7 Tips to Get Started in Country (students)

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So you've heard about competitive country dancing. Maybe you have a friend who does it. Or your current dance instructor has been hinting around at the possibility of competing in country. Maybe you just stumbled into a ballroom somewhere and saw people dancing to your favorite tune by Keith Urban, and you thought, I want to do that! No matter how you learned about it, I can tell you're hooked on the idea of country competition.

The path to become a country dance competitor is not difficult if you follow this well worn advice on how to get started successfully:

1. Attend Country Dance Competitions as a Spectator

Country Dance Competitions are unique. Attending a few competitions will allow you to meet the people you'll be spending a lot of time with (its pretty easy to make friends), ask questions, and get a feel for what pros are in your area and who you want to dance with. You'll be able to see country dancing at the lowest and highest levels, which can be very inspiring for a new competitor.

2. Determine your Financial Budget

Competing in country dancing isn't cheap. Even though the UCWDC makes it pretty affordable to get started, you'll eventually run into greater costuming and comp expenses. Having a clear sense of your budget will help you negotiate with a pro about what comps and how many you plan to attend. If your budget is tight, start small with fewer dances and closer, more accessible competitions. Also, you may need to shop around because not all pros charge their students the same rate/fees for competing.

3. Determine your Time Budget

In addition to the weekend travel to competitions, there will be lessons and practice time that will definitely eat into your personal time. How much time can you afford to devote to your country dance competition endeavor? Be clear about this with your pro so he/she knows how much you can commit. It will help him/her determine your choreography and number of routines/dances you'll be working with.

4. Discuss with Your Family

Your family will be impacted by your dance career in terms of time and money. Talking it over with spouses, children, or significant others can help avoid surprises later down the road. Make sure everyone is on board with what you intend to do. It's super sad to see someone have to give up something they love because their family is unprepared for the commitment.

5. Find a Good Pro

Locate a good professional who can teach you well and treat you well. Look at their other students: how are they doing? What previous competitive experience do they have? How do they treat their students? What type of reputation do they have in the community? These are things you can discover as you are attending comps as a spectator. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

6. Set Realistic Goals

Competing your first year in country dancing may not produce a lot of wins, especially if you are a beginner dancer. Set realistic goals with your pro to make strides forward in your skill and technique. Improvements should be your focus your first year rather than winning. If you win, that is a great side bonus, but becoming a better dancer is doable for everyone.

7. Commit to Practice

We have a saying among dance competitors, that the real wins happen in the studio, far from the eyes of the judges or audience. Becoming a better dancer, and eventually a winner, comes from regular studio practice. Lessons are valuable, sure, but the implementation of what you learn in the lesson can only happen with practice. Plan to commit 2-3 hours for practice every week or the equivalent of the hours you spend in lesson, whichever is more. Bring suitable music, memorize your routines, and practice the technique and drills provided by your pro.

Good luck! We can't wait to see you on the dance floor. If you have questions, feel free to use the contact form and leave us a message. We'll do our best to help!

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