The Individual or the Trophy?

Competition and comparison are constantly playing in our lives. In social circles we ask ourselves “will Samantha look better in that Gucci belt that I do in mine?”, “How come Matt got a better mark in maths when I studied nearly twice as much?”. It is something that defines us as individuals and how we relate to our social circles. But what is the effect of competition within a career? And furthermore from that, in a dance and performance based career?

Within recent years, programs like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Got Talent” have thrust dance into popular culture and informed the world about an otherwise relatively small and misunderstood industry. Often, people are very much unaware about the amount of time, effort and training that goes into dance craft, and are often shocked to find out that dances don’t have another ‘real’ job!

Clare Morehen, Principal Dancer with Queensland Ballet has stated that “My utmost belief is that dance is an art and should remain that way. The idea of a competition begins to place our beautiful craft in the real of sport; somehow making our expression quantifiable”. Often competition provides dancers with a list of rules, regulations and procedures that act to constrain creative innovation and creative integrity. Scheduled dates, times and venues as well as being confronted by the attention of a new audience are all variables that act to reduce individualism.

Winning and beating our peers or adding a trophy or medal to our name becomes our main priority and the potential gains of the experience are being missed. Programs like “Dance Moms” promote the importance of winning as being paramount to success in a dancers career. However, this promotes a superficial and materialistic attitude within dance communities. Ultimately it is the individual that makes the dancer. It is the technique, the work ethic, the skills, the ability, and above all, the attitude that you bring to the studio. Whilst competition can enhance our relationships within the community, a true dancer is made by the individual, not the number of trophies.

By William Gulson