Beginners questions about competing: UCWDA

Discussion in 'Country and Western' started by b19wh33l5, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member

    I have only been dancing for about 8 months now but almost every time I dance with an experienced follow they seem really impressed with my leading ability when they find out how long I have been dancing. Everything I have learned so far has been through group classes and videos, I have not taken any private lessons. However, I have a very strong athletic and musical background which has provided me the ability to lead well and has given me a great sense of rhythm. I usually go out dancing 2-3 times a week and dance two step, east coast swing, west coast swing, hustle, waltz, and cha-cha with a variety of people. I have also learned some lindy, salsa, blues, balboa, and nighclub two step.

    I am interested in competing and learning more about competing for a number of reasons. I have done group lessons at several places with a number of people and almost every time I have been the first person to pick up on what they were teaching. I am a very quick learner and it is my understanding that competing a great way to push yourself to see just how much you can learn. It also seems like these competitions are a great way to meet new people and I would love to meet some new people to dance with and learn from. Lastly, since I have been in sports for most of my life I am competitive by nature and would like to see how I "stack up" against other people. I would be going there first and foremost to have fun, but I do have a competitive spirit.

    So I looked online at the UCWDA site and noticed they have a competition coming up in the beginning of November in Harrisburg I could make it to. I saw they have a novice jack-and-jill division for two step and west coast swing as well. So this raised a couple of questions for me:

    1. Are jack-and-jill events a good way to introduce a virgin competitor into the competitive dance world?
    2. What is the general skill level of the novice jack-and-jill competitors?
    3. Am I skilled enough to keep up with the other leads in my division so I don't tick off the follows I dance with for my lack of skill compared to the other leads?

    I also downloaded and read the UCWDC pdf rule sheet and had a couple of questions about that as well.

    1. Do they require "country" dress for the jack-and-jill competitions (i.e. boot and hat)?
    2. Do the jack-and-jill competitors all dance to the same song or are they different for each couple? Do the competitors get a chance to hear the song before the take the floor?
    3. Do the couples get a chance to warm-up with each other before they take the floor to be judged?
    4. Are there any skills that are required or not allowed for novice jack-and-jill competitors?



    I know this is a very long-winded post but I have never been to a dance competition before. I am very excited about the possibility of competing and I would just like to get a better idea of if I am ready and what I am getting myself into. Thank you!
  2. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I have no idea what the UCWDA does, but it sounds similar to what the UCWDC does . . .

    -J&J are good . . . Pro-Am is better

    -If you are as adept as you say you are, you'll do fine.

    -Yes it appears that you are ok . . . besides, someone, somewhere . . . you'll tick them off . . . get past it . . .

    Now this I can answer . . . I dance in the UCWDC . . .

    -Yes . . . boots and hat except for the WCS J&Js . . . you can wear swing pants, shirts, and dance shirts . . .

    -For each level, yes, changing often . . .

    -They do some social dancing before the J&Js start, so grab everyone and anyone you . . . ne or more of them could be your next partner . . .

    -Make sure you know and can lead the basics . . . pick 5 or 6 of your best moves . . . keep repeating them, as the judges will only have a few seconds to look at you. Be clean and smooth, not fancy . . . keep away from the 32-count pattern with dips . . . hit "breaks" if you can . . . don't try if you cannot. Otherwise . . . you are the leader . . .

    -If you think you are ready . . . go do it. Go find a Pro, pay for an hour of lessons, tell them your intentions . . . let them "tell you" if you are able. There is no posible way to tell if you can or cannot do it just by what you write on the DF . . . but it sounds like you know what you are doing.

    With all the dances that you learning, I'd do Pro-Am . . . privates will get you
    there much quicker, and probable more correctly!

    The more you are on the floor, the better you'll become, so go do it.
  3. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    PS . . . although it's a three hour drive, why don't you sign up and go
    Here in November
    Get some friends to go . . . share the drive and gas expenses, and hotel, etc. Entry fees and food is each person's resp.
  4. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member

    lol, good eye, yes I meant UCWDC

    Good point. I have heard a number of times you learn quickest from a pro that can teach well. My logic for the J&J's is that it would be an easy way for me to "test the waters" with out spending the kind of money that is involved in Pro-Am since I have never been to a dance comp.

    I am well aware that some time and some where I am going to tick off some follow, lol. I am just trying to minimize those instances. I do feel like I have the basics (sugar push, whips, basket whips, side passes, etc...) down smooth and I know I have at least 5 or 6 moves for both WCS and Two Step that are above the basics that I can lead a follow through comfortably along with some experience hitting breaks. My biggest concern skill wise was how much do people at the novice level combine moves in J&J events to form amalgamations.

    The person I have been taking most of my group lessons from is a friend of mine and has done well in a number of advanced J&J WCS comps and used to compete Two Step as well. A few weeks ago I signed up for a 6 week WCS group class she is teaching that starts tomorrow. She has already pulled me aside and told me specific things she wants me to focus on since she said I already know most of the material she plans on covering.

