Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ballroom Binoculars


I am having trouble knowing what the judges are looking for in ballroom competitions. Can you help me figure it out?

                                       Peter K."

Oh Peter, we have all been there. People tend to think they know what the judges are looking for, and to be honest, in my happenings, it is different for every judge. Just like different perspectives, judges notice things sometimes other judges dont see in the 4 seconds they decide to call you back. But here are a few things to think about that will catch the judges eyes.

1.  Energy. Energy is something that is rarely taught, and yet somehow expected from dancers. That is something that catch the judges eyes. EXPRESS your emotions anyway you can. I once had a student who was very introverted. She asked me why introverted people need to outwardly express their emotions. I replied with this, "Because dancing is an expression of emotion. You cannot outwardly express the emotion with out feeling it first inside. Likewise, you cannot inwardly express the emotion with out showing it outside for everyone to see. You are a paint brush, and the floor is your canvas." Also something to think about is energy is also shown through your individual style.

2.   Topline or Hip movements. In both styles, even standard and latin, it is important to show your middle body movement. You can show that through swing and sway in your slow dances, and your CBM (contra body movement) hip movements. This is a more obvious sign of a prepared dancer.

3.   Footwork. Feet are so so so so so important! I cannot stress it is imperative to have great feet. Between heel leads, brushing and closing, and foot placement, judges will look. I had a judge once tell me that she looks at their feet before they start to dance. In standard/smooth, if they have a turn out from the get go, she assumes they will keep dancing with the turned out feet, and vice versa. It is imperative to finish lines through the feet.

I can go on and on. Just remember judges will judge from the top-down, which is the opposite on how we learn dance, from the feet-up. It is A- OK to plant yourself right in front of the judge. Some judges you can 'flirt' with or interact with while dancing and get marked up for it. Some wont care. Remember what will set you apart from others. I hope I have given some advice and shown some direction Peter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ballroom Breakdown

"Dear Evelynn,

What is the difference between competitive American Rhythm and International Latin Ballroom?

                                                      Sincerely, Katie F."

What a great topic! Katie, you are not alone. Many people have difficulty deciphering which is which. I broke it down in this picture.

Now, let me get a little more detailed. As you can see Ballroom dancing is separate into two types. International and American. Most social dancing is American, but it is still a competitive area. The Northwest often just competes in international, as well as a few places on the east coast, but for the most part, if you belong to a franchised dance studio, it is most likely American style.

Lets get a little technical...

As you can see, they both share similar dances. Both Latin and Rhythm have Cha Cha and Rumba, but they are danced differently. In fact, the two rumba's are completely different. The Cha Cha's have the same base step..."2,3, Cha Cha Cha" is often heard when dancing the Cha Cha. When dancing in International Latin, Cha Cha is more straight legged and precise, while American Rhythm takes its time, and draws out hip movements to be more fluid. 

International Latin Rumba is very similar in footwork to Cha Cha. People often refer to it as the "Cha Cha without the Cha Cha." The basic step is "2,3,4, hold one." Although American Rumba is danced on the "one, hold 2, go 3, 4". This music is usually slower and romantic. The feel of the two are the same as far as attitude wise. A Rumba is a Rumba.... Bolero is very similar to the two Rumba's as well. I call it the love child of American and Latin. It is a good mix of the two. It is danced in the same pattern in footwork as Latin Rumba, but to Rhythm timing. 

Swing and Jive are very similar with the same basic step. It is a matter of how it is danced (do you see a pattern yet?) that determines which is which. Jive is also much faster music. It also has the "paint can" effect; meaning that it looks like they are dipping just their big toe into a paint can. Jive is more "upity" with more kicks and flicks and something called "kick ball change", while swing is more lindy styled, down into the floor. Almost anything danced in Swing can be interpreted into Jive, but because of the speeds and the manner of dance, it would be hard.

OVERALL, International is sharper and generally has faster BPM when competed. American is slower, making more time to draw out hip placements. If your having a hard time telling which is which, just look at what the dances are. If they are dancing a Samba, it is Latin. If they are dancing a Mambo or Bolero, it is Rhythm.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blogs...Who da'thunk?

Blogs are now taking over social media. I for one, think that it is a great idea to let everyone be heard. I am a huge believer that we can learn from each other, and every one has something to bring to the table. The main objective with this blog, is to answer any questions that you might have about social or competitive ballroom dancing.

The other day, I was sitting at a competition, when I overheard many "dance moms" complaining about how their child didn't get into a semi-final. After further observation, I could see why their child didn't. At that point, I wanted to develop something to help people understand how this world works.

This is my goal. Please feel free to write in, and I will try to explain to my best ability...WHY. You dont understand why your favorite couple got kicked off of "Dancing with the Stars"? Write in! You dont understand what judges look for in a certain category  Write in! You dont understand what the difference between social and competitive ballroom dancing is? Write in! You get the gist.

I pledge to help people understand, from an insiders look.