Ask Mr. Rules Book

First Question to our President Bill Fowler

from Vanessa (South Africa)

Vanessa from South Africa has opened the first round of questions to our IDO President Bill Fowler:

Is there a specific reason why there is no trio section in showdance, jazz and modern as there is in the tap sections? It is very difficult to compete with only 3 dancers against 5 or more. 

All rules pertaining to dance disciplines must first pass through the sub-committees of the discipline involved.  When it was decided by the Tap Sub-committee to have a trio division, the subject was brought up at the next Jazz sub-committee meeting and defeated.  There were many reasons, but the main concern was that in tap a trio is very common but not so in Jazz.  There was also the concern that if we adopted trio as a discipline then people would want quads, along with small groups of 5 and 6.  If you feel that a trio division is strongly desired by South African dancers, I suggest you contact the President of the South African Dance Teachers Association, Ms. Beverly Woods, at the following email address:  and have her submit a proposal to the next Jazz sub-committee meeting.  As far as including it in Modern Dance, the subject has never been brought up.

What is the difference between jazz and showdance? Last year was the first time we attended the jazz championships and I felt there wasn’t much difference between the jazz and showdance. The difference seemed very blurred. 

This is an age old question that has been asked many times.  There is a full explanation in our Rules Book, go to: and click Rules.  To define it in a nut shell:  A Jazz Dance must be based on traditional Jazz Dance technique and performed to Contemporary, Jazz or Broadway style music.  The dancers must rely on pure dance and the routine cannot be embellished by using props, acrobatic tricks, nor use lip sync.  Show Dance, may be performed using any of the IDO disciplines, including Jazz, but must have a story, theme, concept, idea or message.  It may be performed to any type music, including Classical, Pop, Country Western, Broadway, etc., and can be embellished by creative costuming, hand props, including stage props, acrobatic tricks and lip sync.

Will there be a possibility of splitting duos into female duos and then male/female duos/ It is very difficult for the females to compete against mixed couples with their lifts etc. 

Although this subject has been brought up many times in the past, it has always been defeated in sub-committee.  The main reason being that by splitting duos to all female, all male, mixed couple and adagio couples, it would add three additional categories to a competition which most organizers would not want to do.  However, it is a very good question and I’m sure it will be brought up again in the future.

We have been attending the Showdance and tap championships for the past 7 years. Last year was the first year that we have been so dismayed by the marking. There was such discrepancies between the judges. Very seldom did they agree on a dancer/s.

Yes, you are quite right and this was noticed by many.  Every now and then, the judges agree completely and then every now and then they completely disagree.  We have to remember that judging Performing Arts is subjective and each judge has to evaluate what they believe to be the best dancing.  Prior to each competition there is a judges’ seminar, which every judge must attend.  During this meeting, all judges are briefed on all aspects of judging and ethical conduct, but in the final outcome, their choice is theirs alone and no one is allowed to influence that decision.

May judges adjudicate a section with their own countries dancing?  

Yes, they can, there is no rule against judging your own country.  However, no judge is allowed to judge their own dancers or dancers from a school or club that they are connected to, nor a dancer/s that they have personally coached or taught six months prior to the competition.  The judge’s integrity is relied upon, and you can be sure that the Chairman of Judges and the Scrutineer, are very vigilant to recognize "home judging," and every case where that is suspect, is reported to the IDO Disciplinary Committee for investigation.  If they are found guilty, may loose their judging license for life.

Thank you, Vanessa, for your questions!