Close this search box.
Close this search box.
It is important to have the right look on the ballroom floor. Photo by Carson Zullinger.

Grooming for Competition

By Rose-Ann Lynch and Anonymous Adjudicators
Managing Editor
What did our Anonymous Adjudicators say?

Years ago, at the conclusion of a competition, I walked into a changing room just in time to hear a world-renown, senior adjudicator politely scolding a lady dancer.  I was relieved to be wearing my rented dress and that my hair and makeup were in place, but felt a little sorry for the girl who had chosen a practice skirt, left her hair in a ponytail, and wore no makeup.

The professional was explaining to the young dancer that ballroom is not just a sport, “it is a culture,” and that those who live, breathe, teach, and judge this culture love it and “expect it to be respected”.  She went on to say, “When you come to a competition, you come to join us.”  It wasn’t just about dancing; it was about being part of an elegant, exciting, and art-filled world.  

I was a newcomer bronze girl at that time, and it was a great lesson to learn.  Fast forward through many years, it’s a different time and that lovely senior adjudicator is no longer with us.  But what about today’s adjudicators?  What do they think???

I did a Sample Anonymous Adjudicator’s Survey to find out what some of them really think about the interesting grooming habits on the competition dance floor.  It might not mean a difference in your score, but…it never hurts to find out what they think. 

The names have been left off to keep everyone honest, and each set of answers is in a different order. 

Ballroom is not just a sport, it is a culture to be respected. Photo by Carson Zullinger.

Grooming for Competition

  1. Men’s facial hair – What do you think of beards, rugged look, mustaches, etc.?
  • I would want to see a shaved look. No mustache only for sure.
  • I don’t like facial hair on dancers.
  • It depends on the style. I understand it can be stylish for Latin American dancing.  I don’t mind something little for American Smooth and Rhythm.  It is an absolute no for Ballroom.  Ballroom is clean shaven.  If it is not done, it looks not taken care of.
  • I’m a little old school – I don’t particularly like beards and mustaches. I think mustaches by themselves look stupid anyway.  Maybe in Latin, as slightly unshaven can be considered a rough man look, but certainly not for Standard and Smooth.
  • So, what can I do?  Keep it neatly trimmed, whatever it is.  Be respectful of the culture that goes with your sport.  Worst case scenario, shave it off…it will always grow back.


  1. Men’s hair – Are there any thoughts about color, slicked back, leaving it natural?
  • In Latin and Rhythm, the men’s hair can move around. In Standard and Smooth, it shouldn’t move around; it is distracting.
  • Dark or light doesn’t make a difference. Their natural color is fine.   Slicked back, yes.  To keep it natural is a mistake because nothing we do is natural.  It is important to look taken care of.  When you leave it down, it is too casual; it is not good for competition.
  • All are fine, but hair must be groomed with a recent haircut. Guys should not look like they haven’t had a cut in weeks. 
  • Any natural hair color is ok. Ballroom and smooth, it should be slicked back.  Even Latin and Standard.  The hair should be neat.
  • So, what can I do?  Show the effort.  Your hair should be neat and orderly.  Consider a trim, hair slick gel, or hair spray.  You can have it done professionally at a competition or have your partner spray it down.


  1. Men Buns – Are there any thoughts on man buns?
  • No way!
  • Maybe fine in Latin, but it is distracting in Standard. Not my favorite.
  • It depends on the style. Latin American, I understand it.  Ballroom, it is a big NO!
  • But, if they have long hair and they need to tie it, it should still be masculine.
  • So, what can I do?  Again, show the effort and consider your options carefully.  Do you look like a winner?  If you look like a winner, you have a better chance of being a winner.


It is not just about dancing. It is part of an elegant, exciting and art-filled world. Photo by Denis van der Zalm.
  1. Ladies Hair – What do you think about long hair left down or loose?
  • It’s difficult. It can work for Latin.  It is hard to keep loose hair and ponytails in order.  I prefer tighter hairdos.   Smooth and Standard short and down is fine.  You want it to look clean and neat for many rounds.
  • The only thing I can understand is a long ponytail for Latin or Rhythm. American Smooth, I am not so sure; I don’t particularly enjoy watching it.  It is an absolute NO for International Ballroom.
  • Latin and Rhythm, it is fine. For Standard and Smooth, it should be up.
  • Loose hair is unacceptable. I think it means that you didn’t take the time to prepare.  It is the easy way out.  Don’t be lazy.
  • So, what can I do?  You can have your hair professionally put up.  If that is not an option for you, practice putting your hair up neatly and tightly.  Perhaps your partner can learn how to do it.  Good hairsprays like Got2BGlued will give you a good hold, and a good hairpiece will cover any flaws in your styling.  Frenchie hair pins, which are a fuzzy and don’t slide so easily, and hairnets will also help hold the bun in place.  Some gals find it easier to put their hair up wet.  Show the effort and remember that practice makes perfect.


