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Dance Insight with Bryan Allen

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A Discussion Paper on Judging


In clearing out some old files I came across a document under the title “A DISCUSSION PAPER ON JUDGING” written by that great champion Harry Smith­-Hampshire. Although some time ago, I thought it might be thought provoking if I bring sections of the document to your attention as they have relevance today.


Harry Smith-Hampshire’s knowledge and experience gained over his lifetime in competitive dancing is of the very highest and, although some might take issue with some of his views and conclusions, they are certainly well worthy of consideration. So, I quote this great former Blackpool Champion

“One of the first priorities for an adjudicator is, and must be, technical merit as basis. This covers the major elements of the way the dancers produce-and connoisseurs appreciate- Style, Movement and Musicality”.

We then come on to Posture & Balance. Among these gems are “ The lady’s hips should be stretched upwards and tucked in and exaggerated arching of the upper spine detracts.”

Then “The Correct Hold” and here we have words that I fully share, these are so important that I will quote them in italics to give prominence.

“When the partnership Hold is completed, the effect should be to highlight the masculinity of the male and the femininity of the female. The man’s arms should look supportive, though relaxed, while the lady’s arms should be soft and fluid as though made of chiffon. The softness is so that the relative changes of partnership position from, say normal in-line to Promenade or Fallaway can be achieved without distortion of the man’s arm and back lines. The shoulders should not be lifted but remain settled. A clean, unbroken shoulder line with the arms extending the natural declining line of the shoulders down to the elbows is ideal for the male. The artificial position with the elbows as high or higher than the shoulders is technically incorrect and the tension induced by this elevation is the antithesis of artistic”.

The paper goes on to deal with Body Contact, Body-swing and Rise and Fall, Tango, Fluidity of Movement, Contra Body Movement (CBM), Natural Balancing Sway, Quality of Leg Action, Footwork, Characterisation, Floorcraft. The following pages suggest grading of Judges stepping stones to improve the quality of judging, judging without bias, good judging requiring moral courage, Form Marking and a statement that I feel few would disagree with “Artistic brilliance combined with technical excellence is the ideal!”.

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