transitions from position to position so it may take a while for positions in the routine to move around and for choreography to develop. Be patient and wait for the routine to progress before your child has the opportunity to understand their full role in the routine.
6. Trust the teacher and leave it be. When your child comes home feeling disappointed that they missed out on the lead role or aren't in the front row it can be disappointing for you as a parent too. You may feel that you want to 'fix it' for them or that the positions of the dance don't reflect your committment and effort towards dance. The reality is that most students/parents in the group are in the same position. Most students would have been enrolled year after year, most students will practice at home, and most parents have spent blood, sweat and tears to have their child at every class, rehearsal and performance that was scheduled since joining. Understand that positions in a routine aren't a reflection of your value or committment to the team, as all team members have been carefully selected according to their age, ability, commitment, work ethic and family committment. You may feel that you would like question the teacher but consider the possible outcomes from this action before doing so. Do you want your child placed in the front row because you emailed the teacher and demanded it? Trust that the teacher is trying to showcase your child's talents to the best of their ability but that the priority is to the put the team's best foot forward. If you feel that you're not happy or not comfortable for your child to be part of a team where the teacher/coach determines your child's role in the team, competition teams/sports may not be the hobby that you're looking for for your child, and that's ok too. Recreational dance classes may be a more suitable option where the focus is on creativity, fitness, learning and participation without weekly rehearsals that include set positions and choreography.
There will always be moments in in your child's life where someone is 'better', that's life. It doesn't make your child (or your parenting) any less amazing. Keep things in perspective and don't end up determining your child's value and self worth by their positions on stage in a 3 minute dance routine. The dance routine is one part of their childhood amongst all of their other abilities, hobbies and interests such as them being amazing at Maths, being a super kind friend, being an amazing daughter/son, being an awesome apprentice in the kitchen and more.