Competing is a fantastic way to improve your dancing, regardless of whether you're a complete beginner or have been dancing for years.
In competition, couples are evaluated by a judging panel. Before competition, every couple is given a number, and judges use this number to mark whether or not they think a couple should be called back to the next round of dancing. This process continues until all but a few couples remain, whereupon the judges rank these couples first, second, third, and so on -- their choices are then averaged to determine the placing of the top couples.
While the idea of competing may seem daunting at first, couples are separated such that they compete only with others of the same level of ballroom experience. Thus, many track their growth as a dancer through competitions.
Four Styles & Nineteen Dances
Standard, also known simply as "Ballroom," is an elegant style danced the world over alongside Latin. Standard is danced "in frame," meaning that the dancing couple must cooperate to maintain a proper hold for the entirety of the dance -- creating a picture-perfect figure when executed correctly. Standard also depends heavily on "swing" -- the rising and falling of the dancers as they glide across the ballroom floor. Together with Latin, it is one of the two "International Styles."
Waltz | Tango | Quickstep | Foxtrot | Viennese Waltz
Latin is a passionate and energetic style with many recognizable dances. As both Rhythm and Latin dancers are allowed to "break frame," the differences between the styles are more subtle; yet as one becomes better acquainted with the two styles, the differences quickly become more apparent. Latin was adapted by European ballet dancers, and as a result there's an emphasis on the straightening of the legs, and in comparison with Rhythm, the movements tend to be more sharp.
Cha-cha | Samba | Rumba | Paso-Doble | Jive
Smooth is an American adaptation of the Standard dances. While the general principles remain the same, this style allows more freedom by allowing couples to separate more than in Standard -- thus freeing up an arm for a majestic twirl or a dramatic dip. This also enables more varied dance positions, such as a shadowed position -- in which the leader dances immediately behind the follower -- and even complete separation for more elaborate sequences. Together with Rhythm, it is one of the two "American Styles," danced mainly in the United States and Canada.
Waltz | Tango | Foxtrot | Viennese Waltz
Rhythm is an American adaptation of the Latin dances. However, because most of Latin is itself an interpretation of traditional dances of the Americas, it is Rhythm that adheres more closely to the ways in which these dances were originally performed. American Rhythm features a delayed hip action that creates a more fluid look. In general, Rhythm is perceived as more social than latin; Mambo is quite similar to Salsa, and East Coast Swing is danced all over the world.
Cha-cha | Rumba | East Coast Swing | Bolero | Mambo