Complete The Total Package…. A Judge’s post-competition feedback

Immediately following a big competition is the best time to reflect on what to focus on next. Unique Dance-O-Rama Competition is one the biggest with over 12,000 entries this year. We are in a gorgeously decorated ballroom and get to experience amazing dancing, energy, and costumes. Being able to judge at this competition is truly an honor because of the sheer volume of Students. There are many points that stood out to me both good and bad. Here is my post-competition feedback to help you better prepare yourself for your next competition (SUMMER SHOWCASE!!!).

It’s all about that base – we’ve all heard this catchy song, however, the base I’m talking about, is the feet and legs. In the smooth dances, it is important to develop long, powerful steps. You attain this through using your supporting leg for power, and control by dancing between your feet. If you move too quickly with your feet underneath you, you will tend to take shorter steps and get ahead of the music. Proper footwork for each dance will also aid in this control. This is an important step that needs to be rehearsed continuously for quality smooth dancing.

Look good from Head to Toe – every detail makes a difference when you are competing. Purchasing the proper dance attire is only where it begins. Having the proper shoes, hair, make-up, and tan, complete the total package. You can’t skimp on any of these details.

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish – When you move your weight from one foot to another it is important to completely transfer your weight over your foot. This is important in all of your dances but I’m referring to the rhythm dances on this one. To achieve a more complete Cuban motion, you must transfer your weight fully from one foot to another. Quite often, Cuban motion switches too quickly without properly getting the weight over the foot. To practice this, I would begin by taking the Cuban motion out and practice transferring your weight from position to position ending with a pointed toe. As you practice this, you will find you have a bigger range of motion in your weight changes. Your weight will not remain only on the balls of the feet but will go to the whole foot and to the heel while your body poise remains forward. This will result in a fuller, sexier Latin motion.

Musicality – rhythm and musicality are two different things. Rhythm is dancing to the beat of the music while musicality is dancing to the mood and beats of the particular song that is playing. It is important to really listen to the song and to dance to the mood and rhythms that you hear in the moment. This becomes kind of like improvisation. Your choreography is just a baseline to work from. Practice to all different speeds and styles of songs and rehearse adjusting your accents, steps, and facial expressions to music.

Balance your fun choreography with technique – hop, skip, jump, shimmy, point. These are all great flashy components to have in a routine, however you don’t want to remain on any one concept too long before moving into something technical. The judges only have small amount of time to compare the competition. Having a routine that is balanced with different types of movements, i.e.; closed, open, side by side, rotational, poses, etc. are a winning combination.

Have a winning Bow – remember how you present and carry yourself while you aren’t dancing is as important as when you are. Your poise as you enter and exit the floor are often rehearsed. What can get missed is practicing your bow when couples are re-introduced in a final. It has been said you can almost place the couples from 1st to 6th place by how you take your bow. The timing, connection with your partner, placement of the arms, and detail of the pointed feet are all rehearsed. Many competitions are won by one mark, so make sure your bow is a winning one!

Dance Your Heart Out –When it comes to sports and competitions, we are so used to telling ourselves “I can always try harder the day of the competition.” Which is true for sports that are based more on brute physical strength, such as football, basketball, or soccer. However, ballroom dancing is a more of a performance and technique-based activity; and the adrenaline that usually helps one compete will actually distract you from you your dance techniques. If you’re not dancing full out and performing your techniques during practice you cannot expect yourself to perform those same techniques under the pressure of competition. In ballroom dancing the hard work is all done before the event and the competition itself is a reflection of how you’ve been practicing. It should feel easy, fun, and comfortable. “Your technique is where its at and there’s nothing you can do today to make it any better, so don’t try harder to perform techniques that aren’t already natural in your body… Just go out there and have fun!”


“You can’t change without improving, but you can’t improve without changing”.

-Leo Damkroger

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