Competition Teams - Our Philosophy
We do not hold a formal audition or "try out" for our competition teams. Dancers are evaluated in class and selected through teacher recommendation only, and it must be unanimous among the faculty. While RealDance could be considered a “competition studio” because we do have three teams of dedicated students that participate in dance competition, the focus of our studio is on education. Our objective is to help dancers secure placement in college dance programs and/or provide the training to make them employable dancers as adults. Though no one attends dance competitions to “lose”, WINNING TROPHIES IS NOT OUR GOAL! Our dancers are always challenged with a variety of styles of choreography with the intent of gaining dance skills that will be used in the professional dance world. We don’t create pieces asking “what can we do to win?” but “what can we give these dancers to help them improve and develop their performance skills and refine their technique? ” Usually, with the competitions we choose to attend, they end up being one in the same.
When it comes to competition choreography, the repertoire for the season is structured like a pyramid. All team members participate in large group pieces. From there, we will break the teams down into smaller groups, duo/trios and finally solos. All of the choreography is by invitation with the faculty and director casting the groups and duo/trios and selecting soloists. Senior dancers are able to request certain choreographers and/or duo/trio partners but final decisions are made by the director.
We believe that slow and steady wins the race. We do not believe that dancers should peak at 12 or 13. Our goal is to lay a strong foundation and keep them dancing so that when they are in high school they are prepared to take on more intensive training in preparation for college or professional work.. We attend 3 or 4 local competitions a season, 1 or 2 out of town (usually Orlando) convention/competitions a season. We attend nationals every other summer.
Competitive dance, like any competitive sport, is expensive. Families who have children who dance competitively must be prepared for those various related costs. We always try to be sensible and will do our absolute best to give you the approximate total of what the year will cost, but in very rare cases an unexpected expense can arise. You will be given a fee schedule at the beginning of the season with due dates so you can plan accordingly.
Once we give our competition dates at the beginning of the season, dancers need to be available for those dates. Occasionally, events may be canceled. We do our absolute best to adhere to the schedule we issue at the beginning of the season. Absences for required classes are limited to 2 per class per semester and should be used when dancers are ill or other emergencies. The expectation is that dancers will not miss any classes, rehearsals or studio events but we understand that isn’t realistic, and we don’t want them to come to class when they’re ill. We cannot make exceptions for sporting events, social events, dance team events or Indian Princess (just as a few examples).
All competitive dancers will be required to do at least one week of the RealDance summer intensive at the end of June and soloists are required to attend two weeks of our intensive. They are also required to attend the summer (evening) session of classes for the month of June.
Our mini team consists of elementary school aged dancers. They are selected out of the student body and recognized for having the potential required to be competitive when they have completed several years of study in at least ballet, tap and jazz. They must have sustained an excellent attendance record throughout their years of study. They also must be above average in maturity, ability to focus and consistently work hard in their classes, apply corrections quickly, be engaged, enthusiastic and practice class work at home. We also observe dancers both at the dress rehearsal and recital, as they need to be able to smile and have fun on stage! They must be able to receive criticism easily and have a “thick skin” – as must their parents! The parent is as integral to the team as the dancer. Our team parents trust that we are the professionals and we know what is best when it comes to dance education. They are able to communicate concerns in a non-confrontational manner, even when they are under stress or when their dancer may be upset. We have a zero tolerance policy for confrontation, agressive behavior, or any sort of behavior that damages the studio atmosphere We LOVE to teach parents about what we do and why we do it and welcome all opportunities to do so. We encourage dialogue about anything we do, we WANT you to understand how it all works. However, RealDance houses one of the most EXPERIENCED faculties in South Florida and our decisions and methods are in place because they are proven and effective, therefore they are final and non-negotiable.
Dancers and parents need to accept that they will not always be in agreement with some of the decisions that are made, such as casting or class placement. No one dancer or parent can possibly have all the information that the teachers have to make the decisions we make, nor will they be privy to information regarding other dancers. Just as in the professional dance world or in the college audition process, when a dancer isn't selected for a role or a program, it is regarded and accepted as part of the process- it is not a failure or a slight and it's never personal. For every 100 jobs a dancer auditions for, they're lucky if they get 2 of them. They must learn to let things roll off of their backs and not dwell on any disappointment. Not all are emotionally equipped to handle that part of competitive dance. They learn from a very young age that "you win some, you lose some" just like in life! This aspect of competitive dance prepares them for later years. When they interview for a job that they do not get, are not accepted to their "dream college" or are cut from an actual audition, they are quite often much more prepared than their peers to process those emotions.
