Most of opportunities to compete are at those events / weekend workshops just like Swing A Dance Festival. It's a star based system. Meaning? The events tend to hire the most popular teachers/dancers hoping to attract people. So far, it kind of makes sense right? Hold to that thought!
The main way dancers have to get noticed and get gigs is competition. There are very few exceptions to this rule and even instructors that are not competing anymore, like David Rehm, competed at some point to make a name for himself.
I hope you see the conflict of interest coming up?! The people who judge competitions are in position to decide who might become the next sensation. It might sounds harmless, but considering the very limited amount of gigs and the very large amount of great dancers, it's getting more and more messy every year.
Have you never got that feeling that X couple was so awesome that it wasn't even contest, but they end up in 8th place? Most of us, at first don't question that too much. We rely on ''experts'' and assume we were wrong. For those who know me, I will just stick to my motto: ''Awesomeness should be obvious''.
As long as a dancer or a couple is not a threat and relatively know (through group, private classes or simply acquaintances of some good dancers), he will get judged as objectively as swing dancing allows it. When this dancer / couple becomes to point where being on podiums would get them gigs, they suddenly start doing bad and will only get pitiful explanations which don't make sense most of the time.
Most of competitors will put the blame on the judges, but I don't. After all, we put them into a position where their judgement might affect directly their annual paycheck and we know that no one gets rich out of swing dancing. People are people and their actions are as natural as it gets. They form small groups, officially or not, and they are manoeuvring to keep what they have. I'm not saying that every international instructors does that consciously or has a hidden agenda, but seriously what kind of system is that?!
Knowing how the system is doesn't discourage me from competing yet. I like to show what I do matter how bad I get placed sometimes. At least, you will end up, for most serious events, with a nice videos and many cool pictures. However, last weekend made me realized that I need to wait to have something with a partner and stop showing up with random partners in Striclky or in Jack & Jills. It won't help me at all. I will then keep my travelling to a minimum and keep training and keep posting what I do!