If you hang around a studio long enough, you'll hear a ballroomer throw out, "Well, it was politics," to dismiss someone's good placement... or lack thereof.
And while dance politics are a thing(local and global dance organizations are generally at war, all the time), there are only a few instances it influences YOUR placement.
Here's a list of when politics has something to do with your results at a competition:
- All of the judges on the panel know you by name. That's it. Think about how often and where that happens. But really: THINK ABOUT IT. It's only those really big competitions (the ones that are televised or at least streamed) that have been preceded by other pretty big competitions that simply everyone goes to. And by "everyone", I mean the same group of people for about a calendar year that are in the semi and final with slight variations in placement. Then, and only then, do some judges try to push an agenda, influence a specific characteristic they'd like to see in a particular style, favor a couple from their school, or blacklist someone.
Short list, eh? RIGHT.
Here's a list of when politics have nothing to do with your results at a competition:
- You're an amateur or pro-am couple dancing syllabus. There's a pretty cut-and-dry list of attributes for syllabus-level ballroom dancing (it is illustrated ever so clearly here... and here... and here... and here... and here... and even here). You're either doing some/most/all of it, or you're not. Samesies with the other people in your heat. Judges compare who's doing the most to the least and then BAM, you get a winner.
- You don't know all the judges on the panel. There's always a few, or more than a few, and possibly even many, judges' names that make you say, "Who?" Sometimes you don't know the judges because they are so good that they only judge a few comps a year in your area or they're so off-the-grid that they don't really care who you are/where you're from/who your coach is and they just want to see some good dancing before they head back home to the Virgin Islands and so they mark accordingly.
- All of the judges on the panel don't know you by name. This is the biggest one, my friends, as detailed above. Unless you're ballroom famous (or INFAMOUS), judges have no reason to mark you anything but honestly. Many competitors seem to think judges have a vendetta against certain styles, studios, areas, teachers, or COUPLES. But really, they just want the best dancer to win... and they don't remember you. Since people change levels, styles, teachers, and hair color, it's pretty difficult to keep track. If one judge is marking you lower than average, it's either in their evil nature OR you aren't demonstrating a characteristic that the judge finds very important, not that they're holding a grudge from that one comp you did last year when you were really bad at doing ball-flat footwork in Rumba. But, even there is someone who has it in for you, that's why there's a PANEL (usually 5 or more people). So if that evil judge has got you down, there's at least four other really sweet judges to get you into that next round.
Things that might help those judges mark you honestly:
Next up? Things you can control at a competition.