Dance Articles > The out-of-syllabus Dancesport Competition

Discussion in 'Dance Articles' started by Leonid Turetsky, Dec 21, 2008.

  1. Article 1 Dec 20, 2008

    The out-of syllabus Dancesport competition

    In the syllabus levels of a Latin and Ballroom dance competition, there is a series of dance steps that couples must adhere to and dance only the steps that are appropriate for their level. Having been competing in the pro/am (teacher/student competitions) syllabus levels for the past 2 years, there had not been a single competition where I did not spot at least 1 out-of-syllabus incident. Is there someone on the floor monitoring this? For most competitions, it looks like there is not.

    Most would agree that couples often need to grab the judges’ attention in order to get noticed and place well in Dancesport competitions. Couples that incorporate dance steps from the higher levels will often have an advantage because they will be more visible on the floor. They would be performing the faster, more intricate, some would say more interesting dance routines. This is not fair to the couples who stick to the rules. One of my competing students had also spotted couples dancing “all these cool” moves in her category and began implying that I should be letting her do them as well. “No one cares for the rules, Leon”, she said. Here I am, a professional dance instructor who teaches his students stick to the syllabus and I found it hard to justify why the syllabus rules matter (other than that I stick to it for myself as a teaching method). Mind you, these pro/am students pay very well in competition fees to at least expect a fair competition system in place.

    At the 2008 Manhattan Dancesport championship I went as far as complaining about it.
    I told the chairman of the competition that I had witnessed about 5-10 pro/am couples dancing out-of syllabus steps! He replied that he was very aware of the problem and that the officials were monitoring it very closely and giving appropriate penalties. They made an announcement about it shortly after and that was it. I heard that in some competitions, sometimes they may have come up to one or two couples to warn them about their syllabus violations, but clearly it did not change anything as this continues to happen in competitions day in and day out. This begs the question: Why is there no set system in place to handle this consistently?

    Let us take a brief moment to look at Dancesport’s closest comparison in sport and art, figure skating. In figure skating, there is a whole judging panel dedicated to watching and identifying the different elements being executed. At the same time, there is a separate panel that actually judges and scores the performances. These judges also have access to video footage of the performances if extra review is needed. If the figure skating committee is going out of their way to insure that the best and fairest practices are being implemented to judge their competitions, why can’t our association do the same?

    Possible Solution: There are many solutions to this problem. The simplest is to appoint syllabus experts to act as the “syllabus monitoring board” at every competition. Their only job is to sit there, monitor each heat, and watch out for out-of syllabus moves. Additionally, judges noticing any syllabus violations would immediately alert the “syllabus monitors”, thus creating even more supervision. The “syllabus monitors” would then have a meeting with these out-of-syllabus couples to explain the specific violations. These couples would be given two options: To either move up to the next level (where they really belong with their fancy moves!) immediately or to remove the out-of-place dance moves for the subsequent rounds in their current level. If they were to violate the rules again, they would be disqualified for the day. Lastly, these competitors’ names would be kept on record to watch out for in future competitions.

    In conclusion, Dancesport competitions clearly need more oversight to make sure that the syllabus is followed by all competition participants. Otherwise, what is the purpose of having syllabus level competitions in the first place?

    By: Leonid Turetsky

    If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to respond
  2. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    there is supposed to be at least on invigilator who's job it is to do precisely that - spot out of catagory steps. However, they vary greatly in knowledge (in particular where many siilubi are permitted), skill (you can't observe 13 couples at the same time) and application - an out of catagory to one is a creative development to another. So, no in effect invigilation tends to be good at best and non-existent at worst. OTOH if you persist you will get caught eventually!
  3. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    It is not the job if the judges to monitor the syllabus, especially when their job is already reduced to the flash of two seconds per couple, especially when there are mulitple levels on the floor at any given time. It is the job of the invigilator.

    Here is a picture of a competition. The couples on the left are all lined up for their discussion with the invigilator. The guy talking to me was explaining what they were in trouble for, in this case sailor shuffles in jive. At USDC there were at least 2 invigilators standing over the floor watching everyone like hawks. They were announcing constantly that couples must stay in category. At Ohio there are couples being called up all the time. Most, if not all, major competitions will have an invigilator. If the smaller local ones don't, it probably is because they don't have the resources and man-power to staff an additional person.
  4. I agree that the judges shouldn't be responsible for watching syllabus, there should be a different panel doing that....
    And like it said in the article, at some comps, sometimes they do watch and catch the couples dancing out of syllabus.... its just very random and inconsistent in my opinion.
  5. anametuer

