Dance festival season is back on. In the south East region over half term there was Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells - also All England qualifiers.
Dance festivals are competitions where dancers compete in different categories: Ballet, Greek, Tap, Modern, Lyrical Modern, Character, Song and Dance and National. They can compete solo, duets, trios and groups. They're organised by age - which depends on festivals, but for All England, it's normally their age on September 1st.
We were at Eastbourne Dance Festival which is a really lovely festival with large sections and a very good standard of dancers. The children all chat to each other regardless of which dance school they go to, along with the mums. The atmosphere, although competitive, is supportive and friendly - not quite like those awful episodes of Dance Moms that you may have seen!
Its great to see over the years how the dancers develop their craft and find their niche - not everyone is going to be an amazing Ballet dancer, but they might be brilliant at musical theatre. The adjudicators are always positive in their comments and will help the performers improve. At Eastbourne we had Nathan James who specialises in Tap. He was very encouraging and often had the competitors practicing their sautés on stage; and the children loved showing them to him.
The competitors are marked by the adjudicator and given a score out of 100, anything 84+ up to the age of 10 counts as a qualifying mark to go to the All England regional heats. After the age of 10 the qualifying marks increase. The top three competitors (sometimes there are ties too so more than 3) are awarded medals and some adjudicators will also bring forward competitors who didn't quite place for applause.
Festivals are great for children to learn about doing your best and taking on board positive criticism. They are great for character building. Let's face it, if you're going to go into a career of dance, they'll be ups and downs so if you can learn to take it on the chin early on, perhaps it can help in the future.
I used to do festivals, a late starter at around the age of 10. It was all a little bit different back then and sometimes not as friendly as it is now. Even though I only placed once (3rd out of three!) I loved each festival I did. They made me tenacious and hard working.
However festivals are not for everyone and they don't 'count' for anything. If you're intrigued, there are plenty around the country where you can go and watch. At Eastbourne the fee was only £8 to watch a whole day of brilliant dancing. Our next local festival is Thanet which takes place over three weekends.