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Is joining a performance team right for you?

The time has come to end my run as a member of Dance Vancouver’s competitive teams. The shows and competition at the Canada Salsa and Bachata Congress in Toronto in October

My first ever salsa competition in March 2014.

were my last shows with both the Dance Vancouver student team and Scarlet Mambo Project.

I’ve come a heck of a long way since those first shows as a founding member of the Dance Vancouver student team back in 2014. In the early days I had no skills at the mental side of preparing for shows or competition let alone the technical dance skills I have today. I can attribute the bulk of my growth as a dancer to the time on those teams.

Being on a team certainly gives you an immense amount of practice time with skilled coaches to hone your technique but it also comes with additional benefits outside of dancing. As more and more performance and competitive teams arrive on the scene, more opportunities open up for dedicated dancers to develop themselves.

Perhaps you’ve wondered whether joining a team is right for you. Here are 4 reasons why joining a team can be beneficial and some considerations to have in mind when making the decision to audition.

  • Tackling personal barriers

Many dancers that I speak to tell me that they began dancing for personal reasons. Maybe they went through a breakup and needed a hobby that challenged them. Maybe they suffered from anxiety and wanted to push their comfort zones. Or maybe they have trouble meeting new people and thought dancing would push them to be more outgoing. Each of these reasons are admirable and take courage and strength to address and conquer. For me, I have always been a dancer and I dance because I love every aspect of it. Despite 12 years as a ballerina I was terrible at the mental side of performing and competing so being on a performance team in my late 30s allowed me an opportunity to overcome those mental shortfalls. I had terrible stage fright those first two years but with steady, focused work, skilled coaches and the will to change my wiring, I was able to turn that around. Whatever your personal mental challenge, being on a stage in front of people and working through the mental side of those barriers can have immense crossover value to the rest of your life.

  • One-on-one time to hone skills

Taking classes, taking private lessons, and frequent social dancing will improve your technique. But there’s nothing quite as effective at fast-tracking your improvement as having dedicated practice time with your coaches focused almost entirely on technique. Instead of learning in a group setting or trouble-shooting on your own, having your coaches explain and correct your technique one-on-one in a small group can move your technique along rapidly. I can thank my time on various Dance Vancouver teams and working on my own Am-Am and Pro-Am routines for getting my technique to where it is today. Without that dedicated time on a team I know I wouldn’t have developed into the dancer I am today.

  • Team bonding

Some of my fondest memories of being on teams are those big moments when you celebrate the debuts, finally learn all the choreo, cheer for each other as you do run-throughs in front of students, bond over hours of gluing rhinestones on costumes and hang out as a group waiting for your tech rehearsal or call time. Spending time with people who are of the same mindset, who have worked together on a common goal, who have each other’s back and care about one another’s success is immensely rewarding. You will hold those memories and keep those friendships for a long time. When the rehearsals get tough, when the jetlag is clouding your mind, when someone needs a shoulder to cry on, your teammates are there for you. Being on a team is really more than just about the dancing. The social aspect can be immensely rewarding.

  • Life long skills

Being on a team will improve your mental fortitude, improve your dancing and create strong bonds with other dancers. But it will also carry over into your life outside dancing. Being on a team requires a lot of time devoted to rehearsal. And getting through those rehearsals means being good to your body. Nutrition, rest and cross training are all essentials to making it through a season. Getting in the habit of taking good care of yourself is something that will stay with you long after you leave a team. Having the right attitude towards hard work, being dedicated to something you opted into, working well with others and celebrating your achievements are all excellent life skills that are essential parts of being on a team. On several occasions I’ve used these examples in a job interview outside of the dance world because evidence of ‘being a team player’ is a much sought-after skill in the workforce.

Being on a team is not all rhinestones and good vibes. There are some aspects that you need to put some sober thought into because, if you haven’t considered them they can impact your life and the investment of your teammates. Let’s look at 4 things:

  • Large investment of time and energy

When you join a team, there are certain responsibilities that are expected of you. One of those is showing up to practices. Each team will differ but for the Dance Vancouver teams, you are expected to attend at least one technique class a week and be at two rehearsals a week. That can add up to 6 hours a week for just one team, at the very minimum. On top of that, guys are expected to hit the gym a few times a week. When a debut is approaching you are often asked to rehearse 4-6 days a week, often late at night when studio space is available. Making time in your schedule for these practices and the recovery time and nutrition required to sustain these levels of activity must be accounted for. Rehearsals can take a toll on the body and mind and your life outside the studio. Although you get used to it over time, you have to be very honest with yourself and your schedule before you commit to something you can’t sustain, both for what’s fair to you and your teammates.

  • Financial expectations

Being on a team isn’t cheap. Sure, getting one-on-one time with coaches is cheaper in a team setting than if you booked that time only in privates. But there are added costs. Costumes, travel to congresses, extra time at the gym or with physiotherapists. Costumes run you around $500 per team. Congresses, if they require airfare and hotel, can run around $1500, plus time off work if you don’t have vacation time. It isn’t cheap. You need to have a good look at your finances before you make the commitment and be honest about whether you can commit the money required for the team’s season.


  • The not-so-fun parts

When you watch people perform at socials or at congresses it looks so glamourous and exciting to be on a team. But have you considered all the sacrifices and challenges that go along with the bright lights and rhinestones? For example, I don’t know a team member who has not been sidelined with an injury, missed an important event with their families or been fully rested for work in the lead up to a debut. Every team I’ve been on has had members quit either because their lives or health couldn’t withstand the commitment or they weren’t really prepared for what being on a team requires. The challenge of being on a team can reap rewards throughout your life, but is your life in a place at this moment to be able to withstand what’s required to be a teammate? Before you commit to working with other people, be sure you’re ready to give what it takes.

  • Choosing a team wisely

Last but certainly not least is be careful about which team you join. I have witnessed and heard of teams that had toxic environments with negative and lasting impacts on the unsuspecting dancers who joined the team. Think carefully about who you are spending a large proportion of your free time with. This includes both the directors and the teammates. If the directors work hard to select people with the right attitude to join the team and demand everyone adhere to a positive team culture then you’re in the right place. If there is rampant drama, abusive talk, ego-driven behaviour, blatant favouritism or outright unreasonable demands, I would walk away. Your sanity and your enjoyment of your hobby are not worth joining a team that doesn’t support your growth in all aspects of your dancing.


Being a teammember can have enormous benefits to your dancing, your own personal growth and your connection to the dance community. It can also take a toll on your health and happiness if you are not prepared for what it involves. If you’re in doubt, ask someone who’s a veteran member of a team, like myself or someone in your community. Or better yet, sit down with a director from the team you’re wanting to join and find out for yourself if it’s the right fit.

One Comment

  1. M. M.

    Interesting read.

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