Dignity, Always Dignity : Sportsmanship in Dancesport

DanceSport Photography

At the beginning of Singin’ in the Rain, Gene Kelly’s character gives a monologue about how his life motto is “Dignity, Always Dignity” and then we see how maybe his life behind the scenes wasn’t really all that dignified. But in the limelight, Donald Lockwood was the picture of elegance and sophistication.

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Ballroom dancers are pretty ridiculous when we’re in the studio. There’s lots of jokes, pranks, silliness, and also rivalries, drama, and cattiness. BUT, let’s have more of that “dignity” business in our competition demeanour, eh?

Recently, I’ve heard stories about, and witnessed, some lacklustre sportsmanship on the dance floor. Some people might even call it Bad Sportsmanship, which in a fancy-pants hobby like ballroom dancing, is UNBECOMING.

DanceSport Photography
DanceSport Photography

I know you want to hear the bad examples (or at least a few), so here:

  • A pro-am couple (yes, both student AND teacher) loudly criticizing their poor placement against a supposedly less talented pro-am couple within their earshot.
  • Half an amateur couple ranting about how they should have won, while still on the floor, during awards.
  • Audience members booing placements.
  • Pro teachers blocking students in on competition floors.
DanceSport Photography
DanceSport Photography

Just in case you hadn’t caught on to the slightly unspoken rules of ballroom dance competitions, there are as follows:

  • When you are on the floor, approaching or exiting the floor, near the floor, or in the same building as the floor, you are the most gentlemanly or lady-like example of ballroom dancing that you can be. MANNERS, PEOPLE. Please and thank you, smile and nod, shake hands, and keep your cool.
  • Line of dance is a rule and floorcraft is a skill. If you regularly break a rule, you look uneducated or insolent. If you ignore a skill, you look uneducated and like an ass. Follow line of dance and use your floorcraft.
  • Since you aren’t actually watching your own heats (even if it’s split into flights) and comparing yourself against the other dancers in real time, you’re a pretty bad (and super-biased) judge of your heat. That’s why, conveniently, competitions have official judges (usually MUCH more experienced than you) to compare and contrast everyone’s expertise. Please respect the judges’ decisions when it comes to callbacks and placements.
  • Called back to the final? CONGRATULATIONS. That is neat. Got “last place”? That is neat as well. When and if they call your name for any placement, smile, grab your partner, walk up to the fantastically fair and honest judges, get your award, smile and shake hands, and continue smiling until you’re in that blessed sound-proof hotel room or far-away empty studio and can let out your opinions about how everyone sucks except for you and life isn’t fair.
  • Unless you are in your hotel room, or at home after the comp, or maaaaaayyyyyybe in a well-secured elevator, shut the hell up about your results. If someone hears you ranting away about how you deserved better (and let’s face it, you often didn’t), word will get around and no one likes a poor sport.
  • In other words, eye-rolling, any negative verbalization, and dropping of posture during awards are bad.
  • Don’t like one of your fellow competitors? Steer clear of them. Or have a dance fight. And tape it. And send it to me. But unless you’re going to dance fight for my social media pleasure, comps are the most ugly place to let your true feelings show.
  • If your teacher or fav couple doesn’t place where you want them to, it’s hard not to react viscerally, but rein it in for the sake of decorum and clap politely for all couples. Of course, when your couple is announced, I support loud hootin’ and hollerin’.

Stay classy, dancers!

Author: Kate Bratt – Riot & Frolic
Photography: DanceSport Photography
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review