    She has invited me to join her and some of her friends to the Halloween in Harrisburg comp you posted the link to. She also said I may want to think about entering the novice J&J if I can really solidify the skills I currently have between now and November. Regardless of weather or not I compete I do plan on going. I just wanted to gather some more info about what was involved if I do choose to compete. I will let her know I am really interested in entering the comp and see where it goes from there.

    Thank you very much for the advice. It has helped a lot!
  5. Tori

    Tori New Member

    If your partner is any good you should be able to follow their leads really easily. You take a gamble with J and J wih the partner you get. Sometimes they're great, other times they're awful and you can't follow a thing they lead. I did J and J two step this weekend and didn't place coz I got awful partners the whole time. Just do your best,
    PS. Join Pro-Am!!! It's so fun!!!
  6. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member


    Thanks for the advice Tori. I must have phrased my question a little poorly though because I would be entering the J&J as a lead, I am a guy (I know there are jack & jack, jill & jack, etc... comps where the guy can be a follow, but for now I am working on my leading ability as a guy since I only have 8 months experience under my belt).

    I do agree that dancing with people above my level, i.e. a pro, can be a lot of fun. I am sure it would be even more fun in an event like a Pro-Am where the pro is really trying their hardest as well. You and Vince do have me kinda curious about it now. I may have to take some private lessons after the Harrisburg comp if my time and bank account allow it.

    I will probably "test the waters" like I said at the Harrisburg comp in Nov with the J&J to get a feel for what it is like. Two months would probably be a little short notice get a routine ready with anybody (correct me if I am wrong). Until then I will keep practicing and hope that I draw some good names at the comp if I enter. Thanks again.
  7. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    If you are enjoying westie, you might also allow yourself to be talked into the Cash Bash...

    http://www.cashdanceclub.org/Special Events/2006/CASHBash2006/cashbash2006.htm

    As for competitions: I'm somewhat notorious in my circle for the fact that I don't compete, so taking this with a follower of salt....

    From what I have observed, pro amming for the sake of competing is a poor investment. In the Swing circuit, there just isn't a lot of there there. Now, if you were planning to study with a particular pro anyway, a pro am is a potentially useful way to structure your study.

    If you really want to be measuring yourself against the competition, meeting people, etc, the J&J is the right way to go.

    Your best bet for getting a sense of what is coming would be to nose around among the experienced dancers in your area (ask your teacher, she'll know someone) who collects event videos, and borrow a look at a Newcomer J&J competition.

    But lacking that.... Newcomer J&J competions usually contain a wide mix of talents - folks who have been dancing a few years, new comers who have gotten the bug, a few stars who are just collecting points on their way to advanced. You occassionally see one or two leaders in final who can't stay on time with the music, but most have a pretty solid grounding and a lot of laps under their belts.

    If you have any doubts, dive in. If you aren't good enough to make finals, then keeping you out of the way is the judges' responsibility, not yours. With contestants rotating a few times for partners during prelims, and couples in the early rounds being judged separately, you aren't going to hurt your partner's chances (assuming you don't do something catastrophic, like injuring them).

    In the westie world, the preliminary round usually gets you three or four song clips, each about 90-120 seconds long, each danced with a different partner (there are often 50-100 partners available; sometimes the event is broken into heats). You don't get to hear the songs in advance, but most of the songs will be familiar if you have been dancing socially for eight months - most of the people you are competing against will be familiar with the music. All of the competitors are dancing at the same time, so you can lose yourself in the crowd if necessary (in the higher divisions, competitors get spotlight dances in finals - so different songs, and nowhere to hide).

    J&J are supposed to be about lead follow, so there are no specific skills that you need beyond the right attitude (always be happy with the partner you draw, root for them to do well, etc). Each event has its own conditions of contest that you can review, and there is usually a competitors meeting where you can ask specific questions about what you are being judged on (you'll almost always get the same answer "timing, technique, and teamwork" - you'll have to learn to judge for yourself how honest that description is).

    However, I've yet to see a Newcomer event where "degree of difficulty" was used in the scoring. So take your clever knots and leave them at home, instead pull out your basics and try to bend them to the music. The judges are going to be giving you a very quick eye, and primarily they are looking at how you dance, not what moves you are doing.

    I've no idea if any of this advice is at all applicable in the UCWDC circuit.
  8. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Early in the summer, I got recruited by a nice lady to be her partner for a comp. I didn't have any idea how it would go and it turned out to be a ton of fun. There were several other women and a guy who also joined us. They were more focused on the competition part and had not been dancing as long as we had. I don't think they had nearly as much fun. They didn't continue after the comp was finished. So attitude possibly had nothing to do with the positioning in the comp, but certainly with what we personally got out of it. We went not worried at all about how we would do and ended up doing quite well. The J&J part was fun to add to the overall weekend. Ours was much smaller with about 5-6 couples in our catagory.
  9. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Take to heart what Dancelf said, esp the last two paragraphs . . .

    With you being a Newcomer or Novice, the judges will first look at your feet . . . if you don't have those (the basic steps) correct, the judges will not look any further up - I don't care how many cool patterns you can do . . .
  10. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member

    My instructor friend has done the Cash Bash before. It looks like fun! I see John Lindo will be doing a workshop there. My friend let me borrow a video of him at a J&J comp, I like his style!

