Who picks the Judges

Who picks the Judges

The NDCA, or at least a small part of the NDCA is again involved in the process of qualifying judges to be “new” National and World Class judges.  While it stands to reason, that some people will be better equipped to judge competitions fairly, competently and honestly, it does not necessarily follow that a very small clique should want to or be the ones to decide who will be part of the elite group.  This is just another qualification that some in the Council can impose to further control judges and possibly influence outcomes as depicted in the movie Strictly Ballroom.  Dancesport, the council and everyone should move to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in these regards.


At the same time, what used to be a collection of associations, respecting each organization’s right to determine membership, participation, and qualifications, now appears to be losing or changing its identity.  By allowing a parent organization to become directly involved in establishing credentials as opposed to recognizing them, member organizations will become more and more subservient to the umbrella organization.  Many of the member organizations have criteria, and certifications that probably far exceed, the current, “been there, done that” criteria that is now espoused and being promoted as good for the sport.


Some of our Judges and Board Members will tell you they know what is best for everybody, because they have been there watching and judging all along.  The fact of the matter is some of these same individuals probably were competitors when toe leads were still fashionable while dancing the Foxtrot.  Being an old competitor no more qualifies someone to be a Judge, than being an old Doctor with poor vision and shaky hands makes someone as a good surgeon.  Understand; I too believe that many competitors do or will make excellent Judges.  So long as they stay alert, current, knowledgeable, independent, and beholding to nobody.  Qualifications for Judging should not be limited to their previous results alone.


Being able to recognize superior dancing is what is required.  Being able to recognize superior talent, or recognizing the names, and/or nationalities of the competitors should have nothing to do with one’s qualifications to judge.  Depending upon your interpretation or background, any number of factors can legitimately be called most important.  Timing, music interpretation, character of the dance, posture, poise, footwork, movement, lines, etc. could all be argued as important.  Nowhere should there be coach, family, organizational affiliation, previous partner, and other traits that currently seem to be so important.  For the audience and athletes as well, it is important to get across that on any given day, the best dancing wins, not the best dancers necessarily.  This is true in golf, or tennis where even Mr. Woods or Ms. Williams lose occasionally, and it should be true in dancing as well.


Too much is at stake regarding the reputation of the sport to risk favoritism, bias, or undue influence at such critical junctures.  The sport is starting to get some of the recognition we all feel it deserves, but for spectators it continues to be hard.  Spectators who are not well versed in the differences between the American Style, International Style, and now the Showdance Style of Foxtrot will come and hear the same music over and over and never understand why there are three distinct ways to dance to the same music and why their favorite shouldn’t be the one winner.  While there is no easy answer for this dilemma, I believe that dancesport will never rise to prominence as a sport as long as a degree is required to become a good spectator.  If the spectators don’t understand the rules, they won’t support the game.

We should look for more ways to make it easy to judge competitions fairly, and not for ways to justify more elite Judges.  Just because the result does not come out the way one person wants, does not make it unfair.  Just because a Judge has not marked someone the way an influential person thinks it should end up, does not make that person unqualified.  Maybe they just missed an “I’ll tell you how to mark pre-comp cocktail party”.  It might be much fairer to have the various member organizations nominate their own slate of judges for such prestigious events, and then have the entire Council vote on who should be eligible to represent the country that year.  Competitors would still have the advantage of name recognition, and the popular judges would be exempted if necessary, as they always will be.  Better yet, once the various organizations have offered their nominees, the reputation of the organization standing behind them, the slate could be compiled by the luck of the draw.  If a large panel is used for each event, the chance of errors, undue control, or vote rigging will be largely eliminated.

Unfortunately for some, their influence may also be eliminated.  Do you care?  Do they?   Who wins?  It better be the spectators and athletes.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 07

February 14, 2003

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *