“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.”
Counts are called out to the beats of the rhythm playing, each movement carefully choreographed to tell a story. Hours of rehearsal go into each dance, each dancer striving for perfection.
With the help of the hit reality TV show “Dance Moms,” the world of competitive dance has taken the world by storm, inspiring young dancers and enthralling many more. With all of the hype surrounding the microcosm of dance, many have wondered what it is truly like without all of the television cameras and superficial lighting. Senior Alyssa Dumont, a dancer for fifteen years at Greensboro Dance Theatre and Dancer’s Edge, shares her experience of being on stage as a competitive dancer.
“My parents put me into [dance] when I was around three or four because I would always dance around the house,” Dumont said. “Whenever I was six or seven, I started competitive dance, and I did that until my junior year.”
Dumont began dance classes at Greensboro Dance Theatre, but then switched over to Dancer’s Edge in 2010, as her family knew the owners. However, the studio switch was not the most challenging aspect for her.
“The biggest change for me was when I started competitive dance,” Dumont said. “Because I went from one or two recital dances to four or five [at Greensboro Dance Theatre.] When I went to Dancer’s Edge, I started out with 12 dances. That was too much. So I went down to five to eight dances a year.”
Not all dance is alike with some being ballet, others jazz, and some hip-hop.
“I like all styles [of dance], but my favorite has always been hip-hop and contemporary,” Dumont said. “Because with ballet, I’m not the most graceful person. So I like watching ballet, but I’m not a big fan of doing it. [Contemporary is] different than ballet, it’s not as restraining as ballet is.”
After hours of rehearsal, competition day arrives, and with it, early morning wake-up-calls.
“There’s a call time and a performance time [at competitions,]” Dumont said. “The call time is usually an hour and half before the performance time, because they could either be running early or late. So if my performance time is at 8:00 in the morning, I’m there at 6:30.”
Even before arriving at the venue, however, Dumont and the other dancers have been up for hours.
“We would get up really, really early, depending on where [the competition] was, start doing my makeup, and once I got hair and makeup done, and we would go to the competition,” Dumont said.
Hair and makeup is not as simple as it sounds, however.
“You have to plan to do makeup for thirty minutes at least, since it’s darker makeup for stage,” Dumont said. “My mom would do my hair because I could not do my hair, but she would have to braid it and make it as tight as she could and hairspray my whole head.”
With multiple turns, flips, kicks and jumps in a performance, a loose strand of hair could not be risked. The quality of hairspray was truly put to the test leading up to the performance.
“We would practice our dances at least ten times before we went on stage,” Dumont said. “After we performed, we would wait for awards. Everyone has to wait for awards, so sometimes you wait the whole day. After awards we’d usually go out or just go home, depending on if we’d been there all day.”
This schedule is only including Fridays. Weekdays were an entirely different beast for Dumont.
“On Tuesdays and Thursdays [class] would be from five to nine,” Dumont said. “It was all the way in Kernersville, so that was really hard because I would have to try to get all my homework done before I went to dance, which is pretty much impossible. It would take me thirty minutes to get home, I would have to shower and eat, so I would usually start my homework around 11:30.”
Saturdays that didn’t include dance competitions were still filled with dance, as well.
“It would be a full day, really,” Dumont said. “I would be there from roughly 10:30 for pilates and ballet, and then start into dances around 12:00 or 1:00. Saturdays were basically shot if I wanted to do anything with anyone else.”
The intensive schedule was a big issue for Dumont, as it is with many other dancers.
“The weekdays were what was the most difficult because I would stay up late and not get enough sleep, which is why I couldn’t do it this year, because I had to concentrate on college applications,” Dumont said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that with that schedule.”
Fifteen years of dance culminated with Dumont’s last national competition in Florida.
“My favorite memory is definitely going on stage for the last time and performing one of our dances,” Dumont said. “Everyone was crying, because half of the group was my age, so they were about to leave anyways because they were seniors, so everyone was crying and it was just a mess.”
Performing in Florida was bittersweet for everyone involved.
“No one really knew except my close friends that I wasn’t going to be [dancing] my senior year, so it was definitely a surreal experience,” Dumont said. “It was bittersweet. On the plane ride there I realized that this was going to be the last time I’m ever on stage really, because I’m going to go into my medical studies.”
The medical profession is unfortunately not one with much performing, which is an aspect of dance that Dumont has missed.
“[Performing on stage] is definitely my favorite thing, and it’s something I miss,” Dumont said. “I love performing. I’m not much of a public speaker, but I love dancing. Especially with all the stress I had over the past few years that came with all the schoolwork, dance was that outlet where I could let out my emotions. It was a stress reliever, but eventually it became the stressor, which is why I had to end it.”
Even though the combination of a heavy school workload and 20 hours of dance a week caused Dumont to quit, she never forgot the positive connotations she associated with the sport.
“It was definitely something where if I was having a bad day, I could look forward to going to dance,” Dumont said. “I had my friends there, and you would be able to express your emotions. If I was really upset at something or someone, or something happened, I could just turn it off for a few hours.”
This feeling of losing yourself in the hard work in order to relieve stress is common in many other sports. It is also a common thread among athletes to build a strong bond with your teammates.
“I met some of my closest friends through dance,” Dumont said. “We all had around the same schoolwork, so we would help each other out. If someone was having a hard time in a math class, and another person was having trouble in history, then we would all work together on our breaks. That was really, really fun.”
Working together is an important factor in any dance, which Dumont reminisces about.
“That’s another thing I really liked about dance,” Dumont said. “Because even if you had a problem with someone in the group, you would work together because you want to beat the other teams [at the competitions.] It was just something where, you were in a rhythm of performing and you’re not really thinking about your own struggles, it’s like an act of role play into whatever character you’re playing. I could almost change who I was for a few minutes, it was just really cool to be able to play a character.”
Although Dumont is not continuing dance, she does not regret her decision for stopping.
“I miss it so much,” Dumont said. “It’s definitely been a big part of my life. I miss it, but it’s bittersweet. That chapter of my life is over, but while I was in it, it was amazing.”