Dancesport is competitive ballroom dancing,[1] as contrasted to social or exhibition dancing. In the case of wheelchair dancesport, at least one of the dancers is in a wheelchair.

An amateur dancesport competition at MIT
Highest governing bodyWDSF and WDC
Mixed genderYes
World Games1997  present

Dancesport events are sanctioned and regulated by dancesport organizations at the national and international level, such as the World DanceSport Federation.

The name was invented to help competitive ballroom dancing gain Olympic recognition.[2] The physical demand of dancesport has been the subject of scientific research.[3][4][5][6]


The first unofficial world championship took place in 1909,[7] and the first formation team[8] was presented in 1932 by Olive Ripman at the Astoria Ballroom, London.[1][9] Dancesport was first broadcast on TV in 1960.[10]


The term dancesport applies to the International Style[11] as well the as American Style of competitive ballroom. It includes the following categories:

  • International Standard
  • International Latin
  • American Smooth
  • American Rhythm

These categories apply to both individual couples and formation dance.

International governing organizations

World Dance Council

The World Dance Council (WDC) is a registered limited company, and the legal successor to the International Council of Ballroom Dancing (ICBD), which was formed in 1950 in Edinburgh.[7] The WDC operates through a general council and two committees:

  • The World Dance Sport Committee regulates professional dancesport at the international level.
  • The World Social Dance Committee "deals with all matters of the dance profession that relate to the activities of Dance Schools and Dance Teachers".[12] It does not regulate social dance directly that is the business of individual organisers, the dance teacher organisations, such as the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, and the chains of dance teaching schools in the United States.

In 2007 the WDC Amateur League was created.[13] This organisation runs a number of competitions and has its own world ranking system for amateur dancers.

Each member country in the WDC has its own national organisation, such as the British Dance Council, which acts as a forum for the many interested parties in that country. The national bodies decide on their delegates to the WDC.

World DanceSport Federation

The World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), formerly the International DanceSport Federation (IDSF), is the international governing body of dancesport, as recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Founded in 1957 as the International Council of Amateur Dancers (ICAD), it took up the name IDSF in 1990. In 2011 it was renamed to WDSF to emphasise the global character of the organization.

In the past, the focus of the IDSF was on administering amateur dancers and competitions. However, in 2010 the IDSF Professional Division was created (formerly known as the IPDSC), which extended this focus to professional dancesport.[10]

WDSF members are not permitted to dance in competitions unless they are granted by the WDSF, or one of its member federations.[14]

  • This policy was revoked in 2012 at the Annual General Meeting by vote of the members. The WDSF now supports an athlete's "right to dance".


There are a wide variety of dance competitions. They range from the well known Blackpool Dance Festival, an event open to all, to competitions conducted exclusively for university students, such as those hosted by the Inter Varsity Dance Association[15] in the UK.

Amateur competitions commonly include events that group dancers by age, experience, or both. For example, events might group young dancers by age, such as: juvenile (<12yrs), junior (12-16yrs), and youth (16-19yrs). Events may sometimes cover a wide range of ages, with groupings such as: under 21yrs, adult, senior I (Over 35yrs), senior II (Over 45yrs), senior III (Over 55yrs, and senior IV (Over 65yrs).

Competitors may also be grouped by experience level, with categories such as Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Pre-Amateur and Amateur. These generally correspond to the number of the dances to be performed in the competition, with Beginners performing one dance, and those at Amateur level performing five. In some competitions these are categorized into grades from A to E, with "A" the equivalent of the Amateur level, and "E" corresponding to the "Beginner" level.

WDSF minimum competition dance area size standard

WDSF governing bodies in different countries have the flexibility to decide on the dance area size for competitions held in the country.

LocationOfficial StandardCompare Square MeterCompare Square Feet
Europe26m x 16m4164478
China23m x 15m3453714
USA60' x 36'2012160
Canada60' x 35'1952100

In December 2011, the WDSF Open and the Australian Nationals were held at the Hisense Arena located within the Olympic park in Melbourne. The floor was at 84 by 37.7 meters which was 7.61 times the size of what WDSF requires.


