What Is DanceSport Competitive Ballroom Dancing?

DanceSport Competitive Ballroom Dancing

In this blog post, we will delve into the captivating world of DanceSport competitive ballroom dancing, exploring its origins, unique characteristics, and the dedication required to succeed in this highly competitive arena.

So, let’s step onto the dance floor and unravel the enchanting realm of DanceSport.

Quick Answer

DanceSport competitive ballroom dancing is a sport where couples perform different styles of partner dances like waltz, foxtrot, and tango in competitions. It combines technical dance skills, artistry, and athleticism as couples are judged on their execution and choreography.

Distinguishing Features of DanceSport Competitive Ballroom Dancing

DanceSport, a competitive form of ballroom dancing, stands out because it operates under strict rules and a clear competitive structure.

If you’re interested in participating, you will compete at levels ranging from amateur to professional.

Judges will score you based on technique, timing, and how well you express yourself artistically within established dance styles.

Remember, DanceSport involves dancing in pairs, so working well with your partner is essential. This means you both need to be in sync and cooperate effectively to perform well.

Whether you’re just starting or aiming to refine your skills, focus on these elements to succeed in dancesport competitions.

Competitive Nature:

In the world of competitive dance, DanceSport stands out because it requires dancers to perform well-planned routines that are judged on specific criteria like technique and artistry.

In DanceSport competitions, each couple strives to perform better than their competitors, focusing on precision and elegance.

Judges are crucial as they assess each routine based on clear standards that consider both the technical skills and the artistic expression of the dancers.

To excel in DanceSport, dancers should focus on mastering their techniques and understanding the unique styles of dance they perform.

It’s important to practice regularly and receive feedback to improve. Additionally, connecting with the audience and the judges can make a significant difference, as it adds an engaging element to the performance.

Standardized Dance Styles:

In DanceSport, the standardized dance styles such as International Standard and International Latin are governed by strict rules, precise techniques, and specific music selections.

For instance, under International Standard, you’ll find the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep.

Each of these dances requires music that matches their rhythm and style to ensure a seamless performance.

Similarly, International Latin includes the Cha-Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive. These dances also follow strict musical guidelines to enhance the competitive experience.

For those looking to expand their dance skills, American Smooth and American Rhythm offer additional options like the Bolero and Mambo.

While these dances introduce different moves and rhythms, they maintain the same level of precision and style definition critical in DanceSport.

When learning these dances, focus on mastering the basic steps and understanding the rhythm of each dance.

Practice regularly with music that fits the specific dance style to improve your timing and performance.

This practical approach will help you progress in DanceSport effectively.

Distinguishing features of dancesport competitive ballroom dancing 1

Judging Criteria:

DanceSport stands out due to its detailed judging criteria, which focuses on technique, musicality, choreography, presentation, and artistry.

In competitions, judges closely assess each performance. They check the precision of the dancers’ techniques and how accurately they follow the required styles.

Dancers must be in sync with the music’s rhythm and details, a quality known as musicality.

The choreography is evaluated for its innovation and effectiveness in highlighting the dancers’ abilities.

Presentation also matters, including the dancer’s confidence, the connection with their partner, and their attire.

This comprehensive evaluation method ensures that performances meet high standards of excellence.

Competitive Levels:

DanceSport stands out by offering structured competitive levels that cater to dancers from beginners all the way to professionals.

These levels are Newcomer, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Championship. Each level matches dancers based on their skills and experience, ensuring fair competition.

This setup helps dancers progress systematically, improving their skills as they compete against others at similar levels. It also keeps standards high and makes competitions more exciting.

For anyone involved in DanceSport, understanding and navigating these levels is crucial for development and success in the sport.


In DanceSport, partnerships are classified into three types: Amateur-Amateur (Am-Am), Professional-Amateur (Pro-Am), and Professional-Professional (Pro-Pro).

This classification ensures that participants compete against others with similar experience and skill levels, fostering fairness in competitions.

It’s important for dancers to select partners that align with their skill level and competition goals.

For those just beginning, an Am-Am partnership might be ideal, allowing you to grow and learn with someone at your level.

