A Judge’s View on First Place

February 26th, 2018 by Richie Kormos

First Place

The experience is truly the real award. However, all dancers do dream of achieving First Place at some point in their dance competition career. But what does a judge notice in 1st place routines that, well, make them 1st place? Was it the artistry, the technique, the extra something you can’t put your finger on? Let’s ask a couple of judges what they notice in winning entries that puts them over the top!

Focus on Originality 

First PlaceStarQuest Judge, Dani Albertina, said she focused on the dance’s originality. “When watching a 1st place piece as a judge or a bystander, above all else, originality is a major component that can most influence a win. If a routine can stand out from the 100’s of numbers performed all day and is still memorable post-completion of the competition, it is considered a 1st place piece. Memorability can be achieved through performance quality. For example, the dancer fearlessly showing vulnerability or genuine enthusiasm of joy on stage.”

Choreography should execute unique shapes and movement patterns that remain true to the performers’ strengths and weaknesses, but also aids in the routine’s uniqueness. When picking music, try songs that are new, songs that aren’t in mainstream media or predictable classics. Expanding our horizons and opening up our song search to indie artists is always a fun option. These artists have beautiful and raw material that may capture the audience’s attention since they’ve never heard it before. Lastly, strong themes within the movement’s story line with a clear beginning, middle and end helps the audience member connect their own personal stories with the piece, then therefore remember the performance.”


The Perfect Picture

First PlaceJory Bowling, on the other hand, is truly looking for the complete perfect picture. “For me a winning routine is the total package. It starts with music, costuming and choreography being age appropriate! The dancers’ have clean technique and great performance quality. Whatever style the piece may be, I love to see the kids are being trained well, have a strong technical foundation and I feel something from watching the dance! Another important aspect is choreography. It’s well staged, entails levels, layers, clean transitions, is visually appealing and showcases the dancers’ strengths. The piece is clean, obviously well rehearsed and makes me have to search for the ‘picky’ things in my critique. When the dance finishes, I’m left saying, ‘That was fabulous you guys, well done, I really enjoyed watching that, hats off to the Teacher!’”


Each judge may have a different opinion on what goes into a winning routine. However, as long as you have fun and leave it all on the stage, you will always leave a winner.