The World Dance Council (WDC) rules for international competitions are lengthy and detailed.[16] The music for competitions is kept confidential until the event. The music always follows a strict tempo and, for a couples competition, it will have a duration of no less than 90 seconds, and no more than two minutes.

Some elementary competitions are restricted to "basic" steps, but international competitions are open as to choreography, within the limits of the traditional style of the individual dances. Only the Viennese waltz has defined choreography: it is limited to seven well-specified figures. Lifts are not permitted, except for Show Dance titles. The tempo for each dance is defined. In the finals, couples are marked under the skating system and judged by timing, footwork, rise and fall, alignment, direction and floor craft. Competitors must meet World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

Dancesport as an Olympic event

After a long campaign, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), formerly IDSF, was recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the sole representative body for dancesport, on September 5, 1997.[17][18] At that point, many dance organisations changed their titles to incorporate the word sport. This recognition gives the IDSF, potentially, a unique status. The WDSF website shows letters and certificates from the IOC that recognise dancesport as an eligible sport for inclusion pursuant to rule 29 of the Olympic Charter.[19] [20]

On its website, the IDSF gives an upbeat appraisal of the chances of dancesport being included in a future summer Olympic Games.[21] However, dancesport has not been included as an official event at the Olympics since its recognition,[22] and there are many who doubt that it ever will.[23][24] The 2008 Beijing Olympics did not include ballroom dancing and neither did the 2012 London Olympics.[25] However, it was announced in December 2016 that the dancesport discipline of breakdancing would form part of the programme for the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics, with men's, women's and mixed-team events included in a one-on-one battle format.[26]

Physical demands

Over the years, competitive ballroom dancing has evolved so much in its choreography, requiring a higher level of athleticism. Many individuals that spectate or dance socially often underestimate the physical attributes and demands of ballroom dancing. In order to compete at a world level, elite competitive dancers undergo rigorous training to help and enhance their competition performance. These dancers seem to perform at such a high level of energy expenditure that a deeper understanding of these energy demands may help build specific training programs used to sustain a high quality dance performance consistent over a few rounds of a competition.

In 1988, an Australian study was conducted to determine the heart rate and estimated energy expended during ballroom dancing.[27] Professors Blanksby and Reidy of the Department of Human Movement and Recreation Studies at the University of Western had ten competitive ballroom dance couples simulate a dancesport competition, dancing their competitive routines in either the Latin American or Standard division.[27] After administrating all required laboratory tests (in order to record their height, weight, body fat percentage, fat free mass and the resting/maximal heart rate and VO2 values), the couples danced a five-dance final, given a 15 to 20 second break between each dance.[27] Throughout the final their heart rates were telemetered and recorded. The purpose of this study was to estimate the energy requirements from heart rates acquired during competition simulation and previously recorded measures of VO2 and HR.

The average heart rate for male dancers in Standard was 170 beats min−1 and 168 beats min−1 in the Latin American.[27] Females elicited 179 beats min−1 and 177 beats min−1 respectively.[27] Astrand and Rodahl (1977) classify any exercise being extremely heavy if it results in a heart rate above 150 beats min−1.[28] They also classify an exercise as extremely heavy if oxygen consumption is higher than 2.0L min−1.[28] All but the females in the Standard dance sequence didn't exceed an oxygen consumption level of 2.0L min−1.[27] Finally, the energy expenditure for male athletes was estimated to be 54.1 ± 8.1 kJ min−1 for Standard and 54.0± 9.6kJ min−1 in the Latin American dances.[27] For females it was 34.7 ± 3.8 kJ min−1 and 36.1 ± 4.1 kJ min−1 respectively.[27]

