Private Dance Competitions How Did They Begin? OpEd

For me living in New England, dance competitions began in 1973. I was one of the first teachers who entered one in Massachusetts. There were 35 entries, it lasted from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM, let’s say the founders “milked” the day to make it look bigger than it was. In 1977, due to complaints from my customers about attending the once yearly event because of what they perceived to be mismanagement, I opened my own local once a year event called the American Dance Invitational. During those five years, I competed in the Dance Masters of America Chapter #5 New England Miss Dance Competition, designed the Petite and Junior Miss Competitions for the chapter, organized a list of rules handed to me on a typed sheet of paper, and created what is now called the ADJUDICATED score system, now used globally in 1977 for my competition.

Studio dance competitions have of course improved immensely over time, but where did they all begin. I believe the late Bev Fletcher of Buffalo NY, teacher of “A Chorus Line”’ choreographer-creator Michael Bennett began the movement in the late 1960’s, followed by Richard DiSarno and Sam Fiorello with their solo competition “Dancing Deb”. The events were intended to give students a place to dance outside of the yearly recital.

Competitions today are of course high-powered and in almost all situations beautiful productions. Kudos to the current organizers to the improvements in organizing these productions while maintaining an almost fifty-year old model. I applaud your efforts to continue in the face of adversity during a time of shut-downs caused by the COVID pandemic. I thank those who returned studio entry fees, not credits, to the parents and students.

COVID has changed many businesses, maybe moving forward studio dance competitions could be formed differently. I transitioned into public education in 1988. I regret closing my studio, at the time there weren’t studio owners who hired a faculty, a spinal-chord injury made the decision for me. I do not regret my decision to stop competing. As a public educator I attended many sports events, rode the busses with parent-fans, and began to think about creating an alternative to dance competitions as they are currently presented. What if they had a different model? What if the score system was changed to include specific dance skills in the four domains of dance, turns, jumps, flexibility training, and performance presentation? What if the studio owners could be the owners of events increasing their financial bottom line? Do I have your interest? Join the Facebook group BLOG BY JANN DAVIS. This week I present the answers to these questions!

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©Jann Davis, February 7, 2021 All rights Reserved

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