So You Want to Start Competing in Ballroom!

So, you’ve started ballroom dancing and have found you LOVE it! You want to show the world what you know and start dancing competitively, and you want to get started right away but don’t quite know how or what to expect from dancing competitively. First things first, ask your studio if they do competitive dance. They will be able to get you information on the pricing and help you sign up for competitions that are in your skill level.

What to Expect in a Competition

In a ballroom competition, dancers of similar skill levels are taken onto the dance floor. The DJ plays a piece of music that is about a minute and a half long, in the style of the dance form you have chosen to compete in (for example: Cha-Cha, Waltz, Tango, etc). All the couples start dancing simultaneously to the music as judges watch and score you on your timing, posture, partnership, expressions, and overall presentation.

How to Get Ready

When getting ready for a competition, the first thing to do is talk to your instructor. Tell them that you are interested in competing and then talk about which styles of dance you want to compete in. All the dances you see in a competition are rehearsed which means your instructor will choreograph something on your skill level for you to learn. This is what you will be practicing in your private lessons. Practice is when you work on your form, technique, musicality, and choreography.

Some practices will seem harder or more stressful than others. Just remember, those private lessons are when you are getting ready for the competition. It’s the “work hard” time. Don’t give up, and if a part of the dance seems extremely difficult or you feel like you are not getting the moves after a few private lessons, talk to your dance instructor. They can either switch it up or spend some time just focusing on that series of moves.

As you practice, take your time seriously and trust that you are preparing/prepared for the competition. When the time comes to dance for the judges you can go out, dance confidently, and just have fun!

What to Wear

There is usually a dress code based on what level you are dancing in. Ballroom is formal, and some styles have a specific style that is required of the dancer. Make sure to go over the dress code with your dance instructor and read the rules so you do not get disqualified/points deducted.


Okay, so it’s Competition Time!

Here is a brief list of what to do/expect on the day of competitions:

  • Arrive the night before and pick up your registration packet from the sign in tables. This packet will have a schedule for the next day, what events you are in, your number, and the safety pins to attach your number to your clothes.
  • Don’t stay up too late the night before; relax and get a good night’s sleep. Don’t stress about the coming day! (I suggest a hot, calming shower.)
  • Wake up early enough to prepare for the day. This includes hair and makeup. Be sure to wear comfy clothes that won’t mess up your hair for when you change later. Don’t forget to eat a good breakfast and pack yourself some healthy snacks. Even if you are nervous you need to eat. Eating the right breakfast provides fuel so you can dance to the best of your ability. Remember, dancing may look easy, but it takes a lot of physical effort for you to look effortless!
  • Arrive at the competition at least an hour in advance in case they are running early. Make sure to ask if they are on time and double check when you are scheduled to dance. Change into your dancewear and pin your number on. (One tip is to have someone keeping up with the competition times, whether it be your coach or a friend, that way they can text you if the competition is running early.)
  • Warm up and prepare for your event. If you are very nervous you can walk through your dance with your partner. Don’t use this walk through to stress over little things. Take this time to just review the moves and get in sync with your partner.
  • When it nears your time, you will line up with the other dancers who are in your event. Then you just wait for your event to be called! (Don’t forget to breathe!) When your event is called, walk confidently onto the floor (don’t forget to smile!) and wait for the music to start. Once the music starts… dance! Have fun! Don’t worry about the other dancers or judges around you. Focus on you and your partner! When the music ends take a bow/curtsy to the audience and walk off the floor.
  • Now you wait to hear if you made it. You can find the results online, or sometimes you will find there is a large screen that shows the listing. (This is a great time to eat that snack you packed!) If you get called back: Congratulations! If not, it’s okay! There is always a next time! Should you get called back, you will need to prepare to dance again! After dancing again you will find out your placement and collect your prize at the ceremony.


Final Advice

Have fun competing. Don’t get caught up with the technicalities or perfection. Just have fun dancing! Use the practices to work hard and the competitions to have fun, and trust that you are prepared for the competitions.

Just because the competition has started you are not going to magically learn a lot of new things: dance what you’ve learned, and be confident in your abilities. (Some wise advice I received at an audition.)