About Coach Erin

Erin is a 17 year veteran dance team coach in Minnesota. A 3 time MADT coach of the year (2009, 2010, 2014) and winner of 2 state championships in high kick with the Cannon Falls Bomber Dance Team. In high school Erin danced for Winona and Apple Valley high schools. Erin is a nationally known blogger, writing for the Radio City Rockettes and a Hollywood movie among other projects. Erin also teaches on a freelance contractor basis for many MN high school teams and can be contacted for date/time availability at mnhsdanceteam@gmail.com


Revised Scoresheet Walk-Thru

The big news on the block this summer is the changes to the scoresheets for next dance season.  If you’ve not gotten a chance to check it out –download your copies:

dt Rule Book – Score Sheet – HK – 2017-19

dt Rule Book – Score Sheet – J – 2017-19

dt Rule Book – Category and Criteria Definitions – 2017-19.


I had the opportunity to follow the process from the early stages to final drafts – and I can’t tell you enough what a great experience that was.  A major change like this isn’t automatically easy.  I went into this thinking that I’d see more than a few ruffled feathers over changes that could be negative for certain teams or a challenge for officials and coaches to adjust to.  But in the end, I can proudly say that the coaches and officials communities really kept open minds and presented a new scoresheet that has tried to consider the outcomes for ALL teams.


I’m going to try to walk us thru the changes, but I caution everyone to take my comments only as my opinion.  Officials ultimately adjudicate this, regardless of my opinion of the interpretations.  I’m going to slant this discussion to fans and dancers, so I suggest coaches and officials consider this as only a supplement to upcoming official trainings.  I will not be presenting the official training slides here at this time – mostly because you should go to a live training!  Be sure to check out MADT or JAM sponsored trainings coming up this summer and fall if you’re a scoresheet user.  I attended a training myself – even though I’d been a part of the creation.  It’s always good to “calibrate” yourself to others.  Check your association calendars for those upcoming dates.


Why Change?

Our previous scoresheet came to be in the early 2000’s era.  After a big move from 5 point scales to 10, we’ve had a few editorial changes and clarification of the points scale as small revisions.  As much as the last change seems like yesterday to me – it’s also been a long hike since then.  The trends of dance, as well as what we fundamentally value and teach have changed.  Safety considerations alone have evolved past us as we’ve shortened dances, implemented progressive training, focused on athletic balance, and on and on.  We had no score data or reporting then.  A significant portion of the coaches and officials working today weren’t back then.  It’s a different world.


As we’ve crept forward, our score packets have started to mean less and less.  My personal frustration was watching officials take time, energy, and pride in their work – and coaches shrugging their shoulders and packing scoresheets unopened into their bags.  I can’t understand what that “5” was for – so why bother.  Video and feedback from friends seemed to be more important to coaching strategy than a score.


Couldn’t we create a scoresheet that had “feedback” in it?

We did try that.  In the past we tried comments and even taped commentary.  Recently, coaches pushed for some kind of notation or comments being allowed to emphasize which of the 70 + descriptors was really the issue.  For a lot of reasons – it wasn’t the most feasible option.  It’s not a judge’s job to tell you how to coach or perform.  But teams wanted a useful tool.  Really, the simplest solution was to make the numbers speak.  Coaches, fans, media members – everyone should see a score and have at least a clue what was going on in the judges box.


Where did this language come from?

When the coaches started to think this thru, we reviewed a large breadth of scoresheets from other states and competitive events. The idea for a secondary description document came from the backside of another state’s scoresheet.  We also saw examples of how competitions decide what belongs in a category together, and what does not.  Much of the language contributed by officials was heavily researched and thought out.  They came to the table with research in hand.  We didn’t have to start at square one when there was so much out there we could draw from and take the “best of”.


