Getting Ready for Nationals – Advice and Tips

Getting Ready for Nationals – Advice and Tips

This article describes the advice and tips for summer dancing and National Finals.

This article describes the advice and tips for summer dancing and National Finals.
Summer is almost upon us, and as regional competitions come to a close, there is a new challenge that dance studios must prepare for: Nationals. National competitions are not only exciting events for dancers around the country to come together, but they’re also a chance for amazing talent to be matched with others and compete on a higher level. Nationals test the strength of teamwork and entertainment, and ultimately bring out the best in the dance companies that are involved.

Here, Groove Dance Competition judges Jill Lazzini, Rachel Brown and Anthony Raimondi discuss what traits they look for in dances at the national level.

“When dances get to Nationals, I expect dances to have all the components necessary to complete the dance,” says Lazzini. “Technique, performance, timing and execution are all things I expect to be higher at Nationals.”

“At the national level, I first and foremost am looking for a real emotional connection,” adds Brown. “I am always looking for the heart to be connected to the movement.”

Along with perfected technique and execution, cleanliness and attention to detail are key components Raimondi looks for when he judges.

After working on dances for a whole year and receiving feedback and critiques from multiple judges, Raimondi advises, “It’s important, especially at Nationals, to make sure that every detail is completely ironed out. When there are variations within combinations that do not belong, it takes the audience out of the experience and distracts them from your overall story or message.”

Whether it’s boot camp or special intensives, dance groups must take steps to better prepare themselves and their team to do well at Nationals. Besides running their numbers continuously, paying attention to the corrections given to them previously and making sure they apply those corrections is also of equal importance.

To be better prepared for Nationals, Brown says, “Don’t stress! Work like it’s any other performance. Pick apart your pieces and clarify each movement within a phrase, and clarify each transition.”

“I think going back and listening to critiques is definitely one way to prepare for Nationals,” shares Raimondi. “Although many times you may not agree with everything we have to say, hearing how your number is perceived by a stranger and being able to ask, ‘Why is it perceived this way?’ is a tool that will help you grow indefinitely as a dancer but, more importantly, as an artist.”

Lazzini attributes training hard to being well prepared for Nationals. Strong technique is a constant theme she revisits when discussing a dance company’s road to success.

“Strong technique is the base of standout routines,” she says. “With strong technique, dancers can focus on performance and execution and trust that their technique will support them.”

Teamwork in general helps to further a dance company in its journey to Nationals and can help dancers build a stronger bond within the company in return.

“I love when a company truly works well together on stage,” Lazzini says. According to her, teamwork on stage shows that the dancers work well together and support each other off stage as well. This makes the perfect recipe for a successful number on stage and, more importantly, at the national level.

Brown brings up a similar point to the importance of teamwork and says, “Breathe together. Dance together. Feel amazing together. Feel confident. We can feel that in the judge’s chairs, and it’s exciting and beautiful.”

With various dance companies coming to Nationals, all with different backgrounds and dance styles, a judge has so many different genres to enjoy. Each region offers a variety of genres of dance that Raimondi, Brown and Lazzini experience on a daily basis.

“Every genre is competitive if it is well-rehearsed, there is strong commitment, confidence from the dancer and a true connection to the piece,” says Brown.

Depending on the city the competition is in, Raimondi shares what makes Nationals particularly exciting as a judge. “The great thing about Nationals is that there is always a really good mix of all different genres because dancers are coming from all over,” he says. “It’s a really great way for a dancer to learn and become inspired through their peers.”

Although a win may seem within arm’s reach, Lazzini, Brown and Raimondi describe what truly constitutes a winning number for them at the national level.

Lazzini looks for cleanliness, technique and higher performance level in a winning number, for example, but sometimes there is that one significant number that she can simply enjoy and not analyze.

“Every once in awhile, especially at Nationals, a number will make me want to put the microphone down and just enjoy it as an audience member,” Lazzini adds.

Likewise, Raimondi says, “A high scoring number makes me forget that I am at a dance competition and transports me into the world that they are living in for that amount of time. The most important quality in a high scoring number is complete commitment to the idea, energy or story you are presenting.”

Confidence, cleanliness and connection are just a few of the many traits that these judges and many others look for in a winning number, but there are ingredients to making a standout performance at Nationals that matter even more, according to Brown: a heart, a mind, a body connection and passion.

“Most importantly,” she says, “it’s about having a love for what you do.” 

By Monique George of Dance Informa.