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From Crew to Competition: A Conversation with Tara Crichlow

Pilates teacher, personal trainier, and dancer extraordinaire Tara Crichlow recently went on a trip to Ukraine to judge a youth dance competition. Tara dances with the crew MAWU, a female dance company that teaches, dances, and competes in house dance and breaking styles. In their own words, "MAWU is an all-female urban dance company whose mission is to embody strong, positive images of women in the urban dance community, and to create fierce and creative works that will both educate and inspire new audiences. Furthermore, the company seeks to preserve the rich cultural heritage of house music both in New York City and around the world, to provide more creative outlets for women, and to foster and help build positive relationships among fellow dancers." Tara shared her experience with me after returning home from her trip. 1. What exactly led you to Ukraine for this competition and what was your role there? I never would have planned a trip to the Ukraine. A Ukranian dancer was a fan of my crew MAWU and recommended that we be brought out to this event called Funky Style Stars (A young dancers' competition). It turned into an 8-month negotiation [to get MAWU to the Ukraine] because things fell through one time. Tara served as a judge for the competition.

2. Upon judging this competition, how did you find yourself surprised or adapting to their style of dance performance? I was not surprised by anything [about the dance competition] except that people wanted my autograph on their arms. Haha! I was intrigued by how they used social dances from NY as a way to have these Olympic-type competitions for kids. It was like a mix of childs' beauty pageants and street dance. I was really impressed by how hard they work and the intense training they undergo [in preparing for] these events, which inspires me for future competitions I have.

3. What kind of feedback did you receive while there? Did you teach? I received a lot of appreciation for my smiling. When I was judging I would smile and move to the music and be engaged with the competitors regardless of what I felt their skill level was. I could see they were basically dancing for their life and I wanted to support them. Most judges responded with either a look of boredom or disdain which the kids said was discouraging and made them feel stupid.

Also, I taught a house dance workshop to about 125 people. It was fun. I didn't get too technical because you can pick up the technique and retain it like a robot from one class or a YouTube video. I tried to convey the feeling and intention behind house dance. I wanted them to enjoy the movement as opposed to being so focused on execution.

4. I know you dance with a crew, could you describe that experience and ritual in your life? I dance with the crew MAWU. It's awesome to work with such amazing women. We are all pretty independent so while coordinating our schedules can be difficult, when it falls into place it's really a great experience. We inspire each other because we are not competitive amongst the group. We all have different strengths and weaknesses so we learn from each other as well. It has enriched me to see my reflection and the group that I attracted into my life.

Tara shared the following video with me, demonstrating the excitement and energy at the competition in Ukraine.  CLICK HERE