A certain reality TV show, Dance Moms, has given an image of what it means to be a competitive dancer, but the things that they show are very different from what it is actually like for those of us who don’t have cameras following us 24/7. First, we don’t learn a new dance every week. The dancers on Dance Moms learn 1-4 new dances each week and compete with them at the end of the week. The rest of us spend five or six months, and part of the summer, learning and practicing the same routines over and over until competition season in February.
We also have more classes and longer hours than what is shown on TV. Most competitive dancers spend at least four out of seven days at the studio every week and have classes starting around 3pm and ending around 9pm. This may be represented correctly on Dance Moms but what isn’t correct is the types of classes that are taken. Almost half of the time we spend practicing is not actually learning and rehearsing our dances. Many hours are spent in technique classes where we work on bettering our skills and conditioning.
The third difference between the reality TV show and reality is the length of competition. On the show, competition is perceived to be only one day long and only a few hours out of that day. That is not how it is at all. Competition typically starts on a friday afternoon around 3pm and doesn’t end until Sunday night around 10:30pm. There is also a lot of time spent doing nothing and just waiting for it to be your turn to dance, which isn’t seen on the show.
Another difference is the dressing room situation. If you have ever seen the show, you know that for every competition, the girls and their moms featured on the show are the only ones in the dressing room. In real life, every dance studio attending the competition is shoved into one big room and there are hundreds of girls and their moms in and out of the room each day.
A big difference is the awards that are given. The show only shows a small part of the award ceremony: the overall winners for each age group and number of dancers. The award ceremonies actually last about an hour and there are so many more awards given. Each dance is given a rank of either platinum, high gold, gold, or bronze. After those awards are given out, the top ten places are announced for each style/ age group/ size of dance and then following that, each judge gives a “judges award”to a dance of their choosing. The show makes it seem like only the top ten places are announced, but there is so many more awards than that.
The last major thing the show does that most normal competition dancers don’t do is all of the glamorous hair, costumes, and makeup. They typical hair and makeup for a dancer is a tight, slicked back bun, blue eyeshadow, and bright red lipstick. The girls on Dance Moms, however, usually get their hair and makeup done different for each dance they’re in, and it’s never just a simple bun or blue eyeshadow. The costumes for the girls on the show are custom made and designed just for them. This is different from the rest of us because we get our costumes out of a catalog and have to do alterations ourselves.
The reality TV show Dance Moms captures few of the many parts of a competition dancer’s life. The show may be entertaining, but it does not accurately represent the true life of a competition dancer.