Ballroom Dance Competitions

How Are Ballroom Dance Competitions Judged?

Ballroom Dancing is a popular pastime among many countries. Dances take place in social settings such as teas and country clubs. In order to perform, dancers must learn the steps for different types of dances and then compete in local, national, and international competitions.

Ballroom dance competitions are judged using a system of points. The dancers are graded according to the quality and execution of their performances. Ballroom dance competitions are judged based on a number of criteria, including the quality of the dancing and its presentation. Judges look for clean lines and smooth movement, as well as proper technique.

Dance competitions are subjective and open to interpretation, but there are some basic rules that are typically applied. As with almost all dance competitions, the judges’ main task is to determine which couples are the most talented and deserve to win.

Ballroom Dance Competitions Judging

What factors does a judge weigh in assessing a couple’s performance? Judging, whether in figure skating, dancing, or in any other sport, must have a basis on which to judge competitors within a limited amount of time. Figure skating to some degree would seem to be a lot easier as you are only looking a one competitor or one competing couple at a time. Dancing however is a different story. There can be numerous couples on the dance floor at one time. So, what are the adjudicators looking for?

Excerpts by Dan Radler (World Class Adjudicator)

An experienced judge can quickly assess these factors collectively:

Power – one of the most important aspects. Good posture makes you look elegant and exude confidence. It improves balance and control.

Timing – if a couple is not dancing on time with the music, no amount of proficiency in any other aspect can overcome this. The music is boss.

Line – the length and stretch of the body from head to toe.

Hold – the correct and unaffected positioning of the body parts in closed dancing position.

Poise – in smooth dancing, the stretch of the woman’s body upwards and outwards and leftwards into the man’s right arm to achieve balance and connection with his frame, as well as to project outwards to the audience.

Togetherness – the melding of two peoples’ body weights into one, so that leading and following appear effortless and the dancers are totally in synchronization with each other.

Musicality and Expression – the basic characterization of the dance to the particular music being played and the choreographic adherence to the musical phrasing and accents.

Presentation – does the couple sell their dancing to the audience? Do they dance outwardly, with enthusiasm, exuding their joy of dancing and confidence in their performance? Or do they show strain or introversion?

Power – energy is exciting to watch, but it must be controlled, not wild.

Foot and Leg Action – the stroking of the feet across the floor in fox-trot to achieve smoothness and softness; the deliberate lifting and placing of the feet in tango to achieve a staccato action; the correct bending and straightening of the knees in rumba to create hip motion; the extension of the ankles and the point of the toes of the non-supporting foot to enhance the line of a figure; the sequential use of the four joints (hip, knee, ankle and toes) to achieve fullness of action and optimal power; the bending and straightening of knees and ankles in waltz to create rise and fall; the use of inside and outside edges of feet to create style and line.

Shape – the combination of turn and sway to create a look or position.

Lead and Follow – does the man lead with his whole body instead of just his arms? Does the lady follow effortlessly or does the man have to assist her?

Floorcraft – refers to avoiding bumping into other couples as well as the ability to continue dancing without pause when boxed in.

Intangibles – how a couple “look” together, whether they “fit” emotionally, their neatness of appearance, costuming, the flow of their choreography and basically whether they look like “dancers”.

Adjudicators are individuals and each person has a different view in what they want to see and how they weigh these factors. One adjudicator may be especially interested in technique while another may be interested in poise or musicality and expression. No qualified adjudicator will mark a competitor for any reason other than his or her honest evaluation of your performance.

Depending on the number of entries, competitors may be required to compete in a series of elimination rounds (1st round, 2nd round, quarter-final and semi-final) until six couples are recalled for the final round by the judges. These six couples will be ranked First through Sixth. A Final may be run with as many as eight couples.

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