Competitions for individual competitors are broken up into 2 divisions, Syllabus and Open and styles International Ballroom, International Latin, American Rhythm and American Smooth (see above).
The syllabus division is bound by what are known as ‘syllabus figures’ or the basics for learning each style. These syllabus figures are further broken up into Bronze (beginning), Silver (intermediate), and Gold (advanced) levels. You can see a list of those figures here. All coaches are familiar with this standardization in both International and American styles and should help guide individual competitors to the appropriate steps.
Age divisions for syllabus are identified by Elementary, Junior High, High School and College. For specific age classifications, talk to your coach. In order to further even the playing field, competitors in syllabus events are required to wear black for the ladies (top and skirt) and black slacks, white shirt, and black tie for the men.
Within the Syllabus division, there is also a group called Newcomer. As the name indicates, this is an especially good starting place to begin competing as most of your fellow competitors are also fairly new to ballroom dancing. Once you place in the final of an NDCA sanctioned event (if your local that’s typically the BYU events as well as Utah Dancesport Championship), you are not allowed to compete in the Newcomer category at any further events. You may still compete in the syllabus events that are not classified as Newcomer.
Once you and your coaches feel it is appropriate, you will move into what is called the ‘Open’ category. This is where you will see the costumes, rhinestones, fringe, feathers, colors, tail suits, and latin shirts. In this category, competitors can take more choreographic liberties. If you are competing in an open category, you may not compete in any syllabus category with the same dance. You can however compete in Rhythm while you are in a syllabus international cha cha or compete International Ballroom while you are in an American Foxtrot. Ask your coach if you have questions.
These Pre-Teen (through the 11th birthday), Junior (12th-15th birthday), Youth (16th – 18th birthday), Under 21 and Adult/Amateur (19th birthday or older). There are also Senior categories for those competitors in their 30’s.
Furthermore, there are competitive divisions to help further differentiate ability levels in the open category, these include Novice (beginning), Pre-Champ (intermediate) and Championship/Amateur/etc. (advanced). Competitions will add these options at their own pleasure. For example the Novice category is typically only seen in the adult category.