Does the routine make a difference in the competition?

well, It just seems the routines put up by my instructor are very basic and not so interesting. even it is for the beginer level competition, there seems nobody at my school can advance to the semifinal. It makes me wonder if I should find a different routine for the next competition, and it also seems some couples are doing a lot of complicated stuff in their routines, and they don't seem follow the rule (they are doing more intermediate or advanced steps in beginer level) and the judges don't seem to mind and they end up in final round or win prizes! what's your guys suggestion? and where can I get a better routine for Jive, Cha, Waltz and QuickStep (for beginer and intermediate) cheers


Well-Known Member
I'm not qualified to answer this staight out, yoyao. But there are some things that may impact the types of routines you do -- i.e. whether you're doing closed or open routines. Closed routines are strictly the syllabus steps, and they can look pretty boring next to open routines, which allow more complex choreography and steps at a higher level. Perhaps you were doing closed routines? That might be because of your teacher, but it's also possible that you just didn't have enough time to prepare open routines. A well-prepared closed routine is, IMHO, much better than an ill-prepared open routine. Even if the open routine is more interesting to the student, it's not necessarily better.

And as for advancing to the finals? That's a complicated one. Who knows how these things are judged. There's a good article around here somewhere about how these comps are judged. I'll try to find it for you. In the meantime, go to There's a good article in the judge's column there this month re: one judges view and her pet peeves. Check it out. 8)


New Member
Wel, yoyao, it seems that you have noticed an inconsistency which is unfortunate. It's probably a good idea to check in the competition rules ahead of time whether the comp is "invigilated" which means that one of the judges is there purely to see if a couple is doing an "illegal" move in their routine (outside of syllabus range).

One of the challenges in the earlier levels (up to Gold) is that there are so few steps you can choose from, so the routine can look a little boring. This is especially noticeable when you do it over and over and over again in practice despite the fact that you know more complex steps and wish you could just dance them!

But with myself just competing at the Bronze level and working my way up, I've consoled myself with the fact that everyone is in the same boat. the goal is not to create a fancy routine but to dance the simple stuff like a champion. That creates a wonderful goal for us which we strive very hard to achieve. It includes things like expression, lightness, connection, posture, footwork. When you see top dancers doing the basic steps they make it look so good. That's our goal.

We even ask our coach to dance the routine with my partner while I videotape it to review over and over again how he does it so much better than I do. It allows me to slow it down and watch the fine points.
It's not what you dance but how you dance it. The time limit for a heat is 90 seconds. Therefore the judges get to watch you for about 10 seconds. In that time they don't get to see all the school figures you are doing. But rather they see the quality of what it is you are doing. If your foot tech.,top line ,styling, timing and grooming are better than the other couples you are rewarded. Having a routine to compete with gives you an advantage in that you can work on the technical aspects of only those moves. So what you present to the judges will be perfect. You can't beat great looking basics. If you are bored with the level you are in try a solo routine to learn new steps in.


New Member
I would tend to agree with adwiz and twodance on this one. It's a mistake to get hung up on choreography or steps in lieu of good dancing. In my experience, it's not what you dance in your routine, but how you dance it.

Given that dance competitions are judged very subjectively and choreography can be important, it's easy to get lost in the importance of choreography. Particularly if you tend to think other couple are winning with their choreography. However, remember that the judges don't know your choreography and they will probably see you dance for maybe 10 seconds. You can't control which 10 seconds they'll see. Even if you have a fantastic, eye turning open routine, they may catch the 10 seconds where you are dancing a basic and mark you just on how well you did that. Still, it is quite possible to dance the most basic elements in a way that will be noticed and marked favorably.

At one competition, I was a last moment fill-in for a Waltz/Quickstep 2-dance event. I only had an hour to work with my partner before we had to dance. To further add to the challenge, my partner did not know quickstep! :shock: So we spent 20 minutes before the event learning quickstep. Needless to say,
our choreography was extremely simple (especially our quickstep!). My partner was a real trooper and did an outstanding job dancing our primitive choreography with balance, control, and precision. When you combined this with a big bright smile which lit up the ballroom, it was impossible not stand out in a very crowded field of established couples. Despite our challenges, we danced very well. It was not until we managed to reach a semi-final in a very crowded field that our obvious weakness in quickstep finally did us in :wink: . Not bad for an hour of practice! :D.

At a recent competition, my partner and I won our category in a very crowded field (over 35 couples! :shock: ). Since we make quality of movement a primary focus in our lessons and practices, choreography often goes by the wayside. I couldn't tell you how long we worked on just basic footwork, but I can tell you we worked on choreography for maybe a few hours (enough to learn the routines!) To us, choreography is simply a teaching tool to learn technique. Consequently, our choreography is pretty basic for our level. Given these circumstances, it felt great hearing the applause for us when we won such a large competition! Hearing professionals and knowledgable fans compliment us on the 'level of quality' in our dancing tells me that our strategy and hard work is starting to pay off. While there is still a long way to go, I'd prefer quality of movement over choreography any day.

Yoyao, you cannot worry about what the judges or other couples are doing. Focus on yourself first. Sometimes things that are 'more complicated' may only look that way when danced with a higher quality of movement. Every competition is different and take care to read all of the rules carefully. Sometimes, the rules allow for this amount of syllabus flexibility! Sometimes events are not being closely invigilated and people get away with breaking the rules. However, you cannot rely on being able to get away with breaking the rules. Being disqualified or being forced to make last minute adjustments to your choreography 30 seconds before your next dance can be very uncomfortable and may hurt you more than if you simply stuck to the simple stuff.

