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Rules Revisited

By USA Dance Senior Committee
Contributing Author
Photos by Carson Zullinger
2023 Senior Survey Results

Editor’s Note: The Senior Committee — Chair Chuck Garrett, Christine Newman, Kathy Linn, Ken Wellens, Lee Oswalt, Matt Wedin, and Stuart Lucas — continues to work hard to improve USA Dance and ensure that all Dancers’ voices are heard.  In December 2023, they ran a survey regarding USA Dance Rules.  Here are the results of that survey.  To Chuck and the Committee, Thank you for all that you do for not only the Seniors but all of USA Dance.  

 1) Currently Senior competitors, age groups Senior I through V may compete down to the adult level in all skill levels except Championship. There has been a request to let Championship level dancers compete down, as well.

▪ Should this rule apply to the champion skill level as well? Please give your opinion. 

  • Yes: 30.56% 
  • Comments: WDSF allows competing in lower age levels. There would be at least semi-final heats allowing better preparation for world events. 
  • No: 12.22% 
  • Comments: Safety. Unfair for athletes to win multiple age groups. 
  • No Opinion/Did not understand the question: 11.20% 
  • Comments: Some thought we were asking if Championship level could dance in Pre-champ, which they already can. 


2) This proposal impacts Senior V only. Only Senior IV and V should respond. Proposal to reduce the measures per minute (MPM) and duration of the dance time for the following dances: Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, and Jive. 

a. Suggested MPM: Quickstep reduce to 48-50 MPM from 50-52 MPM, Jive reduce to 40-42 MPM from 42-44 MPM, Standard Viennese Waltz reduce to 56- 58 from 58-60 MPM. 

b. Suggested duration: Reduce the minimum length of heat to 80 seconds rather than 90 seconds. 

  • MPM reduction:
  • ▪ Yes: 67 % 
  • ▪ No: 33 % 
  • Heat time duration reduction:
  • ▪ Yes: 62 % 
  • ▪ No: 38 % 


▪ Those for the changes appeared to compete below the championship level. 

▪ Those against the changes cited WDSF rules and appeared to be Championship dancers. 


3) (Beginning in January 2024) WDSF, will require both Senior V competitors (in a couple) to be at least 70 years old in the calendar year. Currently, USA Dance requires one partner to be at least 75 and the other 70. in the calendar year. 

a. What is your opinion on changing the USA Dance rule to match WDSF? 

  • Yes: 70% 
  • No: 10% 
  • No opinion: 20% 
  • Observation: The primary reason to vote yes was to align with WDSF 


4) At this time, Latin and Rhythm rules prohibit rolled-up sleeves for the Leader unless they are a permanently sewn detail. 

a. What is your view on this rule? 

  • Drop the rule: 43% 
  • Keep the rule: 34% 
  • Do not Care: 21% 

Common sentiment to drop: 

▪ I think the sleeve rule is silly. The good taste rule would handle this if someone is out of line. 

▪ The character of Rhythm and Latin is less formal than in Standard and Smooth and costuming should be allowed to reflect this 

Common sentiment to keep the rule: 

Note: Generally, these replies were more likely to come from people who did not dance Latin or Rhythm. 

▪ If it is to keep things more formal or professional, I guess I would keep it. 

▪ Agree with it for open-level events, rolled-up sleeves can easily come undone with a variety of moves. 

▪ Not a Latin nor Rhythm dancer, but if rolled-up sleeve is not sewn then the danger is one is up, and the other is part up or down and the costuming & the image of the dance is lessened for that aspect 


5) If you have any rule you would like to see changed, please state the rule, what you would like to change and your rationale. 

Competition Organizers Listing Entries. This is not a rule, but lately the competition organizers have not published the entries to their competitions until the very last minute and that is not helpful for the competitors. We would like to see that changed back to how it used to be with the competitors being able to see who signed up for a competition early on. 

Gender Neutrality Events. I would like for USA Dance to discontinue gender neutrality in competition events. Traditionally, DanceSport, partner dancing, centers on the male-female dynamic. I do acknowledge the growth of same-gender DanceSport and appreciate it for its unique beauty, character, and challenge. I suggest same-gender events and mixed-gender events be available at the same competitions but contested separately from one another. I know competition in same-gender couples is sparse, but it is likewise sparse in the upper proficiency levels of American rhythm. Contesting same-gender and mixed-gender together is tantamount to contesting rhythm and Latin together. Just because same-gender and mixed-gender couples are dancing the same styles and dances; does not mean they are the same. 

