The system generally used (but not always) for awarding results for DanceSport events is called the 'Skating System'.
Competitors and supporters of DanceSport events are often confused by the system used to arrive at results. While the rules of the Skating System are logical, they are not straight forward and do require some explanation.
At first glance many make the mistake of assuming that the adjudicator's marks are simply added up somehow, or that the couple with the greatest number of 1st places will be the winner. Part of the confusion comes from the name, 'Skating', and people assume that our DanceSport system is similar to the ice skating scoring that is seen on T.V. This is definitely not the case.
A Short History
To appreciate why the Skating System has been adopted by DanceSport it is necessary to look at why the system was invented in the first place.
The problem that Competition Organisers struggled with in the early 1900's was a way to get results with more than one couple on the floor at the same time and make those results creditable. Of course there are plenty of stories of a single judge standing on a stage with hundreds of couples on the dance floor and that judge picking a winner. This method was not popular then and would not be tolerated today.
If you look at Gymnastics or Ice Skating there is only one competitor (or couple) being assessed at a time. This does allow judges time to allocate a score to various aspects of the competitors performance. In modern day scoring of these types of competitions usually the highest and lowest marks are removed and the remainder used to create an overall score.
The removal of the highest and lowest scores are to help remove the 'human error'. Human error could be as simple as the judge didn't see it, or more abstract as a bias towards a particular style. Nevertheless, Ballroom Dancing in the early 1900's needed a way to score multiple couples performing at the same time whilst removing 'human error'. In essence, obtain a creditable result that everyone was comfortable with.
It is documented that in 1937 a form of the Skating System was used at the British Championship in Blackpool, however the system was not adopted by the Official Board of Ballroom Dancing until January 1, 1947. At this time the system was a set of 10 Rules which are the backbone of the system we use today.
There have been several revisions to the system which were designed to fine tune the results in ways to make the system fair for all. The last of these revisions took place on 25th June 1956 when Rule 11 was added to the existing 10 rules. FYI, Rule 11 is the ultimate tie breaking tool which allows for a count back of adjudicators points over all dances and up until this rule was introduced there were a great many more 'ties' in competitions.
Since 1956 the Skating System has become the standard scoring arrangement for many forms of dance, not just DanceSport.
In 1982 the first computer program to handle the Skating System (DanceScore), was developed and today we use fully automated servers connected by a wireless network to process the rules of the Skating System.