More experienced dancers might consider a Pro-Am combination, where the amateur can benefit from the professional’s expertise.

Fully professional dancers often pair up in Pro-Pro partnerships to compete at the highest levels.

To find the right partner, assess your own skills and determine your competitive goals.

Attend local DanceSport events to network and observe potential partners in action.

When choosing a partner, consider not only skill and experience but also compatibility in communication and commitment levels.

This structured approach in DanceSport not only enhances competition but also improves the training environment.

By partnering wisely, you can leverage collective strengths to advance in your dancing career.

Structure and Judging Criteria in DanceSport Competitions

Structure and Judging Criteria in DanceSport Competitions

In dancesport competitions, understanding the structure and judging is crucial for participants. Competitions are divided into rounds.

Each round requires dancers to showcase technical skills, artistic expression, and adherence to specific style standards.

Here’s what you need to know:

Preparation for Rounds

Competitions start with preliminary rounds and advance through quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. Dancers must prepare routines that highlight their precision and creativity.

Judging Criteria

Judges focus on technique, timing, line, and expression. Each performance is scored based on these criteria. Ensure your routine aligns with these elements to score well.

Scoring System

A panel of judges uses a standardized scoring system to evaluate performances. Familiarize yourself with this system to understand what judges are looking for.

Feedback and Ranking

After each round, scores are tallied to determine which dancers advance to the next level. Use judges’ feedback to improve your performance in subsequent rounds.

Competition Structure

Dancesport competitions typically start with qualifying rounds to narrow down the number of competitors and determine the finalists.

As dancers move forward, they are categorized into different skill levels: Newcomer, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Championship.

This structure ensures that dancers compete against others of similar abilities, maintaining fairness and enhancing the quality of the competition.

The dance categories available are International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth, and American Rhythm.

Competitions can be either single-dance or multi-dance events, with multi-dance events typically involving more complex routines at higher skill levels.

Here’s a brief guide:

LevelDance Styles OfferedEvent Type
NewcomerInternational Latin, American SmoothSingle-Dance
SilverInternational Standard, American RhythmMulti-Dance
ChampionshipAll listed stylesMulti-Dance

This format ensures clarity in what to expect at each level and helps participants prepare adequately for the competitions.

Judging System

To effectively understand the judging process in dancesport competitions, it’s important to know how performances are assessed and scored.

Competitions use an odd number of judges, generally 5, 7, 9, 11, or 13, ensuring fairness and eliminating the possibility of tie scores.

These judges are split into two groups according to Judging System 3.0, each focusing on specific aspects: Technique, Movement to Music, Partnering, and Choreography/Presentation.

Each judge ranks performances from 1st to 6th place during the final round, and ties are not allowed for any dance category.

The scoring system uses a median calculation along with a tolerance range to exclude scores that could skew results unfairly.

When preparing for a competition, dancers should concentrate on these areas:

  1. Technique: Precision in steps and posture.
  2. Movement to Music: Timing and rhythm.
  3. Partnering: Coordination and interaction with a partner.
  4. Choreography/Presentation: Creativity and expression.

This structured evaluation system emphasizes technical skill, musicality, teamwork, and artistic presentation. Understanding these criteria can help competitors focus their practice sessions effectively.

Judging Process

To effectively judge DanceSport competitions, judges undergo thorough training and certification.

This ensures they can accurately assess both the technical skills and the artistic quality of each performance.

Judges typically have backgrounds as former competitors or experienced instructors, adding depth to their evaluations.

They use a combination of objective and subjective criteria to judge performances, looking at technical precision as well as artistic expression and emotional resonance.

In competitions, dancers are compared and ranked against each other, creating a competitive environment.

The process of selecting judges is random to avoid biases, and they must adhere to high ethical standards and rules against conflicts of interest to keep scoring fair.

For anyone participating or interested in dancesport, understanding this judging process is crucial.

Judges focus on both how well the dance is performed technically and how it is presented artistically.

To succeed, competitors should concentrate on refining their technique and enhancing their performance quality, ensuring they make a strong impression in both areas.

