Competitive dance industry
Dance competitions are organized and conducted by independent competition production companies. In 2007 there were at least 150 such companies operating in the United States and Canada alone. Competition production companies move from one metropolitan area to another, stopping for a few days in each area to conduct a regional competition. By touring in this manner, these companies are able to generate profits while at the same time enabling significant numbers of dancers to attend local competitions. Some companies also conduct one or more national competitions after their regional tours have ended.
The competitive dance industry has no oversight body or standards organization, although at least one effort was attempted to establish a limited set of competition rules and safety standards in the industry. Competition production companies seldom coordinate their tours with each other. Tour start and end dates, as well as cities visited, vary from one company to another. Most companies conduct regional tours from approximately January through May, while National competitions generally run from June through August. It is not uncommon for two regional tours to be visiting the same metropolitan area at the same time.
Regional competitions are held at high school auditoriums or other performance venues that include a stage and space for judges and audience. Such venues are typically rented for periods ranging from one to four consecutive days, depending on the number of dancers scheduled to compete. Competitions often start very early in the morning and last until late at night so as to minimize rental cost and other expenses.
National competitions typically take place in major metropolitan areas in large, rented spaces such as hotel conference rooms or convention centers, with portable stages, sound and lighting systems installed just for the competition event. National competitions often last for a full week. In addition to the competition itself, these events sometimes include:
- Dance classes and workshops. At some competitions, these classes are adjudicated to produce partial scores for title contenders.
- A dance-off or dance-down.
- Choreography workshop for title contenders.
- End-of-the-week banquet. If the title contenders participated in a choreography workshop, they typically perform the dance at this banquet.
- Grand Nationals, where the best of the best compete for the top ranks.
The duration of a competition event is dictated by the number, and types, of dance routines that are scheduled to compete. In addition to the time needed for dance performances—which represents the majority of the total event time—additional time is allotted for judging, score tabulation and awards ceremonies.
Due to late entries and scratches, competition schedules are often subject to change until just a few days before the competition. Because of this, the final schedule is often published, and made available to competitors, shortly before the competition begins.
Dancers are required to be at the competition venue during their performances and, in most cases, at the associated awards ceremonies as well. In addition, dance schools require their dancers to arrive no later than a specified time (i.e., the call time). Dancer call times are generally well before their scheduled performance times because:
- A competition may run ahead of its published schedule.
- Dancing is an athletic endeavor, and thus requires sufficient warm-up to avoid injuries.
- Many studios encourage idle dancers to watch and learn from other dancers and also serve as supportive audience for other dancers.
Videography and photography
The choreography of a dance routine—which is the design of movement and flow of steps in the routine—is copy rightable. Consequently, video recording is often prohibited at dance competitions in order to steer clear of copyright infringement issues. Some competition production companies employ professional videographers to capture and sell video recordings of competitive performances with the restriction that video recordings may only be sold to the subject performers or members of their studios, thus avoiding infringement. When no professional videographer is available, competition production companies will sometimes permit each attending dance school to designate a videographer to record performances of students from that school.
Unlike videography, still photography does not infringe copyrighted choreography. Because of this, many competition production companies permit photography at their competitions. Virtually all competitions prohibit flash photography, however, both for the safety of performers and to prevent undesirable distractions. Some competition production companies employ professional photographers to capture and sell photographs of dance performances. In such cases, photography by audience members is typically prohibited so as to provide an exclusive market for the official photographers.