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Show Dance for Nationals

A. Caluen

Those of us who are DanceSport Athlete members of USA Dance have already seen notices about a new event for Nationals: a Freestyle-Showdance division. This event is an invitational, and for the past four years has not been in competition due to lack of submissions. If you are a competitive couple in an "open" proficiency level, preparing a show dance could be a fun new challenge.

The Freestyle-Showdance is exactly what you would think: a solo routine performed to preselected music. The biggest considerations for amateur dancers interested in preparing a routine are the following rules (more detail available in the USA Dance Rulebook – free download from

  • Competitors from all four disciplines may enter: International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth, or American Rhythm; all will dance against each other in a single event (as on "America's Ballroom Challenge").
  • Submitted routines must be between 3:30 and 4:00 in length, excluding entrance and exit, with a maximum of 30 seconds for entry prior to beginning the dance and a maximum of 30 seconds for exit after concluding the dance, with a brief coda of music permitted to underline the couple's exit.
  • Each routine must, to be considered for competition, include sections of choreography representing at least three of the dances included in the couple's discipline. For example, a couple entering an American Rhythm routine must include some combination of Rumba, Cha-Cha, East Coast Swing, Bolero, and/or Mambo. In other words, it can't be three minutes of Charleston or Lindy or West Coast Swing with a few East Coast Swing figures thrown in.
  • At least 75% of each routine's choreography must represent the dances selected from the discipline. Thus, for the illustrative four-minute Rhythm routine, at least three minutes must represent the selected dances, while up to a minute may involve elements of other dances and styles.
  • Props are not permitted - that is, nothing that must be carried on or off the floor and/or is not part of the performers' costume.
  • Lifts are permitted - a maximum of three lifts per performance, but only in the transitional elements between dances, and not exceeding two measures of music or 15 seconds in duration each. A lift is defined as any movement in which a dancer has both feet off the floor at the same time with the assistance or support of his/her partner. (For anyone who watches DWTS, this helps make clear why it is not considered a "lift" if the partner is being assisted or supported, but at least one foot is on the floor. It's a trick, yes - but not a lift.)
  • Thus, for the exemplary Rhythm routine, a couple might choreograph a 15-second passage of mambo or tango; transition with a 1st 15-second lift to one minute of cha-cha; then transition with a 2nd 15-second lift to one minute of rumba; then transition with a third and final 15-second lift to one minute of bolero for a total of four minutes.
  • One important detail not made clear in the rulebook: the various styles of music must be set at competition tempi. That is, the rumba should be 32-36 mpm (measures per minute), the cha-cha 30 mpm, and the bolero 24-26 mpm.
  • Finally, the Showdance is an invitational. Because NQEs are not required to offer a Showdance division, prospective Showdance competitors must submit a representative portion of their routine on video.

The Freestyle-Showdance event is considered a championship-level event, suitable for couples already well advanced as competitors. Showdance winners at Nationals will be eligible to compete in the World DanceSport Federation's Showdance division.