Competitions are one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of Ballroom and Latin American dancing, and they’re a great way to put all that practice to good use! This guide will tell you everything you need to know about competitive dancesport. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Team Captain, who will be happy to help!
The majority of the competitions we attend are part of the University Circuit. There are 2 types of competitions on the University Circuit, Friendlies and Varsities. These are run the same, with one exception; there are no ex-student categories at Friendly competitions allowing them to join in whichever category matches their level.
University Varsity competitions are organised into 6 different categories based on ability.
To compete at Beginner, you must have started Ballroom classes after the Inter Varsity Dance Competition (Blackpool Competition) of the previous academic year, usually held in late February/early March. Beginners compete in Waltz, Quickstep, Cha Cha and Jive. These are 4 separate competitions meaning you have 4 chances of progressing through the rounds.
After an academic year of learning to dance, competitors move into the Novice category. Once in Novice, competitors are then free to move up through the sections as they wish. Novices compete in Standard 2-dance (Waltz, Quickstep) and Latin 2-dance (Cha Cha, Jive). So unlike beginners, your Standard and Latin are judged as one category each rather than individual dances.
Both the Beginner and Novice events are restricted step events. This means that competitors in these events can only dance certain steps as specified by the BDC syllabus. For this reason it is better to stick to the routines and figures taught by Chris in the beginners and novice classes as these will all be from the syllabus. For further information on step restrictions ask the team captain.
The number of dances in the following categories may change depending on the competition, but in general will be as follows.
There are no dress or step restrictions in these categories.
Intermediate dancers compete in Standard 3-dance and Latin 3-dance events. You will always be asked to dance Waltz, Quickstep, Cha Cha and Jive, but the final two dances will vary from year to year. For this year’s NUDC and IVDC the additional intermediate dances are Tango and Rumba.
Advanced dancers compete in Standard 4-dance and Latin 4-dance events. Once again, you will always be asked to dance, Waltz, Quickstep, Cha Cha and Jive, but the final two dances will vary from year to year. For this year’s NUDC and IVDC the dances are Tango, Viennese Waltz, Rumba and Paso.
Competitors in the Ex-Student Category compete in Standard 5-dance and Latin 5-dance competitions, meaning they will be dancing all the dances.
In all the categories, how you progress through the rounds is the same. Each Judge will note down the numbers of the couples they wish to progress through in each dance. These numbers are then counted and the top couples progress to the next round where this process is repeated until they get to the final (usually 6 couples). For the final, each judge will rank the finalists first to sixth in each dance and the winner will be the couple with the best average placing.
Other events that are held at University competitions are Same Sex, Team Match, Open, Sequence, Offbeat, Rock and Roll (acro and non-acro) and Salsa.
This category can vary competition to competition, though one thing remains the same across them all, as the name suggests entrants must be made up of a partnership that identify as the same gender.
The team match is danced across Waltz, Cha, Quickstep and Jive (usually in that order) with each couple dancing one of the four dances (W, C, Q or J). The team is considered as a whole and the competition is marked as though it were a 4-dance with team being recalled as a whole. The first round of the competition acts as a qualifying round and splits the teams into two divisions. These two divisions are then run as separate competitions.
At many competitions there are categories listed as Open. These can range from 1-dance competitions to 5-dance competitions. In this instance, Open means anyone can enter, students and ex-students of all levels.
Sequence dances are a set of steps that are danced by everyone in the same order. Progression through the rounds works the same as other categories with the same dance being danced in each round.
This is a group dance that is danced at NUDC and IVDC, these dances can be made up of any form of dance except ballroom and Latin dancing. This is not danced as call back to rounds and only danced once with judges ranking each group.
There are two forms of rock and roll dancing, acrobatic rock and roll and non-acrobatic. Both of these and Salsa are danced in rounds like other categories with the same ballroom judges marking the categories.
In addition to University competitions, EUBDS also attend some open circuit competitions. These are danced in rounds like the university competitions with similar categories, Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, PreAm and Amateur. PreAm and Amateur are equivalent to Advanced and Ex Student at university competitions. Dances and dress code do vary across Open Circuit competitions, but the one thing they do have in common is Beginner and Novice are restricted step catagories.
Every competition organiser has their own set of dress restrictions, so if you are heading to a competition, one of the first things you should do is double check these with your Head of Attire or Team Captain!
In most cases, beginner and novice categories (and sometime intermediate too) are restricted dress categories. This means there are rules about what you can and cannot wear to dance. Each competition will have its own set of specific rules, but a good guide is:
Where there are no dress restrictions in place (this is typically the case for most competitions at intermediate level and above), then the above restrictions do not apply. You can wear all the sparkle, fringe and frills you like!
Ballroom and Latin shoes differ from normal shoes as they have suede soles. These help as they reduce friction and help you glide across the floor. If you are looking to compete it is worth investing in dance shoes.
Hair should normally be slicked back neatly with gel and set with hairspray. Makeup is normally not applicable for gentlemen, however you may wish to wear light make-up such as concealer and powder.
Long hair should always be tied up, preferably in a bun, however low ponytails for Latin are also acceptable (as long as it doesn’t whack your partner in the face!). You may also use quiffs, plaits, or other ways to add volume and texture — as long as everything is pinned and sprayed in place! Sparkly hairpieces and stones can also be used for decoration. Your hair should be able to stay in place for the whole day, withstanding all your twists and turns, so lots of pins and hairspray will be required! Ballroom makeup will be similar to stage makeup, as you will need to be able to be noticed from a distance — big eyes, bright lips, and and some contouring and highlighting are recommended! You can experiment with different looks and colours, and some glitter will also never be a bad thing. As well as some fancy hair and makeup, it is also common practice to tan, as this will stop you looking washed out under the bright lights of the dance floor. If you do not want to wear lots of makeup or fake tan, this is perfectly alright too — the most important thing is that you are comfortable!
A typical university competition sees the team travel down to the competition by bus. We leave on Friday night for a Saturday competition, and stay overnight. The team is allocated rooms and we share with other dancers of the same gender.
On the morning of the competition, you should make sure you have a good breakfast to set yourself up for the rest of the day. We then get on the bus and go to the competition venue (or walk in the case of IVDC). Ballroom is normally in the morning and Latin in the afternoon, with Team Match in the evening. After the competition is finished, we travel back to Edinburgh during the night.
Throughout the competition, shouting and cheering on your teammates is highly encouraged. You can choose to shout out their number or their names. It can be a real boost to a couple hearing they are being supported from the sidelines.
After a competition, results and marks are posted online. These can be posted on a couple of websites but the Team Captain will post the link to the competition facebook page once they have been published.
Some quotes from experienced members saying what they wish they knew about competitions as a beginner.