Thoughts on Objective Judging, by Fred Bijster

By Fred Bijster

Dancers train and practise to increase their skills with only one goal: to install the basic abilities to create a moment of magic, an atmosphere, a story. A performance that touches everybody who sees it and arouses compassion and emotion. Those performances will linger in the minds of everyone for ever and ever.

Those performances will add to the dances and contribute to their developments. The skills are rather objective, although even that could be argued. Compassion, emotion, atmosphere and magic for sure are subjective terms and issues.

To limit the judging of any performance to the objective and (by definition) rigid elements only would be an insult to the performer and disallow development in dancing. Apart from the pure fact that judging is done by means of our senses, in itself very subjective instruments to measure anything at all.

A very famous dancer in a lecture once asked his audience what they saw him doing. The unanimous answer was “playing golf”. His answer was: “no, I’m not; I’m just standing here on the dancefloor with my feet apart, slightly bent forward, and swaying my arms.” This just to make you realize that you cannot stop your mind from giving extra values to what your senses present to you.

Any performance that is judged is therefore bound to be partly subjective. The dancers will even contribute to this by enhancing the subjective part. Most people would agree that in rumba the right technique is a must, but will add that they want to see “a man and a woman”(?). It’s not called the dance of love for nothing, isn’t it? Choreography in the dances is also very often based on that principle.

Why would we not allow emotions and feelings, the atmosphere created or the story told in our judgement?

Why would we stop there where it becomes interesting? Where the magic starts?

I fully trust the judges with authority and respect that are subjective but have knowledge of the subject matter. Those who have spent a lifetime to deepen their insight in the dances they did or do. I would never like them to stop including that insight, their feelings and emotions. Their knowledge of the dances is a guarantee to only allow elements that are within the character and identity of the dance. And that will safeguard and give direction to further development.

Preferences in judging on nationality, for money or whatever else you can think of, are very often confused with subjective judging, but I would call that simply criminal. It has naught to do with subjectivity. It is calculated.

Competitions that provide judges with knowledge of the subject, people with authority and respect, do not have to worry about the support of competitors for that reason: the judges know the subject matter and should allow the most important part of a performance in their judgement: subjectivity, compassion, feeling and emotion.

Recognize the magic.

What greater compliment for a dancer than to hear from one of your peers: “I was moved by your dancing”. For sure better than when somebody tells you that he loved your footwork on the first step of __________! Let’s save that for the lesson, not for the performance.

Fred Bijster

Response from Michael Herdlitzka
Thanks, especially for differntiating “calculated” from “subjective” judging. “Objectivity” can never be reached as we should know since Heisenberg. That is why in psychology we use the term “agreed inter-subjectivity”, meaning that an agreement must be establsihed about the conditions of measurement. “Obejctive” measurement in technical terms (with existing and affordable equipment) could be achieved also in dancing and spend some credibility to the results, but as Fred mentioned, can only be “part of the game”.

 
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