A critical component for someone if they ever want to judge a swing dance contest or to become a good dancer themselves is the idea of defining ,then being able to assess what is “good dancing”.

Dax Hock explains in this interview,

I think people spend far too little time thinking about dancing. For example, what dancing actually is, what makes good dancing, and what differentiates it from “not as good” dancing? Why other people might be improving faster or having more fun? I guess the point I like to make to those interested in improvement is this….if you don’t really understand what something is you’re not going to be able to get much better at it. This goes for the dance as a whole or a concept as small as rhythm, leading, or a swing out.

However the struggle many people have is how to develop this besides the first obvious solution, which is to dance a lot to gain an experienced background to draw from?

One solution is take a look at events that are centered around the idea of determining good dancing, also known as competitions. Especially at the national/international level it is not unreasonable to expect that most of the judges have reasonable experience in this skill set of determining good dancing. Based on this I created a small game to improve that skill for myself and I am curious to see if it helps you guys out.

Assessment Game:

1. Pick a competition which has a video of good quality (shows all the dancers ) & has results posted online somewhere that you are unaware of.

2. In the time of the video act like a normal judge, if the competition uses relative placement then use it. Preferably only watch the video of the competition once so you get as much time as the judges and during it write notes and then choose your scores.

3. At the end compare your scores with the overall placement and each individual judges placement and ask yourself why your score was the same or different from the judges. (Watching the video again greatly assists with it.)


This has been useful for me because I think it has improved by ability to assess quality of movement with dancers. This assists greatly in situations where I am teaching and I need to trouble shoot my students problems or when I am watching video of myself and trying to figure out what I am doing wrong. Most importantly though it has allowed me to to notice subjective biases within my own judging and other judges.

Take a look at the ILHC 2011 scoresheet for the Strictly Lindy Champions Division, along the top of the pack scores are all over the place among the judges. If you watch the video from that event and compare the judges scores, you will notice some judges had preferences toward certain things such as flashy tricks/aerials or classic choreography.

Which leads me to my next point, which I think ultimately is the more important thing learned is what is “good dancing” to oneself as an individual. While it is nice to get explanations from dancers somebody admires whether that be an old timer like Hal Talkier or a modern dancer like Skye Humphries, I believe it is pivotal to a dancers growth at the latter stages to answer this question for themselves.

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