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The Lead Role isn't the End Goal

At Ocean Dance Force our mission is to empower dancers with confidence and ambition for life. Our intention is to have each dancer that comes through our door to feel loved, valued, connected and appreciated for what they bring to the class, rehearsal or group.


Casting a piece takes many factors. To best describe this I like to think of a law scale and how there is a need for balance for both cups to stay even. The casting process is very much a balance between what the needs of the choreographer are and what the needs of the students are. One decision does not necessarily outweigh the other, but there are some instances when certain criteria are needed in order to balance the scale. The job of the instructors and company staff is to look and make sure the scale is balanced. This process can be very intricate at times and other times can be quite simple and again, this is all based on the criteria set forth and how the scale can remain even. Our goal is always to make sure the needs of the piece and students are met, and the scale is even.


Something that is important for our families to know about our goals for students is:


The lead role is not the end goal.


When in situations of casting after an audition, we never set out to disregard the feelings of our students or want them to feel less than, undeserving or left out. (In fact, our goal is quiet the opposite! We strive to make sure each dancer has a moment of leadership and a moment of challenge.) However, this does inadvertently happen sometimes, even when the staff and I feel like we have a clear vision for each dancer and we see where they will best benefit from our program. I have had many instances where I have delivered audition results to families and have felt so excited, proud and felt honored that my team was thorough and considerate of each dancer and their ability to showcase their talents only to find disappointment or frustration.


Honestly, when this happens, I really understand how the dancer is feeling only because I can say with confidence, each dancer, instructor, and choreographer has felt this way in our lifetime too! As hard as these feelings are, it is important to remember that the lead role isn’t the end goal for our students. Giving them a chance to shine (and lead their group by example) while making sure they are also finding a way to be challenged is.


It isn’t a great feeling but there are some simple things you can do to try and understand why or work toward feeling good about your casting in the future.


Speak with your instructors

Sometimes an answer you may be seeking is simple, other times it may be a little more complex. A simple “What can I work on to improve?” is sometimes the best question because if you are open to listening, it can provide valuable feedback that you can take with you to classes and rehearsals. It can also open up a helpful conversation to give some clarity from the other perspective that you might not have been able to see before.


Remember to Stay in your Lane

One of the biggest things we hear from parents and students alike is comparative talk. If Gertrude is dancing in this dance why can’t my Arlene? (Gertrude and Arlene are my grandmothers- hence where I got the names!) While this line of thinking is easy to get into, it only hinders everyone in the end.

Dance is an individual sport set in a group setting so comparative thinking is almost inevitable. However, I always find the dancers who focus on their own technique, and work ethic and celebrating the success of their peers, find more fulfillment and joy out of the audition and casting process in the end.


The best example of this idea is the Michael Phelps and Chad Le Clos race from the Rio Olympics in 2016. These two men are some of the best in their industry, and they were in for the race of their lives. Michael and Chad were neck and neck the entire race (And Chad had beaten Michael in previous races) and at the very tail end Chad decided to look over to the lane next to him to compare where he was, and because of that, Michael took the Gold and Le Clos came in 4th- he didn't even get to the podium that race.

An amazing reminder to keep your eye on your own personal goal and to stay focused on your own lane to accomplish your own vision.

Failure is Valuable - (and so is success!)

“An arrow can only propel forward by first being pulled back.” This is one of my favorite quotes because it is SO TRUE! What may feel like an epic failure right now, may be the catalyst for your success in the future. Once you have given yourself time to process, “failure” can give you some incredible insight on your situation. Valuable lessons, situations that you can do over in the future, or just have better head space afterwards are all so valuable! We need to “fail” in order to understand when we have success. Sitting in the hard part is very challenging but seeing the results at the end can give so much more joy and feeling of accomplishment in the end.