Preparing for your first competition (A guide for new students)

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"Things New Students Should Know to Prepare for a Competition"

by Devorah Kastner

Congrats, you’ve made the commitment to dance in your first Pro-am UCWDC competition! Now what? Here are a few things you should know to better prepare yourself for this exciting new endeavor.

What to pack?

Country events are fun and casual. Bring comfortable clothes for social dancing. Pack a few social dance outfits: jeans, t-shirt, stretchy pants, and extra shirts if you get too sweaty. Don't forget your boots and other dance shoes, as well as extra socks and underwear. You can pack one formal outfit if your comp has a dinner show and you would like to dress up. Also, if you plan to enter in any Jack & Jill contests, you will need a nice outfit (for example: black pants and dress shirt). Make sure you bring antiperspirant/deodorant since you will be close to people. It's fun to purchase an event shirt when you get there and support the event. Also, there are vendors there that sell all kinds of goods and services, from boots and dance shoes to massages.

Of course, you need to pack your competition costuming. Double-check to make sure you have all the pieces of your costume. For gentlemen, these include: hat, boots, shirts, ties, vest, pants, socks, belt, etc. For ladies: bracelets, earrings, hair accessories, pantyhose (I usually like to pack two pairs, just in case one gets snagged), dress, skirt, top, etc. Newcomers don't wear rhinestones, so that makes your life easier and less expensive.


the right hair style and make-up is important. Consider hiring a professional to give you that competition look and book your appointment ahead of time. If you’re a “do-it-yourselfer,” adopt a style that keeps your hair out of your face. After all, everyone wants to see your beautiful smile, plus it makes it much easier for you when spotting on your spins. The hair needs to be super tight, secured with lots of bobby pins! Bring both the open and closed kind of pins. Use a hairnet that matches your hair color if you are doing a bun. Practice your hairstyle ahead of time. You don't want a style that will come loose once you start spinning. My favorite brand of hair spray and gel is called 'Got to Be Glued'. It slicks the hair back like a helmet. I always use a hair dryer to dry the hair spray and that makes it super secure.

Your make-up should be much more extreme than your everyday look. Fake eyelashes are optional. But if you’ve never worn fake lashes before, I recommend getting used to them during some of your lessons. They can mess with your vision unless you grow accustomed to wearing them. Tanning is optional, but you don't need to tan your legs if you wear dark pantyhose or fishnets. You can go to a local spray tan place before you leave for the weekend. Sometimes I purchase a product online called ‘ProTan’ and do the tanning myself. But, here’s a major caveat: spray tanning is a learned skill, so don't wait until right before the comp to practice it.


you still need to consider hair styling, and even some bronzer if you feel comfortable. Men's hair underneath the hat should still look sprayed and combed. Also, make sure your hat fits snugly. In fact, I recommend bringing extra padding or a bandana to put underneath the hat if it is not a perfect fit. You don't want it falling off during your comp!

Pack your cell phone charger and make sure you have plenty of storage on your phone for new pictures and videos. Back up and then delete old videos and music to make space for new memories. I like to download audio books or podcasts for listening to during the flight. I also pack ear plugs and an eye mask to help me sleep better at the hotel. A good night's rest is essential before you compete.

I highly recommend packing non-perishable snacks you enjoy. My go-to faves are apples, protein bars, and nuts. Competition days can be long, and you will need some fast energy during your busy schedule. If I go to a local event I like to bring my Hydro Flask water bottle because it can keep things cold for 24 hours! I don't bother bringing it on the road. Make sure you stay hydrated and drink lots of water during the weekend. Also, make sure to wash your hands often since you will be touching so many different people from different places. Try to avoid rubbing your eyes or touching your face because it is easy to catch a cold while traveling or during a comp.

Go to the competition registration desk with your pro immediately after you check into the hotel. Pick up your number and some safety pins. Get your heat list and double-check for errors. I recommend you sign up to dance in as many heats as possible, in as many age categories as you can. You will never regret dancing too many heats but will always regret not dancing enough.


I highly recommend you purchase a video of your competition dancing. You need to go to the video booth and order this ahead of time. Believe me, it is well worth the money. Aside from the video being a valuable keepsake, it will enable your pro to offer you critiques and help you improve for next time.


Lastly, competition expenses are an investment in yourself. Think of it like a vacation and enjoy the entire experience. Take side trips or extend your stay beyond just the comp. These are cherished memories of a lifetime!

Read our blog on COSTS & COSTUMES to learn more!
About the writer:
Devorah Kastner is a contributing writer for
She has been a professional dance instructor for the past 15 years. Based out of Arizona, she teaches group classes and private lessons in all styles of partner dance. She has built a successful Pro-am business and enjoys sharing her  experience and knowledge to help others get started!

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