Going to a competition, if you are a participant, is a long enough ordeal.  Suppose you go to a medium to large competition, lasting 3 days, and dance 30 to 50 entries.  You then get the chance to dance for between one hour and one hour and thirty minutes.  These one and a half hours, of course, require necessary preparation.  Dressing in costume, getting the hair right, nails, shoes, accessories and warm-up and practice are essentials to a good performance.  If you are an avid and experienced competitor you add the necessary time to meet the judges in the lobby, restaurant, ballroom, or wherever, and schmooze and subconsciously remind them that you are an absolutely wonderful person deserving of their recognition, and possibly even, “if warranted” their marks.  So lets add another 4 hours for all that necessary work.  Now total it all up and you have 5½ hours of work for your dances, and approximately 15-20 hours of viewing time available to you.  This does not count the free hours in the morning, for dinner, sleep, etc. and the hours that are probably already allocated for banquets, breakfast, bar-time to rehash what went wrong and who or what was at fault.


Being the ever-generous and experienced person I am, I feel it incumbent upon me to provide dancesport spectators with a primer on how best to actively watch such an event.  Many of the items necessary to becoming a seasoned spectator are not covered in the curriculum of most dance schools.  This shortcoming should be addressed as soon as possible at the annual Dance Studio and Teacher’s “BUSINESS AND STEPS I WILL NEVER USE” Conventions held at ritzy, and posh locations around the country.  And though these conventions are not entirely devoted to the “business” of dance, important aspects such as Bronze level spectatorship requirements have remained largely ignored.


It is my hope that the auspicious organizations that want to control every aspect and person in Dancesport, will come up with a necessary reason to require testing, certification and eventually registration of spectators.  Because of the Fairness Doctrine, I have to admit that this is for personal reasons.  I suspect that once this idea gains a foothold, my services will be in great demand, and the various professional, amateur, and sport organizations will be clamoring to engage me, in so far as I will be a leading expert in the field, having provided such useful information.

Listed below some of the spectatorship categories with a brief explanation of each:

  • Need to be Seen Category

This category, although suspiciously similar to schmoozing with the Judges, really has more to with intimidating your potential competition.  Think of it.  You are casually sitting there, hair unkempt, dressed in some inconsequential, yet loud, outfit.  Such attire might included a bath robe, and/or slippers, over-shirt, or other trendy casual outfit, preferably with running shoes to adequately portray your lack of desire to do any practicing, general dancing, or whatever that might have to do with getting ready.  Some spectators actually wear cardigans, t-shirts and attire adorned by the logo of various competitions.  While this may seem trendy, I can personally recommend the logo of some competitions as being much more in fashion and hard to get than others, and can gladly make those available to you even if you haven’t been there yet.  Think of the enhancement of your image.  (Sorry, I got carried away with a little blatant commercialism here.)  While in this category, it is best to either sit up front where you can be seen by the largest potential number of competitors, or to actually walk around and be seen talking to friends about insignificant, and unimportant activities like war, politics, and upcoming elections.

  • Mentor Group

This category requires the necessary equipment, usually a program, a few highlighters (to share of course), and experience.  A good mentor can advise the newer members of the team.  “Go through your program, and wherever you see your name or for that matter, more importantly my name, highlight the name, turn down the corner of the page, and if necessary highlight the ballroom number A or B.”  If you are with a large group, other members can be highlighted in different colors so as to remind you that you should at least feign interest at those times.  A mentor may then show the newer members how to read the Heat List, though most mentors wait until at least the second or third competition to explain the heat list.  After all, think of all the experiences the new members might miss out on, by not having to do it the old fashioned way like we did.

  • Seasoned Veterans

This valued team member’s experience is necessary so that they can help a teacher explain the many benefits of having the table in the last row, next to the water station.  The real reason is, to help the uninitiated, after the competition is over, everyone else will want to come to the water station for a final drink of water before bed, and you can then slip under all the tables and get to an elevator, and possibly get upstairs to your room before tomorrow.  If upon arrival at the elevator you are still behind a horde of people, the veteran will be able to explain that with more experience, you will be able to get under and through the rows of tables faster, and the veteran really doesn’t mind waiting for you to catch up.

  • The Photographer

Quite often, disregarded because of the presence of professional photographers at most events.  This amateur will often get the best pictures of your back and shoes.  While professional photographers seem obsessed with faces and lines, you have spent a mint to get the dress, and low and behold a partner is covering up most of the front.  Those pictures by your resident photographer may well be your best proof of the validity of the cost of that dress or outfit.  The good stuff should all be on the back anyway if the teacher is covering up the front.  After all, you spent extra money to get those shoes to go with the outfit even if your teacher had you keep them the nude color.  Only close-up pictures will do true justice to them.  Your team photographer will also get those candid shots that you might want to forget, but all your friends will want to remember.

  • Gossip & Conversationalist

These spectators are invaluable.  They know all the names.  “Did you see Mr. XYZ, the judge?  The way he looked when that couple Vladimir and Hildegard Everwentfasterski went by.  I just knew they wouldn’t make the cut.  They were the ones wearing just part of an outfit.  I heard if they placed well they would be able to afford the rest.”  Or  “I really think with a little luck they might make it next time.  And that couple, # 10464, their names are ______, and I heard they just got started.”  Boy, is this stuff exciting or what.

  • Learn By Watching Spectator

We are often told that much can be gained by watching.  Even this category needs training.  After all, what are you looking for?  A better looking teacher – No; Better outfits – No, my girlfriend’s first attempt at a multi thousand dollar dress is just fine; New variations – No, improving my choreography is the job of a true professional, not one left to amateurs; Smiles – Yes, except for all those people who didn’t smile and won anyway; Mistakes – Those are always fun, especially when it results in a collision.  Kind of like NASCAR, nobody admits it, but everybody wants to see a crash.  No serious injuries of course.

Well, these are just some of the categories.  I can’t give them all, or even explain these in greater detail or “those” people and organizations will just steal my work, and I won’t get all those calls to set up the inevitable training seminars for spectators.  Next time you go to a competition, be prepared.  You too can be the consummate spectator.  Training, practice, and preparation are the main ingredients to success.  Hopefully, this (and maybe upcoming seminars) will help you on the road to properly watch upcoming competitions.  Use your time wisely.  Is it to see or be seen?  –  That is the question.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVII No. 39

September 27, 2002

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