Why Dance Competition Judges Should Be Certified To Judge OpEd

First published on the DIGITAL DANCE STUDIO blog March 6, 2010 Should there be in place a judging system for dance competitions as there is for other events like gymnastics and cheer? The original adjudicated system of scoring dance competitions I created in 1977 for my local dance competition, American Dance Invitational. The events at that time were organized on a first, second and third place winning tier. Teachers were upset that there were some categories that had many entries, mainly the solo divisions like now, where it was difficult to get a first place and there were other categories where there could be only one entry and it would be awarded first place with a score of perhaps only 75. I was a school teacher (now retired), so I suggested why not base it on a grading system similar to one used by school systems. Many negated that it would work, so I used it for my events, it worked, others copied it without my permission, and it is now used and modified by almost every major dance competition in the USA and Canada. I judged several events upon retirement and was concerned how the system is modified. It appears there are still levels but all are based on what I would consider a gold standard; everyone gets a gold it just matters which level of gold. Some like it, some do not. I understand it from all perspectives; the educational field has a similar approach. The first event I judged, I was given two sheets of paper, scores based only on 90 and above, a separate column with a decimal system of some sort (this column was never explained) and told one sheet was for recreational dancers the other competitive, no other explanation. I should note that the owner left the instructions to be given by another judge who had only judged once for this competition the week before. As I judged a thought crossed my mind, why is there not some sort of criteria for selecting judges? How did I choose? A conglomerate of competition owners has the following listed on their website stating how they select judges: judges are a combination of championship caliber competition studio directors, teachers affiliated with major dance studios, professional dance centers, and currently performing dance professionals. It is the format used by competition owners for a long time, it is what I did. It should also be noted that cheer events also have a similar group of owners who also have provided similar structure to cheer events as this group does for dance competitions. Why is there not a system in place for training judges? What should judges be looking for, technique is technique and it is across the board. Ballroom certifies its judges, why not performing arts? I read many dance teacher discussion boards and the problems exist now that have always existed, what the judges are looking for. I think a better question should be what teachers are looking for when you choose to enter a competition. Events that I judged previously I was impressed that so many children competed, paid very large entry fees and had beautiful and obviously expensive costumes, the industry had obviously blossomed over time. I felt qualified as a judge but also felt there should be some sort of criteria not only for selecting judges, for training them and guidelines they can use to score events as was originally part of my first adjudicated scoring system. I began a search, asked questions at events I judged and discovered that as business owners we place the value of our work and in some cases the continued success of our businesses in the hands of those who are hired for a subjective opinion. No one seemed to be able to tell me how judging panels are selected other than friendship and availability and now it appears many events do not list the judges or announce their qualifications (including some of those who are in the grouping of competition owners.). Utilizing my original system for adjudication, researching extensively judging certification process for gymnastics, cheer, and ballroom I have now designed the next step for my original adjudication scoring system. If you are tired of events where you theoretically are taking a test based on what you taught your students only to find out that those who are correcting the test never studied the same books you did (I did mention I was a school teacher) then join us. For those who say it will never work, well forty years plus later thousands of companies large and small are using a scoring system that was supposed to fail too. The process of licensing the work is called EXPECTATIONS™ For Dance Frameworks, a way for dance teachers to be credentialed to judge and teach for my events and for studio owners and their faculty members to be recognized as leaders in the field of dance classroom education. The time has come to think about why you compete and who is judging you.