It should be no surprise after seeing the really popular dance TV shows and the often detailed background stories that display all the emotions, garner sympathy, or invite the audience to suffer the long hard road the competitors slogged to get to the stage that precede each competitor’s performance.  Today’s competition spectator might expect some of the same.  So it would seem natural or desirous for competition organizers to want to look for ways to offer the spectator some of the same experiences at competition events.  However, if my most recent visit to yet another sanctioned event proves anything, no effort seems to be forthcoming to aid or assist the audience to know who is who.  Watching and walking the whole ballroom, I did not see one person with a program.  I fully expected an I-Phone APP upon paying for a ticket that at least that would offer the competitor’s name and Country or State sorted by competitor’s number.  Even after trying to look up the web site, I could only find a competitor’s list with no numbers.  Of course competitors get “Heat Sheets” so they know where they are supposed to be when competing, but this is about the audience.  Just as an aside, I know many of the competitors, so for me it should not be an issue, but too many people asked me who that person or couple was, or who that number was and would quickly share with the neighbors if they did find out anything.  But at $70.00/ticket it does not seem unreasonable to have some kind of program of the event and its participants.  Recent visits to MOVE, The Show and SYTYCD provided programs and bios of the cast or at least stars.

I have asked before why dance competitions don’t do more to introduce, and yes, promote the competitors that will dance and ultimately provide so much of the entertainment and appeal of current competitions.  I suggested that competitors be given and use the same number all season just as players in other venues use numbers to be recognized.  It has been said that it would provide an “unfair advantage” to the seeded competitors implying that the Judges are unaware and don’t know who is highly ranked or who will be ignored in the early rounds when in fact, all too often, the Judges are the only ones in the room who do know who is highly ranked or regarded in the competition arena.  That just leaves the audience to watch the 8, 12 or more couples.  If in multiple or divided heats, they can only guess who they think might win.  Worse yet, they can pick their favorite the same way many people pick their favorite horse; by the color of the outfits.   At least if the competitors had standing numbers over time, the audience could learn or gain favorites and be able to better root for their couple.

If the spectator happens to be a student, they can ask their instructor who is the best couple.  With a little bad luck the teacher won’t have their program with them either or turned to the right page, then they look stupid too.  Yes, the competition must run through the preliminary heats just in case a couple has acquired the extra wisdom, training or practice to vault them to the highest rounds.  In fairness to the audience and even the competitors, seeding the top competitors and giving them a bye allows the audience to compare the rest of the couples and may actually provide a better venue for the judges to actually watch the newer competitors versus the most seasoned they will see again and again and again later.  Frankly aren’t we all tired of seeing the same special lift, drop, slide or step four times in one evening.

However, that goes to another subject.  Let’s get back to using technology to allow couples or the organizer to provide bios that can be quickly accessed.  With recognition software being as it is maybe the NSA can help to provide visual identification, but with I-Phones and smart phones being able to provide useful data, maybe fewer people will be using them to surreptitiously video the performers.  After all, most people never look at the videos again other than to remember who it was they were supposed to remember.  Organizers continue to go to great effort to get repeat business from the amateur and pro-am dancers, with all the circuits, special points and trophies, plates and silver ware.  Maybe they can work together with the PDF or NDCA and find ways to use technology to help the spectators and audience get more out of the experience.  Some of our top competitors deserve the same recognition for their excellence and as some of the now TV stars do for their celebrity.

Michael Reichenbach

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