Are You Judging Me …?
*(You must be, cause I'm the only one dancing here.)
By Corky Ballas
1 – TECHNIQUE: Use of toes, ankles, knee action, hip line and action, shoulder line and action, neck line and action.
2 – POSTURE: Vertical alignment from head to toe maintained throughout all the rounds.
3 – TIMING: It’s not just the timing of changing weight to music. It’s the polyrhythms between the couple, if any even exist with the particular couple. It’s the timing of lead, from floor through hip line, through arm.
4 – CHOREOGRAPHY: This is based on the choreography the couple executes; sometimes the choreography is too difficult for the level of the couple. The question you have to ask yourselves is, “Does the choreography we dance, look good on us?” Well, dancing never looks how it feels, and that is why we need a third eye. Sometimes we can feel so awesome, and look so crappy.
5 – CHARACTER: Is determined how the couple plays the role of each dance, are they taking on the role of the dance, or are they just themselves dancing to the music? Are they over using their faces, or are they under using their faces, or are they doing absolutely nothing with their faces. Some couples in this area dance as if their head is not even attached to their body.
6 – STAMINA: This is most evident the last 30 seconds of the dance, it the form is maintained in the body. Are the feet moving with resistance into the floor, how much endurance does the couple have to the last second of the dance? Does the couple maintain composure between the dances.
7 – FLOOR-CRAFT: This is how the couple together maneuver through the other couples to show off there style.
8 – USE OF TENSION: Change of tension is what makes dancing come alive! It is what makes one couple stand out and another couple just blend in.
9 – RELATIONSHIP: Relationship to each other, to the music, to the audience, to the space between each other.
10 – CONNECTION: This is evident by how the man moves his lady, and how in return the lady responds to her partner. The use of connection is through the eyes, shape of the body and finally the physical use of arms.
11 – SENSITIVITY: How aware the couple is of the sense of touch.
12 – SPATIAL AWARENESS: Defined as the awareness of space between each partner, between themselves and how the couple projects their energy on the floor.
13 – PRESENTATION: This is how the couple is groomed, hair, makeup, tan, lady’s fingernails, toenails, and the costume appearance. It’s always so distracting when earrings are flying off, hair coming undone, pieces of the costume shedding all over the floor, or flying off the dress.
14 – PHYSICAL CONDITION: Does the person look in shape? Sometimes too many trips to Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Baskin Robbins can interfere with the look of a Professional DanceSport Athlete. Let’s face it, if your going to run with the BIG DOGS, you can’t pee like a PUPPY. Take care of your craft; you only have so many years left in you anyway.
15 – WARMTH: Some couples have an inviting feeling, as is to say, “Welcome to our world”. Others say, “Stay out of our world”, others say, “What is our world, it’s disorganized?” and others don’t even have a clue what their body language is giving off.
Excerpt from Dance Beat Edition 0505. Article: “Open Professional Rhythm” by Corky Ballas.
*I added this stupid line
If You Want to Please Olga (and you do)
Olga Foraponova, was the American Smooth Champion w/ David Hamilton. Olga is credited with revolutionizing American Smooth.
She owns and operates her own studio in Washington State. When not teaching and coaching, she also adjudicates all around the country.
New Couples – If a couple is dancing with the music, have good costuming and makeup, if they have something to show then they are ready to compete. Being cute and knowing the steps is not enough.
Emotion and Technique - In the first stage it is important to be technically correct. Feeling is important as well, but having feeling is not enough on its own, it can only be expressed well through technical expertise.
First Competition – As you and I know the initial marks and placement you receive tend to stay with you for a while and it can be hard to move up the rankings from there. The better you are technically the first time out the higher your starting position is likely to be.
Confidence and Arrogance - I can tell right away as some is arrogant or confident I didn't think arrogance is a good thing, it is too negative. Confidence should come from a positive source. Of course confidence is connected to placement as well, people show that they like you by marking you, they support you, you feel good about what you're doing, and that will build up your confidence. Arrogance does imply a certain strength so it is not all bad and will not affect a couples placement if they are technically stronger than the other couples, but it is not the only source of strength, and will be a liability if the technical attributes of couples are equal.
Partnering - When dancers spin way from their partner to bow or curtsy and don’t acknowledge their partner, well you can see it in their dancing, there is no connection between them. There is balance you need to find for yourself and you also need to find a balance with your partner. It does not matter how far away or how close you are to your partner or whether your back is to them or if you are facing them, you need to be aware of them. Couples who succeed in maintaining that sense of connection will have more success. As a judge you would rather watch couples who have a more intelligent approach and structure their presentation on the floor as a couple.
Costuming - Some judges don't like see through shirts on Latin men, it doesn't bother me, heel guards on ladies shoes doesn't bother me. Costuming is such a broad topic, I would say there are some general rules, if people are slightly overweight do less decoration, try to highlight the best parts of the body, highlight your assets. That applies to dancing as well if they are better at turns do lots of turns, if they are more balletic, then choreograph for that strength. I remember John Woods saying to me you win with your assets. Pay attention to how the top professional couple's apply their grooming. You really need a person whose eyes you trust, a teacher or coach who knows the couples personalities to help advise them on their look.
Fitness – I try to mark what I see on any particular night but honestly even if a couple looks tired by the end of a round if you think they are god quality and you like their style you will still probably mark them. If you are not familiar with a couple though it could make a big difference.
First Impressions - If I am not familiar with a couple, the mark I give them is based on a first impression that, due to the time constraints involved in judging, may not truly reflect their qualities. With more exposure to their dancing I might have the opportunity to see behind the glamorous look and expressiveness and pick up on more technical aspects, perhaps their timing is suspect or some other faults or attributes will reveal themselves that were not apparent at first judging.
Judging in Russia, for example, is very tough. You have to concentrate very hard to not miss marking back a deserving couple out of the 200 -300 couples who dance on the floor, all of whom are very good with good timing and posture.
Couples who are not marked back in those kind of situations should be aware that it is not necessarily because the judges did not like you, it could very well be that they just did not have time to analyze your performance to the degree that they would have liked.
Mentors – Taking lessons with many coaches is fine if you are a champion or very experienced because you know whose opinion you trust and what questions to ask. When you are still green you really don’t know what you are doing and do not have a good sense of what direction to take and at that stage it would be better to find a mentor or coach you trust to help guide you.
Looking at Marks – Marks are important to see because you might find a judge that really liked your dancing and that can be encouraging for the next time you see they are judging you. It also can turns out that some of the judges did not like your dance. All judges have their own criteria they are looking for in couples, and the reason can be that they could not find those things in your dance. Be patient and work hard.