Forum: Irish / Irish

politics in judging?
By elm1234
On Sat Jan 16, 2010 05:36 PM

I've always known there was some sort of politics in judging, but I'm just wondering if anyone else has had an experience like mine.

I'm a champ dancer, placing consistently in a very competitive region, usually top five or podium. I went to a feis today in a less competitive region and not only did I not place, many dancers from the school hosting the feis, whom do not normally place, placed!

Has anyone else noticed this at some feiseanna? Sorry to vent, but it's quite frustrating because I know I danced well throughout my rounds...

24 Replies to politics in judging?

re: politics in judging?
By iheartmysetmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Jan 16, 2010 05:52 PM
When I was a novice/prizewinner I went to this feis in So. CA and at that time I was placeing 1, 2, or 3 but at this feis I didn't place in any of my dances. I was confused and (my dance teacher was judging another age group) while she was waiting for her stage she watched me and said that I danced really good. But I guess different judges have different opinions eh?
re: politics in judging? (karma: 6)
By Realtreble
On Sat Jan 16, 2010 05:56 PM
I think before asking this question, you need to ask yourself a few other questions first:

Was I doing new steps which may need more polish?

Did I dance my best today or did I expect an easy competition and relax a little?

Did my competition dance better than they usually do? Were they "on" because of a conveniently located feis?

Were the ADs' comments (if any) valid?

Were the results consistent: were the judges putting more emphasis on one or two certain aspects of dance, such as turn-out, step combinations, rhythm or posture, than the ADs you usually see in your region?

Were the ADs from a different geographic area than the norm you compete for, in other words were they from overseas or from your region (since you normally wouldn't see many ADs from your region).

It wouldn't be surprising for a school to invite ADs whose style preference is similar to the TC's. They are all advocates for a direction they think ID should go. Is your style similar to the sponsoring school's?

I'm assuming you are an OC. You have no more grades to climb. As a champ, you know you are actually competing against yourself; can you dance better in the current competition than you have ever danced before? If you can answer "yes" to that question, be content with the day's competition no matter what the order of finish was. If the answer is "no" then you have work to do and no time to question the ADs' placements.
re: politics in judging?
By StepdancerPremium member
On Sat Jan 16, 2010 09:28 PM
While there are scads of reasons this could have happened, in answer to your specific question, "Has anyone else noticed this?".....yes. My area is extremely political, and everything from stacking the deck to outright cheating is, unfortunately, very common. For example, it's well understood here that certain feiseanna "belong" to a given school. Whatever school "owns" the feis always has a large number of students placing, including plenty of students who normally don't place and students who clearly don't deserve a placement. Depending on what schools we belonged to, we were encouraged to attend specific feiseanna where it was understood that "our" dancers would fare better, and told not to expect too much when we attended another school's feis. It stinks, but that's the way it is.
re: politics in judging?
By PNWIrishdancer
On Wed Jan 20, 2010 05:17 PM
Even though there probably is politics involved somewhat, there just doesn't really seem to be anything that can be done by the dancers to effect it either way. All that can be done is to dance your best on any given day and chalk it up to experience. Who knows what the judges were looking for at this particular feis, your day will come again. Hang in there.
re: politics in judging? (karma: 1)
By ZandBPremium member
On Wed Jan 20, 2010 06:41 PM
I have witnessed extreme swings in results between Feiseanna that, on the surface, may have seemed like the “fix was in”.

Years ago a young dancer placed 1st, 17th, and 1st in three successive competitions against virtually the same group of dancers but at three different Feiseanna in two different regions.

So was the “Fix” in?

Yes and no.

When it comes time to choose the adjudicators for his or her own school Feis, a TCRG is not an idiot.

If you read your history of Irish dance you know there have been “schisms” in the past over acceptance of a specific style or regional variant of Irish dance.

Even today we have variations on a theme in the competitive styles of dance that some schools teach. There are some that teach steps that, although not flashy, or ground breaking tend to have a very disciplined focus on what is often described as “traditional” Irish dance.

