In a ballroom competition, you dance the same dance at the same time as about twenty other couples in the hopes of being chosen by the judges as the best couple on the floor.

Ballroom competitions are fairly similar to track meets in their execution. Let’s pretend you are a couple signed up to dance the newcomer American waltz. You have registered online and you see your number on the large screen for the first round of newcomer American waltz. When it is your turn to dance, you will line up with all the other competitors registered to dance the newcomer American waltz. There will typically be at least three heats (rounds) of each event, because it would be impossible to dance with all the competitors on the floor at once. When it is your heat, you will walk on the floor, SMILE, and dance your heart out for a minute and twenty seconds. There will be about five judges who will mark your number on their list if they think you should move on to the next round. If you get enough marks to move on, that is called a “callback.” Afterwards, you will exit the floor and stare up at the large screen eagerly in the hopes that your number will appear under the second round callback list. If it does, you will again line up, walk out, SMILE, dance, and exit the floor. Repeat this process until you’ve won your first place ribbon!

Competitions are divided into seven levels. Levels known as syllabus levels are newcomer, bronze, silver, and gold. Levels known as open levels are novice, pre-champ, and champ.


You! And your partner. And about twenty other couples on the floor. And, depending on the competition and your level, up to one hundred other couples in your event. Typically, there are about seventy couples in newcomer and bronze events, fifty in silver events, thirty in gold events, and fifteen in open events.

Where and When?

MSUBDT primarily participates in the Midwest collegiate circuit. This means that we travel to other universities in the Midwest to compete against their ballroom teams.

During the semester, we compete at Purdue University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and at the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the Ohio Star Ball. During spring semester, we compete at the University of Michigan, Valparaiso University, the University of Notre Dame, Ohio State University, and again at the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the Arnold Classic. Please check the “Calendar” for competition dates.


Emails with information about competition registration will be sent out about a month before the competition. If you are interested in competing, you must register online, sign up on a carpool list, and sign up on a hotel room list. Registration and hotel fees are due to the treasurer a week before the competition. Talk to your driver about splitting up gas costs.

Competition registration happens online, frequently through websites such as Hyperlinks to registration forms will be provided in emails about a month before the competition. Be sure that you register under “Michigan State University.”


Because ballroom dancing is super fun and competitions are a great way to bond with your team, win shiny ribbons, and watch and meet dancers from other schools.

Hair, Makeup, Clothing, Oh My!

Below are two packets that detail everything you need to know about what to pack and what to wear for competitions. If you have further questions, please speak to our competition chair.

Click here for Female Packet

Click here for Male Packet