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Competitions Rethought

danceprizeA 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.

Have writing competitions earned your respect? Why?

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About the Author

Posted by Galadriel

Hi, I’m Galadriel: blogger, author, reader and resident of a quaint small town in the breathtaking West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Sport is objective. The best runner is the one who finishes first. Art needs elaborate critiques. Art works in different ways. Sometimes, artists use a weakness to their strengths. You first needs to understand what the piece of art is trying to achieve, and explain why it works. It’s also the only way to improve. A runner can just continue running until the heat death of the universe. The writer needs his strengths and weaknesses pointed out to him.

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