Competition Tips for Swing Dancers

Before the Contest…

  • 1. Determine why you want to compete; only enter if YOU really want to compete.

  • 2. Accept that by competing, you have given everyone in the room permission to critique your dancing.

  • 3. Read the rules governing the specific contest you are entering. Ask convention staff/fellow competitors if you have questions.

  • 4. Register for the appropriate division/category ASAP. If unsure of your division, consult with Contest Registration/Chief Judge.
  • 5. Check the schedule for last minute changes in registration deadlines, contest times, or staging/meetings.

  • 6. Treat convention staff and volunteers with respect.

  • 7. Verify that the bib number you received is the one assigned to your name – and your WSDC # is correct.

  • 8. “Test drive” your competition outfit with your bib number attached (is it clearly visible?) to avoid clothing mishaps and misidentification.

  • 9. Be ready to compete in the ballroom at least 10 minutes before the scheduled start of your contest. If the event uses a staging area, arrive 15 minutes early to check in.

  • 10. Keep all your supplies (e.g., water, towel, shoe brush) in one place.

  • 11. Refrain from alcohol and other mood altering substances.

  • 12. Warm up with a friend or potential partner.

  • 13. Embrace the idea of a partner with unknown challenges (e.g., timing, connection, or musicality).

  • 14. Leaders: prepare a leadable pattern that you can use to enter and exit the floor with your partner in case your contest uses a jam spotlight format.

During the Contest…

  1. 1. Listen for your name/bib number and, when announced, quickly take your designated position.

  2. 2. Politely follow all directions from emcee and/or contest staff.

  3. 3. Leaders: do not leave your line to escort the followers onto the floor unless directed to do so. Leaving the line can create problems for the judging panel and contest staff.

  4. 4. Meet and greet your partners(s) with a smile and a positive attitude.

  5. 5. Finals only: acknowledge judges.

  6. 6. Choose an appropriate location for your dance, unless directed to go somewhere specific (e.g., circle format).

  7. 7. Arrange your slot in the proper orientation as directed. If no direction is given, it is generally best to run the slot parallel to the camera and/or judges.
  1. 8. Listen to the song’s introduction until you can clearly hear the beat, and then stay on it! If you can’t find the beat, follow your partner’s body language or “copy” the timing of more experienced competitors nearby.

  2. 9. Breathe, relax,  and smile. Refrain from counting out loud or lip-syncing.

  3. 10. Focus on your partner. Accommodate your partner’s abilities, preferences, age, and limitations in choosing choreography/styling.

  4. 11. Finals only: briefly acknowledge audience with a smile/wave at the end of your performance.

  5. 12. Act appropriately while fellow competitors are dancing; you may appear on their video in the background.

  6. 13. At the end of each prelim dance, line up so that your bib number is clearly visible to the judges.

  7. 14. Have fun!

After the Contest…

  1. 1. Say “Thank you!” graciously. Don’t argue with compliments.

  2. 2. Refrain from negative comments about your partner, music, floor, judges, etc.

  3. 3. Be present for awards, when possible. If you can’t, arrange to have a friend pick up your award(s) if you place.

  4. 4. If you win or place, accept prizes and take photos quickly. Followers stand in front of the Leader with bodies angled to the camera and trophy/prize held straight in front at waist level. Winners may congratulate each other on the platform before taking the group photo.

  5. 5. Smile and be a good sport. Congratulate the winners, even if you do not like the results.

  6. 6. Review posted scores – ask the Scorer/Chief Judge to clarify if you don’t understand the postings.

  7. 7. Reflect on how to improve your performance, but don’t allow the contest/results to ruin the event for yourself/your friends.

  8. 8. Questions or grievances? Ask the Contestant Representative/Chief Judge immediately after awards – in a nice, professional manner.

  9. 9. Keep your perspective! A contest is only a dance! If you didn’t make finals and someone else did (who you think isn’t as good a dancer), ask yourself, “Were the worst 12 seconds of my dance better than the best 12 seconds of their dance?”

  10. 10. Don’t expect individual feedback from the judges unless you have pre-arranged a feedback session. Judges may only remember spotlighted contests, may want their notes for review, and are prohibited from discussing their scores until after awards are announced.

The WSDC wishes to thank Kelly Casanova for this selection of content from her Competition Tips for Swing Dancers, updated in 2019.