2007 Harvard Beginner's Competition

Easily handled by not defining basic undecorated dancewear as a costume...
Easily...but arbitrarily?
Is a standard gown with no stones a costume?
What is "basic" when it comes to dancewear?
Only Latin pants, or Latin shirts too? At what point does it become a "costume"?

There are many ways to write the rules. I'm not convinced any one is less arbitrary than the other.

Are practice skirts now costumes under your rules?
Our rule is that if you can find it outside a dance specialty store, it's fair game. I'll make sure that is reflected on the website.
Our rule is that if you can find it outside a dance specialty store, it's fair game. I'll make sure that is reflected on the website.
That would be a quite substantial change of rules from the past.

The year we won the silver category, my partner was wearing a dress that she'd had designed specifically for syllabus events, I believe it had been her prize from winning MIT the previous spring.

More importantly, some 3-4 of our teams newcomer ladies were wearing practice skirts I'd made that fall... very simple, took about an hour each, but not something readily available anywhere but a dance supplier or a fabric store.


Well-Known Member
Yikes, I didn't mean to open a can of worms here....:shock:
thought n00bs might be intimidated by other dancers in full costume; thought this comp was supposed to be low-key. However Harvard chooses to focus its intentions for this comp is fine by me. Perhaps eliminating the elements of costumes that do not contribute to their essential function (rhinestones, feathers, floats, fringe, or what have you) would work. Unfortunately there will always be a level of subjectivity in defining What Is A Costume? Maybe assign a uniform of sorts (i.e. everyone must wear black skirts/pants and white tops)? Have to wonder if it's worth the hassle and inevitable uproar, but at the same time it would make for an interesting comp....
Yikes, I didn't mean to open a can of worms here....:shock:
Not at all. This is a good discussion. We're really trying to improve the quality of our comps and the comments on this forum have been invaluable.

What to do with costumes is an important matter. The purpose of Beginners' Comp is to provide a relaxed atmosphere for a newcomer's first competition, and to provide a relaxed start to the competition season for bronze and silver dancers. (With the showcase, we're also hoping to provide a venue for advanced dancers to warm up their routines.)

So the question is, what costume rules create the most relaxed competition environment? I think there is general consensus that costumes, of the types worn at the higher levels (i.e., not practice skirts), would not create a relaxed atmosphere at the newcomer level. There would be too much emphasis on what was being worn and how much to spend on an outfit.

To achieve this goal, do we need to define precisely what is and is not a costume? If so, how do we do that? Or can we rely on team captains to use their judgment in good faith? I prefer the latter, but if that seems too optimistic or ill-defined, perhaps we should think of a more workable definition. The elemental approach (no rhinestones, feathers, floats, fringe, etc.) could work, but to the extent we try to formulate a rule (as opposed to a standard) there is always going to some over- and under- inclusivity.

Further, does a no-costume rule help make the competition less relaxed for bronze and silver dancers? The change this year was based on complaints from last year. Perhaps these folks represented a silent minority, but they presented an argument that I think merits consideration. Assuming bronze and silver dancers already have "costumes", however defined, is it really less stressful to make them not wear them? If they will be competing with costumes in a few weeks, and competed in costumes the previous spring, does it make sense to make them dance without costumes?

We've obviously made some decisions on these questions and the rules reflect that. However, nothing is set in stone. If the change this year is a bad decision, we're definitely open to switching back or trying something new next year.

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Larinda McRaven

Site Moderator
Staff member
Not sure where we were or what the rules were but I believe Russel Monk took a guy aside last year to check for a departnment store label inside his vest.


Active Member
Its definitely an interesting debate...

I've always liked the no costume rule at HBC. However enough things have changed about both HBC and the collegiate circuit in general to easily see why the organizers (and enough vocal competitors) would want to explore other options.

From my view, "historically" back when HBC only had two levels (Newcomer (1 semester) and Beginner (3 semesters)) there were fewer people who already had costumes. Additionally back in those days only one competition allowed 2nd term dances to wear costumes (MIT). So very few people coming into as non-newcomer would have already invested in a costume.

Both of those factors have changed -- almost all the spring competitions allow beginners to wear costumes. And with three levels instead of two, and one that's not time limited, there's plenty of people who might have costumes.

Personally, I'd like to see Bronze stay a costume-less level at HBC, while Silver should probably allow them. Actually, even better, I'd like to see Silver replaced by a Master of Bronze -- no time or point limit, costumes encouraged.

The one thing to watch out for is if changing the costume rules starts to give greater preference to the large/established teams with costume collections.... I've liked that HBC was something of a leveller in that capacity.

I don't think costumes for non-newcomers is going to change the "stress" level. Its the sheer size of the competition that needs to be adressed, though I'm not sure what would be effective....

