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USA Dance Announces New Gender Neutral Policy
for all USA Dance Competitions

The following e-mail announcement was sent from USA Dance’s Central Office to all members on Friday, October 11, 2019:

USA Dance E-mail Letterhead


USA Dance Gender Neutral Announcement

From the USA Dance DanceSport Council

Monday, September 16, 2019

USA Dance plans to make a long overdue change in the coming months – all their sanctioned competitions will be gender neutral. This means that regardless of an athlete’s gender, they are welcome to compete in the role that best suits them, and that traditional and non-traditional couples will compete on the floor together in the same categories. This change will establish USA Dance nationally and internationally as an organization that affords all dancers the equality, dignity, and respect that they deserve.

In September of 2014, the Governing Council approved the addition of what was then termed “same sex” divisions to any USA Dance competitions, including National Qualifying Events (NQEs). It wasn’t widely publicized however, and left to the discretion of individual organizers as to whether to add same-sex categories. A few did but it wasn’t widespread and many people weren’t even aware of this change.

In Summer 2018, the DanceSport Council (DSC) asked for volunteers who would work together to identify and address the necessary changes to make all USA Dance competitions fully integrated. The newly formed committee consisted of amateur and professional dancers of all experience levels and various gender identities. One of their first actions was to adopt the term “gender neutral” over “same sex” in recognition of the fact that a competitive couple might consist of various gender configurations. That term has now been adopted industry-wide as other organizations have followed USA Dance in making similar changes.

One of the highlights for the Gender Neutral Committee (GNC) has been to craft a USA Dance motion to the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) proposing to change the definition of a couple from a “man” and a “woman” to “two athletes” to allow competitors of any gender configuration to compete, and to be able to represent their country at world championships. While the motion process is ongoing with the WDSF, the GNC has been encouraged by the positive feedback on its 12-month rollout plan for gender neutral implementation received from USA Dance administrators and by responses from other WDSF member federations.

Some have questioned the long timeline without considering there are many steps to a thoughtful implementation, to ensure everyone within the organization and the industry understands and accepts this change. Moving forward, the GNC has three primary goals:

1) To craft costuming rules that provide guidance to dancers, while allowing athletes the freedom to express themselves;

2) To establish an adjudicator training session to be held before the 2020-2021 competition season;

3) To work with event organizers so that they can easily make the transition to being fully gender-neutral.

USA Dance is fully committed to the inclusion of all, as members and at events. On behalf of the entire USA Dance organization, the GNC is working to anticipate all of the issues that may come up as USA Dance implements gender neutrality. The GNC recognizes that some dancers may not have felt welcome within the current framework, and welcomes questions and comments from past, current, and prospective USA Dance members regarding the upcoming changes. By giving all voices an opportunity to be heard, USA Dance can make the necessary structural and cultural changes within the organization.


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 Frequently Asked Questions

USA Dance Gender Neutral mission statement:

USA Dance is committed to the full inclusion of all dance athletes regardless of race, color, religion (creed), age, national origin (ancestry), marital status, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. To this end the Gender Neutral Committee (GNC) was formed as a subcommittee of the Dance Sport Council (DSC) to address the necessary changes in the rulebook, competition structure, costuming, language, etc., to support fully-integrated participation of couples of any gender configuration at USA Dance sanctioned competitions.

Why do this in the first place?

Ballroom dancers have always prided themselves on being a friendly, welcoming group. People of all ages, backgrounds, political affiliations and economic levels enjoy social and competitive partner dancing. It shouldn’t be any different based on gender. It is clearly discriminatory that a married couple, who happen to be the same gender, currently aren’t able to compete as partners in a mainstream ballroom dance competition. And given how many more women than men are drawn to ballroom dancing, single women’s opportunities to compete are also being limited by requiring them to dance with a male leader. Integrating gender neutral competitive dancing creates more opportunities for everyone and helps USA Dance grow!

What language to use now?

