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!