Key Dance Styles/Categories in Competitive Ballroom Dancing

Key Dance StylesCategories in Competitive Ballroom Dancing

In the realm of DanceSport, competitors engage in four primary dance style categories, each with distinct rules and techniques.

These categories are:

International Standard

This style focuses on elegance and precision, with partners maintaining close contact. Key dances include the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep.

International Latin

Known for its dynamic and expressive movements, this category includes dances like the Cha-Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive.

American Smooth

This style is a variation of the International Standard but allows partners to separate and perform more elaborate movements. Dances here include the Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz.

American Rhythm

Emphasizing rhythmic movements and body actions, this category features dances such as the Cha-Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, and Mambo.

For those interested in competing, it’s crucial to understand the technical requirements of each category and to practice accordingly.

Competitors should focus on mastering the fundamental techniques of their chosen style, adhere to the specific rules set for each category, and continuously refine their performance to meet judging criteria.

Additionally, participating in workshops and seeking feedback from experienced dancers can be beneficial. This practical approach will help competitors excel and potentially advance in the competitive dancesport arena.

International Standard

In the International Standard category of DanceSport, you will find five primary dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep.

All these dances require dancers to maintain a closed hold, meaning they must keep in constant contact with their partner.

Here’s a straightforward guide to understanding and performing each style:

  1. Waltz: Focus on smooth, flowing movements. Practice maintaining an even tempo and ensure that your steps are controlled and graceful.
  2. Tango: This dance is all about sharp, dramatic movements. Keep your movements crisp and your frame strong. The staccato style of the Tango demands precision, so pay close attention to your timing.
  3. Viennese Waltz: The key to mastering this dance is managing its quicker pace while performing continuous turns. Work on your stamina and try to stay light on your feet.
  4. Foxtrot: Known for its long, flowing movements, the Foxtrot requires a smooth and continuous motion. Practice gliding across the dance floor and maintaining an unbroken rhythm.
  5. Quickstep: This dance is fast and lively. Focus on quick, light footwork and maintaining a rhythm. It’s essential to stay energetic but controlled throughout the dance.

For all these dances, precision in technique and coordination with your partner is crucial.

Keep practicing enhancing your skills, and always remember the importance of a strong, maintained frame between you and your partner.

This will not only improve your performance but also ensure you both move as one elegant unit.

International Latin

Transitioning from International Standard to International Latin DanceSport involves mastering dances such as the Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive.

Each dance offers distinct rhythmic and expressive opportunities, ideal for captivating an audience.

Focus on refining intricate footwork and enhancing sensual body movements, which are key elements in Latin dances.

Here’s a brief guide to the primary dances in International Latin:

  1. Cha Cha Cha (Origin: Latin America) – Practice maintaining energy and rhythm. This dance is fast-paced and requires precise footwork to match the lively music.
  2. Samba (Origin: Brazil) – Aim to capture its festive nature. The bounce action in Samba is critical; work on this aspect to ensure your movements feel natural and spirited.
  3. Rumba (Origin: Cuba) – Concentrate on slow, sensual movements. The dance is more about expressing emotion through controlled, fluid motions rather than speed.
  4. Paso Doble (Origin: Spain) – This dance is about portraying drama and intensity. Each step should be sharp and deliberate, mimicking the feel of a Spanish bullfight.
  5. Jive (Origin: United States) – Focus on fast, bouncy movements. The dance is energetic, so stamina and precise footwork are essential to maintain the lively rhythm.

For all dances, regular practice is crucial. Start by learning the basic steps and gradually incorporate more complex routines.

Consider joining a dance class or finding a reputable coach to improve your technique and performance quality.

Additionally, watching professional dancers and analyzing their styles can provide valuable insights and inspiration.

Competitors and spectators alike appreciate the high-energy and engaging performances in International Latin DanceSport.

By focusing on the unique characteristics of each dance, you can enhance your skills and contribute to the dynamic atmosphere of the competition.

American Smooth

American Smooth is a popular category in DanceSport competitive ballroom dancing that includes the Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz.

It is known for allowing open work and solo movements, which are not typically found in more traditional dance styles like International Standard.

This flexibility allows dancers to incorporate unique and dramatic elements into their routines, such as separations where partners can showcase individual skills.

