I was asked to step in and judge the Fursuit Dance Contest at RMFC when the GOHs were unavailable, and I was glad to help out. I love watching the dance contests whenever I get a chance.
This contest did not disappoint. Whether veteran or novice, the twenty-some contestants brought their best and put on a terrific show. I was reflecting on the contest afterwards and thought about a few things that might be helpful not just to future competitors, but to anyone showcasing their work in public.
First: If you’ve made it to this contest, that’s already amazing. I know it might not feel like it, but the dancers have to work on their craft, work on their routines, try out, and go out in front of hundreds of people. It was terrifyingly hard to judge the variety of styles and talent on display; I think that the spread between first and third place was around one point out of thirty for the veteran category. When you get to this level, be proud of that achievement.
Second: Don’t get rattled. There were two or three performances where a contestant had a wardrobe malfunction (one lost their head entirely!), others where there was a glitch in the music. In some of the cases, the dancer let the mistake get to them more than others. From the judge’s and audience’s perspective, the mistake isn’t as important as what they did with it. If they took it in stride and kept going, the performance still came off good. If they kept trying to fix things or let it get to them, the performance suffered. Mistakes happen; we all know that. Take it in stride and roll on.
Third: Be creative. About half the acts we saw followed the same formula of a segment of lower-key fluid dancing followed by a segue into higher-energy music and dance. Some of them were technically more proficient than others, but at this level, there wasn’t really one that stood out. The acts that stood out to us were the ones doing something really different, really creative. The winner in the veteran category incorporated attitude and playfulness with energy and dance; the second place finisher showed off a variety of styles. The winner in the novice category (couldn’t find video) spun poi, changing up the light patterns and incorporating messages to the crowd and the con that added another dimension to his technical proficiency. It’s not bad to start out doing what everyone else is doing–that’s how you learn. But inject your own personality into it as much as you can. That’s what makes you special; that’s what will make you stand out.
Fourth: Be supportive of the competition. This is an area the furry community in general excels at. I know that the writing community is good that way, and my artist friends always seem to get along well too, but I still get a warm fuzzy from watching the dancers who didn’t win grab and hug the winner after the contest. I know that no community is perfect; there are hurt feelings and rivalries, but in the moment, there on the dance floor, everyone appears genuinely happy for the winner. And that’s important. Save the hurt feelings for later; it’s obvious how much these prizes mean to the winner. Keep at it and it’ll be your turn someday, and then you’ll want everyone to be as happy for you as they are for the winner now. And it’s way more fun to be happy than miserable.