Competing Against Friends

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Reader Question:

My dancer and two of her best friends were all given solos for the first time this year.  They are 11 years old.  We have been to three competitions so far and my dancer has scored significantly lower than her two friends.  While I have encouraged her to look at this as a personal journey, it is hard for her to see that.  She has always been very confident, but now she feels like she is a horrible dancer.  I feel like this is affecting her other dances as well because she is so nervous that she won’t do well.  I know competing against your friends is not easy, but this is turning into a nightmare.  Any tips for how to handle this situation and how to get my daughter back to believing in herself?

competing against friends
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This is a hard journey for girls to go through and as a mom I personally know it’s hard to watch your daughter be hard on herself.  I would first remind her why she began dancing in the first place: For fun, and because she loves it! Then go back and recall some favorite non-competition performances. What did she love about them? Maybe talk about the costumes or a teacher or theme. Take time to really remember and reminisce. Remind her how she felt during these times and how dancing made her feel.  While at the competitions, if she gets nervous remind her she has worked hard and done all she can do. Encourage her to go out and do what she loves and have fun. Tell her not to second guess herself and to go for it! After hitting those turns or nailing that trick a few times, she will start to believe in herself. Remind her that each competition’s result is only the opinion of 3 people. I am not sure if your studio is allowed to listen to the critiques of the judges or not, but maybe you can talk with the teacher about whether doing that is something that is right for you and your daughter right now. Many critiques give corrections as well as compliments.  Another suggestion (and only you will know if this is the possible because you know her studio and teacher): talk to her teacher. The three of you can sit down and talk about this. You can also see if there is an extra ballet or technique class to take that might give her more confidence. Ask your daughter if this is something she is interested in. Ask your daughter what else you can do to help her. Lots of hugs and reminders of dancing from the heart and not comparing herself to others will also go a long way.  You both will make it through this and she will learn from this and be a stronger dancer and leader for it.  Hang in there!

Friends that are the same age and given solos almost ALWAYS brings a bit of tension and competitiveness when it comes time to compete. At the young age of 11, the dancer probably has a hard time NOT comparing herself to her friends, and is not looking at the big picture. That is perfect that you as a parent have encouraged her to see this as a personal journey, because that is exactly what a solo experience is! The reason dance teachers (well, most of us!) give out solos is because we see a potential in someone, and we want to tap into it. Or, we see room for improvement, and we want to work one on one with that dancer to really get results! So if she can first focus on that, then maybe she will feel better about things. The fact that her dance teacher sees something in her and wants more for her is HUGE!

As far as the solo not scoring as well as her friends, or as well as your daughter hoped, could be a number of things. Now that I have been a dance teacher for 9 years and worked with 40 something kids on solos, I have seen that the BIGGEST issue is when the dancer goes onstage and forgets about his/her technique, or quite the opposite, forgets about performance and ONLY focuses on technique. As a soloist, the dancer has to have the whole package to score in the top 10, or get those diamond crystal ruby extreme double platinums she is hoping for. I am not sure if your daughter has this issue, but perhaps she is going onstage and KILLING it with performance, and focusing so much on this that the technical issues are not present in her mind. She may think the technique is all there and is a habit or part of muscle memory, but in reality, there needs to be a bigger focus on the little technical issues to keep the routine polished. OR, perhaps she is too focused on her technique, and only thinking about keeping her feet and knees stretched or her arms placed, that she begins to look like a robot and forgets all about attack and commitment to her character?  Have her teacher go through judges’ notes with her if she hasn’t already. That is a huge help to my students AND myself as their dance teacher! Remind her to focus only on herself- and NOT what her friends are scoring! I know that is hard for a tween/teenage girl, but worrying about how her friends do is never going to benefit HER. It will only tear her down. Keep encouraging the personal growth and journey! You’re on the right track with that!  Encourage her to keep believing in herself, just as her teacher believes in her.




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  1. Thank you so much for this. You have no idea how helpful this is. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. Hoping to get my dancer back on track. 🙂


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