Ballroom Dance > So I did my first non-Arthur Murray comp last week...

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by RookieDancer, Nov 5, 2015.

  1. RookieDancer

    RookieDancer New Member

    I've been going to an Arthur Murray studio for the past 3 years. I'm now at the Bronze 4 level. I met my girlfriend there. She's at the Bronze 2 level. A month ago we decided to try doing a non-AM event. So we did the D.C. Dancesport Inferno (DCDI) last week.

    During my 3 years at AM, I've done three national Rama events and almost always do the local Fall and Spring/Summer Freestyles and Showcase events. So I'm not exactly a stranger to doing dance competitions/events. My girlfriend has done two local Freestyles, so she's not a total noob either. Nevertheless, we decided to do the newcomer division at DCDI with the main objective being to gain non-AM comp experience.

    We did both Rhythm and Smooth. The Rhythm dances we did were Rumba, ChaCha, and Swing. The Smooth dances we did were Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot. We did really well in the Rhythm. We got 1st in Rumba (out of a field of 62 couples), 2nd in ChaCha (out of a field of 65 couples), and 3rd in Swing (out of a field of 57 couples). We also got 2nd Place overall (not even sure what that means though). Smooth day was another story, however. We didn't even make the quarter finals in the Tango and Foxtrot. We at least made the quarter finals in the Waltz, but our adventure stopped there.

    I'm not entirely sure why we did so poorly in the Smooth. Admittingly, we're both more Rhythm dancers than Smooth. And Tango isn't even in my girlfriend's AM program (all the Tango she knows is what she learned from group classes). But I was looking at the couples who beat us, and I was thinking there was no way we looked that, for lack of a better term, "bad". A lot of their frames looked noodley and some weren't even doing heel leads/toe releases.

    Most of the couples were doing more figures than us, though. We only stuck to 2 or 3 figures. However, I was under the impression that it's not about how many figures you know, but how well you do the figures you do know. Who cares if you know 5 or 6 figures when you're slumped over, and taking toe leads.

    One of the more seasoned dancers at our studio came down to the comp to watch. She said the judges were definitely more internationally biased. She said she saw a couple in the bronze division that she thought was the best representation of American smooth and they didn't even make the semi-finals. So that sounds like a legit excuse to me :).

    She also said what my girlfriend wore and how she had her hair were completely inappropriate for Smooth. My girl has smooth dresses, but they all had sparkles in it and those aren't allowed in the newcomer division. She also wore her hair down. I didn't even know it mattered. Up until that point, I didn't have to care how my partner looked because my partner was always my instructor and she's a pro. But now I do know. Lessons learned...

    I always seem to do so well in Smooth while dancing with my instructor at the AM events. I even won the last All-Arounds competition at the local D.C. Area AM Showcase in my division. It could be because this was the first time I've danced in comp with my girlfriend. And we basically had 0 prep time for this comp. Like I said, we only did it to gain experience. And that we did, so it was still Mission Accomplished as far as we're concerned.

    My impressions of this comp versus AM comps: the quality of dancers at this comp were way better than anything I've seen at the local AM events. Even the dancers in the newcomer division were no joke. And the silver dancers! From my limited point of view, most of them looked like pros to me. Age might have something to do with that though. Most of the dancers at this event were collegiate age. The average age at the local AM events is easily at least 10 years older. There were maybe 3 or 4 older couples, but most were either our age or younger. With that said, I gotta give mad respect to those older folks trying to compete with these "kids". Hopefully, I'll still be able to hang when I get to that age.

    Overall, it was great experience despite getting our asses handed to us in the Smooth. I'm pretty excited to do actual preparation this time for this comp for next year. Goals would definitely to take 1st place in the bronze rhythm division and at least make the semi-finals in smooth. I'm pumped!
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2015
    frotes, Purr, 3wishes and 2 others like this.
  2. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    Welcome to a portion of the real world of competitive ballroom
  3. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Just FYI, you were technically breaking the rules registering as newcomer. Most comps in that circuit reserve newcomer for, well, actual newcomers. Probably no one will call you on it, but I think it would be more fair if you registered bronze, especially since you placed this time.