There are other schools with teachers that adhere to more aggressive, powerful or innovative styles that constantly seem to be the originator of a new footwork or technique whose dancers always seem to be the trendsetters in new steps as well as wigs and solo dresses.

These are extremes in the Irish Dance “continuum” as most dance schools fall somewhere in between.

If you were the TCRG of a “Traditional” School or the “Innovative” school, who would you hire to adjudicate your Feis?

Do you think the “Pooter Bullard School of Traditional Irish Dance” would hire an adjudicator from a school who espoused the “double scissors reverse bicycle triple slice step?”

No, Pooter would hire an adjudicator who knew a well executed “cross keys” when he saw one.

Ask any dancer. At the age of twelve my daughter could rattle of a list of three or four adjudicators that seemed to score here better than the rest (and three or four adjudicators that seemed hell bent from keeping her off a podium).

So it the fix in?

It’s just a question of knowing that both “Yes” and “No” are correct answers.

Is it politics?

Well if your definition of politics is a process through which groups of people make decisions and the methods used to influence, formulate or apply a policy, then heck yes it is.

But it's kind of how things grow and change...

By the way, the mother of the dancer that finished 1st, 17th and 1st never entered her daughter again in the Feis she finished 17th.

Talk about manipulating placements...
re: politics in judging?
By dancemomtoo
On Wed Jan 20, 2010 09:20 PM
yes, some feises are political-when you see dancers place top 5 at their own feis and that is the ONLY feis they place at at all all year, it is political.
re: politics in judging?
By rosalinde
On Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:40 AM
I've had inconsistent placings (such as getting a perfect score for my Open Slip Jig, and then not placing at all three weeks later when I knew I'd danced just as well, if not even better), but I always put that down to that judge liking or not liking my steps very much (my school has very distinctive steps that judges either love or hate :/ ).

The only real politics I have ever been really angry about is "boy points" in CRN where boys get extra points just because they're boys, so they'll keep dancing (a judge explained that away -- or tried to, I didn't buy it -- because CRN girls have no future in big shows, but guys may get in, and CRN wants to keep the boys dancing. I was furious, this was a competition, not an audition! And it was just a local feis, there sure as heck were no Riverdance scouts there! Bah.)
re: politics in judging?
By mwilkinsmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Jan 21, 2010 08:05 AM
It sucks but in any art form or sport that has an artistic performance you will have politics in the judging. You can never be absolutely sure if it's happening or not.
re: politics in judging? (karma: 3)
By AinetheDragonPremium member
On Thu Jan 21, 2010 08:54 AM
Edited by AinetheDragon (31257) on 2010-01-21 08:57:56
Yes, I have seen results that follow patterns like this.

Its already been mentioned that teachers choose judges for their own feis who will approve of their style. Think about it, after many years of watching results from many competitions and looking at how their students place, they are bound to know which judges tend to place their dancers higher. I already know of one or two who have contributed more favorable scores to dancers from my school more then once, and I hardly pay attention to the judges at all. Every once in a while when people are talking about scores, someone will say "oh, so and so gave me xx place and all the other scores were better" and someone else will say "yeah, so and so gave me low places too!" and then someone will say "I always do bad with so and so". Now, you can bet that judge isn't gonna be on the invite list to judge our schools feis. Who would choose someone they knew looked disfavorably on their own students?

Then theres also the home court advantage. If you traveled out of region, you're probably used to dancing against those dancers when they are out of region. They may not perform as well having had a long drive/flight, slept in an unfamiliar bed etc. You are now the one with those disadvantages, and even if you feel you did well, its hard to tell from the inside how it looked on the outside. They also may be more prepared for their own schools feis, because people tend to put a little more effort in that direction, out of school pride and spirit. Teachers tend to focus their class on certain events and the local feis, or their school hosted feis is one of them. At another feis, they may be in the middle of a process that is designed for maximum performance later, and may have some rough bits that are still being worked out.