The mini team class commitment is 3 days a week, with occasional weekend rehearsal. They will do between one and three large groups Many mini team dancers have other extra curricular activities besides dance, but they are expected to make dance the priority when it comes to their outside activities.
Our junior team dancers in middle school. They are either dancers who have “graduated” from the mini team, or have been selected out of the student body by their teachers, meeting the same criteria as listed above. Additionally, they are expected to be able to maintain good grades in school AND have excellent attendance. Dancers begin to learn time management skills and how to plan ahead to get schoolwork done in a timely manner so they may be present at all classes and rehearsals. One of the things we stress from the beginning is attitude and it becomes very apparent in middle school who can maintain a good one! Being respectful, positive, supportive of their fellow dancers, non-gossiping, hard working and energetic are qualities that are essential to be successful within our teams. While dance is still expected to be their priority within their after-school activities, we encourage the junior team dancers to try whatever other activity they think they’d like to explore so when it’s time to decide whether or not the senior team is a consideration for them, they don’t have any regrets about not getting to try some other activity they’ve wanted to.
Parents must start to help their children develop communication skills with their teachers, avoiding interfering with that communication whenever possible. They must encourage their children to speak with their teachers directly with questions or concerns. They also need to understand that there is nothing unusual about a dancer that occasionally cries when they get home from dance. Most of the time it is out of frustration, or they are struggling with the overall difficulty of an advancing dance curriculum. Those emotions are completely normal, and unless the dancer is never happy after class or has more complaints than positives, parents should assist their dancer in working through whatever it is that is bothering them and help them gain perspective, without interfering with the training or attempting to alter the circumstances. The junior team class commitment is 4 days a week with occasional weekend rehearsals.
Our senior team is high school age dancers. By this time, dancers rarely have time for any other extra curricular activity outside of dance, but dancers who choose this team are doing so because dance is their passion. Most of our dancers participate in their high school dance team program (we have had dancers on the Cardinal Gibbons, Pine Crest and North Broward dance teams). We do our best to work with their schedules to allow them to do so and to give them the majority of their weekends free, but their studio schedule is expected to be their priority over dance team. They are offered the opportunity to work with guest choreographers and master teachers.
By this stage in their training, dancers are working as if they are planning to enter a college dance program or begin the audition after graduation, whether or not they actually end up doing so. They cannot make the decision to train that way any later than when beginning high school, or it will be too late.
Parents are now no longer part of the communication process between dancer and teacher. Parents communicate with the studio manager and director, about finances or the dancer’s health, unless it is some sort of unusual circumstance. Dancers will often come home and vent to their parents (not only about dance- but about life!) but it doesn’t mean they want their parent to step in and pass on what they have vented! When it is important, they must communicate it and discuss it themselves. Communication among team members is integral for a healthy and supportive learning environment! If a conflict arises among dancers, they're expected to resolve it face to face (or FaceTime to FaceTime) and not via texting. They are also not permitted to discuss the conflict with any other dancers, only their teachers and parents, thereby avoiding involving other team members in a conflict that does not concern them. This avoids miscommunication, rumors, and facilitates better communication among teammates.
Every dancer is unique and has unique needs. We set up programs for each of them based on a number of factors, and requirements can vary from dancer to dancer based on their strengths and weaknesses. What is important is that parents don’t concern themselves with what any other dancer is doing other than their own. We operate under the assumption that the parents who agree to have their child in our program trust that we are not only trying to set their children up for success, but that when it comes to their dance education, we have the experience and the knowledge to guide them in wherever their dance path takes them.
RealDance has graduates accepted to the dance and/or musical theater programs at FSU, UF, NYU, Texas State University, University of Michigan, Columbia University, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Ohio State, University of Pennsylvania, Boston Conservatory, Fordham/Alvin Ailey, Point Park, Marymount Manhattan and Pace University (Commercial Dance Degree program). RealDance alumni Connor Yockus was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar of the Arts in dance, by the National YoungArts Foundation (formerly known as the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts). Connor was one of two dancers awarded this honor- the highest that can be bestowed upon a high school student in the U.S. and Connor named RealDance director Suzanne Citere as his "Teacher of Greatest Influence".
Our faculty has a proven track record of training working professional dancers and knows what it takes to train a professional dancer. We are able to slowly build a well-trained, well rounded dancer while not “burning out” the dancer by the time they are starting high school. We gear our program for the benefit of the dancer POST graduation, with their long-term success in mind. It is by no means an easy road, but any road to success – no matter WHAT the career- is not easy! We have the knowledge, background and tools to help them succeed. The rest is up to them. Being part of a competitive dance team can be one of the most memorable and fulfilling experiences of their lives, and it is a joy to be able to provide them with that opportunity!