Compare relative placement to alternate methods

Relative placement is the staple method for tabulating contests in swing dance competitions and we believe it is the most fair, accurate, and reliable measure for determining the results. However, there are other methods. Below we detail the pros and cons of using each method in the finals of a contest, and why, as an organizer, you may or may not want to use these methods.

Relative Placement

In relative placement, judges convert their opinions and raw scores into equal rankings of the competitors. These ranks are then used to determine the moment when a majority of the judges "agree" on a contestant's placement. The contestant to reach majority the fastest places the highest.

Pros:

  • Ties are rare. Since relative placement determines when the judges agree, no tie breakers are needed except in very rare cases.
  • Each judge's scores have equivalent weight. By the judges assigning a rank of 1st through the total number of contestants, no judge's scores outweigh another.
  • No one judge can skew the results. Because the majority is used to determine the placements, outliers are ignored and therefore any outliers due to favoritism or bias are ignored.

Cons:

  • Tabulations need explaining. For people who haven't seen relative placement before, the tabulation results will likely need to be explained.

Straight Average of Rankings

As with relative placement, judges convert their opinions and raw scores into equal rankings of the competitors. An average of these rankings is used to determine the order of placements.

Pros:

  • Easy to understand. Almost everyone understands what an average is.
  • Each judge's scores have equivalent weight. By the judges assigning a rank of 1st through the total number of contestants, no judge's scores outweigh another.
  • Good for use in a track/level placement. If you need to split a large group of attendees into various tracks/levels, this can be a good system.

Cons:

  • Ties are common. Since it's an average of the judge's scores, it can be easy to get ties between two, three, or more competitors. There is also no inherent way within this method to break the ties.
  • One judge can skew the results. If one judge places a competitor very high or very low compared to other judges, that judge's score can significantly "pull" the average up or down. In this method, the outliers can significantly change the results of the contest.

Drop Hi-Lo Average of Rankings

Once again, judges convert their opinions and raw scores into equal rankings of the competitors. For each competitor, the highest and lowest judge scores are removed (i.e. if there are five judges giving scores of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, the highest and lowest are removed leaving three judge scores of 2, 3, and 4). An average of the remaining rankings is used to determine the order of placements.

Pros:

  • Fairly easy to understand. People just need to be shown which judge scores are being dropped.
  • Each judge's scores have equivalent weight. By the judges assigning a rank of 1st through the total number of contestants, no judge's scores outweigh another.
  • Judge are less likely to skew the results. Because the highest and lowest scores are removed, it's likely the outliers due to favoritism or bias are ignored.

Cons:

  • Ties are even more common. Since there will be two less scores in the average, it is even easier to get ties between two, three, or more competitors. There is also no inherent way within this method to break the ties.
  • Two fewer judges. The scores are less robust as two judge scores are removed for every competitor.

Battles

In this method, the contestants are bracketed like a playoffs in most professional sports. Competitors dance one against another with the judges pointing to the winner, who advances to the next round. For example, with four competitors the bracket may be A vs B and C vs D. If B and C win their battles, they move on to the next round B vs C. This is a common method of competition in the house and hip hop community.

Pros:

  • Fun. The winner of each battle is determined immediately.
  • No ties. Since judges are pointing to one or the other, there are no ties to break.
  • Watch more of the best dancers. Since the winners of each battle move to the next round, the better dancers dance the most.

Cons:

  • Need precise number of contestants. Since the battles are two at a time, to allow everyone the same number of potential battles, there should be either 4, 8, 16, or 32 competitors.
  • Long contest time. With eight competitors, it would require three rounds with seven total battles. With 16, it would require four rounds with 15 total battles. And with 32, it would require five rounds with 31 total battles.
  • Can knock out good dancers early. If two of the best dancers are paired early, one of the better dancers will be knocked out early. It's possible the best battle may be in an early, making the final rounds anticlimactic. In sports, teams are generally seeded based on their earlier performance, making it more likely the best teams play towards the end of the playoffs.

Audience Judged

After competitors dance, they are lined up and the audience either cheers or points to the competitor they want to win.

Pros:

  • Fun. The winner is determined immediately.
  • Easy. It doesn't take any prep or tabulating.

Cons:

  • Less-skilled judges. Even if there is a highly-skilled audience, they likely aren't watching the contest with "judges' eyes", but rather just for fun as an audience member. So it's likely their choice will be based on crowd appeal instead of necessarily the best dancing.
  • Popularity contest. Contestants from the city of the event or with a bunch of friends in the audience have a large advantage even if they aren't the better dancers.
  • Hard to determine winner. Cheering can often be difficult to determine the winner, especially with more than two competitors.

Judge Deliberation

When judges are asked to deliberate, they discuss the contest and determine together who places in the contest.

If considering this method, it is highly recommended that you hire judges that are highly-skilled dancers and judges, and also people who are confident in their opinions.

Pros:

  • Easy. It doesn't take any prep or tabulating.
  • Ties are rare. Since judges are deciding the placements, it's not likely to have ties. The exception is when the judges can't decide amongst themselves or all agree that two competitors should tie.

Cons:

  • The strongest ego wins. Inherently within this method, the judges should be stating their opinion on the contest to the other judges. When there is disagreement, they'll need to state their reasoning and work it out with the other judges on who should win/place in the contest. Often this can result in the strongest ego convincing the others on their opinion.
  • Extra judge time. Judges will need to take extra time to discuss and come to an agreement. In cases when they all agree immediately, this may not take much time at all, however if they don't agree, it make take a long time to discuss, which can throw off the schedule of the event.

Average of Raw Scores

In some genres of dance and competitive dance sports, judges will give raw scores which are averaged. For example: figure skating. This method requires rules for what is and is not valued in the performance, otherwise all of the judges will have different scales for their raw scores. In figure skating, routines must include specific criteria such as jumps, spins, and steps. Each element is scored individually to make up their total score.

It is highly recommended that this method not be used in Lindy Hop, Balboa, Shag, Blues, and other swing dances. These dances have not been codified with a "right" and "wrong" way of dancing and we highly recommend not trying to codify them.

Pros:

  • None.

Cons:

  • Hard to understand. As an example, read about the scoring in figure skating.
  • Judge's scores have different weight. Even with a codified system for which to judge from, it's likely the judge's raw scores will vary drastically. Whether they are on a different scale from each other, or a wider range from each other, they will have different weight in an average.
  • One judge can skew the results. If one judge places a competitor very high or very low compared to other judges, that judge's score can significantly "pull" the average up or down. In this method, the outliers can significantly change the results of the contest.
  • Ties are possible. Since it's an average of the judge's scores, it is possible to get ties between two, three, or more competitors. There is also no inherent way within this method to break the ties.