Your instructor may be doing you a favor by staying with the basic routines. If your balance and basic movement is not at a sufficient level, you may not be ready for more advanced stuff. If you are getting bored with your routines, you are always free to add variations or look for some 'complicated stuff'. Just be sure to be careful not to do anything outside of the rules at a competition. Another option is to focus on how you can dance your legal choreography better. If dancing well is a priority for you, then you need to be patient with yourself and work on doing the basics really well. If you have good balance along with good quality of movement and you can combine this with a clear discernible rhythm, this should be more than enough to advance.

Hope this helps!

back to lurk mode...


New Member
Thanks for the answer guys, one thing I noticed during the competition is that the couple start off seperatly rather than in close postition ususally got marked down first. it just seems to be more interesting I guess. another reason I can think of is that there are about 5 to 6 couples from my university alone and we all doing the same routine. but for the other university, each couple seems has their own unique routine. I guess this is an disadvantage. although, I do agree that judge will only look at you for 10 sec, but round after round of the same sample routine doing by like 5 or 6 couples at same time, it just not so interesting as other couple that they are doing totally different stuff?
yoyao said:
I noticed during the competition is that the couple start off seperatly rather than in close postition
This is not an observation to be taken lightly.

From the beginning level and on upward, before working on fancy routines, you can be cleaning up your overall presence.

  • Good Grooming (slick hair, makeup...)
    Taking the floor with confidence
    Solid/rehersed starting positions
    How you carry yourself between dances/songs
    Maintaining your performance on exit
All these things count, and I didn't even have a routine until I decided to jump to Championship level!


New Member
To us, choreography is simply a teaching tool to learn technique. Consequently, our choreography is pretty basic for our level.
I agree completely. Even the most basic of moves can be difficult to execute well. And if you can't execute the basic moves well, then the advanced moves are going to look very, very ungainly, especially in Standard.
SDsalsaguy said:
Excellent post Taita!

Ummm, so what do we have to do to keep you out of lurk mode? :wink:
Thanks! I'm glad you guys appreciate my opinions. I hope they help!

as far as staying out of lurk mode....

Hmmmm..... that could be quite a challenge. I think cash would be a good start :wink:

or maybe just a lift to Australia... :wink:

...back to lurk mode...


Staff member
Taita said:
SDsalsaguy said:
Ummm, so what do we have to do to keep you out of lurk mode? :wink:
as far as staying out of lurk mode....

Hmmmm..... that could be quite a challenge. I think cash would be a good start :wink:

or maybe just a lift to Australia... :wink:
So do you want in on the bank heist or what? Boriken's going to be our :car: man, but that's far from a complete plan and team... :wink:
guys, just came back from IVDC, one of the most competitive and biggest dance competition for british universities! there are about 7 to 8 heaps in each dance! and around 20 couples in each heap! my partner and me did really well, we went as far as 4th round and alsmot get in to semifinal! especially consider how simple our routin is! in the 4th round, we are the only couples in Cha that starting as close position. I think we are at the stage where we need to add more stuff to the routin and make it more interesting! and as ususal, Oxford and Cambridge again took away all the the final team competition round, they end up competing aginst temselves even their B team (the 2nd unit) beat all the other universities A team. so the final is like their A team aginst their own B team!
yoyao said:
my partner and me did really well, we went as far as 4th round and alsmot get in to semifinal!
Congratulations! As far as being the only ones starting in closed position, it probably made you guys stand out! :D


New Member
As with everything else in dancesport, it all depends. If you are a beginning or intermediate level dancer, there's so much to work on in your technique and presentation that loading on the choreography won't make as much a difference as improving your fundamental technique and presentation will.

I once danced a Novice-level (the lowest of the out-of syllabus levels in the US) dancing a routine that contained only Bronze-level steps. My partner and I weren't even wearing costumes, and costumes were allowed in that division. We came in second. We were lucky, because the marks were all over the place between 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and mathematically it came down to us taking 2nd...but the way I like to think about it is that despite dancing against people in tailsuits and gowns with open-level choreography, we held our own against them by doing what we could do as well as we possibly could. I must say, that moment was the high point of my amateur career this far....

If you're an advanced dancer, there isn't as much variation between the competitors when it comes to fundamental technique. EVERYONE is on time, EVERYONE is using proper footwork, EVERYONE dances the correct alignments, EVERYONE is dresses impeccably, EVERYONE has a good frame, EVERYONE knows how to walk on the floor, how to take position, how to bow. At that level, the points of interest that differentiate between the couples are much pickier than in a lower-level event. So, in this case, choreography becomes much more important because it's a way for the couple to stand out and show their musicality, interpretation of and approach to the dance, and to highlight their unique strengths.
Far more important than how interesting your routine might be is that you look good every single second of the dance. The judges don't have a lot of time to study each couple, so whenever they happen to look at you you want to be doing something that you do well - not the setup or recovery of a really fun step that happens to distrupt the flow of your dancing.

I got off to a somewhat wierd start in my dancing, jumping into the silver division for my second competition. I worked on and used the entire silver syllabus, but rarely got above semifinals in major comps. Not for another year did I first actually win a comp at silver, by dropping back to only the most secure pre-bronze material. From that point on, it was simply a matter of reintroducing the silver (and eventually gold) steps bit by bit, as they neared real mastery.

(for international readers: pre-bronze = restricted to 'student teacher' step list. Silver = restricted to 'licentiate' etc)
Also important to think about is not so much adding new steps but grouping/linking them in different ways to get a feeling of movement and shape. I'm trying my best to describe what I mean. Hopefully someone can pick this idea up and eloborate better than I. You can use simple bronze steps and group so they look stale boring and straight or connect them together in a new fresh way that is better "looking" while not getting out of your league

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