9.14 On J&j And Traditional Style Competitions
In the “Traditional” style of competition you have to start in closed position, you are supposed to dance to your partner – NEVER the judges or the audience, you may not wear costumes, the entire routine is supposed to look as if it is danced spontaneously and not pre-choreographed, etc., etc. The way to win one of these is to first elevate your social dancing to the level of competition dancing! This means always dancing as if you were in a Jack ‘n’ Jill or draw for music contest! You dance high intensity, concentrating on your appearance, etc. Project to the people who are watching you – it’s OK to show off a little. Dance at the maximum level of difficulty your partner is capable of – challenge them but don’t dance beyond them. Do this and you’ll: have a MUCH better time when you social dance, tremendously improve your ability to do Jack & Jill and draw-for-music contests, develop quite a reputation as a social dancer, and spending most of your dancesbeing the ask-ee rather than the asker.
What are they judges looking for? Good dancing. I have a mental checklist that I use whenever I can’t get out of judging. This isn’t my own invention but is an amalgamation from other folks whose opinion I respect. Here are the most important things in the order I PERSONALLY look for. Overall, I start at the bottom and work up:
1 Rhythm Are they on the beat? Can they stay there? A failure at this level puts a couple almost completely out of the competition. (Yes, it has happened it to me!)
2 Footwork (Mostly WCS and Latin) You can’t syncopate when you are off balance, so this is a good indication of whether they are keeping their center under control and their feet under their center.
3 Is he leading? Is he indicating moves with his center, or his arms or not at all? Is he breaking his frame? Is he putting her off balance? Does he adjust to her while he spins her?
4 Is she following? Is her frame pointed at him or is she ignoring him? Is she putting him off balance?
5 Together Are they relaxed? Eye contact and smiling? This is the non-physical part of connection. If they are making faces, I don’t like it.
6 Do they feel the music? Are they accenting and counterpointing the music with their dancing? Or do they look like metronome dancers? This is the “catch the eye” type stuff and it can be done while dancing nothing more than basics.
7 Beyond the basics – Finally! I’ve usually sorted out the competitors by the time I get to this level, so I’m just watching for neat stuff and/or mistakes. If there is a close decision between two couples, I usually end up spending the rest of the song waiting for eye-catching moves or mistakes by these couples. Below the bottom half of the competitors my judgment is almost entirely whim. So if I gave you last place don’t quit. Rhythm changes like struts or extended syncopations are challenging to lead and follow, massive wrap moves usually stop the couple from dancing while they negotiate the intricacies. Many women go stone rigid in a wrap; most men plant their feet. You are living dangerously if you go with the killer moves.
Given two or more technically equal couples, the judges will look at other aspects of the dancing, like musicality, feeling, expression, etc. Otherwise, a technical but “boring” couple is supposed to beat a lesser non-technical couple that puts on more of a “show”.