I would like to know if anyone here knows what the rules for open bronze or silver routines are. I always have my students competing in the close divisions but i was looking into putting some of them in the open. In every competition i have attended i noticed that the open division allows the student to do just about anything to the point that it almost doesn't look like bronze or silver anymore. Any opinions? I would not like to be the teach that has their students doing something that they are not suppose to. A few questions i have.. -Can we use figures that put us both in the same foot? -Can we separate?
The only rules that are practically invigilated in the American style occur in the closed divisions, namely Bronze.
The basic premise is that you should follow one of the many approved American style syllabi, such as Arthur Murray, Fred Astaire, DVIDA, ISTD or Terpsichore. However, there are so many to choose from, and so many people mix and match and make up their own stuff, that most of the time simply using material that appears "Bronze-ish" is enough to pass most invigilators. And the truth is, very few competitions actually hire dedicated invigilators, but instead leave the task to someone who has a bigger job to do (such as the chairman or judges), so only the most blatant violations are noticed.
The "stick to a syllabus" rule is a good one to follow in general. However in bronze you must also take care not to break a certain set of overriding rules (the ones I remember listed below). When a syllabus figure conflicts with a rule, the rule always wins out. So, for example, you can't do a Twinkle the Arthur Murray way, because the NDCA considers it a "continuity" movement, which is limited to silver & above. So you'll have to stick to the more basic closing family of Twinkles.
The bronze rules I remember are:
-- No passing or continuity actions, with a few specific exceptions (e.g. Spin Turn, 6-count Underarm Turn).
-- No same-foot or shadow actions requiring foot fakes.
-- No aerial rondes, developes, or any similar actions involving the pronounced lifting of a foot off of the floor.
-- No consecutive pivots.
-- A maximum of 4 quicks in a row in Foxtrot (e.g. grapevines)
-- Partners must remain connected at all times, with certain notable exceptions (e.g. Chase/Shine in Cha Cha or Mambo)
-- No multiple syncopated spins, consecutive underarm turns, etc.
The closed silver level has no such set of rules as of the writing of this message, other than "stick to a syllabus", which, with all of the options out there, is very vague indeed. Bottom line: Keep it silverish.
For Silver Foxtrot, Waltz and Viennese, I like to think of using most of the same basics from the bronze level, modified for continuity movement. I will also allow for some rudimentary shadow, as long as the movements are fairly basic (e.g. open naturals, closed/open/cross reverses, grapevines, closed or passing changes), with the standard set of entries and exits. I'll add Syncopated Chasses to Waltz, extended sets of Grapevines to Foxtrot, consecutive pivots, multiple underarm turns, and certain simple quick separations/reconnects, such as the Waltz Open Side Lock with Free Spin.
Closed Gold level in American style is by most accounts a paradox. The majority of syllabi tend to be very similar at the lower levels, diverging more and more as you move upward until, at the Gold level, each syllabus is totally unique, being essentially a complex and nonsensical compilation of somebody's random choreography. As a result, Closed Gold is left entirely un-invigilated. This means you can get away with just about anything, and so it's really no different than Open Gold.
As for Open Bronze and Silver, most people agree they are simply an excuse to generate more entries. They do provide a good avenue for lower level dancers to test the open waters before committing to the Gold level. But although you can probably get away with just about anything, I would recommend demonstrating the appropriate elements in each level. For example, in Open Bronze, I might create a routine with an intro in open facing position with some simple choreography, then close it up to show some syllabus bronze material. I would allow occasional open, apart, shadow or side-by-side pieces, but I would keep the foot actions bronze-ish, i.e. closing changes, turns and Twinkles.
I should also mention that I once butted heads with a chairman of judges over this very concept. According to his view, "Open" means dancing one level up; Therefore Open Bronze = Closed Silver, Open Silver = Closed Gold, etc. I find that approach pointless and strange, and I certainly don't see it followed by any pro-am teachers I know, but this was a very highly regarded and omnipresent judge/chairman, so I think it's worth mentioning.
I hope this helps clear up some of your questions. The NDCA approach to the American style syllabus is a very muddy and confusing one, and can be overwhelming for a newer independent pro-am teacher. You'll figure out what's allowed and how far you can "push it" through time and experience. In the meantime, start with the basic rules, and remember that you're always better safe than sorry.
Regards, Jonathan Atkinson www.ballroomdancers.com