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Articles: Wendy Perron on Acrobatics in Competitions

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Fresh off the Boston YAGP experience, I have to say I was very confused on how one judges contemporary pieces. This article helps explain what NOT to do. Now, if she could only write some rules for the Ensemble entries, that would be great!




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So happy to hear judges in the ballet world hold artistry in a high regard. It's too bad the other dance competition world doesn't always see it the same. Thanks for sharing.

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I posted this as well (So mods feel free to remove my earlier post so as not to duplicate)


I agree with Perron. (DD has been judged in the contemporary category by Perron and she is being honest about her take). My DD has also done well in Contemporary.


And it's nice to hear because contortion and ariels are increasingly favoring rhythmic gymnasts come dancers.


In my opinion, the contemporary formula has become a) a tilt B) front ariel or side ariel c) some show of back flexibility d) an extension and e) a series of other extreme moves.


But here's my observation at the Jr/Sr levels. When the level of the group is so high most of the students at the top have both *artistry,* but they also have other characteristics that pushes them over the top.


In my opinion, it's a bit disingenuous for YAGP to say that it doesn't want this extreme style . .. one of the pieces that was put into last year's gala had this type of extreme movement (and, in fact, I read a review after it that noted that one of the dancers looked like a gymnast).


I also take great exception to her characterization of parents as not understanding artistry. I have some dance background and I do understand it but they also need to education their own judges and the choreographers. Some judges do reward that when it is coupled with artistry and technique and choreographers do included that stuff because they know that they have got to command attention.


Glad that YAGP is moving things forward and glad to hear that this surge of contortion and extreme flexibility is ebbing.

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I agree, it sounds a bit disingenious. It is very simple to eliminate gymnastics from YAGP, just put in the rules that gymnastics movement such as: cartwheels, aerials, walkovers and handstands above a certain leg height are not allowed. Poof! They will be gone!


It may not be as easy to eliminate leg earrings, layouts or turning extensions, but, gymnastics is VERY easy to eliminate.

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This is the quote that made me a bit dismayed: "He told me about another time when he entered a talented student into a competition and kept the dance tasteful, but the judges dismissed the routine as not being “spectacular” enough."


I'm glad to see that someone involved with YAGP is taking a stand on this. I think if the judges really want to nip it in the bud though, that they will need to start deducting a point for the acro tricks. The author noted that the young lady in the photo also had a great deal of artistry - and I agree with learningdance that most of the contemporary winners do - but there will also be a lot of competitors who miss the artistry and only see a winner who performed several acro tricks and think they need to do them to win. And then it starts to snowball with a lot of competitors thinking they need acro.

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Good to see that some people - even judges - are thinking earnestly about this trend.

Now, if only the choreographers for the professional dancers would also take this into consideration.

For, the inclusion of extreme movements (well, not all of the movments mentioned above are necessarily extreme; it depends on how they are done...) does not take into consideration the health and longevity of the dancer, whether they are still students or professional.


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I saw the posting on YAGP's Facebook page and I was glad to see someone at YAGP is noticing this trend. However, their profile picture is very famous young (13) dancer doing leg extension pose like we see at other kinds of dance competitions. It's very easy to find her overspilt videos and YAGP contemporary solo with those acro moves on Youtube. We've seen that dancer in person and she is VERY talented and beautiful. Many young girls follow her on social media. A little contradictory IMO.

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I have the same problem with YAGP's inconsistency in posting pictures that are contradictory to articles like this. YAGP's page posted a girl in a remarkable oversplit on Mar. 3rd for the Indianapolis YAGP... So if that's their lead in, it would seem that that is what they want to see... :( I'm sure this girl is also an amazing, obviously flexible, talented dancer, as well as the 13 year old in the previous post who got her fame appearing on Abby Lee's dance off show a couple years ago and does a LOT of competition dance outside of ballet. So of course girls and their parents see the pictures and study them ... and they are "worth a thousand words" when taken alongside the article of ONE judge who is trying to hold back the tides...



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And I do believe that dancer won contemporary! Go figure? Mixed message for everyone (dancer, judges, organization)? Don't do this (but if you do we will feature your picture on our Facebook page with a judge chastising you?)

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YAGP definitely excels at "mixing messages" as LearningDance puts it. We've made similar observations about pointe shoes on 9-11 year old pre-comp students. The only thing consistent is the inconsistency. But at least some of the judges are paying attention to this. :)

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Mdmom. . .that's probably the theme. . . . If a respected judge wants to make a point about this, then we will let them, but secretly we are impressed with certain things. :)

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learningdance, your original post here was spot on. Mixed messages are definitely what they are sending, and I too resent parents being blamed. I have nothing to do with my dd's pieces! She did a flash-free contemporary piece for her regional. The judges were split 2-2. Two of them gave her very high scores and raved about her artistry and technique. The other two gave her lower scores and implied there was something lacking. She is going to do a different piece for the finals, mostly artistic but sightly flashy, inspired by the response of THE JUDGES. I will not be a bit surprised if she is now penalized for the flash.

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Okay. . .so I want to revisit this because it struck me that one thing that was missed a bit in the article was a focus on what a contemporary piece could and should show.


The article really discusses "artistry" but what does that mean? It means embodying the dance, the movement. It means transitioning between movements. It means shading your movements. This is a technique were you play with pace, rhythm, and intensity throughout the dance, in ways that you could not with a classical piece. The contemporary piece can and should give the developing dancer a bit of room to infuse some of their interpretation. Artistry is expressed through eyes, focus, port de bras, and epaulment. It's the tilt of the head. A fraction of second holding something. A quick look one way.


The article also misses the the contemporary piece (if done on flat) can showcase a dancer's basic training. Are the feet turned out when they should be? Is the body aligned? Is the dancer grounded and in control of the movement? The focus on acrobatics almost appears to try to distract from a dancer who might lack coordination. Have you ever seen a uncoordinated dancer muscle through 3 turns? Or a determined dancer get the extension to the ear by throwing off their basic alignment? Dancers and teachers should be focusing on maintaining basic technique.


Flash is not bad WHEN it is part of the style of the dance. I saw a spectacular contemporary piece that opened with a sharp, sky high extension. It was an intense piece and it worked. But the dancer didn't keep doing it over and over and over again through out the piece to say, "Hey look I have great extensions." Or "Hey I have a really flexible back." The occasional, impressive move that is tastefully included works. You become a bag of tricks when there is no connection to the music and when the dancer is just "doing moves" to show off. For most of these dancers you can actually take a look at their instagram accounts and you will see those same moves over and over and over and over. One trick ponies.

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