Scoresheet Overview:

Compared to the previous scoresheet – things will look both familiar and yet, quite different.  Simpler, cleaner, re-organized categories with a supplement document (Category and Criteria Definitions – or CCD) look sharp and feel different.  Yet, everything on the right half of the paper- the 10 point scale, the “Minnesota Average” concept, and 100 total points in 10 categories remain.  High Kick and Jazz (notice, it’s not called High Kick Precision anymore!) still contain the same category similarities that they did in the past.  I’ve always found it interesting how close the kick and jazz scoresheets really are.  That principal remains in the new revisions.


               Key Overview Changes:
  • Each 10 point category has 3 “descriptors” – and each of those is worth 1/3rd of that score. In the past, how much each item was “weighted” was not defined.
  • All criteria descriptions are considered “as appropriate to team size”. Meaning how many dancers on the floor, not class or roster size.  This is the common sense clause.  Formations for 5 have different practical considerations than a team of 30.  Use what you have, be judged on what you have.
  • Order of Categories: The organization of the sheet changed to help officials render scores (generally) from top to bottom of the page.   Difficulty of skills/kicks moved down into a difficulty bracket, and execution moved to slots 8 and 9.  This was explained to me as execution considers the entire routine and all elements presented, and so you should understand what you have seen at the top of the page, before moving to the bottom of the page.  Funny how simple that was – and yet it had not crossed my mind!  I had personally not thought about re-ordering categories at all.  Now it’s one of my favorite changes.
  • CCD document: There was a lot of discussion on how to make an easy to understand scoresheet.  Easy to officiate.  Easy to interpret for coaches.   Having a secondary document that was the “living” (as in changeable and adjusting to trends over time) with a static scoresheet that kept things simple was the key.


Category 1: Technique of Kicks or Technique of Turns

We start simple with kick or turn technique.  The criteria still allows for choreography choices – there isn’t (and wasn’t before) only one way to turn or kick, but be clear and correct for the body placement chosen.


Key Changes:
  • Turn timing is gone from technique. This one was a tough decision.  There was merit in why timing could be considered technique, but many coaches cited turn timing as not a technique issue – rather it was execution of the routine.  It could even be about a poorly executed transition causing the dancer to start the turns late or have other timing issues related to the choreography preceding the skill.  This was simplified for clarity.


Category 2: Kick Height or Technique of Leaps and Jumps

Kick height still emphasizes the same values as the old scoresheet.  Newcomers to scoring might want to take a second to think about the fact that there’s more to it than “kick high”.  Leaps and jumps require their height, extension, and alignment as before.


Category 3: Creativity of Choreography

Creativity and Visual Effect have split.  Creativity gets its own day in category 3 with a ton of new language.  Musicality, Originality, and Variety will be considered.

Key Changes:
  • Originality doesn’t have to mean “new” exclusively. Just because you’ve seen a dance to “Purple Rain” before doesn’t mean you can’t see a totally fresh take on that.  Just because you have a “new song” doesn’t mean we haven’t seen that recycled dance before.  It works both ways.


Category 4: Visual Effectiveness

I love that this gets its own category.  For something to be “visually effective” doesn’t mean it’s creative.  A beautiful ripple might be “ooh” and “ah” – but it might be recycled, not connected to the music or repeated from earlier.  When these categories were merged – there was a lot of gaming the system.  It seemed like could choose if you wanted to be original, visual, or ignore what suited you.  I see the challenge here with 20 points for doing both categories well.

  Key Changes:
  • Use of levels, directions and planes. Planes was added to give this a 3 dimensional and broader view.  I just like that this moves us off the graph paper and into a larger space.
  • Highlighting: The popularity of solos, features, and groups needed to be addressed. It should enhance the routine visually.  Easier said than done if you’re wanting to feature a certain skill (or lack thereof!).
  • Use of floor: zones of floor space is a new way to describe using the floor. Teams no longer move only in to center to spread out.  Not everything is symmetrical.  Teams should utilize their space (again according to team size).


Category 5: Difficulty of Routine Choreography

A whole new category which defines an area of difficulty that we have always had in our routines, but didn’t reward or explain like this until now.  How you execute your choreography has nothing to do with this.  This is about what you “planned” not how well you did it.  That’s a mindset shift for a lot of us.

