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  • Writer's pictureCorey Burns

The Dance Convention


In just about every industry, there are trade shows, seminars, workshops and meetings

where professionals meet to show off innovations, network, discuss industry challenges

and share inspirational stories. In the dance business, most successful studios attend

dance conventions and competitions each year. So, what do you do there? What

exactly is a dance convention?



What is a Dance Convention?


In its most generic form, a dance convention comes about when an entrepreneur

develops a company and hires industry professionals to teach classes in various genres

(i.e. tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, etc.). Usually, these classes take place in the ballrooms of

a hotel over a weekend during the winter and spring or throughout a week during the

summer months. The company advertises its event and “All-Star” faculty😊to dance

studios in national publications and websites so that dance studio owners will bring their

students to take classes.


For a dancer to attend a dance convention, the studio owner is responsible for enrolling

the dancer and paying the tuition fee for the classes. This must take place months

before the event. Tuition for a weekend of classes usually ranges from $275-$325 per

dancer. Once enrolled, the convention will send out a schedule of classes usually 10-14

days before the event. Up to that point, studio owners only know who is on the faculty

and where the event takes place. Registered studios will be issued wristbands or

stickers to allow kids entrance to ballrooms.


At each convention, there are classes held in different ballrooms for groups split up

according to ages and ability levels. In some cases, conventions have Friday night

classes, but most have classes Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 – 3:30. It’s an all-day

affair. Classes last 50-60 minutes with short breaks in between so that dancers can

change shoes for the dance style of each new class. Almost all conventions have

closing shows and auditions to highlight exceptionally talented dancers.


Why Go to Dance Conventions?


In my opinion, dance conventions are one of the single most important events in a

dancer’s development. Weekly classes in many styles prepare dancers for these

conventions. Most high-level conventions have classes in ballet, jazz, tap,

contemporary, musical theater, ballroom or another specialty class. It is a great time for

kids to meet real industry professionals. In the past, we have seen teachers at

conventions who have danced on Broadway, in movies, on TV shows, at Superbowls, in

music videos, and on concert tours, to name a few. Convention owners look for the big,

well-known names to draw studio owners to attend. Kids are in classes with hundreds of

other dancers just like them, who attend studio classes weekly and follow convention

teachers on Instagram.


How do Conventions Benefit Dancers?


1. Perseverance. Dance conventions help students develop the mental stamina it

takes for kids ages 6-18 to complete a dance convention. It is like a sports camp

where kids are moving for 6-8 hours a day. Sure, kids love to dance with their

studio friends to very cool choreography from famous dance teachers, but they

can still get tired. When that fatigue sets in, you start to see them develop the

grit and toughness it takes to keep moving even when they’re ready to quit.


2. Exposure. Students are given the opportunity to learn technique and dance

steps from people outside of their studio. Each dance studio has their weekly

teachers, and going to a dance convention exposes kids to other ways of

learning familiar technique in new combinations. In some cases, our hard work

as teachers is validated when kids tell us they know how to do the difficult skills

the convention teacher is sharing. It’s also great for dance studio owners and

teachers to learn from the convention teachers because it helps us stay current

in dance genres and has a positive impact on our choreography and teaching.


3. Responsibility. It takes a great deal of organizational skills for students to get

through a weekend. During the week prior, they manage school and dance and

also have to plan for the weekend. They’re responsible for having shoes,

dancewear, water bottles, jackets, food, and whatever they need in the

classroom. We discourage parents from being in the ballroom with the kids, so

it’s all up to the dancers to make sure they have everything. After the

convention, they arrive home usually exhausted from the weekend. Yet, they still

have to prepare and face the coming week with endurance and organization.


4. Inspiration. These events are pure fun and inspiration! It drives kids to get

better when they see other kids their age dancing at higher levels. It also

validates their hard work when they see that they are able to participate and

thrive in the classes. The trip home on a Sunday may consist of 5 minutes of

enthusiastic conversation about all that went on during the weekend, and the rest

of the drive they’re knocked out asleep. The excitement is awesome. If it

weren’t for the expenses associated with weekend conventions, we would attend

one every month if we could.


Are All Conventions Created Equal?


There are many benefits to taking students to a dance convention. However, not all

conventions are the same, and dance studio owners must do their homework.

Remember that generic definition I mentioned earlier about “an entrepreneur” creating a

company that puts on a convention? The business behind the convention can make a

big difference in the experiences your studio has at their events.


In the past decade, we have seen the rise of SUPER huge dance conventions that have

come under scrutiny for hiring industry professionals with less than stellar reputations.

Not all great dancers are great humans or the kind of people that should be admired by

young dancers who may want to become professionals themselves one day. These

convention owners have overlooked the personal shortcomings of the professionals

because the economics are too good to pass up. That is the SAD reality. Thankfully,

other conventions have steered clear of such controversy.


Another less than ideal situation is when these entrepreneurs list high level faculty on

their website, but these folks don’t attend all conventions. An organization may

advertise that they are coming to 20 cities during a year, yet the high level, well-known

faculty may only attend 5 of the 20 cities. The organization usually has small print to

cover their liability: “not all faculty will attend all cities.” It’s a bit ingenuous, and kids get

disappointed at learning the faculty member they really wanted to learn from is not

there.


The last most common issue we sometimes run into is the risk of a company canceling

the event due to low enrollment. This is usually the case with startup conventions under

10 years old. They don’t have the capital to run a convention at a loss for the weekend,

so they cancel it. This can really dampen a studio mood when you must register 6

months in advance and ask people to clear their calendar for a weekend only to have

the event canceled. The good news in this scenario is that there’s a strong possibility

another organization has a convention within a 200 mile radius on the same weekend.

All is not lost.


What does this mean for Burns Dance Studio?


The pros far outweigh the cons with dance conventions. We have prided ourselves on

attending high level conventions for our kids. We feel like it is very important in their

development to continue dancing at high levels. If you don’t believe me, ask any one of

our students who have attended dance conventions with us, and I’m confident they will

offer a great review. And the proof is in the pudding, as they say. We are all better

dancers, performers and teachers when we stretch ourselves with experiences like the

ones dance conventions provide

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