Tips From Our Judges

Interviews With Our Judges

Sherilyn Foley

Jen Ladner

Greg Patterson

Laura Bovenkirk

Jayme Stasko

Janis Jaksa

Jan Bailey

Aaron Salizar

Cathy: What do you look for when you judge a competition?



Sherilyn: I look for a dancer or a group of dancers that capture my attention right away and hold it. Those first few seconds of the piece really set the tone for me and give me a pretty good insight into what is to come! I also look for dancers who use all the choreography, music and stage space to weave together a dynamic presentation that has a range of emotion, not just a static feel to it, but instead something that feels real and tangible. I also look at attention to appearance and the finished product.



Cathy: What do you love to see?



Sherilyn: I really enjoy a dancer who comes onstage with a big personality as they take their opening pose. The opening pose will change the Expression of the "grand" entrance depending on the style of dance......lyrical (sad or internal), jazz happy and upbeat). I love seeing a confident technically proficient performance in whatever style the dancer is executing. The more technically strong a dancer is the better the dance will be. Competitors these days are all about the routine and how many tricks

they can do. The tricks are nice and do have a place in their dance, however, I always look for clean dance transitions into a trick. I also like to see good dance combinations that will make up the body of the dance being performed. I love to see the stage being used throughout the dance. Most dancers are stronger on the right side so you see many combos going to the right and the left side of the stage doesn't get used much. I love to see combinations done on the diagonals. Dance doesn't just move forward and back, side to side........when you use the diagonals the combinations become more interesting.....that in itself expands the choreography. Of course, I still look for clean technique. I like to see graceful and fluid movement if it is ballet or lyrical and hard hitting lines and isolations in jazz or hip-hop..........lots of character (without lip-sync).



Cathy: What do you love to see?



Sherilyn: I love it when dancers don't dance apologetically; when they are dancing full-out, connecting to their audience and music, and committing to their choreography; drawing us in, inviting us to be a part of what they are dancing; projecting to the balcony; finding the entire range of emotion in music and choreography. You can never discount technique - it's imperative. But don't forget that command of the stage through presence, preparation, polish and being genuinely committed to what you're doing will get you places!



Cathy: What do you dislike?



Sherilyn: I dislike material that because of content, costume, song choice or choreography is not age-appropriate. I also dislike that "forced, competition face" or choreography that seems like it might not have been choreographed to the particular piece of music being used, but maybe "recycled" from another piece. It's also disappointing when an otherwise strong and interesting dance falls short of its full potential because it is executed with only one, seemingly disconnected emotion from the dancer. We're seeing this lot with contemporary/lyrical style dances.



Cathy: What does it take to win a first place Platinum award?



Sherilyn: Everyone who performs has something wonderful to share that only they can offer. Therefore, to really rise to that Platinum level, you need to present an entire package consisting of technique, backed with artistry, emotion and attention to detail. I look for someone who doesn't throw ANY choreography away, who finishes everybody line and pays attention to their transitions and connecting material, and gives everything its full value. It's extraordinary when a dancer pays attention to the subtleties of what they are presenting and convey that to the person in the last row of the audience, all the while making it look effortless.



Cathy: What does it take to win the choreography award?



Sherilyn: Well, it is hard to "re-invent the wheel" and give us something fresh to look at...but I am thrilled in every city I travel to that somehow ingenious choreographers continue to do it! It takes someone with a vision who can hear a piece of music and think beyond the parameters that most of us are contained to in our minds. It takes really interesting use of the stage space and manipulating the dancers on it, with great detail in the specific choreography, telling the story using the voice of the dancers to make the vision come to life so they can relay it to the audience. Now having said all of that, some sheer entertainment for the sake of entertainment is great, too - just a good old-fashioned song and dance, cleverly conceived and executed makes me very happy, too!



Cathy: Is there any special tip you would give to first time contestants?



Sherilyn: Nothing can replace being prepared so there is no anxiety over the sorts of things that can be prevented. Remember, we are on your side. We want to see you succeed. Being "judged" sounds so ominous. We really don't get that wrapped up in mistakes, but look more at how you recover from them and what you give us as a whole. Have fun, relax, enjoy your gifts and share them with the audience. There's only one you - come out and show us what makes you uniquely who you are! I often tell dancers on critiques, "come on the stage and ask for it." We want to give it to you!



Angelo Moio



Cathy: What do you look for when you judge a competition?



