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Guide for New Competitors
What is Dance Sport?
DanceSport, competitive ballroom dancing, is basically couples assembled on a dance floor being compared with other couples by qualified judges, on relative performance and execution using a defined and recognized set of standards.
DanceSport invites audience participation. Members of the audience frequently call out their favorite couple’s number and cheer for them which energizes the couple and can help bring the judges’ attention to that couple. Dancers are segregated by skill levels (proficiency), age and dance style so that they compete on a “level playing field”. As skills and proficiency improve they advance and move up to the next higher level and compete against dancers at the higher proficiency level.
What is Pro-Am?
Pro-Am competition is a category in DanceSport where the amateur students partner with a professional dancer, similar to what you see on “Dancing With The Stars.” In these events only the amateur is judged, leaving the professional free to concentrate on helping you look and dance your best! There are several age classifications and level divisions available, allowing professional partners to dance with all their students, and to ensure you compete against other dancers of similar skill. Every dance style is available, so you can choose the dances you want to compete in.
Each competition has slightly different age division breakdowns, and it is often possible to compete in a different age category. Pro-am age categories usually are:
- Teddy Bear: 7 & younger
- Pre-Teen 1: 9 & younger
- Pre-Teen 2: 11 & younger
- Junior 1: 12-13
- Junior 2: 14-16
- Youth: 16-18
- Adult: 18-35
- Adult B: 35-50
- Senior 1: 50-70
- Senior 2: 70+
Competitions are usually divided by ‘syllabus,’ meaning competitors are restricted to specific steps appropriate for their experience level. Your instructor will teach you competition choreography in advance, to prepare you for your competition. The levels are: Newcomer, Pre-Bronze, Bronze, Full Bronze, Open Bronze, Pre-Silver, Silver, Full Silver, Open Silver, Pre-Gold, Gold, Full Gold, Open Gold & Open Championship.
Pro-Am competitors choose which style(s) of dance they compete in. They may compete in one, or many styles of dance. There are four major categories the dances are grouped into: International Latin (cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble & jive), International Standard (waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot & quickstep), American Rhythm (cha cha, rumba, east coast swing, bolero, mambo, west coast swing, salsa, nightclub two-step, merengue & new york hustle), and American Smooth (waltz, tango, viennese waltz, foxtrot & argentine tango).
In solo competition, you and your instructor are the only couple on the floor. Judges usually give you individual feedback, and mark you on a scale of 1-100. Your scores are compared with many other couples who dance solos during the competition. The top-marked solos re-dance at night, and scholarships are usually awarded to the top solos of the entire competition. Solos are great for dancers who have a particular song they love dancing to, or if you would like the judge’s individual feedback which you cannot get in group flights. Solos are limited to 2 minutes and 45 seconds, but choreography is unrestricted allowing for maximum artistic expression and showmanship. Solo events are exciting and often highly competitive.
Most competitions offer multi-dance scholarship events. These are highly competitive events where competitors are judged on their overall ability in several dances. The top three couples are usually rewarded with scholarship money to help further their dance training.
Costs vary between competitions, so you‘ll need to discuss the event you‘re interested in with Alla for specifics. Firstly: you pay your instructor for their time, talent and expenses. You will need to buy tickets to the event (often discount packages are available) and pay entry fees.