To be an Adjudicator by Anthony Hurley

From Education Master Anthony Hurley Having recently watched the unbelievable youtube video of the adjudicator who was recording his marks like a magician’s sleight of hand and he never raised his eyes to study the competitor’s performance. One wonders how many more irresponsible judges there are masquerading in their tuxedos passing judgement and deciding who the champions of the day will be. I therefore thought it may be of some interest to put into writing my feelings about adjudication.


Adjudicating is without doubt a very responsible, highly qualified and often daunting position. To be engaged as an adjudicator one has the confidence that the organiser of the event is also confident that your expertise, experience and honesty will give the competitors a fair crack of the whip and a result that records the dance performances seen on the day.

Obviously only by accepting engagements can an individual gain the necessary experience and respect required for the task of decision making. Personally as a young professional I made it my business to talk to the leading adjudicators of the time and asked questions such as how they coped with large heats, what were their priorities, judging various grades from novice to championship category. Monitoring the strength or weakness of the heats, an important point I quickly learnt.

I personally do not believe that you can teach people to adjudicate; perhaps in these modern times one can learn the mechanics which is really common sense, but the decision making is personal and what an individual’s priorities may be. Unfortunately it is not just putting numbers down.

I list below six priorities for example that I believe most adjudicators carry onto the floor in their minds. Perhaps they place them in a different order but that is why we have a panel of adjudicators whose collective opinions and priorities will produce a fair result.
1. Posture and presentation
2. Technique
3. Musicality
4. Movement depicting the dance in question
5. Togetherness
6. General floor appearance (Charisma).
One of the most difficult tasks is accessing the heats in a first round; this is where experience comes into its own.
Imagine the Chairman requests that you bring back 24 couples from 3 heats; the mathematics tells you that is 8 couples per heat. However remembering you have not seen the couples before what happens if the best couples are in the majority in the third heat your first headache.

The experienced judge will access the first heat and select say six couples and on a separate card keep a further two or three numbers as reserves you may also consider the same format for the second heat. This allows you to keep space for a strong third heat in the event you recall 10 couples. Therefore at the conclusion of the third heat your recalls will be 6 + 8 +10=24.
Another important point to consider in first or second rounds is the situation where couples with a reputation of normally being semi-finalists or finalists in major events take part. Do not take a long look at these couples at this early stage, put their number down and give the lesser known couples more of your limited time. You may be surprised that in past events you have overlooked a couples standard and potential. You may also be instrumental in giving a couple a well-deserved break.

The time to start scrutinising in detail the top couples is perhaps around the last 48 for example. I then mentally dance the competition with them monitoring their strengths or weaknesses always comparing them to each other over the last four rounds. However there are many couples to evaluate and often I pick up couples who grew on me during the competition. This I find is my way of coming to a personal and satisfactory selection of the final six and ultimately the final placings.

My Dislikes:
• Bad floor craft. Couples who have little or no regard for their fellow competitors with a do or die approach to fitting in their choreography.
•  Overloaded choreography usually used to camouflage the fact they cannot produce the elements of the dance.
•  When I see the man lips moving to count he cannot not possibly have any musical or emotional feelings and for sure not listening to the music.

My Likes:
•  When a couple earns a break into a semi or final irrespective of my marks.
•  When a couples dancing embraces me musically.
•  When the grace and sophistication are maintained within a performance that reaches out to both judges and the audience.

Final Thoughts
To have been a competitor has advantages when judging, you know what is going through the minds of the majority you appreciate their years of practice in trying to reach their ultimate goal, knowing that at the stroke of your pen you can make or break someone’s dreams.
That is why to be an adjudicator is a very responsible and demanding part of competition dancing.
Anthony Hurley