Ballet competitions have always been an important part of my development as a professional dancer, giving me many memories and life experiences that I still cherish today. Competing at the World Ballet Competition in Florida was one of the formative moments in my training. Overall, I was the third-highest scoring female, and was in the top ten of the entire category. Standing onstage at the awards ceremony was a moment I will never forget.
International ballet competitions require hard work and preparation. So, here are some of my top tips for preparing for them.
Choosing the right ballet competitions for you
The first step towards successful ballet competitions is choosing the right competition for you. There are many international ballet competitions, so it’s important to consider your strengths and what you want to achieve from entering. Speak to your ballet teacher and do your research to find competitions that will allow you to show yourself at your best, as this will make you more likely to succeed.
Research each competition thoroughly and check the guidelines – many ballet competitions have age restrictions and syllabus restrictions. Ballet competitions are also expensive. There will be entry fees but also flight and accommodation costs. You also need to factor in the additional coaching costs and the expense of costumes.
How to apply for ballet competitions
Next, it’s time to apply! You will have an application form to fill out. You will have to select a number of classical variations, normally from a specified list, depending on how many rounds there are. In some competitions, you will be able to repeat variations from earlier rounds if you progress to the final stages. For contemporary variations, you will perform your own choice, normally newly choreographed to a specified minimum and maximum length.
There is also a requirement to send a link to a video that will be used for pre-selection to narrow down the competitors. You don’t have to worry about a professional video. Most competitions will specify whether you should perform in your audition video in costume or training kit. They will not want it to be edited, just held centrally so that they can clearly see your performance. You will normally be notified by a deadline date as to whether you have made it through to the competition. That’s when all the excitement starts!
Preparing your solos
Of course, the crucial moment in your ballet competition programme will be your solo performances. Take time to choose the perfect variations that compliment your abilities and are challenging enough without being too difficult. Your teacher may be able to help identify what variations work best for you.
It is also a good idea to seek a specialist coach ahead of a big competition. This may be your ballet teacher, or a teacher you take private lessons with. Work with your coach to break down the elements of the variations, building strength, stamina and layers of nuances that create a performance showing off both physicality and expression.
You will normally be asked to perform both classical and contemporary pieces. This is so the jury can see how versatile you are and is based on the fact that most classical companies also include a large number of contemporary works in their repertoire.
The week of the competition
After months of dedicated preparation, competition week will roll around before you know it! This is one of the most important parts of your ballet competition preparation, so make this final week count. Rehearse in full costume, and check you have good pointe shoes plus spares.
Put together a kit to take to the competition, including a needle and thread, resin, hairspray, hairpins, make-up, spare tights and a back-up copy of your music. Make sure you have all of your costumes and check those spare pointe shoes again! Also hugely important in this final week is lots of rest and nutritious food in order to feel strong on the day of the competition.
Tips for competition days
It’s natural to be nervous on competition days, but try to channel that energy into your art. Instead imagine this as your own personal gala. Soak up this opportunity and enjoy your time on-stage, showing the judges your love of dance.
Ballet competitions are also a great opportunity to network professionally, so speak to as many people as possible while remembering to remain professional at all times! Also watch out for workshops that you can participate in, which are often taught by professional dancers and artistic directors, as they are always worth it.
Reflecting on your competition experience
Once the competition is over, take a moment to reflect. If you’ve been successful – great! But whatever the competition outcome, now is the prime time to think about the lessons you’ve learned and how this can inform your artistic development.
Competing is an essential experience for any budding ballet dancer, both professionally and personally. Even if you don’t make it to the finals, there may still be brilliant opportunities available to you.
Quite often there are informal or formal networking sessions with the jury members so that you can talk to schools and companies. Even if you’re not a medal winner, you might get offered a scholarship or training programme that could transform your career as a classical dancer!
If you’re looking for specialist pre-competition mentoring or coaching from a professional ballet dancer, contact me today on 00 44 7894 406228.