    DCDI's rules:
    • Newcomer — Started dancing no earlier than June 2015. While there is no syllabus restriction for this level, we recommend that you attempt only steps in the Bronze syllabus.
    • Bronze — Started dancing no earlier than September 2014. Only Bronze syllabus steps may be danced.
    • Silver — Only Bronze and Silver syllabus steps may be danced.
    • Gold — Only Bronze, Silver, and Gold syllabus steps may be danced. No open work.
    • Pre-Championship/Championship — Open work permitted and encouraged
    • Open (to all) and Fun events — No syllabus restriction
    Edit: Sorry, I don't mean to be a downer :(
    Congrats, and I hope you enjoy the circuit! DCDI is one of the biggest, and the competition/quality is always very strong.
    nikkitta, MaggieMoves and Mr 4 styles like this.
  4. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    Congrats for doing well in rhythm, that surely had to be a bit of a confidence booster. Not to sound all Debbie Downer though, but depends where you are from greatly varies where most of the competition is. In the local NYC area comps and the east coast in general... International Latin is the most competitive in the amateur categories.

    Smooth very well might have been very competitive. If you were only dancing 2/3 figures... I'm sure that definitely went against your rankings as well.

    We have a few members that are judges which I'm sure will provide greater input.

    Just curious though: How did you think of how the competition was run overall in comparison to a franchise event?
  5. RookieDancer

    RookieDancer New Member

    Really? That's interesting. I wanted to keep it simple because my girlfriend is still only at a bronze 2 level (and she didn't even have tango in her Arthur Murray program). So I opted on the side of caution and only do the figures that we both know the best we can.

    That's good to know though. We'll have a whole year to step our game up for the next one.

    Considering how much we paid for registration fees (only $40 each I think), I was really impressed. AM events can easily run more than $1000, depending on how many dances you do (you probably don't wanna know how much a Rama event costs). That $40 fee for DCDI lets you dance as much as you want! I'm like "how in the world is anybody making any money?". AM events, for me, have always been smooth sailing (for the price you pay, though, they better be!). But DCDI was just as smooth. Really, thoroughly, impressed!
  6. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    I actually know how much they cost. My parents do the one in Italy every year. I went one year and was pretty impressed. It was an absolutely beautiful setting... But it should have been given the price. I still had a great time though.

    Let's not kid ourselves either, if you had done pro am at this comp it surely would have cost you a similar amount with the right pro. Amateur is the way to go if you don't have a trust fund.
  7. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Just tossing out a few things. One is that it is important to read the rules of the individual competition to find out what something such as "newcomer" means. Varies widely. Other is that I have done well in NDCA competitions at low levels with limited number of steps. Well executed I don't think it matters--judges aren't watching you very long in any case!!

    OP, did you get your heats video taped? That would give you part of the answer about the placements in smooth. If you didn't, get a practice taped to check what it's looking like.
    stash likes this.
  8. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    I'm pretty skeptical personally that a limited number of steps would be a major factor in newcomer.

    And for the record, you don't have to have a trust fund to dance (and do respectably well) in pro-am ... although it certainly helps.
  9. mindputtee

    mindputtee Well-Known Member

    Another thing to keep in mind at DCDI, especially in the newcomer divisions, is there are so many couples for the judges to look at that if you don't catch their eye in the few seconds they have for you, they may not write your number down so you won't get called back.
    3wishes, Lioness, middy and 2 others like this.
  10. stash

    stash Well-Known Member

    Though if there was no open frame work, I could see the judges marking against that. As it is smooth and not Standard. (Though DCDI does tend to have more of an International Panel over all in judging).

    To the OP, I would definitely recommend getting videos in the future if you didn't this comp. They can be really hard to watch, but really useful in seeing why you did or didn't get called back. And sometimes the reason is as simple has mindputte said, there are a ton of newcomers out on the floor in the first few rounds, the judges only have a few seconds if that to look at each couple and write down their numbers.

