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Newcomer’s Guide to West Coast Swing Competition Points

When I was a new dancer, I found the WCS points and scoring system to be pretty opaque and hard to understand:

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Yep, all those numbers totally make sense

Lately I’ve been thinking about scoring in the WCS community a lot. I’ve had some friends, both new and experienced in the community express confusion at the scoring systems in conversation with me. And I’ve also recently started working on an open-source project to create a free code implementation of the WSDC Relative Placement Scoring System.

As a result, I’ve come to appreciate the way that the judging and points system shapes our community, and think that it is a pretty good solution to the insanely difficult problem of turning subjective opinions of dancing into skill levels and numeric contest results that make sense from event to event.

So, without further ado, here is everything you need to know about scoring in West Coast Swing!

What Are Points?

The World Swing Dance Council (WSDC) uses points as a guideline for event directors to place competitiors according to their skill level. Each skill level defined by the WSDC has certain point requirements for its participants. The full details are explained in their Points Registry Document, but I will summarize the highlights here:

Skill Level Description
Newcomer Beginner, must have earned no points. You may skip ahead to Novice if you prefer.
Novice Competitors must compete in Novice until they earn 16 Novice points. At 30 points, you must begin competing in Intermediate.
Intermediate May move to Advanced with 30 Intermediate points.
Must move to Advanced with 45 Intermediate points.
Advanced May move to All Star with 45 Advanced points in the last 36 months.
Must move to All Star with 60 points in the last 36 months.
All Star Must have either 45 Advanced points in the last 36 months, or 3 All Star points in the last 36 months.
Champion/Invitational/Pro Determined by the event director.

In addition, the WSDC defines two additional competition categories which are defined by age. Juniors is for competitiors under 18 years old, while Masters is for competitiors over 50.

How Do I Know How Many Points I Have?

You can search for your own point total (or any of your friends/role models!) by name in the World Swing Dance Council Points Registry.

It can be pretty neat to look at someone’s points after they have competed for a while, it tells part of the story of their career and experiences in the WCS world!

How Many Points Do I Get For Competing?

WSDC points are awarded based on both your placement in the competition, as well as the number of competitors in your skill level/role. Larger events award more points for the same placement, since there are more competitors. The WSDC defines six tiers of competition:

Tier # of Competitors 1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place 4th Place 5th Place Additional Placements
Tier 1 5-10 3 2 1 0 0 0
Tier 2 11-19 6 4 3 2 1 0
Tier 3 20-39 10 8 6 4 2 1pt (up to 12th Place)
Tier 4 40-79 15 12 10 8 6 1pt (up to 15th Place)
Tier 5 80-129 20 16 14 12 10 2pt (up to 12th Place)
Tier 6 130+ 25 22 18 15 12 2pt (up to 12th Place)

Note that the same skill level competition may be in two different tiers for leaders and follows. For instance, if a competition has 39 leaders, and 40 follows, it will award points according to the tier 3 rules for leaders, but follows will get points according to the tier 4 rules, even though they compete and are judged as a couple in finals.

How Do I Get To Finals?

This differs a bit from event to event, and is influenced to some extent by the head judge’s preferences. But the general rule for prelims and semi-finals is that the judges are asked to award each competitor individually (not couple!) a Yes, No, or Maybe/Alternate vote. The number of “Yes” votes each judge can award is usually equal to the number of competitiors which will be in the next round of the competition. For example, if the judges are judging prelims, and semi-finals will have 30 couples, each judge may award 30 “Yes” votes, and then select 3 alternates.

The competitiors with the most Yes/Alternate votes progress to the next round.

I Made Finals! Now What?

Congratulations! When looking at the final results, it can be pretty confusing your first time when one judge places you first, and another places you 10th. How do they figure out which place you actually get? This is where the Relative Placement Scoring System comes in!

The Relative Placement Scoring System is described by the WSDC in a very detailed document you can read here.

In short, an odd number of judges rank every couple in the finals from first place to last. Having an odd number of judges is important, because placements are awarded based on having a majority of judges scoring you at or above a particular placement. Then, once all of the judges’ scores are tallied, the final placements are awarded in rounds.

