The new dance season has just begun, which means dancers around the country are choosing which conventions to attend this year. If all the choices are making your head spin, you’re not alone. Between higher expectations, the stress of competing and social media, many dancers find themselves in a race the moment they begin their dance journeys. Whether they feel pressure to achieve skills at a younger age, train more hours, win awards or titles, or just be “seen” and do as many things as possible, feeling overwhelmed or discouraged at times is an experience many dancers relate to. So, what role should conventions play in a dancer’s life today?
“It has certainly been amazing to see the level of talent and dedication at such a young age nowadays, but the challenge is to continue to explore, to push past set standards that dancers may compare themselves to,” says Elina Gordienko, co-founder of Transcend Tour. “Dance conventions have a big role to play in inspiring the next generation of dancers and artists.” But Transcend believes that “more” isn’t always “better.” “For us, the question became ‘How can we create an environment where exploration and risk-taking are encouraged?’ To succeed long term, it’s more important than ever for dancers to focus on their individual paths and strive to break molds instead of fitting into them,” says Gordienko.
As a former professional dancer, Gordienko remembers her own experience as a young dancer in the convention world and how she felt initially unprepared when the time came to launch her own professional dance career. After joining perspectives with a longtime studio owner and friend, they set out to create a convention experience that would equip dancers with the best tool belt possible—no matter what their next steps in dance and life may be.
“The goal has always been to be a hub of information, resources and community. We do our best to be very deliberate and constantly reevaluate what we offer based on research in the community,” Gordienko shares. Transcend faculty member Jessica Richens elaborates: “The culture of our convention starts at the top; it is a close-knit, family-oriented group where everyone strives to share relevant knowledge with the next generation of dancers!”
As Transcend gears up for its fifth season, here are the “…5, 6, 7, 8” reasons dancers can be sure it is a convention that will help them grow.
…5 Learn From Working Professionals Who Are Passionate About Sharing Their Craft
In order to ensure dancers are receiving the most relevant information, Transcend faculty are currently working professionals, who are also passionate about passing on their knowledge. “TV, film, Broadway, company work—whether they dance or choreograph, we look for teachers who are continuously developing their craft,” Gordienko explains. Bonus: These teachers are also always the judges!
According to Richens, sharing experiences with students does more than create a connection. “I try to pass along the information I have learned as a dancer so that this generation can be a little ahead of where I was when they get to where I am.” Curating a group of teachers and choreographers who are passionate about giving back to younger dancers is one Transcend’s priorities.
…6 You Won’t Be Lost in a Sea of “Numbers”
Transcend is focused on creating an optimal class environment, so the capacity of each room has always been based on the size of each particular space. At many conventions, dancers are just a number in the room, but that is not the case at Transcend. “Everyone is super supportive, warm and inviting,” shares 15-year-old Sophie Baldwin, who has attended Transcend for four years. “The teachers really look at us and get to know us, and they are very approachable.”
…7 No Audition Stress
At Transcend, the emphasis is on the educational aspect of the weekend. Dancers can still earn scholarships and regional titles, but they are based on participants’ performance throughout the entire weekend—as opposed to a single scholarship audition. This creates the opportunity for more class time, and for dancers to be rewarded for their versatility and work throughout the duration of the weekend.
“Not having the audition makes the convention stress free—you do not have to worry about being perfect in an audition, and since teachers zone in on us in every class, it feels more personable,” Baldwin says. Richens remembers the hour-long audition class being the entire focus of convention weekends when she was young. “I like that we do not do the auditions—dancers can focus on showing up to every class and keeping their energy throughout the whole weekend instead of being consumed by an audition,” she says.
…8 Extra Opportunities, Classes and Special Guests
Transcend provides opportunities for dancers beyond regular workshop classes and competition. Every weekend, Transcend offers industry classes for Teens and Seniors led by an industry choreographer. “A lot of times, they teach choreography from a professional set and provide dancers with real-to-life professional scenarios,” Gordienko says.
Transcend also offers scholarships for various programs, summer intensives, and agency consultations, and often invites college representatives, agents, or other industry professionals to regional events for bonus classes, Q&As, and seminars. Macey Herbison, 14-years old, says these opportunities have been really helpful, and she is thankful for the chance to meet one-on-one with industry professionals. “Transcend has given me so many real-world experiences; they gave me the chance to have an agency meeting, and I got to meet with Michael Damien, who created the High Strung movies,” she shares.
Ultimately, a weekend at Transcend offers a next-level convention experience for those looking to be inspired and pushed in new ways. “These days, we are all so focused on the result and getting there as fast as possible,” says Gordienko.” “We want dancers to enjoy the journey and discoveries made along the way as well!”