The principal Dance Sport competitions have enough entries to be danced in successive rounds. In larger competitions, such as IDSF World Ranking List Tournaments, couples are organized into heats in each round. Judges are required to select a set percentage of couples to progress to the next round. Couples must dance the required number of dances in each round (five for Standard, five for Latin American, and ten for the Ten-Dance.
The selections of all judges are aggregated and those couples receiving the highest number of "callback" selections are returned to the next round. By contrast, in the Final round where normally six to eight couples compete, each couple is given a numerical ranking from first to last. The aggregate of these rankings from each judge over each dance determines the ultimate placing. The "Skating System" of calculating placing is used by the Scrutinizers in determining the final result.
The music used in a Dance Sport competition is confidential until the competition begins (other than in formation championships), but the tempo and basic rhythm for each dance is defined and the duration of each dance is a minimum of one and a half minutes.
There are strict rules regulating and controlling the style of competition dress.
There are many technique books which define the all of the technical elements of the Dance Sport disciplines. Technical elements are defined for each step in a group, and it is combinations of groups that couples demonstrate in competition. Couples choose their groups "in real time" during the course of a competition, depending on the floor space available and the need to demonstrate floor craft.
Technical elements include timing, footwork, rise and fall, alignments and direction, all of which underpin the impression of the couple acting as a single cohesive unit.