How Dancing is Evaluated at the Competitions?

Greetings, Dear Ballroom Dancers!

It is a well-known fact that the sport of ballroom dancing is very subjective and competition results often depend on variety of factors including:

  • A level of a couple
  • The physical condition of both partners on the day of the competition
  • Costumes and the image
  • The panel of adjudicators (politics and judging priorities)
  • The level of competitors
  • Even luck

However, in this article, we will provide you with the most valuable aspects that judges are evaluating during the competitions, and which, importantly, can be controlled by a dancer. Consequently, by following the aspects we are going to disclose, you can significantly improve your chances of success.

But don’t forget! It is not enough to just think about and try to apply the following criteria only on the day of a competition. In order to truly excel on the dance floor, you should diligently practice and train that aspects in your studio’s training hall.

Position in a couple:

One of the most important moments. A good position adds to grace and lightness, improves balance, facilitates leading and allows the gentleman to keep contact with a lady, especially in “swing” dances. The result on the competition often depends on correct posture. Here comes the old proverb: “A constant improvement of posture is the key to perfection”.


If the couple is not dancing in the rhythm, no other skill can cover or compensate that. Music is everything!


Here we are talking about the extension of the body from toes to head. Esthetically beautiful and properly created lines, directly or indirectly increase the volume of elements.


The correct alignment of the arms in closed positions. The couple’s frame should look strong, beautiful and in tonus. Both partners should strive to maintaining the correct position of the frame even during the most complicated elements (figures). To achieve that, the dancers should stay in correctly in relation to each other, without “collapsing” and relaxing their bodies.


There are two types of balances – neutral and central. In central balance, the bodyweight is equally distributed between two legs. In neutral – the bodyweight is on one leg. The dance actually is a non-stop transition from neutral balance to central balance, and vice-versa. If the couple is not in the condition of equilibrium, the dance becomes heavy, the lines get broken, and finally, there is simply a chance to fall.

Distance between Partners:

Should be so large (so little), so that partners are not disturbing each other during the dance. However, don’t forget that the distance that is too large can make it complicated to find balance in a couple  – the dance will loose its lightness.


All the movements of the dance should correspond to the specifics of the certain dance’s music – strong beats should be emphasized, while weak ones should be danced through more smoothly and with volume. For example, in Rumba, the step should be done on the full beat, while all the actions – settle in the hip, rotation, leg collection – commence on the count “and” (in the middle of the beats). In other words, the longer a dancer can dance through the count “and”, the sharper will be the following steps, which will add to his / her Rumba more contrast and make it more expressive. In Tango, the legs work quite “adherently” (like dancing in the honey), but the head actions are very active, which contributes to both sharpness and smoothness.


A couple should dance emotionally and express their attitude towards the music to spectators. The dancers can’t look like as if they’re trying not to forget their dance routine.


The energy of the dance captures spectators’ attention. However, the energy should be controlled. For example, a powerful movement is very useful in slow-waltz and slow-foxtrot, but only in case it is achieved correctly – by using swing and not just big steps. The movements should correspond with the music. For instance, in slow-waltz the accumulation of the energy happens due to the descent in between the counts “3” and ”1”. The following release of the energy on the count ”1” should be controlled (to avoid missing the count “2”) and supported during the ascend on the counts “2” and “3”. The same thing in other dances.

Leg Actions and Footwork:

A sliding movement (like skiing) of the foot contributes to smoothness. Intentional lifting of the foot in Tango emphasizes “staccato”. Correct knee actions in Rumba bring aesthetics to the dance, while stretching the toes prolongs the lines of the legs. Correct footwork of the standing leg helps to achieve powerful and sharp steps.


Is very significant and necessary to exceptionally showcase a lady to spectators and judges (for example, a common figure in Paso-Doble called “Chasse-Cape” or a position couples get into after completing pivots in Tango. A good shape can be achieved in different ways. In standard it is created by lady’s extension upwards and rightwards from the gentleman.


When the couple employs correct leading, the lady will look very light and movable. As every human being is different, improvement in leading is a very hard and long, but very important and necessary work. It happens very seldom when couples achieve a complete mutual understanding – such couples become legendary. More often the partner just try to adjust to each other.

Floor craft:

“Seeing the dance floor” is not only the ability to avoid crushing into other couples, but also an ability to continue dancing without interruptions when being surrounded by other couples, in the situations when it seems that there is no way to go. The experience and the length of the partnership (how long have partners been dancing with each other) are very significant factors for effective “floor craft”, as the gentleman should choose the correct directions of where to move and lead the lady in an understandable way, while the lady should be responsive and attentive towards her partner’s actions.  

Style of the Couple:

How good partners look together in couple, costumes, behaviour on the dance floor. These are also very important judging criteria.


Judges differently evaluate and value the mentioned criteria. One can be interested in technical quality, the other – in choreography, or the third one can prioritize artistry. And that’s totally fine – all these factors should be evaluated.

However, in reality sometimes the couple receives unexplainable marks – from the first to the last (6th) place in the final. The dancers who ask themselves “What is the reason the judge had put me such a high (low) mark?” should understand – any of the earlier mentioned factors could have affected that mark, and often the correct footwork will not ensure as high mark as, for instance, as energy or artistry.

The judge during the competition can watch the couple only for few seconds. At that moment a strong / high level couple can make a mistake and get a low mark, while a couple of a lower level can nicely / with no mistakes demonstrate several elements and receive a high mark. This is an example of subjectivity or in other words – a roulette. Dear Dancers, be confident that a qualified adjudicator evaluates you only according to your work. The majority of judges value their reputation and execute their duties responsibly. Judges, of course, are trying to push their couples (students) in front, but professionals do that in reasonable limits. Anyway, nobody can unequivocally push you either on the 1st or the last place. Therefore, employing the criteria we have described in this post will guarantee the reasonable and justified result.

Thank You for reading!

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