One thing to remember before you fuss about politics at another schools feis.... Is their winning the result of politics, or is their not winning at other times the result of the same? The thing is, Irish Dance is judged extremely subjectively, without even a firm standard rubric or codified rules of technique to back up the judges decision. Because of that, it becomes impossible to say if a score was a tribute to a personal preference of style and technique, or a tribute to the feis organizer, or a personal relationship between colleagues. Better to give the benefit of the doubt, and understand that in the overall scheme of things, these results balance out over time. You may not do well at a certain schools feis, but maybe at another feis you will have the favorable conditions and do better.

One last thing to add.... On any given feis day, if all the stars are aligned, and all the judges look at all the right spots in my dance, and all the right dancers have bad days, and all the wrong dancers have good days, and the judge in the middle sips her coffee at the right moment, and the one on the left does not have a hangover..... well, anyone else could still win. There are too many factors to take the results of one competition as a true representation of how well anyone can, has, or will be able to dance.
re: politics in judging?
By KnotworkMolltPremium member
On Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:29 AM
I can't recall a more brilliant discussion of any issue in ID than this! Speaking as a teacher who hires adjudicators for the feis our school manages, I'm sure I speak for others when I say that adjudicators I like and try to hire tend to be those who like the same styles I do. I hope it's not a deliberate slant, aimed at improving my students' results (and I don't think the results would support that) but it's inevitable that the people you're friendliest with are going to be those who are the most like you. (It's funny that one of my best dancers claims that one of my favorite adjudicators doesn't like her and never scores her well. I've never noticed that the adjudicator in question has ever scored the dancer unfairly, just according to her criteria, which tend to notice the flaws in the dancer's style.)
re: politics in judging?
By jiggymommamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Jan 21, 2010 07:34 PM
I agree- I think rather than politics in most cases, it is just individual judge preferences. My dd definitely knows the judges that seem to like her best- they always score her well in a variety of different settings. I would say she is not a "known" dancer, so it is her style they like. There are other judges who consistently score her low. I have saved all of my dd's results. Interesting enough, there are several judges who did not seem to like my dd's style early on, but appeared to like her later. Of course, a lot of hard work was also involved.