Two other similar experiments were conducted exhibiting very similar results and analyses.[29][30] In all three of the experiments, significant differences in the energy expenditure between the male and female athletes were noticed. Generally males had a higher energy expenditure than their female counterparts. This is evident due to the anthropometric differences between the two sexes and the oxygen transport capacity.[29]

Comparing the mean gross energy expenditures (in kJ min−1) between ballroom dancing and other sports, it is evident that competitive dancing is equally as demanding in comparison to other sporting activities such as basketball (35.83 kJ min−1) or cross-country running (44.37kJ min−1) (Consolazioetal,1963),[31] and that ballroom dancing requires a cardiovascular system to be able to work at a high energy level in order to match the given physiological strain.

See also


  1. "History of Dancesport by Dancesport Ireland". Archived from the original on January 6, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  2. McMain, Julie 2006. Glamour addiction: inside the American ballroom dance industry. Weslyan, Middletown CT. p1
  3. Biomechanics of dancesport: a kinematic approach ISSN 0025-7826
  4. Blanksby & Reidy 1988
  5. Dancing as a Sport Article Archived 2011-02-02 at the Wayback Machine
  6. IDSF Research Paper Archived 2009-03-05 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Wainwright, Lyndon [1997]. The story of British popular dance. International Dance Publications, Brighton.
  8. pattern or shadow dancing to a rehearsed routine by groups of couples
  9. Spencer, Frank and Peggy 1968. Come dancing. Allen, London. Chapter 3, p33.
  10. "WDSF History". Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  11. Lomax, Sondra (2000-09-22). "Sweeping a dance floor near you". Austin American-Statesman. p. F1.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2009-10-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. "To All Competitors, Coaches/Trainers". World Dance Council - Amateur League. Archived from the original on 2010-12-19. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  14. "Code of Conduct and Standards of Ethics". Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  15. "UK University Dancesport website". Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  16. World Dance Council
  17. Long, Daniel 1999. Qualifying for Olympic status: the process and implications for competitive ballroom dance. Master's thesis, Brigham Young University.
  18. ISDF
  19. "Official Letter from Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch". Archived from the original on 2010-10-13. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  20. "Official IOC Certificate". Archived from the original on 2010-06-26. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  21. "IOC: Green Light for DanceSport" (PDF). International DanceSport Federation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-10-17.
  22. "International DanceSport Federation". - Official website of the Olympic Movement. 2018-12-20.
  23. McMain, Julie 2006. Glamour addiction: inside the American ballroom dance industry. Weslyan, Middletown CT. p101 note 2.
  24. Hanley, Elizabeth A. 2000. A perennial dilemma: artistic sports in the Olympic Games. Journal of Olympic History p3946.
  25. "Olympic Sports London 2012". Official site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Archived from the original on 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
  26. "Three new sports to join Buenos Aires 2018 YOG programme". - Official website of the Olympic Movement. 2017-01-25. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  27. Blanksby, B. A.; Reidy, P. W. (June 1988). "Heart rate and estimated energy expenditure during ballroom dancing". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 22 (2): 57–60. doi:10.1136/bjsm.22.2.57. PMC 1478556. PMID 3167503.
  28. Astrand, P.-O. and Rodahl, K. (1977). "Textbook of Work Physiology. McGraw-HilBookCo". Missing or empty |url= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. Massidda, M.; Cugusi, L; Ibba, M; Tradori, I; Calò, C.M. (Dec 2011). "Energy expenditure during competitive Latin American dancing simulation". Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 26 (4): 206–10. PMID 22211197.
  30. Jensen, K.J., Jørgensen, S. J., Johansen, L.J. (2001) (2002). "Heart Rate and Blood Lactate Concentration during Ballroom Dancing". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 34 (5): 34. doi:10.1097/00005768-200205001-01732.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  31. Consolazio, C.,Johnson, R. and Pecora, L., (1963). "Physiological Measurement of Metabolic Functions in Man. McGraw-Hill BookCo". Missing or empty |url= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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