Competition can be a great motivator and greatly improve your dancing.

Practice at performance level. Remember perfect practice makes - better. Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong.

Appreciate your partner. Forgive their mistakes/shortcomings. Remember how lucky you are to have a partner. A dance partnership is a relationship that needs constant nurturing in order to blossom. Most partnerships don't last a year. The partners that stay together the longest tend to have the most success. I recommend reading, "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. This book is a couple's guide to working as a team, building relationships, and making your partner feel appreciated.

Read the rules BEFORE you choose your costume, choreography, and (if possible) your partner! If there are rules you think are unethical (unfortunately they are out there) - challenge them, but don't be disqualified out of ignorance.

Be aware of your partner when you dance. Dance as a couple. Use one another. Feed off each others energy. The audience can't always tell who has the best technique, but they can always tell who is the most connected.

If you're the follower, follow even if you know the dance routine by heart. It looks better and your partner may have to change the choreography because of other couples on the floor. If you are the leader, know what you want to do before you do it and give clear signals to your partner. Aside from your side by side footwork sections, all choreography should be leadable.

Men! Don't get into the habit of counting out loud when you practice. The counting gets in your muscle memory and you may end up mouthing the counts on the competition floor. Instead count in your head or play music. Your partner doesn't need to hear your counts to follow.

Use a tripod to tape yourselves regularly. I know for many people this is scary, but it is one of the most effective tools you have. Your dress rehearsals should always be taped. How does your costume look on tape? What sections need cleaning? What are your bad habits? How is your energy and connection?

Have a complete dress rehearsal (and tape it) before you compete or perform in any costume to avoid disaster. Make sure everything fits your body right, won't fly or rip off and it's comfortable. Use 4 way stretch fabrics. Don't wear colors that show when you sweat. Wear materials that breathe, so you don't sweat so easily. If you are a sweater, when possible take an extra set of clothes so you can change and look fresh.

Take private lessons at least once a week. There is a well known formula in competitive dancing that recommends one hour of private lessons for every 5+ hours of practice on your own. Coaches can give you choreography, improve the choreography you have already, solve problems, and be your guides to becoming better dancers. A good coach will help you determine what areas you need the most work on and how to accomplish your goals. Also, constructive criticism can be taken better taken from a respected coach, than from your partner. Let your coach handle this area and your partnership will last much longer. If you are having a problem you are not sure how to fix, save it for your lesson. Don't waste hours of practice time getting frustrated trying to fix something your coach can fix in a few minutes.

Use four safety pins for your number.

Make sure your body is warm and you have stretched before your heat. Make sure you cool down slowly when your heats are over.

Drink water in small amounts regularly throughout the day.
Bring food (I keep organic food bars, organic apples, or organic baby carrots wrapped up in my shoe bag) with you to snack on.

Support your friends, teammates, and people from your dance company. If they are dancing well make some noise. The judges will notice - and so will your friends.

Your focus should mostly be on your partner or the audience. Don't spend the whole heat staring at the floor because you are nervous.

If you collide keep your composure and get going again as soon as possible.

Choose where you will start your routine. Was your choreography intended to start on a long wall? Where are most of your fans? Is there a weak couple you can dance next to, to make you look better? Where are the judges? Don't stand too close to the judges, because they won't be looking at you. Move to different sections of the floor in between songs so you can be seen by everyone.

The competition begins as soon as you take your first step on the floor and does not end until you are all the way off the floor. Maintain a positive and confident image even if you are not happy with your performance.

Rehearsals |At the Comp| Partnership|Coaching | Presentation