by James Repetti
As a competitive coach, my students often ask me questions like, “What level am I?” or “Do you think I’m ready for the next level?” Because I’ve been teaching for over a decade, all it takes is a few moments of viewing someone’s dancing to tell them what I personally think the answers to these questions are. However, my opinion is far from absolute.
The level I deem a student to be capable of competing in may be very different than what another coach might think. Some people may categorize a dancer based on what figures they know, others on their technical ability, while others may base it simply on how long they’ve been dancing in the style. While there’s no way to definitively categorize what level a dancer should be competing in, the next best thing is a points system based on a dancer’s competitive history.
What is it?
The YCN proficiency points system is preferred for determining level eligibility at the majority of collegiate competitions. It was created by the Youth College Network, a branch of the national chapter of USA Dance.
The YCN system recognizes 7 competitive levels as capable of earning proficiency points: Championship, Pre-Championship, Novice, Master of Syllabus, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. When a dancer places in a competitive event, according to the YCN rules, they will receive the correlating amount of points for the place they’ve earned in that level.
Once a dancer has received 7 points in a level, they are “placed out” and no longer eligible to compete in that level or any level below it. They will have no choice but to compete in the next level, with the exception that a 7 point cap does not apply to the Championship and Master of Syllabus levels, and so a dancer may dance in these levels regardless of how many points they have accrued.
How does it work?
When a dancer competes in an event that is a straight final (meaning there are no rounds prior to the final), no points are earned. If a semi-final round is danced, each dancer who won first place receives 3 points, while those in second receive 2, and those in third receive 1. If a quarter-final round is danced, the same rules for the top three apply as in a semi-final round, however, dancers in fourth, fifth, and sixth places also each receive 1 point.
It is important to note that points earned in a specific level double at each level below it; however, this is not a single-laddered system. Championship points filter down to Pre-Championship, Pre-Championship points filter down to Novice and Gold, Master of Syllabus points filter down to Gold, Gold filters down to Silver, and Silver filters down to Bronze, while Novice is the only level that doesn’t filter down to other levels. This means that the points earned in all levels except for Novice double in the level below them and continue to double in each level below that until they reach Bronze.
To better understand this system, let’s take for example a dancer who places first in a Championship Latin event from a semi-final, and therefore receives 3 points in the Championship level. These points will continuously double in every level below it. So, in Pre-Championship they will receive 6 points, in Novice and Gold 12 points, in Silver 24 points, and in Bronze 48 points. The dancer will receive no points in Master of Syllabus, as no categories filter down to this level. Because this dancer placed first in a Championship event, they will become ineligible to compete in any levels other than Pre-Championship and Master of Syllabus, as they will have more than the 7 allowed points in all other levels.
Some Things to Remember
It is important to note firstly that points are earned individually for each dance, and secondly that points are earned by individual dancers, not by couples.
For instance, if Henry and Jane place first in a two-dance semi-final event such as Silver Rhythm Cha Cha/Rumba, the points earned will only apply to these two dances and will not affect future eligibility in Silver Swing, Bolero, or Mambo. They will only receive 3 points in Silver Rhythm Cha Cha and 3 points in Silver Rhythm Rumba – in other words, the only way to earn points in a dance is by placing in a final for said dance. Additionally, Henry and Jane will each earn 3 points in each dance separately, in case they want to compete with different partners in the future.
When determining a couple’s level eligibility, the partner with the greater amount of points is the determining factor. Take for example if John and Kelly plan to compete in Silver Smooth Waltz. John has earned 3 points in Silver Smooth Waltz, but his new partner, Kelly, has earned 7 points in this dance and level. If they chose to compete together, they will have to compete in at least Gold Smooth Waltz, as Kelly has 7 points and is thus placed out of Silver for this dance. Together, John and Kelly will not be eligible to compete in Bronze or Silver for Smooth Waltz.
Worth noting is that many collegiate competitions follow their own variant of the YCN points system or create their own rules. For instance, it is common for collegiate competitions to create time-out rules for Newcomers. Since no points are accrued in Newcomer, often competitions create time limits for dancers to stay eligible for competing in this level.
Additionally, MIT has created a variant of the traditional point system that is single-laddered in order to incorporate the now common integration of Novice levels in collegiate events. Their system goes from Championship, to Pre-Championship, to Novice, to Gold, to Silver, to Bronze, with points filtering down in that direction. As someone who’s been on the collegiate scene for many years and watched how things have changed, I commend MIT on their variation to the traditional system and hope that other colleges will follow suit in the years to come.
Taking all of this into account, now more than ever is it important to check each competition’s website to determine your level eligibility. The level you belong in based on the traditional YCN points system, while relevant at the large majority of collegiate competitions, may not be relevant at every competition.
While this system and its variants may be a bit confusing to understand at first, as competitors I believe it is important for everyone to stay on top of their own level eligibility. Though calculating point totals and disqualifying dancers for “dancing-down” aren’t common practice at every competition, keep in mind that while it may be fun to win a category you are no longer eligible for, at the end of the day it is unsportsmanlike and unfair to all of the hard-working dancers who are actually eligible for that level. Next time you consider “dancing-down,” perhaps consider challenging yourself in a harder level instead – your placements may very well surprise you.
James Repetti began dancing as a child and in 2015 he became the United States National Vice Champion in American Rhythm. Since he has focused primarily on his teaching, and with over a decade of teaching experience and involvement in the collegiate circuit, James serves as the coach of all four styles for both Stony Brook and Hofstra University’s Ballroom Dance teams, as well as privately coaches individual couples from across the country.