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I recall,as a stage actor in my younger days, observing how the audience could have a big influence on the effectiveness of a play. When you had a responsive audience, especially for comedies, everyone in the troupe would be infused with extra energy and confidence. It would bring out the best in each person on stage, leading to a more vibrant performance. This, in turn, led to a better experience for the audience as the effect would come full circle.

This past weekend we enjoyed the 2010 edition of the SnowBall Classic DanceSport competition in Vancouver, Canada. As in previous years, the audience was amazing. Repeatedly, competitors would comment on how supportive the audience was. One visiting professional (not an adjudicator at the event), mentioned how she was surprised by the way the audience didn’t favor only local couples or people they knew, but supported those whom they felt were the best on the floor, even if competing against their own favorites. This is unheard of in most parts of the world!

Others remarked how they noticed that many audience members didn’t seem to know anything about ballroom dancing, commenting on dancers they liked based on qualities like costume, or smile, or other things, and loudly supporting them on those issues. Since it is very rare for audiences at dance competitions to be non-dancers, this stood out as being remarkable.

All of this makes for a vibrant audience, and it helps set SnowBall apart from other competitions. There’s nothing like having a healthy roar from the crowd when dancing all out. It gives competitors more energy and makes them feel as if they are part of something special. Our Vancouver audience has a reputation for doing this exceptionally well. Even Dance Beat World magazine once commented on the amazing impact of the SnowBall audience!

Three years ago, I was talking to an amateur competitor from Germany competing in SnowBall for his first time. He was so enthusiastic about being here, his energy was infectious! When I asked him about it, he said it had been a dream of his for years to dance at SnowBall Classic. I asked him why and he responded that SnowBall has a reputation throughout Europe as being one of the world’s great competitions, driven in large part by the quality of the audience.

I have heard from international competitors that in most parts of the world, audiences are surprisingly quiet. In England they clap politely. In Germany and Russia, they might be vocal, but only for those couples from their “club,” never showing support for those who might prove competition for their favorites. There is a kind of partisan nature in most DanceSport audiences, sometimes to the extent that the audience will even try to feed negative energy to couples they don’t support. This doesn’t happen in Vancouver.

In 2008, another German athlete commented in the hallway between rounds that she could not believe the audience support for someone from outside the country, especially as a competitive couple the audience had never seen before. Well, this couple danced head and shoulders above the other Senior 1 Standard competitors. The audience loved them, enthusiastically shouting out their number through all their events. They won the event, and during an after-competition dinner they told us how the effect of the audience support was a great encouragement during the competition and made their time in Vancouver extra special. The effect was so powerful, they came back the following year, this time bringing some dance friends along as well.

During the 2003 SnowBall Classic, which was televised, Franco Formica mentioned in an interview that the audience support was incredible, creating extra energy and giving SnowBall a special feeling.

An exit survey in 2005 gave some insight to this unique quality of the SnowBall Classic. It turns out that most of the audience who come to SnowBall (andy by extension this is likely true of most major comps) don’t even dance. They see the event as an exciting, glamorous night on the town. They can dress up like they would for the VSO, but instead of quietly sitting and watching a performance, they can be part of an energetic, noisy, enthusiastic audience, as they watch a highly athletic competition between international champions at the highest level of the sport. It doesn’t get any better than this!

I’m not sure exactly what elements of SnowBall marketing led to this aspect of the audience design, but this audience truly is the envy of the DanceSport world. It’s even more amazing when you consider that the committee is made up entirely of volunteers who have dedicated themselves to putting on a great competition. Maybe that alone is the magic behind the Vancouver audience. In any case, congratulations to everyone who has, over the years, helped shape it.

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

More posts by George Pytlik

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