When preparing for competitions, young male dancers have their own specific set of issues, questions and considerations. But such topics are rarely addressed in this female-dominated environment.
Here are eight tips and suggestions, plus a little advice for young male dancers from six experienced competition judges, all of whom are male dancers themselves and instructors with Man In Motion.
Man In Motion is a network of male dance professionals that provides dance instructors and choreographers, and arranges master classes and workshops – all for dance studios and other performance-based organizations, as needed.
TIP #1: Where costumes are concerned, neatness really counts
When preparing your costume, make sure the entire outfit is complete and adjust everything so it will look very neat on stage, said James A. Washington, who has judged for VIP Dance. Be sure your shirt stays tucked in. Wear black socks with black shoes, and add a belt to your pants to look more polished.
TIP #2: Don’t ignore the costume details “down under”
Washington also brings up the dreaded topic, but a serious issue with costumes - undergarments. Make sure as a young man that you're wearing the correct undergarments while performing (dance belt or compression shorts, whatever you like best). Not only does this protect you, but it also allows you to practice the professionalism and real etiquette of being a male dancer. Also make sure that a judge or the audience can't see those undergarments. Prepare your costume and adjust everything to look very neat on stage.
TIP #3: Focus on making your partner look her best
According to Marlowe Davis, a judge for Legacy Dance Championships: When partnering with females, it’s your job to make the girl look her best. Always present the girl to the audience in turns, lifts and side-by-side choreography. Basically make her look great, no matter what. It's not about you when partnering; it’s always about the female.
TIP #4: Trying to outperform the girls in your routine is counter-productive
Don’t try to out-dance the girls when dancing in a group or duet/trio routine, suggests Enrique Brown, experienced Broadway performer and judge for Starbound National Talent Competition. It’s hard when you are the only male in the routine and all eyes are definitely focused on you. But work with the dancers around you and showcase them as well. They are as important as you are on stage. Doing this will allow you to shine brighter, rather than just being the male dancer trying to outshine everyone else.
TIP #5: Sell the story as much as you show technique
As a male dancer, make sure your intention in a duet is guided in the right direction, said Jason Warley, founder and CEO of Man In Motion and a judge with Groove National Dance Competition. While showing strong technique during competition is incredibly important, the judges are often more interested in the story. The difficult turn sequence in your routine will definitely win you points, but sell us the story of “love” and you will win our hearts.
TIP #6: When it comes to doing lifts, focus on her comfort
When doing lifts, Davis advises, start working on placing the girl’s weight between your palms. It takes a while to get used to, but it avoids the uncomfortable feeling of fingers digging into the girl’s rib cage. I once had a partnering instructor dig his fingers into my rib cage to show me what it's like for the girl - and it was extremely uncomfortable
TIP #7: Forget about a “male dancer advantage”
Never have the attitude that you are going to score higher because you are a guy dancer - since they are less common in the competition arena. As Michael Susten (Dancers, Inc. judge) explains, I tend to score the boys harder. It’s my way of preparing them for the real world.
TIP #8: Take the “friendship approach” to the competition
Go in, not with the idea of competition, but camaraderie, says Brandon Cournay, who has judged for Headliners Dance Championships. In the grand scheme of things, there are not that many of us male dancers around. Watch each other’s pieces. Be encouraging. Make new friends. I promise, someone you are competing with now will be your roommate in New York during your performing years.
Dance In New York City!
On Sunday February 7, 2016, Dance In New York City returns with The Legends of Jazz. Join industry favorites Sheila Barker (from, Broadway Dance Center) and Richard Pierlon (from, STEPS on Broadway) for two dynamic jazz classes. Boys & girls, ages 9-12 & 13-17. Also, ask about our Competition Critique Forum, Registration & Info.