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For the Spectator

Guide to DanceSport Comptetition
for spectators and those new to the sport


If you have never been to a DanceSport competition, the following brief explanation of how a dance competition is organized is designed to help you have a more informative and enjoyable time.

What makes a Dance Competition?

Dance Skills:

A dance competition allows dancers to show and compare their skills with other dancers at a similar level. A competition consists of many events, each of which is targeted at a particular style of dance and skill level. Each competitor is required to perform one or more dances from a given division. As competitors move up a skill level, they are required to perform additional dances in the respective category. Not all skill levels or divisions are offered at all competitions.

In the United States, there are the following amateur competitive skill levels:
Championship
Pre-Championship
Novice
Syllabus: Bronze, Silver & Gold (restricted figures)

Dancers competing in the Syllabus level events are only allowed to dance figures at the level or below which they are dancing. For example, a couple competing in a Silver level event may only dance Silver and Bronze figures. You can see the allowed figures in the Syllabus section of this website.

Age levels:

Age classifications assures a level competitive field and covers Preteen, Junior, Youth, Adult, Senior I, Senior II and Senior III. Senior competitors may dance down with a younger age classification, but not up to higher age classification. As Senior II, you may dance in Senior I but not dance in a Senior III event until you meet the appropriate age. Senior competitors may not dance lower than Adult age classification. Dancers are allowed to dance up to two consecutive ability levels (i.e. Bronze and Silver, or Novice and Pre-Championship), and can dance in any age group for which they qualify.

Who can compete in a Dance Competition?

Any dancer registered with USA Dance as a competitor or registered with an organization affiliated with an International DanceSport Federation (IDSF) member organization may enter into a dance competition organized by USA Dance. In most events, dancers compete as couples. However, some events such as formation team competitions are performed by teams of dancers.

What are the events in a Competition?

USA Dance offers events in the following styles of dance:

International Style Standard

  1. Waltz
  2. Tango
  3. Viennese Waltz
  4. Foxtrot
  5. Quickstep

Latin American

  1. Cha Cha
  2. Samba
  3. Rumba
  4. Paso Doble
  5. Jive

American Style Smooth

  1. Waltz
  2. Tango
  3. Foxtrot
  4. Viennese Waltz

American Rhythm

  1. Cha Cha
  2. Rumba
  3. East Coast Swing
  4. Bolero
  5. Mambo

Miscellaneous

  • Theater Arts
  • Cabaret
  • Night Club
  • West Coast Swing
  • Salsa
  • Hustle
  • Night Club Two Step

How are the events judged?

During the event, from five up to 11 or more judges will rank the dance couples based on their skills, presentation, and showmanship. Scores from all the judges are combined to obtain the final standings. Adjudication is both an objective and subjective process and that is why several judges are used to ensure fairness.

Depending on the number of entries, competitors may be required to compete in a series of elimination rounds (early rounds, quarter and semi-final) until six couples are recalled for the final round by the judges. During the final round, the placements, 1st through 6th, are determined.


How to support your favorite Dancers?

During the competition, you will be seeing some lovely and inspiring dancing. Beautiful movement to music is one of life's great joys! Applause is much appreciated anytime during the event. So don't be afraid to clap, yell and call out the number of your favorite couple. We invite you to play "judge" during the competition and see if you agree with the judges results. So sit back and experience this wonderful visual and aural delight.

Glossary of Terms

International Standard - A style of dancing in which couples must remain in closed dance position.

International Latin - An internationally-recognized style of Latin American dancing.

American Smooth - A style of dancing in which open work is allowed. That is, the couple may separate from the closed dance hold during the dance steps.

American Rhythm - A style of Latin American dancing that is primarily offered in United States copetitions.

Theatre Arts/Cabaret - A special type of artistic exhibition dancing characterized by lift and drop movements in the dance routines.

Adjudicator - a judge. There is also a chair of judges who schedules the other judges and is the primary authority at the dance competition, subject of course to the rules.

Scrutineer - A certified dance official who tabulates the judges scores from the competitive events.

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