• Choreography (prelims Saturday afternoon, finals during Saturday evening dance)
  • Advanced Mix & Match (prelims Saturday at 4:40pm, finals during Saturday late night dance)
  • Open Mix & Match (prelims Saturday at 4:40pm, finals during Saturday late night dance)

Detailed information, including judging criteria and need-to-know information for competitors is below.

Rewards for competition winners are provided by some of our sponsors.

Choreography Competition

So you’re interested in participating in the Choreography Competition? That’s pretty sweet!

Our choreography competition pairs nicely with our choreography workshop track. Neither is required.

Whether you are a choreographer, a dancer in a choreography, or both, please take a few minutes to read our guidelines.

Competition Format

Prelims: Prelims will take place during the day on Saturday, and will include feedback from a panel of judges as in past years. All of the judging criteria below will be considered for what choreographies advance to finals, with Blues Aesthetic carrying the most weight. Please note that no matter how wonderful your choreography and performance are, you will not advance to finals without Blues Aesthetic.

Finals: Finals will take place during the Saturday evening dance. For placements, judges will consider performance and choreography separately, possibly awarding different prizes in each category.

Sunday Night Showcase: Pieces that are not selected for finals, but that the judges would like to be seen by a wider audience, may be invited to perform in our Sunday Night Showcase. No prizes will be awarded for participation in the showcase. This is an opportunity for attendees to show appreciation for all the hard work choreographers and performers put into their submissions.

Judging Criteria

For the past two years we have asked our judges to look at both performance quality and choreography quality. Judges may choose separate winners in each of these categories, or both may be awarded to the same piece.

Blues Aesthetic: We look for the things that all of the blues dances have in common- grounding, pulses, athletic posture, and timing related to the music. We also look for you to display the aesthetic of cool* and ephebism**.

* combination of composure with vitality

** youthfulness, power, vitality, flexibility, drive and attack

For the purposes of the choreography competition, we also require that the song be a blues song.

For Choreography…

Interest: Does the choreography draw the viewer in? Does it have unexpected or surprising elements that affect the viewer? Emotional effect (surprise, delight, sadness, etc.), contrast, nuance, complexity all fit in this category. We also look for intentional use of space (blocking)- do you move or not move with intention? Does the choreography make intentional use of unison, harmony, contrast, discord, and lag between dancers?

Development: We look for a change or a development over the course of a choreography. This can be in the form of a story, in the form of movement ideas that change or repeat, or in the form of characters that experience an emotional journey. We look for there to be change, while the piece as a whole feels cohesive.

Music: Does the choreography not only make sense to the song, but does it seem inextricably linked to the song? Does it capture the spirit of the song? Are there rhythmic elements, textures, etc. that seem inspired by the music? Does the choreography acknowledge the musical structure and phrasing? If there are lyrics, does the choreography make sense to the lyrics? If there is no audible music, can the audience see the implied music? Does the dancing contribute to the music, rather than just borrowing?

Choreographers, please note: When dealing with culturally loaded content, please make sure that it is provided with appropriate context and execution. If you are in any doubt, please contact one of the weekend instructors.

For Performance…

Movement Quality: Rhythms executed cleanly and clearly. Movements are well integrated within your whole body and the ground. Textural elements such as sharpness and softness look intentional.

Performative Elements: Are your emotional elements clear? Does the audience know what you are feeling? (Including detached or lack of feeling, if that is the intent) Is it clear if your focus is on yourself, another performer, the audience, the universe, etc.? As an audience member, do I feel engaged by what you are doing, have I “bought into” the performance? Intentional use of unison, harmony, discord, and lag between dancers.

Judging criteria adapted from criteria developed by Ruth Evelyn.


Mix & Match

“Mix & Match” is a format of competition where the competing couples are the result of random matching of leaders and followers. Participants are judged as individuals in preliminary rounds and in randomly assigned partnerships for finals.

You may only enter one M&M, regardless of role (lead/follow) selection.

This year at Sweet Mo our M&M prelims will be a bit different. We are borrowing a page from the book of our friends at Capital Blues, who have designed a neat way to incorporate consent values into the Mix & Match competition!

