Skippy Blair

The "First Lady" of
West Coast Swing

Judging philosophy

Perspectives on judging dance competitions



Spectators and competitors alike often ask about the criteria upon which dancers are judged, how judges are selected, and what counts more - the "technical" or "artistic" elements in a performance.  Judging is a complex job and there's often lots more going on in the dance than what meets the untrained eye in the stands.  Therefore, improving the knowledge base is good for EVERYONE involved. 


Here's some important perspective from Skippy Blair of the World Swing Dance Council...



USASN: Explain some basic elements of judging to assist the average spectator.
SB: At the core of all judging are the "Three Ts" - Timing, Technique and Teamwork.  Once those areas are evaluated, things like Artistic Impression, Musical Interpretation, Creative Choreography, and Showmanship can be factored in.  But it first comes down to the BASICS of the dance.  If you can't dance with quality, no amount of showmanship is going to get you a top placement.


USASN: What is the scoring system used by WSDC events?
SB: The scoring system is known as Relative Placement.  That means that regardless of the number of points each judge gives a contestant, each judge's 1st-place score is worth the SAME number of points as every other judge's 1st-place score.  This keeps one judge's scores from being more valuable than another's. 


USASN: How are judges selected for various events?
SB: It varies considerably.  Some Event Directors leave the selection to the Head Judge hired for the event.  Some use a Competition Committee to select their panel.  Others select judges from several states to provide geographical diversity.  Still others feel that selecting the BEST DANCERS is the way to go.  And some Directors feel that they should just simply hire the most prestigious judges - period.  These varied approaches are often based upon practicality as well as on overall event strategy or philosophy.  Clearly, different approaches can produce different outcomes.


USASN: What should the average person look for when evaluating a couple?
SB: Timing.  Clean lines.  Footwork.  Centering.  Body Flight.  Action-Reaction.  Substance.  Creativity.  Showmanship.

USASN: Any other general comments?
 Through many years of judging competitions, attending seminars and having discussions with each other, we currently have a well-rounded set of judges that participate regularly on the national competition scene.  Some judges focus more on entertainment value and talent, others focus more on technical elements.  Together they produce excellent results. Many judges combine ALL of those elements and, more and more, judges are expanding their vision to include evaluating ALL of those elements at once  (entertainment being a specific and important element on its own!).

Today there is quite a demand for judges' training and judges' certification. With the increase in competitions all over the country, more people are being asked to judge and they want to know more about what they are asked to do.  The interest in certification is coming from a wide variety of people who are getting involved in judging - and also from NEW organizers. 


The Judges' Certification Program is the result of hundreds of hours of Judges' Workshops presented by GSDTA and the WSDC over the years.  The training program was designed to keep us all up to date on dance terminology, the latest approaches to technique, changing styles, and - in general - to provide a National Forum that puts us ALL on the same page. 


Every dance organization eventually reaches a point where certification for judges is a necessity.  None of us can learn what we need to know until we find out what we DON'T know.  Examination is the only way to discover that. 



Skippy Blair

World Swing Dance Council








































The USA Swing Dance Network