You made it! You made the team, you’ve worked tirelessly on the audition piece and receiving that call that validates your self-worth was completely worth the effort and anxiety, but what next? Whether you’re a seasoned team hopper or new to the idea of being on a dance team, here are a few important ideas to keep in mind as a dancer on a team:
1. Ask for critiques after you cast.
Caring about your growth on the team is step one, but to really get there you need to ask for constructive criticism on how the choreographer felt like you performed their choreo. It’s also a good way to see if what you were practicing/trying to focus on during the performance translates through your movement.
2. If a choreographer says he/she is going over choreography details before practice, go!
Strive to be the best student you can be. If a choreographer asks if there are any questions, ask, be present and participate. This doesn’t just show the choreographer you are serious about mastering their style, but it’s an important habit to build – to give your attention to someone else’s style and way of teaching.
3. Bond with the team whenever you can.
This is the best (and most fun) part! Partake in random team dinners, post-practice food runs, fundraisers, parties. Get to know all your teammates during downtime at practice. These are the people you spend hours on end in a studio/parking lot/random nooks on campus with, and it’s just good sense to establish good rapport with those you share the stage with.
4. If you aren’t cleaning/don’t have homework or imminent work to do, practice on the side.
Get that piece or transition in your system without having to be reminded every time you do run-throughs that you don’t fully know the choreography.
5. Know how to balance having fun and putting in work.
Practices are a great time to socialize with friends, especially since it’s the most convenient time to hang out with everyone all at once, but you are also there to collectively achieve a goal. Talking on the sides is fine (to be safe…clear this with your coordinators first) as long as there aren’t loud disruptions to any cleaning or learning going on.
6. Cheer for your teammates during run-throughs.
Build on this camaraderie; support and respect one another by cheering each other on. A little moral support goes a long way when someone has had a rough week, a rough practice, or are simply exhausted during the set!
7. Take class outside of practices.
Stretch your boundaries outside of regular practices. It’s so difficult to muster up the energy to do so (especially during hell weeks), but stretching your dance comfort zone won’t only improve your own dance ability, but will in turn push your teammates to continuously work hard alongside you – and that’s just a win-win situation for all.
8. Be nice to newbies on the team.
As you transition from being a ‘newbie’ to an ‘oldie’, it’s easy to forget the discomfort of being new to a team – the uncertainty of new friendships, the inundation of new choreo…the unsettling feelings are already nerve-wracking enough as it is without the added pressure of a lack of receptiveness from oldies (see #13). Don’t be that person. Be respectful to all newbies and welcome them to the family.
9. Be welcoming to alumni.
Concurrently, there are too many instances to count where alumni of teams feel disconnected to the current team. The alumni/current team relationship should not be one of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. You all have the same roots and more often than not, the alumni have insightful things to say that only those with a birds-eye view can discern. Network and get to know your alumni, they have valuable advice for you!
10. Be mindful that your directors/captains are trying their best.
It’s not easy to manage 40+ people, and we’re human. Just as you are trying your best to continuously improve as a dancer on the team, they are trying their best to continuously improve as leaders.
11. For teams that get to elect the next generation of directors: amazing dancers do not equal great leaders.
For teams that get to vote for new coordinators/directors for the next year, being a great dancer and being a great leader are two separate entities. Therefore it isn’t fair to judge a leader based on their dance skills (nor to assume that a great dancer will make a great leader).
12. Go to dance competitions with an open heart.
Dance competitions are counter-intuitive for tight-knit, interconnected communities like the dance community. Even though the nature of competitions are to determine placings, it’s important not to let the spirit of competition supersede feelings of community and oneness. We’ve all worked equally as hard prior to competition day – respect and acknowledge all the teams and dancers you see.
13. Most importantly, be open-minded.
A lot of these points lead to the general theme of being open-minded. Be receptive to new choreography (because every team has a style, a way of execution that you may not be used to), be receptive to others, and be receptive to leadership.
Making the choice and commitment of spending at least 5+ hours with a team of talented dancers each week is commendable, especially if you have other commitments to balance on top of late night practices. And while being on a team and receiving direction from your captains and directors may seem like a passive relationship, there is far more depth to being on a team than going through the motions of learning and performing choreo with 40 other people. One single person can make or break a team, so understand why you chose to dance with the people you do, why you take the time out of your packed schedule to dance for hours with your teammates, and why you care about your team. Understand how these practices can affect your team positively and how you yourself can change team culture too!
Are there any more guidelines you feel are important for someone on a dance team to follow or to take note of? Share with the community by commenting below!
Want to improve as a dancer? Check out this oldie but goodie article with tips!