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Stars in their eyes: the latest influence of television and other trends.

Soaring leaps, high-speed turns, Fast and Furious partnering--contestants and judges can expect a burst of bravura when the competition season kicks off this year. Students are watching hit television shows like Fox Broadcasting's So You Think You Can Dance, and so are their teachers. As more competition choreography reflects their influence, the bar is rising on gasp-inducing moves.

"The whole current media Focus on dance gives everyone great ideas. I'm seeing steps that come directly From shows like So You Think You Can Dance," says Nancy Stone, vice president of Dance Olympus/Dance America and International Dance Challenge. Other trends are surFacing too, including an increased emphasis on technique, an upsurge in the modern/contemporary category, and a blossoming of crossover choreography that blends steps From various genres. All of these elements should factor in when teachers think about how to prepare their students.

Nothing, however, rivals So You Think You Can Dance for sheer impact. Wannabees who watch it dream of topping their favorites in pyrotechnics and showmanship. "Dance shows like SYTYCD have motivated kids to try more athletic moves in general," says Randy Kalis, vice president of Showbiz and PrimeTime. "They see someone on TV do it, and suddenly they think, 'Let me try that too.'" There are downsides to putting too many show-stopping moves in a routine, however. "I don't want to see something filled with more tricks than dance," says Stone.

Technique still counts, and perhaps in reaction to the infatuation with flashier steps, many competition presenters are putting a bigger emphasis on basics. "I'm asking all of my guest teachers to go back and make corrections, to encourage technique first and foremost," says Doug Shaffer, DanceMaker, Inc. president and owner. "I am also encouraging my judges to compliment kids who have good technique."

Luckily, competition judging hasn't succumbed to the attitude laced SYTYCD influence "Kids get constructive criticism," says Stone. 'A good judge doesn't rip people apart, but gives insight on how to improve. I'm a big advocate of the Oreo cookie approach a sweet thing first, then a little complaint in the center, then a real affirmative ending."

Making a positive impression on judges involves suitability of material, and nearly every presenter brings up the ongoing issue of what is appropriate in a routine. "I see dance studios dressing young children as adults and giving them adult moves," says Shaffer. "I'm really emphasizing doing age appropriate music and choreography. I want the competition/convention world to be about and for kids."

That may be a factor in the rise of the contemporary/modern category, which usually involves pure movement and simple costuming. "It's become hot the way lyrical once was," says Stone, who is a personal fan. "You'll see Graham moves combined with steps with a more relaxed feel." Presenters say that modern/contemporary has a potential for expressiveness that they suspect appeals to students, and the unconstricted quality of the movement allows for a degree of choreographic creativity. "It's a genre that realty focuses on dance itself. It brings you back to the basics," says Kalis.

The category's blend of modern technique with free form movement reflects another trend: crossover choreography. A routine may shift between genres. "Everyone is trying to find new approaches with tap, jazz, and lyrical," says Shaffer. "I'm seeing a little bit oF a 'street' element coming into different pieces. Sometimes, I'll see something that isn't pure hip hop or pure jazz, but a jazz hip hop combo. It doesn't always work, but people are experimenting and that's fun."

In contrast, Vasile Petrutiu, Central Florida Ballet's director, wants to focus for now on ballet and particularly showcase contemporary ballet choreography. His new Orlando based World Ballet Competition, which he plans to launch in July 2007, will offer a separate award for the best performance of a piece created since 2000. In a nod to the So You Think You Can Dance influence, there will be a prize awarded to an audience favorite, as well as the usual Olympic style medals in various age-determined categories.

Being aware of trends may make students and teachers more effective competitors, but Stone cautions against becoming so focused on winning that they lose sight of some of the pre-professional benefits off participating. "Everyone's not going to get first place," she says. "The New York Yankees are a great team, but they don't always win a pennant. I feel dance educators should prepare kids better for that. Otherwise it'll be a sad lesson when you go to a professional audition and you're not even called back. It takes a bigger person to be gracious, win or lose." Hanna Rubin is managing editor of Dance Magazine.
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Title Annotation:COMPETITIONS: Winning Ways
Author:Rubin, Hanna
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Previous Article:Attitudes.
Next Article:All the right moves: creating choreography that looks great on your student.

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