Happy 2008 Everyone! Along with the new year, there is a new USA Dance Rulebook. I bring this up as a local USA Dance official who works on four or more competitions per year, and who has been called on to police costumes from time to time at local, regional, and even national events. I am speaking for myself here, though -- USA Dance did not ask me to make the following post, I am doing it under my own initiative as my chapter (NorCal) prepares for its first competition of 2008. Anyway, all competitors, regardless of age or how experienced they are in competitions, are required to follow the USA Dance rules. So, please take some time to review the 2008-2009 Rulebook at http://usadance.org/dancesport/ I didn't notice many rule changes, the biggest one that stood out to me is that "Novice" is now "in-line" between Gold and Pre-Champ. This means the old exception that allowed Syllabus dancers to add Novice as third event level no longer exists. Syllabus dancers can now only do Bronze-Silver, Silver-Gold, or Gold-Novice. I am now going to comment on the most common rule violations that I've seen over the past few years. The most commonly violated rules are related to syllabus restrictions, and the dress code. SYLLABUS RESTRICTIONS * If you are dancing in a syllabus event (Bronze, Silver, Gold) you cannot use any steps higher than the level you are competing in. * For Pre-Teen events that don't have a specific Bronze/Silver/Gold designation, ONLY GOLD-LEVEL AND LOWER steps are allowed. This rule about Pre-teen syllabus restrictions came into effect for USA Dance one year ago (and has been in effect for NDCA competitions for several years now), so coaches of Pre-teens have had a full year to adjust and should be providing their students with appropriate routines. DRESS CODE * The dress code is explained, with diagrams and illustrations, in section 3.10 of the Rulebook. * The most common violations include - short sleeved shirts on male syllabus and Pre-teen dancers (only long sleeved shirts are allowed, white only for Standard, black or white for other styles) skirts too far below the knee on female Pre-teen dancers (skirts must be cut straight across, and be from just covering the knee to up to 4" above the knee) illegal necklines on female Pre-teen dancers (the rulebook has diagrams of allowable necklines) ties other than black or white on male syllabus and Pre-teen dancers (this is the most common adult syllabus male violation -- men, wear a solid-colored black or a white tie!) dresses other than one solid color on female Pre-teen dancers (no multi-colored dresses are allowed on Pre-teen dancers) dresses with light effects on female syllabus dancers (no glitter, rhinestones, sequins, mirrors, beading, metallic threads, or anything else that throws light is allowed) floats on female syllabus dancers (a float is any material that flows behind the dancer when they are moving, including a long neck scarf) hair decoration on female syllabus and Pre-teen dancers (this is the most common adult syllabus female violation -- no glitter, colored hairspray, or rhinestones/sequins etc. are allowed, Pre-teens may only wear a non-reflective ribbon or bow) makeup on Pre-teen dancers (none allowed at all, children wearing makeup will be asked to wash their faces at comps I am costume police for!) decoration jewelry" on Pre-teen dancers (you can wear your personal jewelry, such as simple earrings and necklaces that aren't part of a dance dress costume) One of the most frequent questions I get regarding dancers who compete in several ages or levels is something along the lines of "but my kid is doing Pre-teen and Junior, what do I do?" The answer is to follow the rules for the most restrictive level you are competing in, and change your outfit/grooming between events if you have time. Which leads to the next most frequent question, which goes something like "but I won't have time to put the makeup on/change before the Junior events, can't she dance Pre-teen with makeup/fancy costume on?" The solution to that one is either dance the less restrictive event without the makeup, or only enter the less restrictive event. The final question in this common triad is "but it's not fair that they have to dance against the Juniors in their Pre-teen outfits!" My answer to that is "it's also not fair that some kids in Pre-teen follow the rules while others do not. If it's that much of a problem to show up in Junior without makeup or wearing a plain Pre-teen outfit, then either don't dance Junior or don't dance Pre-teen." (And similarly for adults who dance in both Gold and Novice and fret about the difference between what is allowed in Syllabus and what is allowed in Open.) I know I sound strict, but in my local chapter at least our leniency in the past has led to dancers going to Regionals and/or Nationals thinking their outfits or dance routines were okay when they really were not, and then people were disappointed by a disqualification or lowering of placement (and blame our chapter for not being stricter in the first place). NorCal's Chapter-level events are meant to be fun, but our goal is to also educate our dancers about the rules to prepare them for Regional and National-level events. I don't know if other USA Dance chapters feel this way, but NorCal is taking this seriously. Most of all, I understand that this all can be a bit overwhelming to new competitors, and so I'm glad to answer your questions (even though I can only speak for NorCal and our expectations for our events). P.S. To any frightened newbies out there -- just do your absolute best, we know you are new and trying, and we will help you by pointing out your violations and answering questions about what to do. Take comfort in the fact that your newbie peers are going though the same learning process that you are.