Waves Dance Competition at the Englert will make waves in national dance industry and local scene

From March 31 to April 2, the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City will host the Waves Dance Competition, a unique addition to the national dance industry and a supporter of local business and culture.


Lillie Hawker

Concert goers gather outside Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter

Whether it’s out in the community or on the stage, the Waves Dance Competition aims to live up to its name in Iowa City.

From March 31 to April 2, the Englert Theatre will host the Waves Dance Competition, a new addition to the dance industry that recognizes local talent and businesses. Iowa City is just one stop on the competition’s national tour.

This competition successfully took off in the summer of 2022, organized by Caitlin O’Connell and Ann Elyse Urquidi. The pair collaborated several times throughout their careers, allowing the idea for Waves to come to fruition.

O’Connell has worked in the entertainment industry in Florida for the past 10 years. She grew up as a competitive dancer and studied dance, drama, and teacher education at Dean College, where she eventually received her Bachelor of Arts degree.

Urquidi graduated from Binghamton University and went on to pursue operations roles in national consulting firms and has been a consultant for multiple dance competitions and conventions. She has established talent management company Confirmed Talent and the urban wear line GoShow Yourself.

Residing in separate states, O’Connell and Urquidi mainly worked remotely on the creation and implementation of the Waves Dance Competition. Thanks to remote work, they were able to avoid COVID-19 restrictions.

On Feb. 24, Waves kicked off its 2023 season with its first national tour stop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Uriquidi said it has been a great experience so far.

“It’s been really successful, especially for a first-year competition,” Uriquidi said. “We know where the markers are for success. And those vary between different companies. But we’ve had an incredibly successful first year.”

As important as success is, though, taking criticism and improving is just as essential, particularly for a new business like Waves.

“We are constantly touting throughout our events that people should let us know what works, what doesn’t work,” Uriquidi said. “It’s a really important thing. You can only get better. We’re literally hosting an event where we’re critiquing people. So, we think it’s only fair that we take the same criticisms and notes about, again, what’s working and what’s not working.”

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As a first-year competition, O’Connell noted that it is also important to promote Waves and spread awareness about the event.

“We did an outreach tour last summer, also, where we drove through the Midwest and just stopped at every studio we could find on Google or Facebook and just dropped off brochures and information about our company,” O’Connell said. “I’d say that’s probably definitely the most challenging part, is the outreach.”

Waves is unique from other dance competitions for several reasons, one of which is that every regional event has four judges on the panel instead of the typical three, with a guarantee of a judge in the categories of tap and hip hop.

In addition, Waves only has two levels of competition and no novice category, and it is expected to condense its competition levels into a singular, firm level.

“We are firm believers that the real world only has one level out there,” Uriquidi said. “We think that you can have correct adjudications and correct mindset looking into everything, and still provide [people] with realistic standings.”

Waves also places a unique emphasis on the appreciation of local culture. Instead of eating at restaurant franchises and giving them more business, competition teams will support local businesses suggested by local clients.

“I think it’s really interesting to see how the term local is used and to see people kind of get to know each other, whether it’s the same people again and again and see what they bring week to week or the introduction of new clients to each other in new spaces,” Uriquidi said.

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