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What is a Swing Dance Competition?

With modernization YouTube is a great vessel to transport our beloved swing dance into the world. Most of these videos are from competitions though. Nowadays we can see dancers from all over the world competing with each other on different locations.

A competition is when the swing dancers from a festival compete against each other. The best dancers will will. Who is the best? This will greatly depend on who is present as there are countless competitions and fesstivals!

Usually the competitions are divided by style: Lindy Hop, Balboa, Boogie Woogie, Collegiate Shag, St Louis Shag. Some styles even divide further into fast or slower Lindy Hop /Boogie Woogie.

Fast Lindy Hop Competitions

Slow Boogie Woogie

How does it all work?

Most Swing dance festivals offer competitions you can sign up for on the spot or already when you sign up for the competition. If you want to join it is best to read the festival information and then ask at the check in if spots are still available.

The actual competing takes place during the dance evenings at the swing festivals. For example there could be the preliminary battle at 10pm and the finals at midnight. The competitors get their starting number at the check-in or before the battle. If a preliminary has to take place, those entering the final will get notified later.

During finals it is often so that the couples dance alone for a certain amount of seconds/minutes. Couple after couple comes to the front and shows what they know.

Who can join a competition?

Anyone who feels like joining. Depending on the number of participants a style will undergo a preliminary battle and a final.  Some festivals hold them on the same day, some divide them throughout the festival days. It really depends on the organizer.

How long does a competition usually take?

Depending on the number of inscriptions the dancers compete against each other the competitions only last a few songs. All in all this can last around half an hour to one hour,  depending on the way the moderator presents, the way the dancers compete.

Who are the judges?

Ultimately the judge is you! The teachers resent often volunteer to judge and in the finals, the public decides through screaming and making noise.This is sometimes difficult to judge, therefore in future this might change greatly.

Is there a dress code for the competition?

Generally there isn’t but as you can see in the videos the competitors are well dressed. This is probably also due to the fact of the competitions being in the evening, during the rather elegant dance parties.

What is the modus of a competition dance?

There are usually different ways and from the videos we can understand that generally we have either fixed couples competing or single people being matched by coincidence before every dance.

Jack&Jill (nowadays also called “Mix&Match”) competitions are competitions where the dancers sign up alone and then get a partner allocated. In each round, a new partner will be allocated.

Opposed we have competitions called “strictly” where the couples sign up together and only dance with their own partner. No switching.

Jack & Jill = Randomly allocated partner

Competing couple against couple

Why do dancers compete?

What can I win on a competition?

The range is wide: from fame to festival passes and even money. At 2018 most prizes are festival passes or vouchers for the festival/camp shops. This depends greatly on the festival, location and organizers.

But why do people actually compete?

My Instagram research has shown, that some people compete to win, some to just get more experience under competition conditions and others just for fun. I have come across people who compete for the fame or because they want to be photographed by professionals. During festivals usually there is a high chance of having professional or semi-professional photographers around taking high quality pictures.

Do competitions rally reflect how we swing dance nowadays?

The style in a competitions is mostly not what you would see during a social dance where everybody is just having fun or during a jam circle. Often the dancers enjoy to make a show or exaggerate their moves for the judges. Competitions do not show all the range of the swing dancing. There is also the social dancing

Regular Social Dancing