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Why Compete in Dance Sport?
By Tim van Gelder.

No doubt there are lots of "bad" reasons that people compete. Here, however, are two that I think are good ones:

1. It provides opportunities to dance in full regalia with a skilled partner with whom you are in tune, with good music on a spacious floor on which there are only other couples who know how to dance well to that music. The occasions for doing this outside competition are almost non-existent. When ballroom dancing of this kind goes well, it is the zenith of the ballroom experience. To quote the beer commercial: "It doesn't get any better than this." Your average social ballroom dance is a pretty poor substitute.

2. It is the best way to find out how good you are. I can't trust my own judgement. Others, however, mostly will not or cannot tell you honestly and accurately. Competing cuts through the bullshit. In my experience, as soon you have progressed beyond the stage of outright beginner, people are constantly telling you how good you are. Mostly, this is just meaningless. Out of tact, politeness or whatever people will very rarely tell you that your dancing totally sucks even when it does. Your friends will flatter you to make you feel good. Your instructors will say "that's good" to encourage you and build your confidence.

People who know nothing about dancing will gush about how well you dance. Nobody will say "I'd be really embarrassed if I danced like you" or "that's really mediocre dancing". Further, even if people wanted to let us know exactly how well or badly we were dancing, they wouldn't have the vocabulary. Mostly, all they can say is things like "that's not bad". But when you compete, you get a much more honest and specific idea. You find out that you're good enough to make a semi-final at C grade (or whatever). Yeah, OK, its generally not completely objective and accurate. But so what? Its still the best standard going. It saves me from laboring under illusions.

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