    I'm glad you had a good time. DCDI is definitely one of the better run collegiate comps in my opinion, (MIT being up there as well).
  11. mindputtee

    mindputtee Well-Known Member

    Based on who won gold smooth, I'm going to say having open figures was not a prerequisite for getting called back...
    Loki likes this.
  12. stash

    stash Well-Known Member

    Fair enough.
  13. Squall

    Squall Member

    When I danced silver standard, it seemed that the judges weren't evenly spread out and were clustered near the dais. If that was also the case during smooth, then depending on your choreography, couples blocking you, and how much you travelled, it's possible that you or your number were simply not seen during the smooth events. I can't use those excuses for not being called back, but maybe you can!
    Loki likes this.
  14. stash

    stash Well-Known Member

    The judges were more spread out on Sunday.
  15. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Plus I'll emphasize that for his tango and foxtrot, we're not only talking about newcomer, but the 1/8th-finals in newcomer. Even if they didn't get completely lost in the shuffle, I can't imagine the judges really even had the opportunity to evaluate whether or not a given couple included any open frame work in their dancing.
  16. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    I'd also point out that arguing for both 1) the judges may not have seen you or seen you for long enough and 2) the judges may have penalized you for a lack of open work seems like a bad argument.

    OP, perhaps there was something off-putting about your smooth or a section of it that didn't work for at-a-glance judging. Your partner having less than stellar hair / attire probably didn't help, though that's par for the course in newcomer at collegiate comps I've attended.
  17. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

  18. caw

    caw Active Member

    You know the newcomer division is only for people who just started dancing, like within the past 6 months, right?
  19. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Well-Known Member

    I didn't watch the syllabus level Smooth/Rhythm, but what we saw for open smooth totally blew us away. We originally started dancing american style at an Arthur Murray school (and doing AM comps and showcases and stuff). Then we switched to international style and left the school to train with independent teachers, and have competed in international comps (as well as NDCA, USA Dance and now a couple of the collegiate events - which are my fave so far!).

    We both thought that the level of open smooth would pretty much blow away many AM instructors that we have come across. Like we were SERIOUSLY mega impressed at the quality.

    Secondly, from the fashion side of things.... my experience with AM events is that no one really cares what you look like as long as you don't have inappropriate body parts hanging out. You can do prom hairstyles (imo not "dancesport"), hair down, mega bling, whatev. As long as you feel good, everyone is happy. I've never ran across any costume rules either at AM events. We often compete under WDSF rules so i'm often running across some very strict rules. Comparing the two experiences (AM events vs outside events), I found that $hit got real once we left the franchise (LOL at least for your average syllabus people) in terms of fashion, hair, and the look. I'm not saying it's like that everywhere, but rather that it was just my experience.
  20. middy

    middy Well-Known Member

    I guess she was speaking to the fact that they had much less open work, relative to everyone else. Lol I decided to see for myself and watched most of the final from the livestream. And if you're good at closed frame, there's less of the that awkward transition stuff in and out of frame to go wrong.

    I feel conflicted...I have a very strong opinion that smooth, no matter what level, needs to have strong standard/closed-position technique. Nothing irks me more than terrible frame and bad movement in closed position during smooth. But I also think that smooth should be very characteristically smooth, with a good amount of open work rather than just being pseudo-standard.

    Back to the OP, congrats on doing so well in rhythm! Another potential factor for your performance in smooth is perhaps the couple figures that you stuck to in smooth didn't move very much. So one aspect of other people doing more figures is not simply that they did more figures, but that those figures allowed the couple to move more or look bigger somehow, which made them more noticeable to judges. Of course, it could be a million different things that contributed to callbacks, but just another factor to consider.

    Glad you enjoyed DCDI! It was one of the first comps I went to and still holds a special place in my heart, even though I've been unable to attend for the past few years after relocating.
    Mr 4 styles, mindputtee and stash like this.

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