  • First, each competitor’s 1st place scores are added up, and if any couple has a majority, they are awarded first place.
  • If no couple had a majority of judges who placed them 1st, then we look at every couple’s 1st and 2nd placements. If a couple has a majority, then they are awarded first.
  • This repeats for 1st through 3rd, 1st through 4th, and so on until all placements are awarded.
  • In the event of a tie in a particular round, there are several ways of resolving the tie:
  • If a couple has a larger majority of judges who placed them at or better than the current round, they win. For example, if there are 7 judges, 4 are needed for a majority. If one couple has 5 placements in the current round, and another has only 4, the first couple recieves the best available final placement, and the second couple is placed just behind them.
  • If a couple have an identical majority, (4 and 4, for example) then the numerical values of their placements are compared. Let’s consider two couples who both have four judges who awarded them 1st-2nd place. If one couple has three first places and a second (1+1+1+2=5), while the other couple had two second places and two first places(1+1+2+2=6), the first couple would win because the sum of their 1st and 2nd places was lower.
  • There are several more methods of breaking ties, but the two listed above resolve the vast majority of ties in any given round. If you’re interested to know more, you can read the document linked above for all of the gory details!

Once you have your final placement, then you may be awarded points, according to the tier of your event.

The Head Judge Gave Me a Good Placement, But I Didn’t Finish Well. What Happened?

In the WSDC Relative Placement Scoring System, the head judge’s scores are only used when another judge’s scores cannot be used. For example if a judge accidentally awards two couples first place, or if they feel ill during judging and are unable to finish, their scores may be discarded and replaced with those of the head judge.

The title “head judge” makes it sound like their scores would carry more weight than the other judges, but in reality, the head judge’s scores are usually not used in determining the final placements at all.

Many events will only publish the placements from judges whose scores were used in the final determination, while others include the head judge’s scores, to allow competitiors to see all of the judges’ opinions on their performance.

Sometimes I See Competitiors Competing in Skill Levels They Don’t Have Points For. What Gives?

The WSDC allows competitiors to petition to dance one level above or below their official level. This is generally left to the discretion of the head judge at the event, but there are many reasons for competitiors to seek to dance in another skill level.

  • An instructor who has never competed in WCS before may not wish to compete against their own students in Novice, which could be demoralizing for the students.
  • An Advanced dancer who has taken a long (several years) break from dancing due to life changes or injury, and wishes to compete at an Intermediate level to get back into the groove of competition.
  • A competitior who competes well at WCS events which are not recognized by the WSDC and don’t award points may feel confident dancing “up” a level in an official WSDC competition based on their past performance.

 

That’s a pretty good rundown of the rules of competition in the WCS world. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about WCS points and judging that I haven’t answered, and I’ll add them to this article!

The Dancer’s Code

The Dancer’s Code is a list of reminders I’ve made for myself on how to be a dancer who gives and gets the most out of dancing. All the dancers I know could do a little better with at least one of these things, myself included. But just like with dancing, perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is to strive to be your best.

 


The Dancer’s Code:

Dancing isn’t just something you do with your feet. It’s a community. When you see someone you don’t know, be an ambassador. Don’t just dance with them – befriend them.

Sharing a dance is generosity. It’s not something anyone is entitled to. When someone dances with you, appreciate it. Likewise, be generous to others with your own dancing.

Dancing is a talent, not a virtue. Being a good dancer doesn’t make someone a good person. That’s something you do off the dance floor.

Dance hates drama. Whenever someone comes up in a conversation, imagine that they’re listening. If that makes you uncomfortable, end the conversation. You have better things to talk about.

We don’t practice to learn how to dance “right.” We do it so that when the music comes on, your partner takes your hand, and you feel a desire to express yourself, your body doesn’t get in the way.

Above all, have fun. Stress has no place on the dance floor. Great music, great people, and the freedom to let your feelings move you. All that’s left is to smile and let it happen. That’s what dance is all about and it’s the thing we have in common that brings us all together.

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