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What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For? #20—Attack


 Ariel Bennett, ADCRG, is a teacher and judge who has been Irish dancing for 30 years.

Have you ever gotten the comment “more attack” from a judge at a feis? If so, you might have wondered what exactly “attack” means. Form points like cross, turnout, and keeping your arms down are easy to understand (even though they’re sometimes hard to do), but attack is more complicated. That’s because it’s really a combination of several different factors:

1. Movement

Judges want to see you using the whole stage, not just dancing in one place. They especially want to see you using the front of the stage, and they want to see you pushing yourself to move, not just moving wherever the choreography happens to take you. So when you practice your steps, you need to plan where you are going to move on each part, making sure that you charge to the front and use as much of the stage as possible.

Tips for improving your movement: What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For? #17—Movement

2. Stamina

You need to look energetic when you dance, like you are giving 100% on every single move. But the end of your last step needs to be just as good, and just as energetic, as the beginning of your first step. To achieve this, you need to work on your conditioning. You also need to practice using just the right amount of effort so that you don’t use up all your energy at the beginning of your dance.

Tips for improving your stamina: What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For? #19—Stamina

3. Confidence

This is a tough one. So far, the form points we’ve talked about in this “What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For?” series have been mostly physical. Confidence is mostly mental. In order to convince the judge that you are the best dancer in the competition, YOU have to believe it, too.

We’ll be talking more about confidence later, but one thing you can do right now to help you believe in yourself is write down a list of things you do well as a dancer, athlete, and competitor. Maybe you have good flexibility; write that down. Maybe you have solid timing or make loud beats in your hard shoes; write those down, too. Remind yourself in writing of all the things that are positive about your dancing, and then put the list where you will see it every day: on your bathroom mirror, or next to your bed, or in your dance bag. Whenever you have a tough practice, pull out your list and read it to yourself. Remember that for every form point that your teacher wants you to improve, there is something that you’re already good at.

So, what is attack?

It’s when you come out on stage and from the very first bar of music look energetic, aggressive, and confident. It’s when you charge toward the corners and make every movement purposeful. It’s when your last movement is just as snappy as the first one. You look like the stage belongs to you.

Think of attack as pushing. Push yourself to move more. Push your leg higher on your kick. Push your body up off the ground. Wherever your leg is supposed to move in your step, don’t let it just go there—make your muscles push it into the right place.

So keep on working on all the physical form points we’ve talked about in this series. The more you practice all these elements, the better your dancing will look, and the more you will be able to push yourself both in practice and competition.

Over the next several months, we’ll also start talking about ways to improve the mental part of your dancing: your self-confidence. If you can strengthen both the physical and mental aspects of dancing, you will be reaching your competition goals in no time.
Photo credit: deviantART Attack! Attack! by aflakhurrozi

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