DanceSport is ballroom dancing in the competitive sense. DanceSport divides the world of ballroom dancing into two styles, American and International, each of which contains ten dances. They are:
Standard (Int.)/Smooth (Amer.):
Latin (Int.)/Rhythm (Amer.):
Different levels of competition are observed depending on experience. Most of the competitions worth watching are "open", which means that there is no restriction on what steps and moves may be performed. Open DanceSport dancers must perform all five dances in either the Standard or Latin category, and most will compete exclusively in one or the other. Lower levels of experience compete with fewer dances by trimming the most difficult ones (Viennese waltz and paso doble, usually, then tango and and samba).
Scoring is done in a fairly unusual way, since ballroom dancing is expected to be done on an open dance floor with other couples dancing at the same time. Several couples are allowed to take to the floor at a time, usually some multiple of six up to as many as the size of the floor can reasonably allow. A few judges circle the outside of the floor, eliminating up to half the dancers at a time, until after several heats only six dancers remain. The judges then rank these dancers from first to sixth place. "Scores" are never assigned. The rankings of all the judges are combined using a bit of complicated math to determine who wins what ranking.
DanceSport is unique in the athletic world in that it is the only totally equal opportunity sport -- men cannot compete without women, and vice versa, and both genders must compete equally well at the same time. Solo DanceSport is nonexistent, and same-sex competitive dancing is verboten. It's also expensive, if not in terms of training, then in those of dress -- one woman's costume costs about as much as all the equipment used by the entire French Olympic fencing team.
In 1997, the International DanceSport Federation was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, paving the way for DanceSport to appear in the international Olympics. DanceSport will be demonstrated at the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and should appear as a medal sport in 2008.
Those interested in the world of competitive dancing may be interested in the movie "Dance With Me", starring Vanessa Williams as a professional Latin DanceSport dancer. The world championships held in that movie surround her and her partner with five really professional couples, all of whom are a joy to watch. It's a chick flick, mind you, but the dancing scenes break it up enough to make it tolerable to guys.
Most cities of reasonable size have ballroom dancing instructors of worthy quality who will teach dancing both for competition and recreation. Likewise, most colleges and universities of reasonable size will have clubs where you can take lessons in dancing and DanceSport for bargain prices. Like any sport, however, you learn more when you train for competition than when you're just having fun. Anyone who's even a little serious about learning ballroom dancing should compete at least once to see just how good they can become.