To excel in American Smooth, dancers should focus on mastering both the traditional aspects and the creative opportunities of each dance.

Start by learning the basic steps and rhythms of the Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz.

Practice these regularly to ensure a solid foundation. Once comfortable, begin experimenting with open movements.

Work on maintaining balance and coordination during separations, as these are key moments where individual artistry can shine.

Additionally, pay attention to the connection with your partner, even during solo movements.

This helps maintain a cohesive performance that is both elegant and expressive.

Consider working with a coach who can provide personalized feedback and suggestions for incorporating more complex and theatrical elements into your routines.

American Rhythm

American Rhythm dance competitions focus on the Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero, and Mambo.

These dances are known for their rhythmic hip movements, often referred to as ‘Cuban motion’. Originating from Afro-Cuban traditions, these dances require energetic and precise body movements.

To excel in American Rhythm competitions, it is crucial to master the timing and rhythm of each dance.

For instance, the Cha Cha Cha is playful and requires sharp, timely movements, while the Bolero demands slower, more fluid motions.

Here are some practical steps to improve:

  1. Understand Each Dance’s Tempo and Style: Study videos or work with a coach to grasp the unique rhythm and character of each dance. Knowing whether a dance should be energetic or smooth will guide your practice.
  2. Practice Cuban Motion: This is essential for all dances in American Rhythm. Focus on hip movements and make them a natural part of your dancing. Drills and repetitive exercises can improve your hip action.
  3. Focus on Timing: Always practice with music to ensure your steps are timed perfectly with the beat. This will enhance your performance and help you stand out during competitions.
  4. Get Feedback: Regularly participating in workshops or classes where you can receive feedback is invaluable. Adjust your techniques based on constructive criticism.
  5. Watch Competitions: Observing others compete can provide insights into what judges are looking for and how top performers manage their routines.


DanceSport is a form of competitive ballroom dancing known for its structured competitions and strict judging standards. It includes two main categories: Standard and Latin American dances.

Competitors are judged on technique, timing, and artistic expression, all essential for excelling in this sport.

To succeed in DanceSport competitive ballroom dancing, participants must blend athletic skill with artistic flair, making it a compelling combination of sport and art with global appeal.

If you’re looking to participate in DanceSport, start by mastering the basic techniques of either Standard or Latin dances.

Focus on perfecting your timing and understand the specific criteria judges use during competitions.

Regular practice and feedback from experienced dancers can greatly enhance your performance.

Remember, consistent practice and a clear focus on the judging criteria are key to success in this competitive field.

Read Next: The 7 Best Professional Ballroom Dance Shoes for Everyday Practice

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  1. Jamiro Hazel says:

    I have always been a lover of watching ballroom dancing, The history of ballroom dancing is very interesting. I must say there isn’t anything more captivating than seeing how two people move on the dance floor.

    I have always loved dancing but I do not  think I am the ballroom type lol. your article was very interesting thanks so much for sharing. 

  2. My wife and I just recently spent a few private lessons learning to Fox Trot, it was primarily to show off a bit at our wedding admittedly. But we absolutely loved it and had so much fun! We are still newbies, only about 5 hours of total practice or so.

    At what point would it make sense to even consider participating in a competition? How much skill and practice do you need before you’re not an embarrassment on the dance floor?

    1. I think the great thing about ballroom competitions is that you get to compete with students that are at the same level as you. Probably against people that had the same amount of lessons. But, if it comes to winning then is all about how much time you and your partner practice in your own time… After that is all about getting feedback on how you did, and improve… Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by 😀

  3. In truth, I am not a dancer. I grew up in a strict family that believed that dancing was not something a young Christian boy should do. Now my wife, on the other hand, loves to dance. I am sure that it has been a disappointment that I did not share he love for dance. 

    As for the competitive dance, my two left feet would land me flat of my face in the middle of the floor. I do love watching the competitive dancing shows on TV but never thought about amateurs competing in with professional dancers.

    You explained the rules very well and I know if my wife sees your site she will bug me until we find one near to us.

    Lots of fun.


    1. haha! I’m sure she will 🙂 Thank you Winslow for stopping by!… 

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