Preparing for Competitions

How to prepare for ballroom competitions – a guide for beginners and a refresher for those who haven’t gone in a while.

Months Ahead:

  • Figure out who you’re dancing with, whether it’s a long-term committed partnership or a one-comp deal.
  • Figure out what categories you’d like to compete in. Are you registering in all styles? Only some? Are you double-registering in multiple levels or just one?
  • PRACTICE (duh) – know what routines you’re doing, or at least have practiced lots of lead-follow. Do this with and without music.  Concentrate on improving technique.
  • Consider running rounds – 4 or 5 dances in a row, in competition order, for at least 90 seconds each.  Good for stamina! They suck while you’re doing them, but you’ll be thankful the day of the competition.
  • Have competition shoes and costumes/outfit/accessories ready – either bought or borrowed. Preferably not stolen.

Weeks Ahead:

  • Register – you or your partner, or perhaps your college team’s captain, should register for your desired styles/levels.  Pay attention to the due dates and don’t forget to pay.
  • Run your routines. A lot. Now focus more on just being able to get through them, and last for 90+ seconds for each dance.  When it gets down to the wire, it’s more important that you can survive on the dance floor, rather than nitpicking technical details.
  • Break in your competition shoes if you haven’t already.  If you like to dance in practice shoes, now would be a good time to switch to comp shoes so you get used to the different feel.
  • Figure out logistics – hotel, who will drive, how many nights you will stay, when you’re leaving, etc.
  • Consider doing a dress rehearsal in your competition clothes, if you haven’t worn them before.  This will ward off any wardrobe malfunctions and give you a better sense of how you’ll feel on the dance floor.
  • Consider filming yourself dancing (finding a friend or coach to film you, essentially).  It’ll open your eyes to what you look like to others.  Mirrors just aren’t the same.
  • Get your competition clothes cleaned if necessary.
  • Practice doing hair and makeup, if you haven’t before. Youtube videos are great for ideas.

Days Ahead:

  • Practice regularly, but don’t overdo it so that you injure yourself or find yourself sore.
  • Relatedly, don’t do any super intense workouts for a few days before the comp.  Dancing’s enough of a workout and you don’t want residual soreness from some other workout interfering with your performance.
  • Take care of yourself, healthwise! Eat enough, drink lots of water, get some sleep.
  • If you’re a student, take care of any homework or studying before you head out for a competition.  Unless you have superhuman concentration abilities, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to get any work done, either in transit or at the competition itself.
  • Fake tan, if you do that for competitions.
  • Do your nails/get them done. Don’t forget toes if you’re doing Latin or rhythm!
  • Pack.

Day Of:

  • Get up early.  Unless you’re dancing later, but let’s just say that most people have to get up earlier than they want to.
  • Do all your primping – hair/makeup/etc.  Don’t forget deodorant!
  • Have a good breakfast!  Super important!  If I dance on an empty stomach I am both unhappy and lightheaded and don’t dance to my abilities.  It’s probably best to have something relatively light and nutritious, but sometimes you don’t have many options. I’d suggest having something with both carbs and protein, so that you have energy now and some reserved for later – maybe an egg sandwich, bagel and cream cheese, or yogurt and cereal.  Unless you know it works for you, avoid having a large heavy breakfast (eggs, huge omelets, bacon, hash browns, that sort of deal). Drink coffee if you need it (you probably will, that early).
  • Arrive to the venue at least an hour before you expect to dance, and earlier if you have any other prepping to do.
  • Warm up about half an hour before dancing, to get your muscles prepared and the early kinks out of the way.
  • Keep snacking throughout the day (granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit, and that sort of thing are great), drink lots of water.  If you tend to get cramps, I think eating bananas and/or having sports drinks is supposed to help.
  • Don’t forget to eat lunch and dinner.  It can be easy to do that when you’re dancing the whole day, but try not to forget.  Get a friend to pick up lunch for you, if you really can’t escape for half an hour.
  • Most importantly, try to dance your best and have fun!

Please comment if you have any other suggestions or if I’ve left out any gaping holes.