Competition Essentials

by Jodie Tarpo on October 26, 2015

How to get ready to knock 'em dead!

About the author:

Jodie Tarpo transferred to UCSB as a third year. In just two years in a brand new environment, Jodie went on to graduate from UCSB with a degree in communication, and along the way decided to become one of Cotillion’s top Latin & Nightclub dancers. In addition to tearing up dance floors across California, Jodie is also incredibly friendly and supportive. It is for these reasons that she was elected as the club’s 2015-2016 competition team captain. Need a partner? Need advice? Jodie is your go to gal. Here is her advice on what to bring to comp:


The Big Day – Competition Essentials and Prep

Competition day is coming. After all of those hours of practice and dedication that have left you panting and sweating on the practice floor, it’s finally time to give it all you’ve got for the judges! You’ve registered for all your events, you’ve booked your hotel room, and you’ve figured out carpooling arrangements. There seem to be so many details. What do I bring? What do I do once I’m there? It’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of what a day at a competition is all about, and exactly what you need to bring with you in order to set yourself and your partner up for success for a day at comp.

First, let’s check to see if you have the following items:

General Items:

  • Shoes:
    • Competition shoes
    • Street shoes (if you will be wearing tights/nylons/fishnets, remember that you can’t wear flip flops with these)
  • Competition Outfit(s)
    (NOTE: make sure your outfit is appropriate for the level at which you are competing!)
  • Comfortable clothes to wear while not competing
  • UCSB Cotillion shirt/jacket
  • Snacks
  • Water. LOTS OF WATER.
  • The usual packing supplies: Underwear, socks, clothes for the whole weekend, PJ’s, toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving supplies, etc.)
  • DEODORANT (please keep this with you at all costs)
  • Cell phone (and charger)

For Competing Gentlemen:

  • Tie
  • Belt
  • Undershirt (for sweat)
  • Hair Gel (make sure your hair stays! Consider getting a haircut, if necessary)
  • Comb
  • Black socks
  • Chapstick

For Competing Ladies:

  • Bra (what undergarments does your comp outfit allow/require?
    Make sure you feel secure)
  • Shorts/briefs (not skin colored)
  • Hairspray/gel (mousse, etc.)
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair Decoration
  • Pony-tail/hair bands
  • Hair net (bun)
  • Brush/comb
  • Makeup
  • Earrings/jewelry/accessories (Protip: pencil erasers help earrings stay on!)
  • Tights/nylons/fishnets (clear nail polish is great for stopping runs)

Other Items to Consider:

First-aid kit, toe tape, band aids, safety pins, nail clippers, eye drops, Tums, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, and a camera (to take pictures and/or video)

Comp day – Registering and Getting Ready:

You have everything you need; congratulations! Now we just need to make sure you get to the competition site in time to get registered and get ready for your scheduled events. It is essential to look up directions to the venue and parking information BEFORE the day of competition, so that you set up enough time in the morning to wake-up, eat breakfast, and get to the venue with plenty of time before your first event. How long does it take to drive there? How long to park? Do you have to pay for parking?

The first thing you will do when you walk into the venue is register. You will receive a schedule of your events, and the leads from each couple will receive a number to safety pin to the back of their shirts. Leads: do not lose this number! You will need four safety pins to pin the number to your shirt, but it never hurts to grab a couple extra.

There is typically a table or an area sectioned off for each registered school to leave their belongings. This is where you can leave your water, food, duffle bags, and garments. Many of our team members do their hair and make-up in this area. If you don’t have a small mirror, there is usually a plethora of pocket mirrors that you can request from your fellow dance team members to prepare your hair and/or make-up; just be sure to ask politely! In addition to the restroom, some venues will have a locker room where competitors can get ready; sometimes, however, dressing room and mirror space is very limited. Pro tip: get most of your hair and make-up done in the hotel before you leave, and leave the final touches for when you arrive.

What if I don’t know how to do my hair and/or make-up?

If you would like someone to help you with your hair and make-up, there are many options for doing so. You can ask someone on your team to help you. There are also several members of Cotillion who can guarantee a great hairstyle and make-up job for a moderate price. If you are interested in the latter, check out The Glamour Project ( on Facebook. Regardless of who you choose to assist you with your hair and make-up, please be courteous and ask weeks ahead of time. Don’t save this until the last minute!

Warming up: can I just skip this?

NO. Dance sport is just that, a sport. You wouldn’t run onto a soccer field to start a game without any prior warm-up. While it may be a performance, you must remember that dancing is rigorous physical activity that requires your flexibility and muscle endurance to be on point. Stretch, do basic technique exercises, and finish by running a few practice rounds with your partner to speed. You want to be sweating before you walk onto the dance floor with your partner. Please protect your body and avoid injuries by warming-up!

You should be ready to dance (that means checked-in, dressed, warmed up, and ready to go) AT LEAST 30 minutes prior to your scheduled events; some competitions do run early. Also, please take video and pictures of team mates when you are not dancing. You will appreciate it when someone else returns the favor.

Comp rounds – How many times do I have to do this dang choreo?

Depending on the number of competitors and which level you are competing at, you could be dancing your routines anywhere from 1 to even 3 or 4 times – that’s for ONE level, for ONE dance style. For example, at the Bronze level, you could be dancing your Latin samba routine four separate times: first round, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals. Be prepared to be out of breath, muscle-fatigued, and very thirsty. Keep some chap stick close by for dry lips, and a towel to dab at sweat between rounds.

It is extremely important that you know what time your events are. There is usually an on-deck captain calling out numbers to the on-deck site; however, you will not hear him or her if you are not paying attention. Be proactive and know the schedule of events, as well as when you are scheduled to go on.


There are a lot of details that go into a successful day at competition. It is a fantastic experience that can be incredibly frightening at first. I didn’t even think about competing until a year after I joined Cotillion. If you have any questions or concerns about competing, talk to your Cotillion officers immediately! Competing will boost your self-confidence and bring you closer to your fellow dance enthusiasts, it will enhance your dancing significantly, and it will allow you to meet a social, active network of fellow dancers from all over the West Coast. Also, we usually go to Cheesecake Factory after competition, and who doesn’t like Cheesecake Factory?

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