Lindy Competition Tip #2: Take All Chances in Prelims

Lindy hop competitions are, by their very nature, kind of insane in their structure. That is, have an enormous field of competitors, give the judges mere seconds to pick their favorites, and then use a completely different structure for the final.

Do the math for most competition heats. About 90 seconds of music. Say 15 dancers of each role. That means on average gets a look for 6 seconds in each heat. Not much time at all!

Your odds get even lower if there are multiple heats (and there will be!).

How do you rise above and make the final in a sea of other dancers? I previously wrote about a very easy way but now let’s get into the actual dance part of things.

What Judges Might Look For

*Quality of your dancing/partnering

This is obvious and theoretically what the competition is based upon, though not always the case.

*Any Mistakes Whatsoever

The “one mistake and you’re out” rule oftentimes applies. That is, the field is so vast that one simple measure to narrow it is that if a judge sees anything not perfect, they nix that competitor and move on.

*Can They Win?

One method I’ve used as a judge is to simply ask: If someone gets them as a partner, do they have a chance to win? This can often explain why you see many of the same dancers in finals over and over again. It’s not their dancing that judges see in the moment. But they’ve seen them in finals before and know they have what it takes to perform in the final. This vs. putting an unknown quantity in the final who might not have what it takes in the spotlight.

So What Should You Do?

Play it safe in the prelims and not risk anything? Absolutely not.

In fact, unless you know you are way better than most of the field and it shows (a rarity but it does happen), I recommend letting loose. Fill it up and show what you are capable of doing. Because if you are only getting a look for an average of 6 seconds, a judge catching you crushing those 6 seconds can be all that it takes. I was told by an ILHC judge once he placed me in finals simply because of one single movement I did that really hit the music. That was enough.

This becomes even more true if you know you are likely to be out-danced by most of the field. As I see it, there’s no glory in turning in a solid pre-lim performance that has no chance of putting you in finals. I constantly hear from really solid dancers about their frustration in not making finals but seeing some other dancers consistently advance. LET LOOSE, I SAY!

What criteria would you use to judge a pre-lim?