At majors, I am at times blown away by the variety of placings my dd receives. At Oireachtas this year, she received three 9th places, a 21st and a 33rd. While the 33rd place really knocked her down in the placings, she has also been the beneficiary of one or two judges placing her higher than the rest. I guess it all works out in the end somehow. :)
re: politics in judging?
By KnotworkMolltPremium member
On Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:17 AM
The results that Jiggymomma cites are all too common, not only at majors but feiseanna. At the last feis in our state, there was one adjudicator whose results were so out of whack with her colleges judging champs that you wondered whether she was watching the same dancers, had gotten off a line on her score sheet, or what. I would predict that she won't be back at that feis, regardless of any other factor, just because she's a loose cannon, score-wise. Maybe, in a different mix of adjudicators, she'd have results more consistent with the others and might be a favorite at those feiseanna.
re: politics in judging?
On Fri Jan 22, 2010 02:28 AM
Its nice to read a discussion on politics within Irish dancing where not everyone cries foul. All too often when results are discussed on message boards too many people are only too happy to pull down the dancers who have won.
Our dance school runs a feis and when the teachers ask judges to adjudicate they ask people with whom they think they will be able to get on with. They also like to try and void asking differnt judges who can't stand each other as that can lead to a lot of tension over what can be a very long and stressful weekend. In to this mix they will also try and ask a newly qualified judge if possible. There are also rules as to how often a judge can judge in our region and this can limit the choice of judges.
As a parent I also know which judges in the past have seemed to have liked or disliked my daughter dancing. Whilst I will always give a judge who did not score my daughter highly a second chance and go to a feis that they may judge at, if I find a judge is constantly marking my daghter low I then will normally choose not to dance my daughter at a feis that the judge is booked for. I do this as it can undermine her confidence to continually be marked down by the same judge all the time. If the judge is booked for a major, this can be unavoidable.
I too think that things balance out in the end. Sometimes my daughter is marked lower than I think she deserves, sometimes higher. She enjoys her dancing and the whole feis scene. Meeting and socialising with her many friends from all over the world, whom she now keeps in touch with by facebook.
Whilst I am not naive I believe that most of the time the dancers who are on the podium spots are the ones who most deserve to be there, sometimes not in the exact order that I would have thought. Dancing I believe is not as corrupt as some people would have us believe and there are many nice people in the Irish dance world, dancers. parents and teachers alike. Both my daughter and I look forward to many more years in Irish dancing and continuing to make new friends and renew old friendships.
re: politics in judging?
By ID_Addict
On Fri Jan 22, 2010 04:46 AM
I think that we all have to acknowledge the fact that there is going to be a certain amount of politics in any sport or dance form. I'm not saying I don't get frustrated when the judges score unfairly, and believe me I've been on the receiving end of a lot of that, but in my mind the politics is part of the packege.
I sometimes like to think of politics in Irish Dance as being that lousy horrid 2nd step of my treble jig. I love my treble jig to bits...except for that godawful 2nd step which I still can't get right! So what I'm trying to say with tis metaphor is that some judges are going to like your style and others aren't, no matter how good you are.
And just because I feel like ranting now: I was oncce dancing at this feis that I usually did really well at and I was doing my reel on the centre stage while there was another dancer also doing reel but on the next stage. (there were 3 stages and 3 judges. Each judge was supposed to be watching a different stage). So the guy dancing on the other stage was in a different section to me (we weren't up against each other) and he was one of the "known" dancers. So here I am dancing my heart out and doing a pretty darn good reel and while I'm dancing I notice that the judge who was supposed to be judging my section was actually watching the guy dancing in the other section and not paying any attention to me!! At first I thought the judge had probably just glanced over for a peek, but when I got off stage my TC and some of my friends told me that 'my' judge had been watching the other stage the WHOLE TIME!

Anyway, rant over. =)
I guess politics is just one of those things that you can't get away from coz it affects you if you're a "top" dancer and even if you're not one of the "top" dancers
re: politics in judging?
By SHOCKNESSYmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Jan 24, 2010 01:58 PM
Edited by SHOCKNESSY (202979) on 2010-01-24 14:00:29 A few misspellings , I should really re-read posts before i publish
I don't want to get into this too much and get given out too or critised or whatever ,
But I've witnessed many instances where politics in my opinion are in play
For example in a competition I attended a while ago
In two different age groups ,
The world champion of the groups both won they're ago group and the two dancers on stage with them got placed last and second last in a group of 80 or so , when would of the said dancers who got placed last and second last a few weeks later went on to get second in her regionals and qualify for the worlds ,
So it's not like she's a bad dancer
I dont think this is any coinicidence

I don't know if this would count as politicial judging or favoritism among the top dancers ,
But I really don't think it's fair
It's not the first time I've witnessed this
And unfortunately will probably not be the last
re: politics in judging?
By obsesseddancer14
On Sun Jan 24, 2010 02:41 PM
^ I wouldn't call that politics, it's not as if the judges were intentionally sabotaging the other dancers. If you're dancing with a world champion, you won't get watched as much and when you are watched you won't look as good in comparison. That's just how it works. Of course, the judges should make an effort to watch the other dancer, but lets remember that judges are human too. It's natural for their eyes to be drawn to the world champion. It's unfortunate for the other dancers, but hey, sometimes that happens. It's life.
re: politics in judging?
By angelfish10member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Jan 24, 2010 02:44 PM
^ I agree. There might have been some politics involved, but in the end those girls had the misfortune to compete for attention with world champions. And really, who's performance are you going to remember more? The world champ, or the girl dancing with her? Unfortunately, that's pretty much luck of the draw.
re: politics in judging?
By dancemomtoo
On Sun Jan 24, 2010 03:16 PM
Its not a question of remembering-they are to score them after they dance and before the next pair goes. Its more a question of paying attention and sadly, and wrongly, a good dancer can be completely overlooked when dancing with one of the top dancers. This does not always happen though-mamy ADs are able to watch both and judge well.

