A while ago, I wrote that dance is an art, not a sport, and shouldn’t be judged (and offered a similar argument about writing). I have now attended my first dance competition, as a mother of one of the dancers, and have expanded my opinion.
I still believe dance is an art, but the competition itself wasn’t as competitive as I’d thought. It was primarily a venue for the dancers to perform—and dancers should get a chance to perform as often as possible.
While there was then a judging component, the groups weren’t judged against each other, but against a set of criteria (for example, all dancers in a certain category could receive gold, as long as they met the gold standards). They received comments and a report card on how to improve. It wasn’t cutthroat. It wasn’t beating others out. And my daughter said everyone was super friendly and encouraging backstage.
Equally important: the dancers were able to watch each other. They could see how things could be and shouldn’t be done, and set personal challenges for themselves for next time.
In comparison, I feel that writing competitions fall short. Sure, it’s great that you get writing practice, a writer’s own version of “performing.” But then you’re ranked against others, rather than against criteria. Generally, no one receives feedback: if you’re one of the winners, you receive praise; if you’re not, you receive radio silence. The only aspect of “watching and learning” is reading the select winners; everyone else’s submissions tumble into an abyss.
So while the last writing competition I entered gave me writing practice, I came away with little else. My daughter, on the other hand, came away as a dancer with so much more.