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Excel as a Dancer

The Value of Critique

By Nicholas Westlake

Minnesota Ballroom Blast on October 25th is coming up very soon. It's an excellent critiqued ballroom dancing event (in beautiful Saint Paul). While dancers perfom in the format of a ballroom competition, instead of marking couples as placing against each other, the judging panel writes concise critiques about each couple on the floor. This is one of a great many critiqued ballroom events in the United States. Why should you attend a critiqued event, and how do you make use of the feedback? Here's my angle:

When you practice (and when you're working with a coach), you spend most of your time hacking on your dancing. You work on things like how to hold your body, how to perform a pattern, and how to time the steps. These are all good things to work on, but you're neglecting part of your training by keeping certain variables constant all the time. Dancing on the same dance floor in the same practice clothes with the same playlist you've had on your phone for the last three years can help you limit variance while you experiment, but at a competition, you'll be on a strange floor in your costume with music picked by Skrillex.

When you see footage of yourself at a competition, it's generally easy to commend your recorded self on his excellent throwaway oversway, and shame him for his bobble-head-inspired styling, but are those the things the judges see? Why did they give you that mark? Enter the critiqued ballroom event. You do everything for the judges as usual, but you get to learn what they're thinking during the twenty seconds they're looking at you on the competition floor.

Performing as a dancer is complex. Here are some facets to keep in mind for those of you at home saying, "Pssh. I'll dance exactly the same at a competition as I do in practice."

And even if you do dance exactly the same at the competition as you do in practice (which you won't), that's not everything you're being judged on. The panelists must judge you very quickly. Whatever stands out to them will be the basis for the marks the give, so remember that they'll look at a variety of aspects. Some things to keep in mind when you're making a list of all the reasons you love judge feedback at a competition:

Want to suck every drop of knowledge potential out of those critiques? This is what you're going to do:

Clearly this will be great for your dancing and a great use of your time. Bonus: it's a ton of fun. Enter a few dances at Blast, have a great time, and fill your brain with great new dance ideas. You should have all those notes in action in your routines just in time for Dance Fest in March. See you at Blast on October 25th!