I think Ads style preferences count for a lot. I think they explain some of the range in majors-as long as the errrant placement is within 50 of the next closest, I am willing to put it down to preferences.

Ist once you have on judge place the dancer 80 placements lower than the other 5 that I start to think politics.

And if it is 80 placements Higher than the other 5 I start to think error.
For example-at our O we had 116 competitors in our group. One dancer received 5 placements of 110-116, and the 6th placement was a 24th place (she danced with a very good dancer who also 'received' a 24 from that judge). Now, I will go to my grave believing that that 24th place (which due to Irish points put her into the recall) was a tabulation error, not a manifestation of style preference.

My dd has had one AD judged her 4 times over the past two years at local feises. Ech time the Ad placed her near the bottom while the other 2 placed her in top 5 -out of 20-24 dancers. I do not think it was a question of politics bc my dd is only a pc dancer and why would the AD even care? And my dd's lower placing did not give the host school high placings-they did not even have anyone in the comp! It is frustrating though bc she does not leave a comment for dd to know what to work on!

However, as I noted earlier in this thread, we have also attended a feis where politics have come into play IMHO. We do a lot of feises 11-15 a year and know my dd's competitors. We know which ones NEVER place and who is usually at the bottom if full results are shown. When two of the host school dancers end up at the top, their only placements for the entire year, I feel there is a very good chance it is political. This is the third year we have had that experience at this feis (and almost every other age group had similar outcomes)I have to think politics has come into play.

Will we still go to the feis-yes, bc it is local, well run and good practice-thats how we look at it. Would we go if it was not local-no-why spend the time and money.
re: politics in judging?
On Mon Jan 25, 2010 02:08 AM
I can remember a few years back, two current world champions dancing a solo competition on stage together, one male one female. The judge did not take her eyes of the female dancer and in my opinion, missed the male dancer. All 26+ dancers were placed. After about 18 places the rest were highly commended. The female world champion won, the male world champ got a highly comended(despite in my opinion dancing fab and would have been one of my top three).
The solos were seperate from the championship. The male dancer went on to win the championship and the female was second.
Sometimes judges can be blown away by one dancer and forget to look at the other dancer. Should not happen, but judges are human too.
re: politics in judging?
By PlancstaiPremium member
On Mon Jan 25, 2010 04:39 AM
Not every feis out there is political and neither I believe is every judge. Yes, there are unfortunately a number of people who 'play the game' but as has been discussed in depth there are many reasons why certain decisions are reached which defy belief at times. The major area for me of concern is that at a major championship one political score can ruin a dancers chance of winning. I remember an incident at the Worlds a few years back where the defending champion in a girls comp was placed in the top 3 by all the judges except 2 who did not have her in the top 50. Their 1st place was a dancer who had switched schools after winning the title for a previous teacher who decided that 2nd place the following year was not good enough. The defending champion placed 12th as a result and never danced again. OK maybe she would not have won but a top 5 place was a reasonable expectation for anyone who was watching but the drop by the 2 judges was enough to ensure that she had no chance of winning no matter what the other judges did. If you knew the connections you would know that this was a political result and yet nothing was done about it because as long as an ADCRG can justify their result their is nothing that CAN be done. All a judge has to say when questioned was something like 'I did not like her dancing today' and a few other weak excuses and that is the end of the enquiry. If they dropped high and low as they did at UCD Worlds years ago I think a few results would look a bit different.
re: politics in judging?
By allgrownup
On Tue Jan 26, 2010 02:55 PM
I'm not a champ so I can't speak about how it is at that level but when I was in PW as a teenager my TC used to introduce me to the judges and I have a feeling that that swayed them to grade me a little better. However, I always usually placed pretty well so it wasn't out of the ordinary.
It did make me a little uncomfortable though. Sometimes 'politics' are involved but the intention is not malicious. Of course a TC will invite AD's who he/she is close with and they may 'happen' to make them aware of their fave dancers when it's their school's feis.

