What to Expect from Your First Ballroom Dance Competition

As seasoned competitors, we know it can be intimidating for a new dancer to make the decision to step onto the competition floor. One of best ways to prepare yourself is to come and support your friends as they compete; this way you’ll see what it’s like and have an idea of what to expect when it’s your turn. There’s a lot to know about a competition, but the main idea is to push yourself to achieve your goals and to have fun!

The Basics of How Competitions are Run

Most competitions are held at a hotel or resort in major cities; the ballroom is typically decorated with bright lights, projection screens, tables for spectators, and a wide variety of vendors for shoes, accessories, costumes, photos, videos etc. There will also be a registration desk you can go to with any questions, but of course your teacher (or other studio staff) should be able to help you with anything you may need!

A typical day of competition is broken down into heats in which dancers are able to dance against other competitors of the same age and level category. There are many divisions in which to compete, and each division is further broken down by age category and skill level. The divisions are as follows:

  1. Proficiency Dances – Dancers perform for a score out of 100 from the judges and are not competing against other dancers. This is a great way to get introduced to the competition floor with little pressure. Some dancers also use these divisions to keep themselves warm and maintain motivation throughout the day, as it can be more tiring to sit than it is to dance!
  2. Closed Dances – Dancers compete against other couples in approved syllabus figures.
  3. Open Dances – Dancers compete against other couples with their own choreography appropriate for that particular level (not using approved syllabus figures)
  4. Championship Divisions -Dancers compete in multi-dance events, and the final score is based on the results of all dances in the category combined. Depending on the size of the event, dancers may start from a semifinal or quarterfinal, so be prepared to dance a few times in a row if you receive a callback!
  5. Scholarship Divisions – Dancers compete in multi-dance events, and the final score is based on the results of all dances in the category, with monetary prizes awarded at the results presentation.
  6. Solo or Show Dances – Dancers perform a unique and individualized routine to their choice of music (like “Dancing with the Stars”). These dances are typically around two to two and a half minutes, and they may include tricks.

See an example of a competition Scholarship Division below:

Timeline of a Ballroom Dance Competition

  • First, check into your room at the hotel and settle in. Your team at In Motion Ballroom will check in at the registration desk on your behalf and arrange a time to meet up and make sure you know when and where you are supposed to be somewhere! After check-in, you will receive your session tickets, heat list, and other relevant items. *You may want to order videos of your dances at this time for training purposes as well as memories to cherish!
  • Depending on the competition schedule, you may be dancing the same day you arrive, or you may have time to relax and rest a bit before dancing. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep!
  • When it’s time to get ready, you’ll need to do your hair, makeup, and make sure you have all of your costumes, accessories, and shoes ready to go. If you have a hair or makeup appointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes early and to come prepared with reference photos of some styles you prefer.
  • Head to the ballroom to warm up, stretch, and walk through your material. Just don’t overdo it – overthinking can cause jitters! It’s also important to remember to have fun with your team! Help each another with costumes, apply finishing touches to hair and makeup, perhaps warm up together, and cheer each other on!
  • Do your best and enjoy the experience; the goal is to be your best on that day. Whether you win or not, the important thing is to have the competition serve as a moment in which you are able to enjoy the fruits of your labor! You’ve put in all the hard work during your lessons, so have fun on the dance floor and think about all you’ve accomplished in order to be at the event!
  • After the dancing is done for the day, there are typically professional events and a fun evening of cocktails, dinner, a show, and general dancing. Time to party!

Ready to attend your first competition? Let your instructor know today!

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