    anametuer Member

    Good point Leonid, I have heard that the judges needs to be impressed, but on what counts? Grooming, techniques, artistic appeal, dancing as per the beats, best of all what is desirable and laid down in the rule books, right? There should be transparency so that the competitors can aspire and work on it.
    Judges decisions are final.... and it is part of their responsibility to ensure that all judgement parameters are taken into consideration in the right proportions.
    If syllabus steps shoud not be over shooted, it should be monitored, it deoesn't matter whether it is themselves or by an assigned person.
    Judges also must be undergoing frequent skill assessments?
    A radical suggestion to esure this, but essential as the whole exercise is worth only if it is fair.…..
  6. suburbaknght

    suburbaknght Well-Known Member

    Why isn't this done at pro-am events? It is in the amateur events (via USADance) and the collegiate world.
  7. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    It is done in the pro-am events.
  8. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I agree with Leonid. I also see students dancing out of syllabus steps. There are invigilators, but they can't catch everything. Hopefully the personal ethics of each couple will ensure that most will stay within syllabus.
  9. raindance

    raindance Well-Known Member

    Larinda, Could you please explain a bit about the process? What happens when couples are seen dancing steps outside of the level and syllabus in pro/am? Are they given warnings, penalized in standings? If this was happening at some pro/am comps I have attended, it was below my radar, while I frequently have seen couples dancing steps for the wrong level (e.g. dancing silver or above steps in bronze categories). Thanks in advance for helping us understand the system. :)
  10. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Usually there is an "Invigilator" that is hired for the session. They stand up and watch from the dais. When they spot a couple that is out of syllabus the MC will make a general announcement that "This is a Closed Syllabus level, and it is being invigilated. Please stay within the syllabus."

    If a general announcement doesn't stop the violations the couple is either called to the dais or the Invigilator will go find them. They are notified that they are out of category and given one last warning.

    If the couple continues to violate the syllabus their scores are dropped down to last in the final, or they are not called back to the next round.

    But most people never notice this going on. I DO because I KNOW the invigilators and I HATE seeing them stare me down as I dance with my students, watching and scrutinizing everything we do. I DO know who my peers are that are likely to be breaking the rules and getting called out for it. I DO see my peers talking to the invigilator, or see the Invigilator hunting them down.

    So it is is like buying a new car, once you have it you see it everywhere.

    One of the problem with the system is that the Invigilator is human. And like the judges they only have 2 seconds to scan each couple, especially with split floors. Sometimes they miss things. I have seen horrible transgressions against the syllabus before, just horrible. Sometimes they are caught and sometimes they are missed.

    And OFTEN even when a couple is warned there is still nothing the couple can do about it. The ONE time I was ever notified that I was out of category there was nothing we could do about it. My student knew his routine as we had perfected at the studio. Taking away his opening and making him start with a different pattern would have been the death of him. He could not have continued his routine. He was a new silver student he was going on very basic rote memory. So even though he and I discussed how to change the opening we defaulted back to the original plan and took our lumps and got last. And then I refunded him his money he paid me for those waltzes.

    So even though the couple has definitely been warned they may continue ahead with the infraction because mentally they don't have the power to change in the spot. And so those spectators watching assume that nothing has been done about it, even when it has.
  11. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    It is actually quite comical when the MC starts to make repeated announcements. All the pros in the deck area start to fidget and get nervous. We start whispering among ourselves...

    "who is it? can you see who they are staring at? oh look, there she goes to get someone! ooooo it is XYZ... boy they are in trouuuuble!"

    And then we all laugh because we are relieved it is not us!

  12. gracie

    gracie Active Member

    We got invigilated at Heritage this year and we weren't the only ones! The invigilator was running to the on deck area after even single dances and taking the pro's aside and actually telling them each thing that was out of syllabus. I heard them announcing "this is closed syllabus" at Millennium several times but did not see anyone actually getting invigilated this way. I did notice couples dancing out of category especially open moves in closed silver smooth. P.S. My Pro didn't give me back any money like Larinda did-- but it's a great idea! Maybe I'll speak to him.....
  13. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Don't get me in trouble!!!

    And I only returned MY portion of the fees, not the organizers portion!
  14. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    Is there a web page that describes what a syllabus is for us dance dummies? I did a google search but it seems everyone assumes we know what a syllabus is. Most of us social dancers have no clue and probably have no reason to care, but I'm just curious enough to ask the question.
  15. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member has an element list.
  16. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    I went there but didn't see anything called an element list. So, is an element list the same thing as a syllabus? If so, what's an element list?
  17. A syllabus lists what steps you are allowed to dance at each level of competition. Here is the ISTD syllabi, which I believe is the most commonly used and accepted syllabi for International Style dancers. Multiple syllabi do exist, like NDCA and DVIDA to name a couple, and many of them are accepted for American style dancers.
  18. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    Thanks. Now I understand what a syllabus is.

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