Competitions and Performances

Making it to the finals!
Making it to the finals!

Competitions and performances provide an opportunity to develop an individual’s dance skill level and to display them to the dance community. It fosters the continued growth of swing dance in terms of cultural influences and technical expertise. It also creates a strong pool of experienced dancers for teaching, performing and competing.

Types of Competitions

The following descriptions represent a small portion of the formats that exist in competitions. We encourage all dancers to learn about these formats and to think about the possibility of entering one!

Jack and Jills rank the best of leads and follows in their ability to form a solid partnership with people they’ve never danced with before. During the preliminaries, individuals are randomly assigned after each round and danced to segments of a random song, which range in different tempos and artists. There are three or four songs that people dance to, with up to that many different partners. Individuals are judged on basic fundamentals like footwork, body connection, framework and body lines. First Saturday Swing’s format is an all-skate for both preliminaries and finals.

Once entered into the finals, individuals are paired together and evaluated as a couple for the remainder of the competition. The composite score is based on the couples’ communication and their musicality.

Solo competitions feature skill and talent from solo jazz movement. Individuals are judged based on their musicality and technical skill of different movement.

Format Terminology

All Skate – A term describing the format of the competition, where every participant in that competition dances at the same time for the duration of the round. Judges quickly scan for individuals that stand out and with a couple of seconds to assess the competitors’ ability. This format is used commonly during preliminary rounds and semifinals, and the last dance of the spotlight round. This contrasts with Spotlights.

Tap Out or Elimination Style – During an all skate, competitors are judged and tapped out (or tapped in) for the next round. This method is conducted without having a scoring board, and it facilitates a quick assessment of competitor abilities. This type of format, while potentially stressful for competitors, provides the quickest feedback on the dancer’s abilities.

Spotlights – A format describing one couple dancing in front of the audience and judges “under the spotlight” for a specific length of a song. This format is used commonly during finals. After their allotted amount of time under the spotlight, the next couple transitions in while the song is playing and the next couple immediately starts their dance.

The length of time spent in spotlights varies on the event and the competition organizer. On the first round of spotlights, each couple might have 8-bars of 8, 16-bars of 8, or 32-bars of 8 of music. This means a couple will have to adjust the material that they show off during that time.

Showdown – This format is similar to spotlights, where dancers have several bars of music to dance in front of an audience. Typically two competitors or groups are brought to the dance floor and are judged as the better of the two, with one group advancing immediately to the next round. This format is typically done during semi-finals.

Level Restrictions

There are loose level restrictions depending on the definition of novice, amateurs, and pros. Consider the level of the competition before committing to it. Novice dancers are new to the dance scene and with less than six months of swing dancing. They might have just started taking group or private lessons with local instructors, or they might have not gone to an exchange or a workshop yet.

Amateur dancers have up to two years of consistent dance knowledge. They may have done several weekly group classes and have attended to at least one exchange and workshop event during that time. They may have participated in previous competitions but have never placed in finals during this time. Once they’ve placed, they are considered advanced enough to progress to the next track of competitors.

Professional dancers are defined by those who’ve spent a good amount of time competing and fine-tuning their dance. They could achieve this through teaching at their local events and international events. They compete regularly for prize money at accredited events. They have already competed in the lower competition tracks and have been placed or won in the past.

Prizes and Recognition

Prizes are awarded for placing in the top three places. In addition to recognition, prizes include free admission to the next First Saturday event and tickets to other venues and workshops.


First Saturday Swing Charlie Photography 3
Shim Sham Line Dance Routine

Performances comprise a big part of the growing dance community. It betters the dancer themselves and improves the dance level of the community. More often, it brings the community together and to foster camaraderie outside of the dance world.

Additional Details

All performances and competitions happen at 10:30PM sharp. Competitors, performers, and dancers will be notified at 10PM and expected to be ready to go as we kick off the mini-event.