Anyone can compete--it's the best way to practice a lot, improve quickly, and see amazing couples on the floor. You'll drive with us to the competition, possibly spend the night in a hotel or be hosted by local dancers, and spend a day or two dancing rounds, watching Champ-level dancers and shows by professionals, and getting callbacks & winning. There are divisions by skill level, including Newcomer for people who've danced for less than one semester. If you don't have a partner, we can help you find one. Email ballroom[at]andrew[dot]cmu[dot]edu or contact the Competition Team Coordinators if you're interested!
What's involved (overview)
Levels and Dance Styles
Newcomer, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Novice, Pre-championship, Championship. Newcomer is exclusively for dancers with less than 6 months of experience; after that, you must move up to Bronze, and you'll progress up through the levels as you get better. For each level, there are 4 styles to choose from: International Standard (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep), International Latin (Cha-Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble, Jive), American Smooth (Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz), and American Rhythm (Rumba, Cha-Cha, Mambo, East Coast Swing, Bolero). You can typically do any or all of these 19 dances at a competition.
How comps work
Typically, each event (dance) will have 3 or 4 rounds, each being 1 1/2 minutes long with about 20 couples on the floor. About five judges walk around the perimeter of the floor; in Newcomer, they mainly look to see if you're on time, doing the right steps, and looking confident, and in higher levels, they look for technique and style. If enough judges mark you down, you'll be called back to the next round for that dance.
What to wear
- Shoes: When competing it is essential to have good shoes--they should slide on the floor, look nice, and fit tightly. Ballroom shoes are typically between $90 and $130, but you can find lower priced shoes online. If you are interested in buying shoes, you should ask some comp team members about getting cheap deals online and about choosing the right size & style. Some common brands are: Capezio, Bloch, Very Fine, Freed, Supadance, and Stephanie.
- For guys: Dress shoes with leather soles or jazz shoes often work, but ballroom shoes with suede soles are ideal.
- For girls: Character shoes may work, but ballroom shoes are much better, especially for Latin.
- For guys: Wear black dress pants and black socks. Wear a long-sleeved white dress shirt for Standard and a black shirt for Latin. Make sure the shirts don't bunch up at the shoulders when you raise your arms, and try to have the Latin shirt be fairly close-fitting.
- For girls: For Standard, wear a long-sleeved fitted top and a long skirt (mid-calf to ankle length). For Latin, wear a short skirt (mid thigh or shorter) with shorts underneath and a tight-fitting top. Asymmetrical skirts tend to look good on the floor. It is also best to either wear skin colored tights or put makeup on your legs for Latin. For both Standard and Latin, hair should be neatly pulled back. Longer hair should be put in a bun. Make-up should be done to the extent of stage make-up (but not clown make-up : ) ), including foundation.
Traveling to comps
There are about 2 local comps per school year. Others are 2-6 hours away, so we drive together.
What to look for in a partner:
Looking for that perfect someone to reign the dance floor with? Let us
help you choose the lead/follow of your dreams:
Time commitment: Is this person wiling to practice with you as much as you
want to practice? Goes both ways, if you don't come to practice as often
as the other person, they may be disappointed and vice versa. IMPORTANT:
talk about which competitions you can make to and make sure there's at
least one or two you are both free for.
Skill level: Are the two of you evenly matched in skill level?
(Newcomer-Newcomer, rather than Newcomer-Silver) If one person is ahead,
be ready to
take some time (which may get frustrating) to make the other better. On
the other hand, the extra practice will help you form a better connection!
Height: This may seem superficial, but having a guy of the right height
really helps (step size, appearance, arm's length, etc). The guy should be
taller than you, but not too tall (I think the ideal height is having the
lead be about 1.1 times the follow's height).
Their Style: Do they like latin more? Standard? If it's the opposite of
the one you like more, it'll be a battle when you decide what to practice.
So there's our advice! None of it is a MUST, but just things you may want
to consider when choosing a partner. Of course, once you have a partner,
nothing is set into stone--you can always switch it up for another
competition. However, choosing a good partner and staying together for a
long time will make you an even better dancer.If you'd like help finding a partner, email ballroom or ask one of our officers at a lesson.
Preparing and practicing for comps
You have to be able to survive on the dance floor for 1 1/2 minutes; you have to get the judges' attention; and you have to look good. For surviving for 1 1/2 minutes, learn to recognize the beat of the music right away, and practice remaining composed even when people bump into you or get in your way. Also, make sure you know how to string steps together and what direction each step should face. For getting the judges' attention, you must project: hold yourself up straight, make your movements big, and have lots of energy (even in slow dances like Rumba). For looking good, you should make sure your frame with your partner is correct, make sure you're on time with the music, and look confident. We'll do rounds in our Intermediate and Advanced lessons specifically to practice these, but you should always think about them in any lesson or practice you go to.
Paying for comps
The possible costs involved are entry fees, travel, housing, and food. The club subsidizes all of these as much as possible, and many comps have free housing available. Typically, a comp will cost you $20 to $45 + food expenses.
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These are competitions which are either reasonably close or are big enough to merit more travel. We can't make official team trips to all of them, but we try to go to 2-3 each semester. If you want to go to more, ask some officers, and we can see if other people are interested too. The links and dates aren't necessarily up-to-date, but you can Google these comps.