  1. Men Tattoos – Any thoughts on tattoos on male dancers?
  • You know, Ballroom is a classy thing, so I prefer not to see it. If I see it, it doesn’t disturb me, but I prefer not to see it.
  • Yes, I’m a different generation, but I have to accept tattoos nowadays. It is part of the youth and the culture.
  • Not really.
  • I don’t have a problem with them.
  • So, what can I do?  Carefully consider your options and what you want to do.  Ask yourself and your partner:  Are your tattoos distracting to the look you are trying to portray on the floor?  If they are not, there are no rules against tattoos.  If they are distracting, consider if your attire can be changed, perhaps the Latin shirt shouldn’t be sheer or so low cut.  Experiment with makeups made to cover tattoos, such as Dermaflage’s Tattoo Cover Up, Dermablend, or Dermacol, to name just a few products out there.  Perhaps your tattoos are a little less prominent with tanner.


  1. Ladies Tattoos – Any thoughts on tattoos on lady dancers?
  • Cover as necessary. 
  • It’s even worse than seeing it on a male dancer. A ballroom lady should be clean, beautiful, immaculate.  A tattoo shows low class on the floor.
  • It depends where they are. If the lady is fully tattooed, no, but if she has a few tasteful small tattoos here and there, I don’t have a problem.
  • Yes, I’m a different generation; I’m trying to learn.
  • So, what can I do?  The answer is similar to the one above for your male counterparts, but remember in the ballroom culture, you are the feminine partner.  Carefully consider your options and what you want to do. Ask yourself and your partner:  Are your tattoos distracting to the look you are trying to portray on the floor?  In your case, it is a feminine look.  If they are not, again there are no rules against tattoos.  If they are distracting, consider if your attire can be changed, perhaps the dress style should provide more coverage and you should wear hose.  Experiment with makeups made to cover tattoos, such as Dermaflage’s Tattoo Cover Up, Dermablend, or Dermacol, to name just a few products out there.  And as for the guys, the tattoos may be little less prominent with tanner.


  1. Ladies Tanning – Any thoughts on ladies tanning?
  • Yes…generally speaking. A little darker skin looks healthier on the dancefloor.
  • Absolutely yes.
  • Absolutely yes.
  • Yes, and wear makeup.
  • So, what can I do?  First, there is no rule that requires you to tan, but again, this is a culture and appearances are important.  If you don’t like to tan, get a dress with a color that compliments your natural skin tone, but remember you will be under the lights at a competition.  If you want that sun-kissed look, there are many tanning options out there.  Professional spray tans have become a big business, because traditional tanning beds and the good old suntan are not the best long-term solutions for your skin.  Some spray tan services are offered right at the competition sites, to make it easy for you.  There are also many different over-night tanners in a bottle, ranging from $8 to over $200 a bottle.  They are available at local drug stores, beauty supply stores, and online.  However, test any product or service a few times before you use it at a competition; you might have a reaction to the product or be unhappy with the results.  Also, what works on your body might not work on your face; you don’t want to break out the night before you compete.  Last but not least, there is body makeup, like Aery Jo, that you put on, let dry, dance in, and then wash off with soap and water at the end of the day. 

When you compete in ballroom, you are joining a culture that expects to be respected. Photo by Rose-Ann Lynch
  1. Men Tanning – Any thoughts on men tanning?
  • Yes, A little darker skin looks healthier on the dancefloor.
  • It helps. A pale white look on the floor for men is not necessarily a look I like.  More tan is more handsome.
  • Recommend yes.
  • Men should tan, they shouldn’t wear make-up.
  • So, what can I do?  Consider the same options provided to the Ladies above.  Gentlemen, especially the Seniors, consider what you look like when you are tired.  Does your face become flushed or do you turn white after a few rounds?  You don’t want to turn into the ghost standing next to your beautifully tanned partner.  You have options too. 


  1. Perfume
  • Nothing too strong. Deodorant is a must for body odor.  If the man wants to give a spray of aftershave and the woman of perfume, that is ok.  If they reek of perfume and you are dancing next to them, it is never pleasant.  Too much is unnecessary. 
  • Generally, I like good smells instead of sweat, so I am for perfume.
  • Absolutely wear it. Not only out of respect for your partner and fellow competitors, but also for the judges. When you are running and moving your body weight, you move air, and that air moves in front of the judge; it would be good to have a nice smell.  Deodorant, perfume, things like that, all help big time.     
  • Perfume is advisable.
  • So, what can I do?  Start with the basics — a shower, deodorant, and clean clothes.  Ask your partner and teachers for their honest opinion.  In between rounds, if possible, take off your jacket or dress and air it out. Some people use baby wipes for a quick clean up on their skin or the inside of their garments.  You can also spray the inside of the jacket or dress with rubbing alcohol, Febreze, and even vodka – but fabric test these items first; you don’t want the garment to discolor.  Bring an extra shirt and extra socks to the competition or rinse them out at night.  Experiment with scents that compliment your body and personality. 


Professional Andrea Zaramella in his performance days.

For more tips on grooming and dressing well, see the article “Ballroom Gentlemen – The Put Together Man on the Ballroom Floor.”  For more ideas about dresses, check out the many articles in American Dancer’s Style Section.  See you on the competition floor…and looking good!!!

2024 National Champions!

Competitions 2024-25

Most Popular

Social Media

Recent Posts