I am often asked what do I need to do or know to do well in a Jack and Jill or Strictly Swing ?
Another loaded question !
First it depends on the level in which you are trying to compete.
Second is what part of the country or world or where are you going to be dancing or competing.
Requirements to do well for each level can change with every different panel of judges and sometimes even with the same panel of judges it can be different from one day to the next.
Each event judge has their own perception and expectation of what makes good west coast swing or dancing in general..
Some judges look at the dancers feet..are they rolling ? Are they connected to the floor in a smooth action or transition from one step to the next. Does the footwork add to the over all look of the dance or does it or the lack of it take away from the quality of the dance ? Is the timing correct ? Are the dancers knees bending and straightening properly for the dance ?
Some judges are looking for good body flight and smooth movement in and out of each position the dancer(s) find themselves in throughout their dance. Does it add to the connection and overall look and feel of the dance and the music for the dancer or couple..? Is their elasticity or stretch ? Does the leader allow the folloer to do her part...? Is the follower patient ? Do they take the time to actually feel what the leaders connection is telling them ? or do they over react ? Does the leader over lead.. ? Are the dancers moving or not moving from the correct part of the body ?
Some Judges are looking simply for great posture.. does the dancer look like a dancer..? I have personally observed dancers being dropped several placements simply because the did not possess good posture and poise..even though the dancers in question were more musical and appeared more connected than anyone else on the floor...bad posture and frame killed their chances of placing as well as they could have or evening winning the contest. definitely something to think about.
Some judges are looking for good centering and balance.. in short...those judges are looking for control of one's self and awareness of the moment, the music, are they focused on achieving the best dance possible. Such things are usually very obvious to the trained judges eye.
Some judges are all about the connection and the music...regardless of what the competing dancers do or do not do...for them it must match or fit the particular music at the time.
From my own observations.. the most experienced judges are looking simply for the best combination of all of the above. the more experienced the judge the easier it is to see who on the floor has or does not have any or all of the above requirements ..
The presence or lack of any of the above mentioned elements can make or break one's ability to do well on any given day..
My advice would be for one to stick to what you do well ! Try to be as clean and as precise as possible with what ever you do. If it is a good as you think it is.. you should do well. If it is not..you probably will not do so well.
To correct the problem.. simply put in the time and energy required to make it better. Take a lesson or lessons from a reputable instructor in your area that either PRESENTLY competes at a high level and frequently does well OR JUDGES MULTIPLE LEVELS and events per year.
Doing the same things the same way again and again and expecting a different result is not going to help you ! Their are in most cases numerous ways of doing something correctly. Find the one that works best and looks best on you..
As odd as it may seem.. for those who do not compete and have no plans to ever compete..the same skills noted above are also what makes a great social dancer !