Having been an adjudicator for competitions all over the place for the past 20 years, people often ask me that age old question: ” what are the judges looking for?”
Well – the answers I think are pretty simple, if you realise that different people like different things – and so it follows that different judges will like different things too. Therefore the key to a successful competition in any genre is covering all your bases so to speak.
Most tap adjudicators know their stuff for sure – but there are always times when you get a ballet adjudicator or someone who specialises in another genre and this can be upsetting if you specialise in tap. So my advice is to make sure that your routines shine in all ways.
And here are the categories I would look to maximize in any tap competition:
1. Technique – make sure that your tapping has lovely clean technique that sounds clean
2. Rhythm – make sure all the rhythms are 100% correct and are nailed with a nice clear accent, so that even a judge with little rhythmic experience will be able to follow the rhythms easily. For instance – make sure any canon work is spot on, so it is recognized as ” canon” as opposed to the judge thinking you are simply not in time with each other.
3. Timing – your students must be in time. This is simply not negotiable in a competition and especially relevant in tap routines both solo and groups. I can not tell you the number of times I have seen out of time tap routines. More are ” out of time” than ” in time” as a rule. So make sure your students understand the importance of good time keeping.
4. Canon Work – there is no compromise here. A canon is either right or wrong. It is that simple. A great canon section can add so much to a good tap routine – but a bad canon can just as easily destroy a great tap routine. It is one of those things that you either do well and absolutely nail it – or do not attempt it at all.
5. Unison – in a tap group the unison must be spot on both visually and rhythmically. Sure – you can have more loose arm lines etc etc – but the arm lines all still need to have a unison of flow and dynamics. Many groups look good but sound terrible and an equal number of them sound great and look terrible. So make sure you have both.
6. Style – this is so important and the students need to show a style and approach that match the style and choreography of the routine. If all these elements are disparate and not matching, the routine will lack power and cohesion. So you need a style, energy and approach to match your routine. This again may sound obvious – but you would be surprised what I have seen at many comps.
7. Personality – any competition is about performance. Sure you can tap around in a classroom or your house, just for you – but in any performance you need to engage with the audience and perform. You need to take the audience and the judges on a journey. And in tap – this will be a rhythmic and a visual journey. So make sure you look engaged in what you are doing – and that goes for every person on stage – not just the front row.
8. Choreography and Content – this is so important and often left wanting in my opinion – so really beef up the content in your tap routines and fill them with rhythmic and technical content to make the routine interesting. Any performance can only be as good as the choreography given and many times an amazing tapper or group of tappers has suffered at the hands of poor choreography that lacks content and imagination. If you are up against a routine with lots of technical content and great rhythmic appeal and your students are plodding along with a really simple routine, then they could be behind the eight ball before they start. If you need outside help – get it. Then watch that invited choreographer teach and learn from them for next time. Have all your tap staff sit in and watch too so they can learn. It’s part of their CPD
9. Dynamics – so many tap routines these days have just one mode – on or off. They can tend to be a little bashy with no light and shade – so make sure your routine has ” highlights” and “low lights” like any other routine. And these dynamics need to stretch across both the visual and rhythmic aspects of the dance. This will really add a huge value and texture to the routine.
10. Showmanship – nothing beats this. No matter what the routine. That good old X FACTOR is what will take your routine into the stratosphere, so really work on this. You want 100% confidence, performance, personality and commitment from every dancer on that stage. It does not matter how good the tap is – if it lacks that dynamic showmanship and ooomph – forget it.
So – there you have my top 10 tips for competitions.
Good luck for your next comp season wherever you are in the world.
And remember the most important thing is for every student and every teacher to feel they have done their best and had super FUN along the way. If you do that – you have won the real prize, no matter the results on the day!
Woop Woop – enjoy! 🙂