So, you've been considering becoming a country dance professional. You've been a lover of country music your whole life! It's no wonder you want to mix your love of dance, music and competing into a thriving country dance business. You know what they say, "Do what you love - love what you do."
I'm making one small assumption in this article, and that is, you are already dancing, teaching dance and preferably have at least one student who wants to compete as a country dancer. But even if you don't yet have any students, these tips will help you get started:
1. Attend Competitions as a Spectator
First before you jump in, attend a few country competitions and immerse yourself in the vibe. It's going to be different than anything you've experienced before. You'll want to take note of the flow of the competition, actions of the other pros, costumes, routines, and the judging. Getting a good feel for things upfront will make your transition through the front door of your country dance business easier.
2.Find a Mentor
Earlier I mentioned keeping an eye on the various pros currently competing with their students. I recommend approaching a dance pro who you think is in it to win it. Ask if they mind if you pick their brain with a few questions. People in the country comp world are typically very nice and free with advice. Just be sure to double check all advice in the UCWDC rule book. A mentor can help you understand the rules and specific nuances of the UCWDC.
3.Study the Rule Book
Speaking of rules, download the UCWDC rule book and register as a member of the organization. Study the rules thoroughly. There are some unusual rules surrounding registration, costuming, floorcraft, and eligibility. You'll want to know for yourself the rules to protect your students from potential disqualification.
4. Learn the Dance Style Requirements
Although some of the dances, like waltz, Cha-cha and East Coast Swing are crossover dances, there are some minor differences between ballroom and country as they are danced. You can find videos for all of the country dances through DanceVision. You can subscribe or buy a video library to learn what's required of each dance.
5. Choreograph your Basic Routines
Routines are important in competitive country dancing. There are special rules that apply to phrasing, orientation on the floor and allowable steps. Having set routines helps your students prepare and perform more consistently in competition. You can download a list of practice music from the UCWDC website to know what to expect in competition. If you're not skilled at creating choreography, check with your mentor (see above) to get help or to purchase the rights to use their routines. You can tweak them to make them work for you.
Before you engage a student as a competitor, it's important for you to get clear on what you need financially to make it work. There will be a lot of expenses including travel, meals and lodging at the comp hotel. As a country dance professional, the last thing you want is to go bankrupt from not charging your students enough. A situation like that leads to resentment. Get advice from a few pros in the business on how they charge. Be sure to share all of these expenses with your prospective students upfront.
7. Locating the Comps You'll Attend
Consider your country dance professional career a sports season that begins January 1. You'll need to choose at minimum three competitive events to attend prior to the UCWDC Worlds event which takes place in December/January. If you're just starting out, you may want to avoid airfare costs and stick to comps that are driveable (within 6 hours from home) This will keep the expenses lower for you and your students, initially.
8. Lesson Scheduling
Encourage your students to attend lessons 2-3 times per week and to plan to put in the equivalent in practice time. It's a much greater pleasure taking students to competitions when they are well prepared. Students who feel less confident are more work and the experience is more stressful. Start them off with fewer routines. They can focus their practicing efforts on fewer steps and more technique. This will help them feel success sooner translates into wanting to continue. There's nothing like a horrible first showing to turn a student off from competing.
Good luck on getting your business started. If you have questions, please feel free to use the contact form below to reach out and we'll try to help!