Four Essential Things, to Be a Great Ballroom Dance Competitor

by Stephen Knight, FADS National Dance Director

As I think ahead to our Cross Country Dance Championships (CCDC) in Houston next month (Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ first national dance competition of 2018), I am reminded of last fall’s National Dance Championships (NDC), in Orlando. One of the thoughts I had over & over during that competition was how amazing it is that we have so many talented “up-and-coming” couples hitting the dance floor! This tells me that Fred Astaire Dance Studios (FADS) is growing – the right way, and at the right pace. So I thought this would be the right time to educate our newer dancers – and remind our seasoned competitors – what it takes to be a great FADS competitor. This information is not only critical for our Pros – it also helps our Students kick off their dance journey on the “right foot”, and focus on what’s most important as they progress.

#1 GOOD REHEARSALS. Of course, it always starts with good rehearsals! Plan on a minimum of two hours, and at least six days a week. “Good rehearsals” means not just working with your partner… it’s working with your partner as a team, and not spending time criticizing or arguing about what he or she might have done wrong. Remember – your dance partner does not do something wrong on purpose… mistakes are the reason we rehearse and practice so hard! Treat your partner the way you would want to be treated, and you will both find you’ll reach your goals faster, and without the unnecessary drama and setbacks that arguing can cause.

#2 SUPPORT TEAM. The next important thing you need is a super support team. That may consist of the management team at your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio, the coaches you have chosen to work with, the company that designs and makes your costumes, and all of the other people you feel you need to get you to your desired goal. For example, sometimes you may want to consider a personal trainer to help keep you in top physical condition. I used the services of a personal trainer during most of my professional dancing career, because it made me physically and mentally stronger… which allowed me to be more prepared when entering a competition.

#3 GREAT GROOMING. The never-ending battle of grooming is so important, because of the impression it makes on judges. Good costuming or bad can make or break a couple in the competition. If you’re going to spend all that time rehearsing, and money on coaching, entry fees, airline tickets, and hotels… make sure you are groomed properly, have costumes that enhance your bodies, and with hair and makeup done correctly. There are plenty of professionals in these areas that can help make you look like a champion. So invest a little more time and money, and it will pay off in a grand way!!!

#4 SPORTSMANSHIP. In my opinion, the final thing that makes for a great professional competitor is great sportsmanship. Far too many times, I have seen couples act unprofessionally after a result, and I’m here to tell you that does not sit well with the judges – and that their poor impression of you and your partner will stay with them for a long time. Do yourself a favor: act with grace and class on the dance floor, win or lose. If you need a pity party, have it somewhere out-of-sight of everyone who could form a bad opinion of you! There will always be winners and losers: but remember that the players and the results will change every time, so learn from your mistakes and move on. And never forget that your goal should be to be a good dancer, AND a good person. That, my friends, will take you a long way in this industry.

Stephen Knight is one of the busiest men in the ballroom dance industry! Stephen & his dance partner Rae Josephs were 3-Time United States American Rhythm Finalists, and 6-Time undefeated Fred Astaire American Rhythm Champions. More recently, as the National Dance Director for Fred Astaire Dance Studios, the Regional Franchise Director for FADS’ Wisconsin Region, an NDCA Adjudicator, a Coach and Choreographer, Stephen’s dance card is almost always full. He is also responsible for creating a large portion of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios Silver Syllabus, and is well-known for his Open Routine, Solo, Showcase, and Novelty choreography. For more information on the members of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ National Dance Board, contact us. And to get started on YOUR dance journey, contact Fred Astaire Dance Studios today.