Competition 101: Where Do I Belong?


One of the many great benefits of being on the Cal Poly Ballroom Team is that you have the opportunity to participate in ballroom competitions hosted by colleges across California! The concept of competing in front of a live audience and scrutinizing judges can seem daunting at first, but it is one of the best ways to improve your dancing. Also, believe it or not, competitions are really fun! Not only do you bond with your fellow teammates, you also get to meet tons of new people and great dancers!

Interested? The first thing you should do is contact us and let us know! The next thing you should do is read this blog series!

Seeing that it’s the start of a new year, I figured I’d write this blog series to educate new dancers and prospective competitors about the inner-workings of a collegiate ballroom competition. This post will be all about proficiency levels!


What is a proficiency level?
Some dancers are better than others. A dancer who has devoted his or her whole life to perfecting the Tango is bound to be better than a person who is dancing Tango for the first time. Since it wouldn’t be very fun or constructive to compare the advanced dancer to the beginning dancer, competitions are split into proficiency levels as follows:

This level is typically reserved for dancers with 1 year of experience or less. In some cases, it is even restricted to dancers who have never competed before. This is a fantastic level for beginners to see if they enjoy competing and, as such, is the most popular among our new members. Dancers in this level may only use moves defined in the bronze syllabus.

This level is also popular among beginners, and is essentially the same as newcomer since both levels restrict dancers to only use moves in the Bronze syllabus. Dancers in this level usually have 0.5-2 years experience.

This level restricts dancers to use moves defined in the Bronze and Silver syllabi, and is generally composed of intermediate level dancers who have been dancing 1 – 3 years. Some competitions allow dancers at this level to wear costumes.

This level is for intermediate-going-on-advanced dancers. At this point, the number of years you’ve been dancing is not entirely relevant; you need to be conscious of your personal skill as a dancer. Dancers are limited to moves within the Gold, Silver, and Bronze syllabi. Costumes are encouraged, but not required.

Novice, Pre-Championship, & Championship:
These levels are for advanced dancers. At these levels, dancers are allowed to do “open” choreography and no longer have to do only syllabus moves. Dancers at this point have already proven that they are proficient in technique and can now express their interpretation of the dance using unique choreography. Costumes are required.


As a new competitor, you can choose to declare your current proficiency or start from the bottom (bronze) and work up. Once you declare, i.e. that you are a Silver Syllabus dancer, you may not dance Bronze. In summary, you do not need to earn your way to dance at higher levels, but as you move up in proficiency, you are no longer eligible to enter a lower level.

As you participate in competitions, you earn proficiency points. When you accumulate sufficient points at a given level you are precluded from dancing at that level and must move up. You can dance at any higher level, but you cannot dance down once you point out. If you and your partner accumulate sufficient points that you are at Gold level, you may no longer dance Silver and below. The Proficiency Point system is defined in the rulebook.

For more information about proficiency levels or competitions in general, visit the USA Dance Guide for New Competitors

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