The circuit has changed a lot over the past 10 years. It is as connected as it ever was and dance competitions are more like five-star resort experiences compared to what they were half a decade ago (close enough when you’re a broke undergrad haha). However, go to any dance competition and after the judging results are announced there will be a flurry of differing opinions from audience members, dancers, and even judges as to who should have placed or won. This is a natural reaction and being critical is what progresses the dance community as it allows us all to think independently. I know I used to do this all the time and still do because being a dance-nerd, I always like to ask why a team placed or won and how. This brings me to the point of differing opinions about dance performances. When we say “Team A should have have placed over Team B”, what we really mean to say is “Based on my overall impression, I believe Team A should have placed over Team B.”
Let’s try to break this theory down to understand what this actually means. On most dance competition rubrics, there are around 10 points or so allocated for overall impression. Overall impression, in general, is defined as what you think overall on a scale of 1-10 a team’s performance was. In a more deeper sense, it is a function of many factors like choreography, creativity, “X-factors”, and performance factors which can be explicitly quantified by some number. However, the implicit metrics we use to judge the overall impression are derived from our respective dance backgrounds, our dance philosophy, what our definition of creativity and innovation are, and other more personal factors which are hard to quantify. Thus, our overall impression is a function of explicit and implicit factors. When we say a certain team should have placed over another team, we are purely basing this statement off of our overall impression because that is the go-to metric by which we are able to judge dance heuristically. Overall impression is like rating things like beauty and taste. Overall impression thus can be reduced down to our preferences. Overall impression is about our likes and dislikes. We fall back on overall impression when we have no judging rubric at hand. However, one cannot judge accurately the placings of a dance competition purely based on overall impression as each dance competition has its own rubric. However, one can argue that there are correlations of certain elements in the rubric with overall impression. For many people in the circuit, choreography is highly correlated with their overall impression. The same can be said with cleanliness, energy, and sync.
The point of this article is to differentiate our sentiments during dance competitions and define what these sentiments actually are. There is a lot of disappointment in the results of many dance competitions and everyone has the right to be disappointed. However, if we are able to understand that we are talking about our overall impression and not what the rubric emphasizes, we will have less dispute and disappointment with the results of dance competitions. It’s an obvious observation but one that needs to be made.