Dance 101

Dance 101

The Basics

Dance Basics

If you’ve ever moved along to a song that was playing on the radio, you’ve danced! Competitive dance is much more difficult than simply dancing in your car and it requires a lot of skill, flexibility, and focus. The sport involves dancers competing individually or as part of a team, dancing various types of dances in front of a group of judges who will give them an overall score. The team or individual with the highest score wins! Dancers perform choreography that has been practiced time and time again to a specific song that matches the style of dance. A dancer performing a ballet routine would not be dancing to a song with an extremely high-tempo. Competitions are split up into age levels and skill levels, keep competitive advantages to a low.

As a fan or new dancer, there are some concepts to know about dance that you may not already be aware of. Let’s go over just a few!

  • There are various types of dance that competitive dancers can compete in. Some of the most popular include: ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, ballroom, or acro.
  • Dancers can compete individually or in teams, but all choreography must be original.
  • Dancers compete at different levels of skill, depending on how long they have been dancing and how advanced they are.
  • Scoring of a routine is based on technique, execution, the overall choreography, creativity, and the dancers’ presentation (outfits, emotes, hair).


dance equipment

Dance equipment is relatively simple and limited in comparison with many other sports. The most basic equipment for a dancer to have are apparel (leotard and tights for girls, pants and shirts for boys), various types of shoes, and a studio to dance in. The main types of dance shoes include ballet shoes, jazz shoes, tap shoes, and pointe shoes. A dancer cannot perform well without these pieces of equipment, so they are very necessary. Dance apparel and equipment gets more expensive as a dancer gets older, but since there are not many items to purchase, it can be one of the cheaper sports to participate in. Dance studios include mirrors and barres, which most dancers will need to perform. These can be rented or utilized through dance lessons and training sessions.

Rules of Dancing

Dance competition rules can vary from tournament to tournament, but some rules are included in every tournament. First, there are generally three levels for dance competitors to compete at: a recreational/beginner level, an intermediate level, and an advanced/elite level. Dancers have to enter the level that matches their skills, hours per week of dance lessons, and experience. All choreography for a dance routine must be original and the song for the routine must be provided in advance of the competition. There are also specified schedules for every competition, so dancers or dance teams must compete at their time. If they miss their time, they do not get to dance at another time. Most competitions do not allow photography or videography from the audience or dancers themselves, they provide the official video of the entire event. If someone is caught filming or taking pictures, they may be asked to leave.

Positions and Moves

Dance Positions

Unlike with most other sports, positions in dance refer to how a dancer’s feet are situated when they are going through their choreography! There are five positions overall, increasing in difficulty as you move to higher numbers. First position is standing upright with your heels pressed together. Second position is standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing outward, still aligned with each other. Third position is having one foot slightly in front of the other, with the heel of the front foot touching the instep of the foot in back, both feet still pointing outward like in first position. Fourth position is standing with feet apart, one foot in front of the other but not touching, both pointing outward and the heel of the front foot in-line with the toes of the back foot. Finally, the fifth position is the same as the fourth, but the feet must be touching.

Dancing Lingo

Just like any other sport, dance has its own set of terminology that applies to the sport. Terminology can be about types of dances, dance moves or positions, dance equipment, apparel, and many more things. Here are some of the most basic terms to know.

  • Arm Styling: how the arms are positioned during each portion of a dance.
  • Ballet: a classical style of dance that is one of the most popular around the world.
  • Barre: a wooden bar that is used by dancers to warm up and work on their balance at the beginning of training.
  • Choreography: a routine created for a dancer with a set of steps to be followed, typically set to music
  • Leotard: a piece of dance apparel that covers all of the torso and possibly the arms.
  • Positions: there are five positions of the feet in ballet, each getting harder as you move on.