    Yeah, I would say that hits the nail on the head for what I am after right now. I do plan on entering the WCS and Two Step J&J in Harrisburgh. I am not sure where I stand on pro amming yet though. I am brand new to all of this and I know I have a lot to learn.

    Based on what I have read in this thread I feel pretty comfortable with diving right in now. I feel like my basics are solid and I know I have at least a decent sense of musicality after playing musical instruments for 19 years now. I guess the only thing to do now is just really hone my basic skills and dance with as many people as I can. Thanks for the advice!
  11. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member

    Thanks again Vince. I will be sure to take your, and Dancelf's, advice.

    I can see where footwork would be a big factor for judges in WCS, but is it as big a factor for Two Step as well? Or is there a little more focus on other things as well in Two Step since the footwork is more basic? I would like to enter the WCS and Two Step J&J's.
  12. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Oh yes, probably even more so, since this is basically a C&W dance venue . . .

    So many individuals do a great 2 Step, but fail to execute it accurately. For instance, everyone does Q, Q, S, S - right? Or count it 1, 2, 3, 5 - I don't but have heard this in a class or two.

    The problem is you have to settle on that last S. Many are already starting the next Q before settling in on that last S.

    I used to have a big problem with this and was one of those who rushed through the last S. Someone told me to count it like: Q, Q, S, "I'm done" - which reminded me to settle completly before starting the next Q.

    Remember, this works for me . . . may not be for everyone or even correct.

    Once you get the count and footwork correct, the next major thing to get perfect is "the prep." 2 Step is all about the prep and not doing an abrupt prep, but more of a springy prep - this at the end of the prep. That "I'm done" that I mentioned also helped me to remember to be springy with my arms at the end of the prep . . . so it would be Q, Q, S, "I'm (be springy with my arms and settle) done."

    Just remember that everything that you do . . . hands up, hands down, open up, turn of the wrist, turn of the head, and the steps you take (Q,Q,Q . . . Q, Q, Q, Q, S, S . . . S, S, S, S and so on) etc., etc., etc, indicates to the follow that you are or are going to do something. So, tell them correctly right off the bat . . .

    Questions???
  13. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member

    I had a chance to talk to my instructor friend who does a bunch of J&J's and she seems to think it is a good idea for me to give J&J's a shot as well. I dance with her every Wed and Fri, so if any body know my dancing ability, it is her.

    I downloaded the registration forms for the Halloween in Harrisburg event and signed up for the novice Two Step and WCS J&J's. Are any of you out there going to the Harrisburg comp?

    Also from your post I have recieved the following advice:
    1. Really focus on my footwork, it is what judges look at most
    2. J&J's are mostly about clean and smooth lead and follow ability
    3. Work on weaving simple moves together and bending it to the music instead of doing hard and/or flashy stuff
    4. Pick 5 or 6 of your best moves and keep using them
    5. Stay away from things like huge 32 count sequences or dips
    6. Hit "breaks" if you can do it cleanly

    Is there anything else I should add to this list?


    My other questions are about the music they use for the J&J's
    1. Can you give me some examples of songs the UCWDC has used in the past for two step and WCS J&J's?
    2. For the J&J's do they follow the 176-190 bmp for two step and 102-114 bmp for WCS rules they have listed in their rules sheet?
  14. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    1) Don't hesitate to ask partner if there's anything she needs to avoid. By preference before the music starts.

    2) You want to start dancing as soon as the music starts - but don't feel that you must start the first pattern right away - take some time to groove until you and partner are synchronized together.
  15. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Try one of these

    Although the referenced website is old and outdated, ie.e., the UCWDC BPM has changed . . .

    Those are both correct . . .

    You will do well . . . I promise you . . .
  16. danceallstyles

    danceallstyles New Member

    I think it's great that you are thinking about competing. Jack and Jills are a great way to start. As someone who has judged those events, I don't always look for the most complicated patterns. If someone is going crazy with patterns but isn't taking care of their follower, the patterns aren't clean or their timing is off, it doesn't matter how fancy they got. If you go out there to have fun and you just do clean basics with good timing, you might get a reputation for being a considerate leader, and you might even place.
  17. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member

    Thanks. I am really looking forward to the Halloween in Harrisburg J&J's I signed up for. Only about 2.5 weeks away! I can't say I am too worried about placing. I am going mainly to have a good time but my goal is definitely to make it into the finals for both the two step and west coast swing J&J's. Then if I place... all the better! I realize my total dancing experience is only 9 months right now and I have a lot to learn. I just hope Harrisburg has a good turn-out, I want to compete against as many talented people as possible. Thanks for the tips, I will be sure to root everything I do in the basic and let every one know how I did after the comp.
  18. b19wh33l5

    b19wh33l5 New Member

    Is anyone else here going to the Halloween in Harrisburg event?
  19. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Hey b19wh33l5 . . . are ya' ready for Harrisburg? What are ya' workin' on?
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    What's in Harrisburg? (an hour-ish from my family)

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