Parents Guide To: What to Expect at a Dance Convention or Competition Weekend

So, you decided to try out the dance convention circuit—your child is going to have a great experience! If you’ve never been to a dance convention or competition, it can appear very overwhelming. Before you pick the convention, or, if you already have selected one, head our for the big weekend, get familiar with the typical flow of the weekend and what you can expect. We’ve broken it all down for you here.

The Basics

Most conventions have a workshop and a competition portion of the 3 day weekend, but not all competitions have workshops. Some conventions start as early as Thursday night and have a whole workshop load Friday night, others have optional sessions on Friday night, and most of them offer the ability to choose which days you will be taking class or competing in.  Every convention is different, so check out their websites and instagrams for the most up to date information.

The most common location for a convention is a larger hotel, with dancing taking place in the ballrooms. If the convention is far from home, many choose to stay in the same hotel the convention is taking place at, although that is not necessary. The days start quite early though, so take that into account when considering travel options.

What does the schedule look like?

Every convention and competition is different, but here is a sample schedule of the average weekend: 

Friday 

  • 5:30pm: Workshops and smaller group dance competitions 

Saturday 

  • 7:30am: Morning welcome and warm-up
  • 8am: Workshops begin. Breaks are scheduled throughout, but it’s often a fairly packed schedule with classes running between 45 minutes to an hour and 15. Workshops typically go until 2 or 3.
  • Competition begins at either 8am or 4pm, depending on whether the convention focuses more on workshop or competition. 
  • 8pm: The awards show can occur at various times depending on when they wrap the competition, but overall, they tend to go quite late. The good part is that at this point, a lot of the stress of the weekend is over, so dancers can relax and focus on workshops and any auditions the next day.

Sunday

  • 8am: Workshops 
  • 3pm: The Sunday night awards is held earlier and often includes solos or group dances by the teachers and assistants. This is where they announce the regional winners that will be invited to Nationals, any scholarships, and other awards for intensives and things like that.
People sitting in a line with journals open on their laps

What is there for me (a parent) to do?

Loads! There is often more for parents to do than they initially realize, between activities set up between other parents and the dance studio to events and classes offered by the convention itself. For example, NUVO is offering parent dance classes in most cities, and NYCDA always has parent chats with Joe (Executive Director of NYCDA and a veteran of the biz). Expect to see more of these inclusive events as conventions respond to the needs and wants of dancers and dance studios today! Most conventions have observer passes as well, so you can sit in and watch the classes. (Some conventions modified their observer policies during the pandemic, and some policies will continue to change from state to state, so be aware of that this coming year.)

If you aren’t planning on watching classes and are in a new city, the time during the workshops is a good time to sightsee, or relax in your hotel room. If your child is competing at night, it’s best to stay around for that, for moral support and… for costume or other issues, should they arise!

Overall, conventions are a great place to learn more about the dance industry and other dance studios all while your young dancer is learning, making friends, and absorbing some mind-blowing performances by faculty and students alike.

Is it worth it?

Maybe you’re considering costumes, travel costs, the distraction it might provide from school, or other ‘cons’ about spending a whole weekend dancing. Totally understandable! Conventions aren’t for everyone, from the high stimulation environment, to the back to back dance advanced dance classes. 

So what makes conventions worth it? There’s the obvious draws, which are the unparalleled friendships, dance instruction, and awesome awards shows. Then there’s the financial and long term incentives that many conventions offer like scholarships to that same convention, to other dance intensives, and at several National competitions, the opportunity to receive college scholarships. Also, the exposure to and conversations with dancers in “the industry” can be really beneficial to dancers considering entering it themselves one day.

Something that may not be as obvious is that going to these conventions can be a great way to build a younger dancer’s self esteem and understanding of their own dancing. Every teacher and dancer has a somewhat different idea of what constitutes a “good” dancer. Meaning, your child might be overlooked at her home studio for one reason or another, but she might stand out to other teachers, parents, or students in a convention setting. Many dancers bring their A game to these weekends, and may be surprised by how well they end up dancing when the pressure is on. 

Note from the author: I have seen many students not expecting to be noticed at all go home with an award or recognition and a new outlook on their own dancing— including myself, when I went to conventions.

Dancer in the splits at a dance competition
JUMP Solo Dance Competition

How competitive is the environment?

This depends on what you, your child, and your possible dance studio’s goals are for the weekend. Some studios go in with what feels like hundreds of dancers competing hundreds of dances. Some dancers go solo or with a few friends from their studio. How much you compete, and how often you go to conventions will have an impact on how competitive the environment feels for you and your young dancer.

The workshops themselves are a huge reason to go to a convention, and there is no need to compete at all if you don’t want to. The workshops often involve an audition process to choose dancers to compete at each convention’s “national” competition, but that is often optional as well.

The beneficial part about the audition part of the workshops is that young dancers get experience auditioning in a safer, more welcoming environment than might be the case later on if they plan on auditioning for dance gigs, companies, Broadway shows, etc. The possibilities for growth and for achievement through the competitions or auditions at these types of conventions are important for dancers, as unlike other sports, that type of challenge and goal is not built into the art. 

The possibility for competitive pressure can exist in dance whether it’s young dancers all wanting to be cast as Clara in the Nutcracker, or whether it’s a studio trying to improve their scores with each competition they go to. When you strip away the titles, these goals and “competitions” are emblematic of dancers wanting to improve their artistry, and that is a wonderful thing!

See for Yourself

In reality, no amount of summarizing can really depict what the convention experience will be like for you or your dancer. A convention and competition setting, above all, is a place to be surrounded by dance, and to expand your dance community across boundaries that otherwise, can be quite defined (e.g. only taking class at one dance studio).

If you do go to dance conventions this year, be sure to say hi to the many members of our CLI family that teach on the convention circuit, including Teddy Forance, Brian Friedman, Shannon Mathers, and so many more!


What to build your child’s confidence through dance? Learn more about our on-demand and live dance classes featuring staff from the convention’s circuit.

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