Having danced, judged, coached, choreographed over the past couple of decades (dang I’m getting old), I have experience in dance from all four point-of-views. I often get asked “What exactly makes a winning POM routine?” or “What are judges looking for these days?” With that in mind, I wanted to provide some insight on the topic.
Some consistent comments I hear across the Country and Internationals are: “My team performed triple pirouettes, the other team didn’t but yet they scored higher.” or “My team had two turn sections and a leg hold turn, and the other team didn’t.” My answer is almost always “It’s the quality and execution of the routine that counts the most, not the quantity of skills.”
Ask yourself, these questions: Did your team hit the proper pom motions with locked tight arms, proper body lines, and sharp movement while executing these skills? Did they have pointed feet and proper turn out? Were their knees locked? Was their timing in synch? Did the technical skills add to the overall visual effect of the pom routine?
Judges would much rather see a clean hard hitting pom routine that had one turn section, then a sloppy pom routine that has three different turn sections, arms everywhere, leg hold turns galore, etc. Technique is always appreciated, but our pom score sheets reflect how your pom motions and visuals were throughout the routine. A routine with beautiful technique, pom placement and timing can contribute to the overall effect and difficulty of a routine; but it is a POM score sheet. Meaning, you will not see a section on the score sheet that rewards quantity of skills in a routine, however skills perfectly performed will likely increase your overall effect scores.
Imagine your poms are glow sticks; every single movement is being highlighted and is creating a visual both good and sometimes bad. Pom is not a jazz routine called POM because you happen to be holding poms. This is a dance competition so of course any proper technique is going to be appreciated and impressive, but let’s not forget what category and style we are competing in. There is no in between with pom motions. It’s a high V, low V, T, etc, if you were to take a picture at any point during a pom routine, each motion is a hard hitting pose. Even just a simple kick….if your leg was well over your head, where were your arms?
There are plenty of ways to incorporate technique in a pom routine, but it should contribute to the overall pom effect. For example, if your team is executing a proper a la second section but their arms are a crazy mess; on a POM score sheet the pom execution, technique and overall effect scores will be reflected. If the turn timing is off or prep and landings are off, the pom motions will obviously be off as well. If your team is hitting a great turn section with sharp pom motions and timing, your scores would go up, but there is much more to the routine then this. Pom is a very athletic, aggressive and energetic style of dance. Athletic doesn’t only mean tricks, it is the tempo, cleanliness, the number of transitions, the attack and dance aspects of the performance are the meat of the score sheet.
A super cheap and easy practice drill to help improve the sharpness of motions is to get two empty water bottles and fill them with dirt and have your dancers do the routine full out holding them as if they were poms. This will improve their arm and motion strength while dancing. I know it sounds crazy but I promise you it works!
Of all the styles of dance out there in the world, I have to say Pom is one of my very favorites to watch and choreograph. To me, every single transition, formation and motion is like a painting. I’m always seeing new and artistic choreography at competitions within the US and worldwide. The creativity that coaches and choreographers are bringing to the table always fascinates me. Even the colors and costuming I’ve seen in both high school and all star. I truly look forward to seeing all the pom performances this season and wish you all the best of luck!
Hayley Schumaker-Reyes: National Dance Director/ West JAMcare Rep