  Key Changes:
  • Quality of Movement. All new language here.  Incorporation of types of movement gets us out of the “there is only one way and that way will be sharp”.  Can you be sharp?  Yes!  This one might have room for a lot of options to be used to create intelligent and difficult routines, not just skills.
  • Dynamic choreography. Again, addresses groups and layers with an expectation that these add to the routine.  No solos on 12 people.  It’s a team routine.
  • Distribution of movement. Content and fully realized choreography from beginning to end.


Category 6: Difficulty of Formations and Transitions

A familiar title, but better realized for today’s routines.  Most of these upgrades reflect what teams have been up to for the last 10 years.

Key Changes:
  • I love the emphasis on variety in the scoresheet development conversation.  It’s easy to repeat formations and repeat ways of getting there because it’s comfortable and certain “looks” become routine for a turning or kicking formation.
  • Intricacy, planning and achievement. New conversation here about the pathways needing spacing and planning too – not just the start and stop of a transition.  I think this was one of those “secret” scoresheet items.  You should have been doing that before. Now it’s spelled out more clearly.  I love that it’s there for all to live by.


Category 7: Difficulty of Skills or Difficulty of Kicks

Again, this is in the “what you planned” part of the scoresheet. Not how you did it.  A triple turn is worth the same if you did it perfectly, or it wasn’t the best.  That is a totally new idea for MN.  Frankly, it’s a little scary!  You mean my hot mess turn set is worth the same as if we nailed it?!  Yup.  It’s for clarity folks.  The hard part about saying “doing it right IS hard” comes down to interpreting your scoresheet.  Do I make that turn easier to execute it better? Or is it simply not hard even if we nailed it?  You might see 8’s and 9’s here and a 3 or 4 in execution or technique of said skill.  Fortunately, this give teams something to aim to improve.  Something tangible that is your “worst score”.  Strategy will be important here – what approach will work best for your team?  Teams can answer that question without being tied to the single best scoresheet strategy.  I think we’ll see more than one path to 1st place.  I can’t wait to see that.

Key Changes:
  • Combinations includes “linking styles” – again, a rather hidden line item in the past. You should have been doing that, but now it’s in print
  • Ambidexterity: It’s harder to be on both right and left.  This was implied only in the past
  • Rotation of hips. The language specifically calling this out as difficult is gone.  Most of the conversation around this agreed this is “hard” but perhaps not a quality we want to emphasize exclusively on the scoresheet.  Safety and training evolutions also lead to a desire to de-emphasize that as the only option for kick difficulty.


Category 8: Placement and Control

Familiar category, with a bit of a refresh.  I love that words “awareness” and “articulation” make an appearance.  This helps us explain that “sharp” isn’t the only path to clean placement and control.  Again, notice this has moved from category 4 to allow the scoresheet to flow better for officials.


Category 9: Degree of Accuracy

Only a few highlights here.  Clarification that spacing is not a static quality.  Have spacing when you move, during a transition or just while “dancing around”.  Asymmetry of formations gets a shout out, as it’s a real possibility.


Category 10: Routine Effectiveness

Even something as straightforward as routine effect got a facelift.  Officials were pretty outspoken about wanting a few enhancements to encourage genuine expression and appeal.  Stamina of course will always be a key element here – and a hard earned one at that.

Key Changes:
  • Uniform correctly positioned language is no longer a scoresheet item. As a reporter, I’d never talk about a gymnast’s leotard positioning leading to a score.  This also falls in line with the idea that other rules expectations were removed from the scoresheet.  There were notes on required number of kicks etc. that while supposed to helpful, actually got in the way.  Rules about uniforms, kicks, safety, skills requirements, and deductions still exist.  On the correct forms and procedures.
  • Genuine expression, connection to routine: The goal is to have an authentic connection to the routine, and not just from one dancer who jumps out at us.  This is more versatile for style and expression choices by teams which are more common than ever.


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