So assuming you’ve been dancing competitively for some time, this question may arise: when do you leave your current level and move up to the next one, which presumably is more difficult, with new material and better dancers? If you don’t compete, I think this still could be relevant for deciding when you should move up and take more difficult classes.
In the end, it’s a personal decision and there’s no real right or wrong answer (unless you have to move up due to a specific competition’s rules.) That being said, here are my thoughts on when you should move up.
Definitely move up to the next level if you have pointed out of your current one. If you have pointed out, it’s probably because you have won several (or many!) competitions in a particular level/style and it’s time to just accept your awesomeness and go up already! The YCN point system is rarely used anymore, but it’s easy to figure out. USA Dance’s system is horridly complicated, but also useful if you frequent that circuit. Just be prepared to spend some time figuring it all out. You earn points in both cases for placing well in a competition, and the better you do, the more points you get. Once over a certain threshold of points, you have “pointed out” and now should be competing in a higher level (newcomer -> bronze, bronze -> silver, silver -> gold, gold -> novice, etc.). Don’t be that couple that dances down to win. It’s pretty unsportsmanlike and unfair to others, and keeps you from challenging yourself at the next level.
If you dancing in newcomer, you should follow the rules of a competition – usually after 6 months or 1 year of dancing, you can no longer dance as a newcomer. Some people stick around in newcomer longer than they’re supposed to, perhaps if they have an actual newcomer partner, but others will notice and judge you for it, particularly if you win a lot. Related, even if you have been dancing within the specified time and are winning lots of newcomer events, it’s time to move on to bronze. You’ve earned it!
If you consistently final in your events (even if you don’t always win), this is also time to think about moving up, or at the very least to consider double-registering in your level and the one above, if there’s some goal you just want to achieve before “graduating” from your current one.
If you dance pretty well but are getting bored and unmotivated with your current level. Learning new material can be really motivating, fun, and encourages you to learn the necessary technique for particular figures. It might make dancing exciting again, which fuels your drive to practice and improve. This might be another double-registering situation, particularly if your results have been inconsistent in your current level.
If your (amateur) partner is significantly better/more experienced than you – you should try to meet in between, but eventually go for his or her current level. Having only one half of the partnership needing to learn new steps/technique significantly speeds up progress, and you should aim higher rather than lower.
However, I would strongly advise against moving up if you simply feel uncomfortable dancing up to the next level. Well, if both you and your partner feel uncomfortable. If one is ready, perhaps you both are, in reality. If you truly believe you will stick out like a sore thumb because you are so much worse than everyone else, perhaps you should not take that next step yet. However, this fear that many of us have is usually unfounded. If it is grounded in reality, however, concentrate on improving your technique and doing the figures you are allowed to do to the best of your abilities so you can do well in your current level and prepare for the next.
The solution is often to double-register in your current level and the one above. Caveats though – this can be more expensive if you have to pay by event. It can also be exhausting, if you dance well and attend large competitions, because you are dancing twice as much! Sometimes you might burn out before the day is over.
To share some personal experience, a previous partner and I were dancing gold standard and doing alright, but had an entire summer to work on things before the competition season started up again. I wanted to learn open material but was hesitant about jumping in with both feet, but my partner and coach were confident that we should just go for it, especially since we had a lot of time to learn our open routines. Having two sets of routines for standard was pretty hard to remember, so eventually we dropped gold and just did novice/prechamp, and didn’t do too badly in our first competitions, getting a few unexpected callbacks, which was validating. Take-home message? Sometimes you just have to go for it!
Good luck dancing, competing, and improving!