Angelo: I look for correct technique, confidence, and performance quality. I don't care about tricks. I don't care about multiple turns. I want to see a well rehearsed, polished routine.



Cathy: Any dislikes?



Angelo: I hate fouette turns in a jazz, tap, or hip-hop routine. They belong in a ballet routine. I especially hate them when 5 dancers are doing them together but only 1 can really execute them correctly and the remaining 4 are falling or hopping out of them. Leave them out and the routine will score higher.



Cathy: What does it take to win a first place?



Angelo: I give high scores to routines in which the dancers exude confidence and self-assuredness, execute the choreography in a clean, technically correct manner, and perform with expression and energy befitting the routine. I love to see dancers who look like they love dancing. I love seeing the joy on their faces as they perform. I need to know there is somebody in there...not just a body moving through space.



Cathy: Any tips for first timers?



Angelo: The best advice I could give a first time contestant would be to enjoy the experience. Don't go in with huge expectations. Rehearse your routine so that you know it inside out and that way you can get up on stage and enjoy the experience and not be worrying about what comes next. Rehearse your expression as well as your steps. Remember, performance doesn't just magically happen - it evolves and grows and needs to be rehearsed.



Lyn Cramer



Cathy: What do you look for when you judge?



Lyn: I look for "preparation". I not only want to see good technique and great style, but a real performance by on a well rehearsed dancer who can turn it on for the audience with confidence only preparation can deliver.



Cathy: What do you love to see?



Lyn: I love to see dancers who genuinely support one another. There is room for everyone to be successful. I like to see dancers from the same school as well as competing schools acknowledge the talent of other dancers by applauding for each other and wishing each other good luck.



Cathy: What do you dislike?



Lyn: What really concerns me is the growing apathy I see at the awards ceremonies when dancers react with lackluster joy and excitement when they receive any award other than first place. That really speaks to me concerning their values. Every award given has merit and every competitor is a winner.



Cathy: What does it take to win the choreography award?



Lyn: Originality and impeccable staging!! Admittedly, it also takes well rehearsed dancers that deliver a committed performance. The emotional impact and purpose is crucial.



Cathy: What does it take for first place?



Lyn: I will list the elements that I expect to be evident: Great music, appropriate costumes for every single dancer in the piece, strong technique, clean movement, solid performance with connection with the audience regardless of intent (i.e. fun, serious, poignant, etc.).



Cathy: Special tips for first timers?



Lyn: Compete only with yourself or your group. Resist the urge to compare yourself with others competing in your category. There is room for everyone to be a success. Don't worry if you make a mistake during the piece. Judges do not expect perfection, ever. Connect with the audience and they won't care about your error, they may not even see it!! The audience is your best support when you are out there. Share your performance with them.



Robin Kelley



Cathy: What do you look for when judging a competition?



Robin: Creativity and entertainment value with strong technique. Something I will remember...something that leaves me wanting more.



Cathy: What do you love to see?



Robin: Dancers who dance from the inside-out (whatever the venue). Dancers who are performing something they, themselves, can relate to and, in turn, relay it to an entire audience.



Cathy: What do you dislike?



Robin: Dancers who are given material they obviously are not ready to be presenting (whether it is technique or choreography that is not age appropriate). Dancers who are not prepared for the stage...costume problems, headpiece problems...etc. * problems that can be avoided.

Choreography that has nothing to do with the music being used.



Cathy: What does it take to win a choreography award?



Robin: Knowing how to present something that enhances the age and ability levels of the performers on stage and being able to capture the attention of the audience. Choreography has to be relevant to the era, feeling and content of the music being used. Unique patterns and creative movement that you don't see in other pieces...again, something memorable.



Cathy: What does it take to win a first place platinum award?



Robin: Technique, heart & soul, and something unique.



Cathy: Is there any special tip you would give to first time contestants?



Robin: If there is a competition with "levels", be sure to enter them in the correct level for their ability. You want the kids to feel challenged, but, at the same time, good about their individual performance. Go out costume problems at home and polish routines fully. Stage make up is very important...a professional appearance is essential. Also, let the kids and the parents know that 2nd or 3rd place is still okay as long as they do their best. Be sure the kids know that this is supposed to be FUN and educational and that it is only a small part of the dance world. The real competition is in the class room and within themselves. If the dancers are having a good time, are prepared for the event and are learning, then it's a great thing!