Going forward, USA Dance competitions will be gender neutral, meaning lead and follow roles will not be dependent on either sex or gender identification. A couple will be defined as a pair of two athletes, with no gender specified. The GNC has removed gendered language from the USA Dance rulebook. Male, female, and non-binary athletes will no longer be confined by the rulebook to a particular role based on (perceived) gender.

Given there are multiple gender configurations that may make up a couple, the term “same-sex” is no longer applicable. Likewise, reference to one or the other member of the couple won’t be by gender but by role, i.e., referring to “the leader” rather than “the gentleman” and “the follower” rather than “the lady”.

Increased inclusivity will mean that more dancers who are transgender, identify as non-binary, or have a different relationship to gender will be present in the organization. Some of these dancers may have specific pronoun preferences, such as “they/them” instead of “he/his or she/hers.” It is appropriate to ask someone for their preferred pronouns, as long as it’s done respectfully.

Will everyone be integrated or will gender neutral couples compete in separate events?

Gender neutral couples will compete in the same divisions alongside traditional couples and be judged on the same criteria. 1) It isn’t feasible for competition organizers to add separate gender neutral categories in each division to an already packed event schedule. 2) Gender neutral couples, like any competitor, want to measure their dance skills and abilities against the best couples at their age and experience levels, no matter the gender configuration. At a fully integrated gender neutral competition, all leaders (and/or followers) in a category will be judged by the same criteria against all other leaders (and/or followers), regardless of gender.

Will there be a designated lead and follow?

For syllabus proficiency levels, the lead and follow are required to be consistent for the entirety of a song, and through all subsequent rounds if the couple is recalled. Partners may switch roles from one event/division to another, however. For example, one partner may lead in Bronze Rumba but follow in Bronze Swing or Silver Rumba. The designated leader will always wear a number affixed to their back.

What will costumes look like?

It has been common practice at “same-sex” ballroom dance events that two men dancing together typically both wear traditional male competition attire appropriate to the event in which they are dancing. Two women dancing together sometimes both wear dresses or the leader may wear pants and a shirt similar to the traditional male competitive costume.

As always, competitors will be required to wear numbers to identify themselves to the judges. Consistent with costuming rules in the Dancesport Rulebook, the competitor in a partnership who identifies as the lead will affix a number to their back between their shoulders and their waist. The exact placement will depend on the construction of the competitor’s costume but the goal is for competitors to maintain visibility of their number at all times on the floor.

The GNC is in the process of revising the Dancesport Rulebook. We are working to develop a consistent policy that is both sensitive to the needs of all competitors and maintains appropriate coverage of intimate areas of the body. We hope that once these rulebook changes are implemented, competitors will feel encouraged to wear a costume that celebrates their identity and is in good taste.

How will dressing rooms be handled?

Organizers will provide a gender neutral dressing room, in addition to a men’s and women’s dressing room. Athletes who are more comfortable changing only in front of others of their same gender can use the traditional dressing rooms and a third will be available for all to use.”

* * * * *


In follow-up correspondence, our Organizing Committee was advised by a member of the USA Dance Gender Neutral Policy Committee:

“The 2020 competitive year is intended to be a “soft rollout” during which gender neutral inclusion is optional for any organizer. Nationals of 2021 will be fully gender inclusive (no separate same-sex categories – traditional and non-traditional couples will all compete together in the same categories, age divisions, etc.) and all competitions going forward from then will be required to adhere to the new rules. Especially given how early in the year your event occurs, there isn’t an expectation that you have to adopt [all of] the new parameters. As an organizer who has already been including same-sex categories, however, you represent someone we hope would take the lead in this …”.

For example, there’s no need to arrange for an extra dressing room at this point, but we hope you will merge the “same-sex” categories into the “traditional” ones in all divisions – amateur, pro/am, teacher/student and professional.”

Accordingly, we have developed the policy of implementing the new USA Dance Gender-Neutral Policy at our February 28-29, 2020 Competition, to the extent explained on the Same Gender Couples – Events & Registration Info page of this website.



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