M&M prelims will now allow competitors to find a new partner themselves, and once the prelims are complete, competitors will have the ability to inform us of anyone they wouldn’t want to dance with for interpersonal reasons. Finalists will be selected as usual, and paired randomly (with the above information deciding any necessary rearranging). Any finalist receiving a majority of refusals will be disqualified and an alternate selected.

Advanced M&M

The Advanced Mix & Match is for anyone who has placed in any of the following competitions:

  • Austin Blues Party BYOP 2015-2018 and Big Damn Social 2016-2018
  • Bambloozled 2015 Strictly and Open/Invitational J&J
  • Blues Geek 2018 Advanced Idiom M&M
  • Blues Muse Invitational (Jill) and Jack Carey comp (J&J) 2015-2017
  • Blues Quake Open Strictly 2015 and 2016
  • BluesSHOUT! All Star and Open Strictlies and M&Ms 2015-2018
  • Mean Old Blues Partner Throw down 2016 and 2017
  • Mile High Blues Strictly 2015-2018, Open J&J 2016, All Star Lead & Follow 2016 and 2017, and Blues Idiom Lead’n’Follow 2018
  • Mo’ Better Blues Open J&J 2017
  • Nocturne Blues Open J&J and Challenge Strictly 2015-2016
  • Rain City Blues All Star J&J 2015-2016, Open Strictly 2015, and All Star Strictly 2016
  • Rose City Blues 2015-2016 J&J, 2015-2017 Strictly
  • Snowbound Blues 2015 All Star J&J, 2016 All Star Strictly, 2017 Expert M&M
  • Steel City Blues Open J&J 2015-2018
  • Sweet Molasses Blues Advanced M&M 2015-2017
  • Winter Blues Invitational J&J 2015-2016 and 2016 Open J&J

If you feel that these qualifiers do not accurately represent your dance level, please contact Sarah Elise to discuss. 

Preliminary rounds will take place Saturday at 4:30pm. Finals will take place during Saturday’s late night dance.

Open Mix & Match

The Open Mix & Match is for anyone not qualified to compete in the Advanced Mix & Match. You may only enter one M&M, regardless of role (lead/follow) selection. Preliminary rounds will take place Saturday at 4:30pm. Finals will take place during Saturday’s late night dance.

Judging Criteria

Mix & Match competitors will be judged in five categories: Blues Aesthetic, Partnership, Musicality, Technique and Movement Quality, and Performance/Creativity.

During Prelims, the most important quality for making finals is blues aesthetic. If you are not dancing blues, or if your blues aesthetic is inconsistent, doing well in the other categories won’t make up for it. We need to see solid blues dancing.

During Finals, the categories will be weighted as follows, in descending order of importance:

Blues Aesthetic: We look for the things that all of the blues dances have in common: grounding, pulses, athletic posture, and timing related to the music. We also look for you to display the aesthetic of cool and ephebism.

aesthetic of cool: combination of composure with vitality.
ephebism: youth, power, vitality, flexibility, drive and attack.

Partnership: You and your partner, dancing together, sharing your own movement and musical expression, working together to create a shared cohesive dance. Is your leading clear? Are you following? Are you having conversations? Call and response, harmony, and unity are all elements that are great to see.

Musicality: If the music were muted for us as the viewer, would we be able to “hear” what you’re dancing to? Does your basic change from song to song? We are interested in your body rhythms, multi-rhythms, polyrhythms, the timing of your axis shifts and your response to the melody.

Technique and Movement Quality: What is your movement quality? How difficult are the elements you use? How integrated is your body movement? Does your grounding carry through to all of your body movement? Do you transmit your movement to your partner?

Performance/Creativity: Do we want to watch you? What is happening with your face, where are you looking? We look for how you engage with the audience, your partner, your surroundings, the music. Do you have stand-out moments? In this category we look for things that elicit a reaction, dancing that makes us clap, say, “Wow!” or laugh out loud.

Judging criteria adapted from criteria developed by Ruth Evelyn.