Should Studio Dance Competition Judges Be Credentialed To Judge Op-ed

Updated: 6 days ago

“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn.”…Marianne Williamson

This blog post, also a podcast episode, is what caused my being trolled by a certain dance studio vendor and his friends on the internet. It reflects how I felt dance competition judges were being treated by competitions, studio owners, choreographers, parents, and students in 2010, which appears to have escalated recently. If you are here because of a social media ad, I encourage you to review the rest of the site. Become part of YOUR future, join me for a new dance frontier, truly making student achievement events be like children sports, fun, fairly evaluated, appropriate for family viewing, and OWNED by dance educators.

First published on the DIGITAL DANCE STUDIO blog March 6, 2010

UPDATED March 17, 2022

I am NOT criticizing those who judge events, you are hired for your expertise in dance education, but maybe those who choose to adjudicate should be given a set of guidelines to adjudicate in addition to what to score (numerical guides). I am also concerned about the treatment of judges by companies as stated on recent social media discussion boards. SKILLS Sport Dance Games® does train their adjudication and instructional staff because it is part of the EXPECTATIONS For Dance Curriculum Frameworks® educational site license. If anyone wishes to give me feedback on their recent experience as a judge, please complete this form, it is anonymous, I only want feedback to help the industry.


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 at a DMA #5 Executive board meeting 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 public school teacher at the time (now retired), so I suggested why not base it on a grading system like one used by school systems called a bell curve. 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 globally. Update, many comps now use a modified version, all gold placements which can be considered a participation trophy score system.

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 for AMERICAN DANCE INVITATIONAL?

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 schoolteacher) 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 Curriculum 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.

Join me this season, as I explore these and many other questions about dance studio ownership.


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©Jann Davis, November 7, 2021 All Rights Reserved

Republish date March 7, 2022

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