I wouldn't suggest this for this year, but maybe think about trying something like
instead of running the newcomer events as 192 (or larger) couples. Run it as 4 48 couple events with then a combined final of the top 2 from each pool. I think that would help the organizaers avoid the complete herding cats problem. Competitors wouldn't be constantly in huge slow moving lines, etc. While its not the "correct" callback procedure, I think it would a good compromise for a lower stress introduction to competition. The competitors from the other "pools" would also be able to watch a little more of the competition, etc
I would love to hear other people's opinions as to how the comp went as well. I did not go down for the day but did recieve feedback from my team about the day and was told that the comp ran way behind schedule and that our newbies did not have a very good time. I only have this second-hand so would like to reserve my opinion until I hear from someone else who was actually there.


Well-Known Member
The organizers apologized profusely for the problems and lateness, but yes, it did run horribly behind schedule and people were getting more and more irritated (myself included). Hopefully someone who worked behind the scenes can supply more information, and chalk this up to a learning experience. I'm sure they had good intentions.
I heard a lot of complaints from the judges about the pda scrutineering system. Although it is a nice idea, and I have seen it work well in the past, this particular implementation seems to not have been tested rigorously in real situations, and experienced numerous problems and delays. If anything, the indoor track was a great venue for wireless communications b/c there were no other wifi networks in the area(I tried multiple times on my laptop and cellphone to pass the time without anyluck, and instead had to watch the comp instead. ;] ), the space was large and empty, and there was good clearance between the wifi hub and the judges' pdas usually. This is not the first time Harvard tried the PDA system, but there were similar problems in the past as well.

imho, if Harvard wants to use a PDA system, they need to seriously invest in the man-hours to get it to work. Commercial systems took considerable amount of effort to get it to work under the comp's strenuously, but absolutely fail-safe conditions.
The following opinions are from a team captain's perspective, and may not reflect how everyone felt about the event:

Harvard Beginners is usually a well organized, quick, fun competition for newcomer-bronze (recently silver) dancers and I have enjoyed going the past few years, it was also my very first competition as a newcomer. My high opinions of this competition changed drastically yesterday.

I'll start my accepting the apologies of the organizers, I know they put in a lot of effort into getting the system running and they absolutely had good intentions with trying to use the new PDA systems. That said, however, the competition (from my view) was a nightmare for a number of reasons which I'll go into (maybe some now and some later, as I have class in a few minutes).

The first problem was right from the start. I'm not at all sure what happened, but I know that newcomers were being moved from one on-deck area to the other, but nobody really seemed to know why. I was being asked by my newcomers what was going on, why they were being moved from line to line, and standing around for 30+ minutes while nothing was happening. I certainly had no idea, there were no announcements as to what was going on. There was just general confusion from everything I could tell. Once things got going, the newcomers danced one dance and then the whole shuffling process began again for their second dance. I still have no idea why. After about an hour and 15 minutes, the newcomers had danced two dances and nobody else got to see the floor.

Newcomers were not the only ones lined up for a long time, either. During the silver events, which I danced, we were lined up for a good 30 minutes without knowing what was going on, aside from several general dances going on while we were waiting. Once one heat danced our first dances (Rhythm), the second heat was only 4 people while the first was ~15(?). They had us dance both dances a second time.

As for overall experience, our newcomers did not enjoy themselves and many actually left the comp midway through in frustration. (some without letting me know, that's another story and reason my day didn't go so well as there weren't enough cars to get the ones who did stay back home..). I'm curious to see how many newcomers, this being their first competition, are turned off to competing entirely.

I do understand that this was a test for Harvard's using the PDA system, but I think that pen and paper is a far better use of time.

I have a few questions about this competition:

In the morning, when the PDA's weren't working, was pen-and-paper judging considered?

Why were there so few announcement informing competitors what was going on, especially in the morning?

Since so many teams were frustrated and wanted to go home, why weren't Afternoon session awards handed out until after the team match? (We had 4 people left at the end of the day because so many left [even some who really wanted to do the team match, but couldn't stay until 8:30pm when it finally ended]).

Anyway, those are my thoughts and questions.


p.s. The venue was nice, but the floor could have been a little bigger/not run silver semis as 1 heat - my partner was tripped and fell on the floor during our quickstep. :(


Well-Known Member
Yup, that Silver Quickstep heat was absolutely brutal. I lost track of how many times I collided or had to stop. I wonder if anyone escaped it unscathed.... either everyone had a brain fart at the same time, or we were all loopy from waiting around so long. Disaster. And somehow the #s of those who made it to the next round were posted right as we were exiting the floor. Wonder if they just picked out the ones who didn't get bashed :rolleyes: A lot of people in that heat were like Waltz Tango Foxtrot was that?!? but by then I was beyond the point of giving a flying fart. I agree that the Newbies and even Bronze seemed to have it worse. They were standing in line forever, and no one appeared to know what was going on and why nothing was happening. Knowing would have been immensely helpful.

I say next year it goes back to pen and paper, and all dancers in every level wear sweats :cool:


New Member
Is Harvard rolling their own PDA system? Is this an outgrowth of Comp-in-a-Box or something else?

Sorry to hear it didn't go well. There seems to have been a curse on newbies that day. On my side of the country, bus troubles made Berkeley's newbies so late for a competition that they missed their Newcomer Standard event (we held the comp for as long as we could, but finally we couldn't wait any more or else our day session would run into our evening session...they all got to dance in the Bronze, though, plus in all their Latin events).

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