The Rules at Children's Dance Competitions

By Kelly MacGregor
To bring home the big trophies, you have to follow the rules.
To bring home the big trophies, you have to follow the rules.

Children’s dance competitions often come with pages and pages of rules. If you are looking for a way to skip that tome, think again, as each competition is unique. Because each competition is its own business entity, you may find differences between them when it comes to age or length restrictions. Even rules of thumb that you have followed for years may not fly for a new competition. If you have never entered the world of competitive dance, however, there are some general rules to start with.

Solo Age

Most competitions divide participants into categories based on age. For instance, there may be an under 9 category, a 10-to-12 category and a 13-to-15 category, to name a few. Larger competitions may even have categories of dancers that are all one age. To avoid confusion, dancers are normally placed based on their age at the beginning of the competition season, which is usually Jan. 1. For example, if your child turned 12 on Jan. 2 of the competition year, she could still compete in the 11-year-old category all year long. Other competitions, however, will want you to register based on your child’s age on the day of competition.

Group Age

In a group of children of mixed ages, competitions usually ask you to take the average of their ages, round up, and register them in that level. For instance, if you had a 5-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old competing in a trio, they would compete in the same category as a troop of all 10-year-olds. Whether you are entering a duet or a group number with 15 kids, averaging the ages of all participants is standard, though some competitions may tell you to drop the decimal while others require you to round up.

Length of Routine

The length of your child’s routine must match or be shorter than the maximum allotted time per dancer at the competition. While this time can vary, if you keep the routine around 2:30 minutes for solos and duets and 3:00 minutes for groups, you should be safe. The Kids Artistic Revue National Dance Competition requires duets and solos be less than 2:45 minutes, while small groups can be 3:00 minutes and large groups can be 4:00 minutes. If your child’s piece goes over this length, the coordinators may stop them mid-routine or the judges may deduct points. Most songs are longer than 2:30 minutes, so be sure to cut or fade the music to the right length and submit it on a CD.


Competitions include limitations to try to even the playing field between dancers. While acrobatic tricks can be a part of dance, they aren’t necessary to win, so most competitions limit you to two or three acrobatic tricks per routine. Solo dancers can usually only register for three solos per competition, and they need to be different styles of dance. For instance, a child could do a tap solo, a hip-hop solo and a ballet solo all in the same day, but she couldn’t perform three different ballet solos. Competitions are usually subdivided by both level and type of dance -- knowingly registering for a lower level or the wrong style for the purpose of winning can disqualify your child.

About the Author

Kelly MacGregor holds bachelor's degrees in news-editorial journalism and ecology/evolutionary biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to writing for the "Colorado Engineer Magazine," the "Boulder Daily Camera" and EdNews Parent, MacGregor's work has been picked up by the "Colorado Daily," EdNews Colorado and the "Denver Post."