What Is Competitive Ballroom Dancing?

Olympic Park Dancesport Fiesta

Competitive dancing is a style of dance in which dance competition is the main focus. Couples perform several different dances in front of judges who evaluate and score each routine. In recent years, this style of dance has come to be viewed as a sport, demanding high levels of strength, stamina, and flexibility.


DanceSport is the official name for competitive ballroom dancing. DanceSport is a stylized form of ballroom dancing in which the main emphasis is on performance and appearance. In a DanceSport competition, couples dance together on the same floor while being judged on their speed, elegance, body action, and dramatic movements.

Skill Levels

In a dance competition, dancers show off and compare their skills with other dancers of the same level. The competitors are required to perform at least one dance from a particular division. As competitors move up in skill level, they are required to perform more dances in the category level.
The United States recognizes the following amateur skill levels for competition:

  • Championship
  • Pre-Championship
  • Novice

Age Levels

United States DanceSport competitions are divided into the following age levels:

  • Pre-Teen I: 9 years and under
  • Pre-Teen II: 10 and 11 years
  • Junior I: 12 and 13 years
  • Junior II: 14 and 15 years
  • Youth: 16-18 years
  • Adult A: 19-34 years
  • Adult B: 35-49 years
  • Senior: 50 and older


Judges of competitive dancing are usually former professional dancers. They sit at the front of the dance floor and watch all competitors at once. The judges have scorecards for each couple and award points based on skills, presentation, and showmanship. The couple with the most points is declared the winner.


The following is a list of events offered at a dance competition:

International Style Standard

  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Viennese Waltz
  • Foxtrot
  • Quickstep

Latin American

  • Cha Cha
  • Samba
  • Rumba
  • Paso Doble
  • Jive

American Style Smooth

  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Foxtrot
  • Viennese Waltz

American Rhythm

  • Cha Cha
  • Rumba
  • East Coast Swing
  • Bolero
  • Mambo

Miscellaneous Theater Arts

  • Cabaret
  • Night Club
  • West Coast Swing
  • Salsa
  • Hustle
  • Night Club Two Step


USA Dance, DanceSport Division. Guide to Competitive Dancing. 25 Sept. 2007.