Three pageant judges talk about costume mistakes


“A costume’s job is to enhance the performance,” says Kim Craven, judge and faculty member of the New York City Dance Alliance. “You want it to flatter and uplift you, not against you.” How can you be sure your competition costume is hitting the mark? dance review asked Craven and two other veteran judges what they want — and don’t want — to see when it comes to ensemble dancers on stage.

Kim Craven. Photo by Iryna Sosnovska, courtesy of Craven.

Kim Craven, New York Dance Alliance

“Consider linking the costume to the theme, music or character of the play, so that it is coherent. Then, as judges, we have to see the lines you create. Big skirts, dresses or wide pants can hide these lines. It’s also distracting if your costume doesn’t fit well or is too revealing. Boxers, shorts, bras and leotards should cover what they are supposed to cover. Perform your costume routine more than once, so you know how it moves. It’s not fun for us to see a dancer’s top swinging lower and lower on stage – and maybe they don’t even know how low it is! Sure, accidents happen, straps break, but you can often determine if something might go wrong and fortify everything in advance. Another thing that bothers me: I don’t like the one-shoe look. I think it’s good practice to maintain the aesthetic that you’re likely to find in the professional dance world.

Joe Berry with a contestant. Courtesy Berry.

Joe Berry, Starbound

“I know that some of my colleagues don’t like competitors wearing only one shoe to turn, but I don’t have a problem with that. To play and be judged for it takes courage. If a shoe makes a child feel safe on stage, so be it! One of my biggest considerations is wearing proper underwear. When the stage lights hit the costume, I don’t want to see any exposed breasts. Also consider how the choreography would look in your chosen costume. If you’re wearing a leotard without tights, avoid tilting the crotch toward the audience; adjust the angle. We can judge the technical prowess of leaning no matter what direction you are facing. I want to be careful not to shame anyone. I wouldn’t rack up points for a leotard that turns into a thong mid-run, but I might say in my review, “I’d love for you to explore different costume options.” Your costume should make you feel comfortable and powerful, so you can succeed on stage.

YAGP founder Larissa Saveliev. Photo by Presley Ann, courtesy YAGP.

Larissa Saveliev, Youth American Grand Prix

“Every dancer has things they want to show and things they may not want to show. You can find a costume that is most flattering for your body. For example, maybe your knee is not ideally straight; in this case, you might prefer to wear something that goes above the knees, like a longer tutu. However, it is a big mistake to cover up with too many thick layers. This makes it harder for judges to rate you – and they might suspect you have something to hide! For classic solos, avoid giant, puffy tutus that make you look like a doll. For the contemporary, think light and fluid. With a sheer fabric, you can cover some things, but the judges can still see your body. I think the biggest shoe mistake in a ballet competition is spikes that are too hard. When you start jumping they make noise, and if you do something like Gisele Where The sylphhaving a lot of sound does not make a good impression.

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