Ballroom Dance Lessons often culminate with a dance competition, whether for fun or serious competition. Many people are curious as to what factors a judge is looking for when assessing a performance. There are numerous criteria types to examine but often, a judge must be quick in his or her assessment since they will be judging multiple couples at once. The experienced judge will be able to recognize and assess these main factors:
Posture – One of the most important aspects of dance; great posture makes you look elegant and emanate confidence. It allows your partner to connect well to your body in the smooth dances. Your competition result is often heavily proportionate to one’s postural correctness.
Timing – You must dance in time with the music, no amount of expertise in any other aspect can overcome this. The music is in charge.
Line – Line relates to the length and stretch of one’s body from head to toe. Attractive and well- executed lines, either straight or curved, intensify the shapes of the figures.
Hold – The correct and unaffected positions of the body parts when in closed dancing position. For instance, the line of the man’s arms should be unbroken from elbow to elbow. There should be symmetry when a man and woman’s arms come together to form a circle, even though it changes in size it should remain constant in shape, so the dancers are in correct body position. The silhouette of a couple should always be attractive.
Poise – This is mostly in smooth ballroom dancing, the stretch of a woman’s body into the man’s right arm should achieve balance and connection with his frame, as well as to project outwards towards the audience.
Togetherness – The merging of two people’s bodies into one, therefore leading and following look effortless and the dancers are in total synchronization.
Musicality and Expression – The basic characterization of the dance to the music being played and the choreographic adherence to musical phrasings and accents; also, the use of light and shade to create interest value in response to these accents and phrases. For instance, in foxtrot, the stealing of time from one step to allow another to hover; or a quick speed of turn in an otherwise slow rumba; or the snap of a head to suddenly freeze and then melt into slowness in tango.
Presentation – How a couple sells the dance to the audience. Are they expressive? Enjoying themselves? Are they exuding their joy and confidence in the dance?
Power – A couple’s energy is an exciting thing to watch. Powerful movement is an asset in foxtrot or waltz, but only if its is channeled correctly into the swing of the body, not just by taking big steps. The jive is a high energy dance that often, the most energetic couple will win, but the energy must be controlled, not spastic. The movement of the music must be matched by the action of the body.
Foot and Leg Action – The stroking of feet across the floor in foxtrot 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 pointing 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 all fall under this most important of categories.
Shape – Shape is the combination of turn and sway to create a look or a position. Does the lady simulate the billowing flow of the cape through space? In foxtrot, does the man use the appropriate shape on outside partner steps to enable body contact to be maintained?
Lead and Follow – Does a lady follow seamlessly or does the man have to assist her? Does the man lead with his entire body, not just the arms?
Floor craft – In ballroom dance, this relates to the ability to continue dancing without missing a beat, even if you are boxed in. It also refers to not colliding with other couples on the dance floor. It shows that the couple is in control of their choreography.
Intangibles – This is essentially whether a couple looks good together, fits together in their personalities, their appearance, etc.
Strategic Costuming – A well planned costume that flatters the body type and style of dance sets things off on the right foot.
All judges are going to have different leaning towards what they are looking for, therefore they will weigh these factors differently. One judge may just want to see couples on the ballroom dance floor having a good time and keeping up with their choreography. Another judge may care more about technique. While all factors of ballroom dance are important and need to be considered, it can result in couples getting various markings across the board. Couples intrigued by the reasoning behind a judge’s score should know that any one of these factors could be responsible. A judge will only see each couple for a few seconds, anything that draws attention whether it be positive or negative, will come to light and be a factor in your scoring.
It is a good reminder to remember that a judge will not mark you for any other reason besides his or her honest evaluation of your performance. Most judges try and do a conscientious job since they hold their assessments in high regard.
When it is time to enter the competition floor, trust you are adequately prepared! Know that you have worked hard and that our ballroom dance instructors have taught you well! Then, let loose and have some fun. When you make it your goal to enjoy these ballroom dance competitions, it is likely that you will increase your chance of placing higher. Enjoying your moment on the dance floor will make you feel like a winner no matter what the judges think.