Couples register, usually ahead of time, for their events. When they arrive at the event venue, they pick up a schedule and their three digit competitor number, which will be pinned to the leader’s back so that judges may identify the couple. Depending upon the competition and the number of entrants, an event may have none, one, or several qualifying rounds (heats) before the 6 final couples are chosen.
These couples are divided into smaller groups called heats. The first heat of no more than 12 couples is brought onto the floor. The music begins and the competitors have 60 to 90 seconds to dance depending of the dance or the competition. During these 90 seconds there are judges standing around the floor watching all the couples. When the 90 seconds ends, the next heat is brought onto the floor, the song is played again and the process repeats itself until all the heats have danced. A person called the Scrutineer looks at all of the judges’ marks and brings back that number of couples from the group who had the most marks. For example, suppose the judges were instructed to bring back 12 from 18. The scrutineer will recall the 12 couples that received the most judges’ marks to advance to the next round.
The results are often posted in the competitors’ preparation area, usually next to where competitors enter and exit the floor. These 12 couples are now in a new round and the process continues until the final round, in which the top 6 couples are called back for one final round. In this round, the judges rank the couples in each of their dances to determine overall placing. Their scores are added together for each of their dances and a placement of 1-6 is determined.