Alignment of Federation Syllabus Rules. It would be great to have syllabus rules match NDCA so that we do not have to modify our routines for each type of event. However, I do not know if WDSF and WOD syllabus are aligned with USA Dance? 

Point System Abolished for World Team Athletes.  The point system should not be used for selection of World athletes. 

▪ Please change Rule to the following…The competitors that placed 1st and 2nd at Nationals should be the USA Dance representatives to World Championships. There are so many illustrative scenarios, it is hard to describe, but here is one scenario. Suppose the couple that places 2nd at Nationals is a clearly a better dance couple than the 3rd place couple, demonstrated at Nationals and other competitions. Using the point system, the 3rd place couple could be one of the representatives because they attended more comps attaining more points. It is not justifiable to allow the 3rd place couple at Nationals to represent at Worlds because they have more points. 

Regional Competitions. Please add more Regional Competitions on the West Coast. There is only one Regional Competition on the West Coast at present. If West Coast competitors miss this one, they have to travel to the East Coast to be qualified for USA Nationals. In addition, West Coast competitors have fewer opportunities to get ranking points. Editor’s Note:  Check out the USA Dance Competition Calendar.  The California Regional Championships are scheduled for June 14-15!

National qualification rules. Please get rid of the 75% rule permanently unless there is a semi-final. We need more competitors to come to the Nationals. 

Proficiency Points. Couples that win at least three times should be required to graduate to the next level, so they continue to be challenged and the other competitors remain motivated. 

▪ Do away with the whole Proficiency Point system. If you have to have Zoom meetings to teach people and delay implementation for a year, then something is wrong. The parameters are simple — a point system that requires people to move up as they gain skill in the core dances of their particular level. The notion of organizers being able to offer more events at a comp is not practical. Watching Champ dancers in a restricted Bronze level heat would be interesting – once. If people do not want to move up, have a Silver A and Silver B, and a Gold A and Gold B (these are the levels where Proficiency Points are needed). “A” is for people not pointed out at that level, and “B” is for anybody who wants to dance at that level (Silver or Gold through Champ). 

Rules affecting Organizers. The rules also need to be less onerous for organizers so they can afford to put on more comps. Sponsors to fund any losses will not always be around. 

Sparkly Jewelry. Not sure if it is still a rule because I no longer dance Adult Syllabus, but back in the day I had to remove my “costume jewelry,” which by the way was not consistent from event to event. I wear sparkly jewelry every day. Why would I not wear it for a ballroom competition. I get that in syllabus you do not want to discourage dancers who do not have the means for fancy costumes and want to focus on the dancing. But a pair of sparkly hoop earrings? Petty rule that does not make any sense. If you do not want fancy “statement necklaces,” then make that the rule. 

Dress codes. I believe more laxity should exist in the dress code generally. Invigilating athletes for the exact uncovered distance between their covered breasts or the width of their dress at the dip or the depth of their V-neck below their waistband is lending competitor and official attention to trivialities instead the quality of their overall presentation and dancing. And for young amateur competitors (especially female ones), it is often unnecessarily humiliating. 

Pauses between dances. Have a longer pause between dances (currently 20 seconds), make it at least 30 seconds with the possibility to use a towel and drink some water. (I remember the cardiac arrest of a Senior after the Quickstep in Baltimore) Having a better break is preventing medical issues for seniors. 

Safety when Combining Events. Is it possible to keep age groups closer in combined events? I was at an event where we were combined with six under-21 couples. Needless to say, I could not get out of their way fast enough. So, it may take a few extra minutes during a comp, but it was just not safe out there. 

World Team Selections. Rule I believe the rule should be changed – the current Champions and Vice Champions in each category should be the couples representing the US at the Worlds with the 3rd place being the first substitute (and then the other finalists if needed in the order of their placement at the Nationals). This will ensure that USA dance is sending the best couples to the Worlds and will make the selection process straightforward and transparent for everyone. If we believe ballroom dancing is a sport, then we should adhere to the sports principles. As it is now, we are not always selecting the strongest couples for the Worlds because the second representative is basically selected based on their participation in the NQEs, with the selection process itself being obscure and not clearly understood by most athletes. If we want to reward couples for their participation in USA dance events, that may be a good idea, but it should be done differently – for instance, they can have their registration fee waived for Nationals, etc. When it comes to selecting the World’s representatives, however, it should be done strictly based on merit. 

Chuck Garrett and the Senior Committee would like to hear from you:

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