Fair? Probably not but that's the way the world works I guess.
re: politics in judging?
By Realtreble
On Sun Jan 31, 2010 02:19 PM
allgrownup wrote:

I'm not a champ so I can't speak about how it is at that level but when I was in PW as a teenager my TC used to introduce me to the judges and I have a feeling that that swayed them to grade me a little better. However, I always usually placed pretty well so it wasn't out of the ordinary.
It did make me a little uncomfortable though. Sometimes 'politics' are involved but the intention is not malicious. Of course a TC will invite AD's who he/she is close with and they may 'happen' to make them aware of their fave dancers when it's their school's feis.

Fair? Probably not but that's the way the world works I guess.

You illustrate an interesting vantage point in this discussion. What impact does politics have on the dancer who is on the "receiving" end? I read one other dancer's comments on another thread about being embarrassed by her placement. Her mother commented, "I know you shouldn't have gotten the podium today, but this makes up for the days you should have been there and weren't." Inaccurate placements are corrosive to the souls, attitudes and affection for dance in dancers on both sides of this issue.
re: politics in judging?
By FeisDadAndre
On Tue Feb 02, 2010 01:48 PM
While reading the responses in this thread (which are very interesting) I got to thinking of the issue of judging from the point of view of statistical analysis. You see, when doing statistics on a problem, finding an answer like a mean value (i.e., an average) is easy; being able to explain the variability of the data around that mean value is the hard part.

Here's an example of what I mean: think of all the people in your class, or your workplace, and what their mean (average) height would be. Easy to figure out - measure everyone's height and then dividie the sum total of all heights by the number of people you measured and that will be the average height, as described by a single number. Now try and describe the variation of individual heights around that average value. Not nearly as easy to do.

Then throw in a few different variables, such as a group of Asian people (who are generally smaller in stature) and a group of people from Ethiopia (who are generally taller in stature). Then mix in both men and women, and then different-aged people. As you can see, the more variables you have, the harder it is to determine just exactly which variable is having the greatest influence on the final answer. And in many cases, it's not just that one variable but the interplay of two or more variables acting together which determines the outcome.

So it seems with judging in ID. Consider all the variables the respndents on this thread have mentioned so far: traditional vs. innovative steps; knowing the AD's vs. never having met them before; local feis vs. distant feis; your school's feis vs. another school's feis; judges who get along with each other vs. those judges who can't stand each other; judges who concentrate on one dancer vs. those who give equal eye-time to every dancer; and on and on.

So the end result is that while politics no doubt plays a part in any competition which is judged, the number of variables which each contribute to a dancer's score may be so complex and convoluted that it really is impossible to point to any one thing as being resposible for their placing.

Anyway, it's something to ponder at your next feis. :)

PS. Actually, there is one single thing that can contribute to a low score that I saw at a recent feis: going into a powerful and graceful leap, with beautiful form and terrific hang-time... right off the stage. Thankfully, the dancer was OK but that pretty much put her in last place.
re: politics in judging?
By zippysmom
On Tue Feb 02, 2010 02:27 PM
What I've noticed over the years is that it isn't so much politics as style preferences. I'm a tall girl (5'8") and have a very athletic style. My legs are very muscly and my calves are massive. I have a real hard time "reigning that in" as it were. My slip jigs tend to look like reels and I seem to do much better in the hardshoe rounds. Having said that if I'm before a judge who happens to like "Suzie light shoes" and prefers a more balletic approach then no matter what I do I'm going to have a harder time getting that judge to give me good marks than say the 5'2" tall 100 lbs slip jig dancer. That's just the facts. All you can do is your best and hope that on the day everything falls into place and you are before a panel of judges who like your dancing style. It's a subjective sport and you just have to take the bad with the good.


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