TYPES OF COMPETITIONS
When a competition is designated as "Open," this means anyone of any skill level may enter. Despite how unrestricted this may sound, it is uncommon to find dancers competing in an "Open" competition (whether this is a Strictly or not) who have only been dancing for a year or two. Intermediate, advanced, and sometimes even professional level dancers are known to enter the Open competitions. This type of competition is often viewed as the proving ground where lesser-known but ambitious dancers are given an opportunity to 'level-up' or get noticed.
The Strictly portion of the name designates that (at least in the Swing Dance world) the competitors enter with their regular partner. In other words, they aren't randomly paired with a partner.
"MIX & MATCH"
A Mix & Match competition is one in which competitors are randomly paired with other dancers. The purpose of the random pairing is to test the competitors ability to lead and follow.
Sometimes also known as "beginner", competitions at this level are usually open to anyone who has never competed in a Collegiate Shag competition before. The competition usually also includes dancers who have competed but never placed in a newcomer (or "beginner", "amateur") competition.
Dancers at this level have usually been dancing for a year or two. In some cases he/she has been dancing for less than a year. Also, those who enter competitions at this level have typically placed in or won a newcomer (or "beginner", "amateur") level competition. In rarer cases, someone who has been dancing Collegiate Shag for many years (e.g., 3 plus), but who has never entered any Collegiate Shag competitions before may decide to skip the newcomer level and enter at this level due to his/her general experience level with Collegiate Shag.
A Couple of Important Caveats Regarding
'Advanced' and 'Masters' Competitions
in Collegiate Shag Today
It used to be the case that a highly experienced swing dancer who specializes in Lindy Hop or Balboa could, almost without any practice, walk into a Collegiate Shag competition and win against folks who, although not nearly as experienced with swing dancing in general, were dedicated to Collegiate Shag and spent a large portion of their practice time focusing on Shag alone. ...Well, this is becoming less and less common. And it's a good thing. Despite our progress, Shag still has not yet caught up with the other major swing dances. So, when describing what level of skill and/or experience is to be expected in upper-level competition divisions, we have to be particularly careful with Collegiate Shag.
As the last of the three principle swing dances to undergo a resurgence, we have to recognize that, for the time being at least, dancers in any given competition division in Shag may be generally less experienced in their dance of choice (i.e., Shag) than their counterparts in the Lindy Hop and/or Balboa communities. This gap has been narrowing rapidly in the past few years. Nevertheless, the disparity should be pointed out so competitors do not walk into or out of Collegiate Shag competitions with inflated or deflated expectations.
For Collegiate Shag, those entering an Advanced level competition have usually been dancing Shag for at least three years (in other swing dances, it's more in the range of at least five) and have most likely placed and/or won at least one intermediate level Collegiate Shag competition at some point. Dancers who frequent competitions at this level are typically seasoned dance instructors as well, though they are usually not full-time professionals.
There are perhaps only a dozen professionals in the Collegiate Shag community who have the same tenure as their counterparts in the Lindy and Balboa communities. Hence, for Ball of Fire to attempt to host a Masters Division Collegiate Shag competition may strike some as a bold move. Nevertheless, we think it's important to provide a division for those who do not otherwise get many opportunities to compete at his/her appropriate level, even if this means we have to accept a few folks who have only been dancing Shag for about five years (c.p., in Lindy this would be well over a decade). With this in mind, we affirm that competitors at this level have typically been dancing Shag for over five years. And it would also be fitting to expect that they have been teaching Shag for at least three years (c.p., in Lindy this would be at least ten years). The primary expectation we must rely on here is that those in the Masters Division are dancers who perform and/or teach Shag (and possibly other dances) professionally. The majority of these will be folks who teach swing dances full time.