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Instead of my own opinions on how a good Salsa competition should be run, I thought I would throw this one out to our readers. Let me start with a few Emails I've received over the last few weeks...

"Dear Edie,
My dance partner and I recently had a very frustrating time at a dance contest, and this prompted me to write down some suggestions for club managers who want to hold a successful, crowd-drawing contest. Although the suggestions may sound obvious, we were amazed that some of the basic requirements of running a decent contest could be fouled up! I guess what goes without saying, doesn'it!

1. The judges need to have CLEAR CRITERIA FOR JUDGING and these need to be made known to the dancers beforehand.

2. There should be NO ROLE CONFUSION amongst those running the contest. The judges should ONLY be judging, the DJ ONLY playing music, and contest coordinators should be doing everything else involved in pulling the show together. We had the judges and DJ making decisions about details of the contest. Surely judges cannot remain unbiased if they are pulled into the politics of the contest.

3. There needs to be a GOOD PA SYSTEM and instructions need to be given clearly in Spanish and in English so that everyone can understand. There was a lot of confusion among the dancers in our case because of a lack of this simple requirement.

4. The spectators should be asked to WITHHOLD APPLAUSE UNTIL THE END of the contest. It is very distracting for the dancers if one couple has a group of their friends there that particular night and they have them cheering for them. I think it is difficult for judges to remain unaffected by this, too.

5. The DJ should PLAY ONE SONG FROM START TO FINISH. I think that talented dancers can use the various phases and transitions of a song to really display their full repertoire of moves. We had a slow song and faster song mixed together, with no endings or beginnings just an awkward tempo shift in the middle. I would like to see one, good, fast salsa song played from beginning to end for a contest.

6. The contest coordinators should CHECK THAT ALL THE DANCERS IN THE FINAL ROUND HAVE ACTUALLY QUALIFIED IN ONE OF THE PRELIMINARY ROUNDS! We had a couple who hadn't been in any of the preliminary rounds actually win the contest! Their prize was awarded and then taken back about 10 minutes later when someone realized they hadn't pre-qualified!

7. Give dancers
CLOTH NUMBERS for the men to pin on their shirt backs with safety pins. We had laminated ID cards that we were asked to clip onto our clothing!

8. Contest coordinators also need to be SENSITIVE TO TEMPERATURE. We stood on the dance floor for about 5 long minutes under freezing air conditioning while the judges and DJ went back and forth trying to sort out all the confusion. By the time we started dancing I was shivering and not warmed up at all.

"Edie
I think the Mayan should hold an annual "Jack and Jill" competition (a Jack and Jill contest is where dancers names are placed into a hat, then picked out and arbitrarily matched with other dancers. Each couple is judged based on how well they partnered with the other, their style, how well the lady follows, whether they kept the beat, how well the guy leads, their moves, etc.) . This could be six months after the regular annual one they hold. It would be a lot of fun, and definitely attract a huge crowd. This wouldn't take away from their regular competition because it would be six months later."
- Toronto

"Edie
They should never have split up the Semi Finals like that. That was unfair to the first weeks' competitors. The competitors in the second week had and advantage because they could see how the crowd reacted to certain moves, and they had a whole week to improve. If the Mayan did it so they would have one more week to come up with a routine, it was wrong because it wasn't the Mayan's fault these competitors waited till the last minute to compete...
- Los Angeles

"Edie
I like having professional judges judge. This seems more fair then judging based on crowd responses. I've seen contests where there is CLEARLY a better couple on the floor, but because the other couple had all their friends in the crowd, and/or they frequent that club often, they ended up winning. I hate it when clubs judge on crowd applause...
- Downey

"Edie
I think a great contest would have four separate divisions:

Amateur

Professional

Jack & Jill

Cabaret



They should only have ONE SEMI-FINAL though, for each. They'll really need to promote the hell out of it. They should start six months in advance so everyone can get ready. Have professional judges - NO CROWD APPLAUSE!!!!

Edie
I liked the way the Sportsman's Lodge did it. That seemed to be the "perfect" way of running a contest. They had an Amateur Division, a Professional Division, and a Cabaret Division. They had eight full weeks of Preliminaries, a SINGLE Semi-final show, then a SINGLE Finals show. It was too bad they didn't promote it more in the ballroom community though. I would have loved to see more than just one couple compete in the Cabaret Division (this is where you can lift the girl off the floor and do flips, etc...). I hope they do that again. I love Cabaret and Salsa!!!!
- Northridge

Taken from the Competition Controversy Editorial:

"...The rule defining a Professional dancer is "If you have ever earned any money from dancing"....*

Because of the recent Amateur controversy at the Mayan, if a nightclub is going to have a competition where both Amateur and Professional divisions will be competing, thorough background research, if not, intense questioning should take place with every Amateur competitor PRIOR to allowing them to enter the Semi-Final levels. The reason I say Semi-Finals is that it would be very difficult at the Preliminary level, as a great number of last-minute competitors emotionally jump in to see how well they’ll do against their peers. This "background research" will eliminate any potential impostors and keep the competitions fair."