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- October 31-November 2, 2008 -- DC Dancesport Inferno (U Maryland at College Park)
- November 21-23, 2008 -- Ohio Star Ball and National Collegiate Dancesport Championship (Columbus, OH)
- February 2, 2008 -- Yale Dancing Competition
- February 7, 2009 -- Clover-Star Classic (U Penn)
- Registration deadline: Jan. 15
- PRICE: $35 student, $40 adult, $5 more late (by Jan. 31)
- 5-hour drive
- February 14, 2008 -- Univ. of Michigan Ballroom Dance Competition
- February 20-21, 2009 -- Case Western, Ballroom Blitz
- Registration deadline: Feb. 2
- PRICE: $35 student, $45 adult
- USA Dance membership required-contact us for more info.
- February 22-23, 2008 -- (Binghamton) Inter-Collegiate DanceSport Competition ("Ballroom Dance Revolution")
- February 24, 2008 -- 2nd annual Stony Brook Ballroom Dance Competition
- March 6-8, 2009 -- Arnold Dance Classic (Columbus, OH)
- (During the beginning of Spring Break)
- March 8-9, 2008 -- Iowa State University Cyclone Ballroom Classic
- March 20-22, 2009 -- Pittsburgh Dancesport
- March 27-29, 2009 -- (Penn State) Keystone Classic
- April 13, 2008 -- Ohio State University Ballroom Dancesport Classic
- April 25-26, 2009 -- MIT
Clothing & shoes
For info on choosing shoes, check out the Dance Shoes section in our Tips & Advice page.
(See the overview section--more detailed info to come, though!)
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by Drew and Mikey, HTMLified by Sam, further edited by Joseph and Jackie
This list has recommended items, but you donít have to bring everything on it. In fact, plan with friends to share some things; for example, not everyone needs to bring a container of shampoo/conditioner or their own hairspray.
NOTE: Make sure you try on the clothes you are planning to wear for the competition and try dancing in them to make sure they work and donít have holes in them. Its always good to know in advance.
- Whatever nice clothes that you are going to wear (more detail below)
- Hand towel - to wipe off sweat
- Safety pins - always come in handy
- Shoe brush - to keep your shoes clean and to roughen the soles if the floor is slippery
- Breath Mints - to be nice to your partner
- Pen & paper - to write down all the awards you are going to win to, or
get a new friend's phone number
- Water bottle - very, very useful
- Snacks - It can be hard to find time to eat during a comp, but
a quick snack (like granola bars or fruit) can help you keep up your energy.
- Small bag to carry it all in
- Normal clothes and shoes for a trip. You will want comfy clothes for the drive
and just to hang out in (like to wear in the morning on the way to the comp).
- Some sort of clothes to sleep in. There is no way to tell how many
people are going to be in the same room with you. You are not even
guaranteed same sex roommates.
- Blanket / sleeping bag
- Alarm clock - It is nice to have on your own
- Towel, soap, and shampoo - You might be in a dorm or other place that might
not supply you with these.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Usual travel bathroom supplies
- CDs - Driving CDs are a good thing (PA has some lousy radio
stations on the way to DC.)
- Money - You will probably go out to dinner at least one night. And you
can probably count on a stop or during the drive for a quick bite.
Freshmen, cash out on your dineX!
- Food - for the road, breakfast, or snacks
- Credit Card
- AAA card, license, insurance and registration
- Dark socks
- If you're wearing a tux, check that you have shirt, pants, bowtie,
vest/cummerbund, and jacket.
- Otherwise, check you have pants, shirts, a tie, and perhaps a vest.
- If you wear any hair spray or make-up, see below.
- Standard/Smooth dress
- Latin/Rhythm dress (or outfit)
- sheer to the waist pantyhose
- dance trunks
- dance shoes
- face powder
- lipstick - a bright color
- eye shadow
- nail polish
- if you are wearing fake nails: nail glue
- bobby pins- your hair has to be put up
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- hand cream - this sounds silly but if you put it on your legs it keeps
your dress from sticking to you
- baby powder
- aspirin is always a good idea
- something to wash your face off with at the end of the day especially if
you are leaving right after the comp
- a button down shirt for the morning of the comp - you don't want to ruin
your hair after you spent so much time putting it up.
- a razor
Tips for newcomers
A few tips and reminders for dancing in general:
- LOOK HAPPY: Youíre dancing! Look like youíre having the time of your life, not like you're worried about taking the wrong steps.
- FAKE IT: Even if you're not sure about everything, just go for the feel of the dance and fake your way through a round. As Rachael said, if you stare down a judge in Tango, they might ignore that weird step you did a few seconds ago and write down your number.
- RELAX: Itís important to remember that when youíre dancing in a round, there are other couples on the floor and not everyone is staring at you. So relax, dance and have fun.
- TIMING: Make sure youíre not rushing in the slow dances (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot) and that you start on beat 2 for Rumba and Cha-cha. Judges check newcomers for timing, so even if you look a bit strange, theyíll still write you down if youíre on time.
- PRESENTATION: Your 1.5 minutes dancing each round are a show. Look happy, walk on and off the dance floor nicely, and present yourselves like youíre the most amazing European ballroom dancers in the world.
Lastly, enjoy this moment and keep in mind that you are part of a select group. Not everyone is talented enough to dance in a competition! Hold your head up when you dance -- be proud of yourself and above all, have fun making happy memories that you can look back upon.
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