Competition Guide

Welcome to the world of competitive ballroom dancing! Being a competitive dancer is a very enjoyable pastime but for newcomers it can often cause some confusion. We have put together this guide to help you enjoy your first competition so that you can begin to build on your experiences and enjoy many more. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask one of the more experienced team members. And remember, you can always email us at Good luck preparing for the competitions!

Dance Syllabus

The Dances

International Standard Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep
American Smooth Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango
International Latin Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Jive, Paso Doble
American Rhythm Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero, Mambo
Newcomer dances are generally restricted to certain dances. Competitions will very rarely offer all dances for newcomers.

Partnering & Practicing

  • You need a partner... so what should you be looking for? Someone who you get along with, who you dance well with, who is approximately your level. Matching height is fine, but not really important. If you need help finding a partner, our coach will help you.
  • With your partner, work out how you will enter the dance floor, how you will set up to dance, leads for the different moves, how you will end your dancing, and how you will walk off the floor. Try to go through each dance at least once. The more you work out in advance, the less nervous you will be the day of.
  • Find out when an advanced member of the team is practicing and join them. we have lots of music and we’d love to help you.
  • Get some ballroom music and listen to it. Get comfortable recognizing the beats in the music and the different styles.
  • Ask questions; there’s no point in wondering and worrying about things you’re unsure of. We want to make sure you enjoy competitions as much as we do!

Dressing to Dance

The team has many costumes parts that you may be able to borrow for competitions. Check with the team to see if we have anything you could use before you go out to buy something.


  • Clothing
    • Standard / Smooth:
      • Long dress or skirt; the length should be below the knees and should not restrict leg movement. If you wear a skirt and shirt, make sure they match. Bright colors are better than dull colors or black. Make sure you wear pantyhose or dance tights.
      • Overall idea: classic, flowing, pretty, ballroom
    • Latin / Rhythm:
      • Short dress or skirt; the length should be above the knees. Can be tight or loose, but either way you need to be able to move; fringes, slits, and uneven hems are all good. If you wear a skirt and top, make sure they match. Bright colors are better than dull colors or black. Make sure you wear pantyhose or dance tights.
      • Overall idea: just look sexy!
  • Hair
    • Low bun is best, but ponytails are acceptable for newcomers. If your hair is too short, make sure it is pulled back. Use (lots of) gel, hairspray, whatever you need to keep your hair smooth and back all day long. Silk flowers or other embellishments are cool.
  • Makeup
    • BOLD stage makeup: foundation, blush, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick; use it all!


  • Clothing
    • Standard / Smooth:
      • Black slacks, white dress shirt, tie or bow tie. (for Smooth dances, sometimes it’s cool if your tie matches your partner’s dress)
    • Latin / Rhythm:
      • Black slacks, fitted black t-shirt (sometimes people wear a black dress shirt instead)
  • Hair
    • Use gel, hairspray, whatever it takes to keep your hair smooth and slick all day. If you have long hair, it needs to be pulled back. Neatness is the main thing.


Shoes can be a complex issue. Professional ballroom shoes are always preferred for competitive dancers, but they can get very expensive (~$100) so they are not necessary. As a newcomer you won’t be expected to buy ballroom shoes so carefully follow the guidelines we give you, ask questions and you’ll be fine. If you do decide to buy ballroom shoes, be careful. Shop around and find the best price for what you want. Talk to experienced dancers and see what worked and did not work for them. When you are ready to buy ballroom shoes we will be glad to help you.

  • Regular Shoes
    • Men:
      • Regular black dress shoes are the best to dance in. Make sure that they don’t have a rubber sole so that you won’t stick to the floor and that they’re flexible enough to allow your foot to move.
    • Women:
      • You’re going to need to wear heeled shoes. As long as they’re flexible and will stay on your foot you’ll be fine. Make sure there’s something holding your shoe on (like a heel strap). Remember you have to wear them all day so think about comfort!
  • Dance Shoes
    • There are different kinds of shoes for both standard and latin. Dance shoes have a suede sole on them to allow movement on the floor.

    • Men:
      • Standard:
      • If you’re only looking to buy one pair right now, we’d suggest buying a standard pair. You can use this for both standard and latin. Standard shoes often look just like regular dress shoes. If you are buying only one pair it’s important not to get patent leather standard shoes (shiny leather).

      • Latin:
      • Men’s latin shoes have a heel on them and are much more flexible than standard shoes. There are a few options with laces and slip-on shoes.
    • Women:
      • Latin:
      • If you’re only looking to buy one pair, we’d suggest buying a pair of latin shoes. Latin shoes can be used to dance both latin and standard. There is always a wide variety of colors and styles available. The best to get is an open toed sandal. The best color to get is tan or skin toned. Silver is preferred over black.

      • Standard:
      • You’re looking for a closed toe pump here. Tan is best.

And that’s pretty much it! Remember, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Your more experienced team members and coaches are there to help you. As a team we all help each other with everything from beginning to end. Good luck at competition and happy dancing!!