So I know that I a few years ago, I wrote a very passionate article about the roles of ballroom dance and how in this one aspect of your life, the man is in control with the woman following. Up until we moved to the new dance studio, this was the mantra that my wife and I had been operating under… and in social dancing, this may still be the way to look at it, but in competitive ballroom, all bets are off.
In competitive ballroom dance, the lead and follow transitions from partner to partner throughout the dance. This actually makes sense when you think about it because otherwise the “lead” would be back leading all the time and back leading blind in a number of cases.
The big thing to remember is that ballroom dancing is a partnership where one partner waits for one and another partner then drives through… and vise versa.
The first big challenge with migrating to this new frame of thought is getting your brain to think in these terms. For the longest time, I was taught that I did all of the leading and my partner was simply docile and waiting for my instructions. So allowing your brain to think in more of a “partnership” way is the first step. Then, with learning anything new with ballroom dance, it’s about then getting your body to do what you want it to do. For any of the moves where we’re in open position, this makes sense because there’s an obvious positive and negative connection that guides my path. When we’re in closed position (or in frame), it is more difficult because those signals aren’t quite as clear.
In the end, the main point is when you truly start to train as competitive ballroom dancers, you will dance bigger, different, and rethink everything you though you knew about the sport.
My goodness, where to begin ?!? So as you can see it’s been about 2 years since I’ve posted about ballroom dancing last and so much has changed. So as not to bury the lead, about a year ago, my wife and I decided to leave Arthur Murray. If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you’ll know that this wasn’t a decision taken lightly. At the beginning, Arthur Murray was the exact right place for my initial dance growth. There were just a number of factors that came to play that I’ll discuss here.
Over the year since my last post, my wife and I started to really look into what I will refer to as “REAL” ballroom dance competitions. These are the ones put on by National Dance Council of America (NDCA) and USA Dance. That is not to say that the Arthur Murray Showcases are not real competitions (they are the closest you can get otherwise), but when people refer to winning Dance Competitions or to be a Dance Champion, they really are referring to these dance organizations and success in the respective circuits.
So, with a heavy heart, about a year ago, we decided to leave Arthur Murray for a more local dance studio and found a wonderful instructor that very recently had been competing with his wife in the NDCA circuit. We found this crucial because, in addition to take our dancing to the next level, he also has been guiding us through the dos and don’ts of true competitive ballroom.
In future posts, I will be going into more detail on what the instruction is like and how it’s vastly different than my experience up to now, but I will say that now I feel that we are truly training to be a competitive ballroom couple. There is no social aspect… no forced interaction. We are simply training with a coach who is kicking our ass into shape so that we can achieve our competitive goals.
So what’s on the horizon for us? I would love to get involved with the USA Dance circuit. It is the organization dedicated to amateur couples. We did, however, jump out of the gate with an NDCA comp about a year ago and we’ll be doing that one again this year.
Thing are definitely getting much more interesting …
So at this point in my ballroom dancing journey, I am at a point where (as my instructor puts it), I can either plateau or go to really the next level. That is really a great sentiment and absolutely where I want to go. It’s funny though… where I am, I feel that things are going pretty well. I am proving myself as being one of the better more popular gentlemen in the studio, feel good about how I look when I dance, and confidence is (or was) at an all-time high.
But here we are going to the next level. Now, with Arthur Murray, that next level is progressing from Associate Bronze to Bronze level and Bronze level is no joke! Now, in order to progress, you have to “check out” to the next level. That includes being judged on the major figures in front of a senior instructor. I have been through this a number of times before so that part isn’t a problem, but for some reason, there has emerged something that is very troubling with the Cha Cha for any dancer … musical timing.
Now, you can be one of the worst dancers from a technique perspective. You can simply shuffle your feet… you can have the weakest of frames… you can look down at your feet the whole time… and still do better than the guy with the best form and technique, but can’t stay on time with the music. For the life of me, I don’t know why it is, but I have an idea. So the Cha Cha count goes 1..2..3.. 4 and 1 (Cha Cha Cha)… rinse and repeat. My instructor pointed me to the 1 beat and how I’m cutting it short (not giving it the full beat) and with a fast dance like Cha Cha, it’s very easy to get off time when you cut a beat short.
So here I am… listening to my playlist of Cha Cha music counting out every bloody “1″ I can. If I can’t figure this out, my dance career might be cut short too J.
So in the previous article, Preparing first choreography … What?!?, I describe the process of preparing for the first choreography to be performed at a dance competition as a solo. Well, my wonderful instructor and I did perform this luscious Tango and I do have to say that it was one of the most rewarding (and terrifying) experiences I have encountered in my life. Now you have to understand that it wasn’t the kind of thing that I could mentally prepare all day and then perform. No, this was smack-dab in the middle of all the other dances we were dancing in the competition. So after performing all of our smooth dances (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot) as well as a good number of our rhythm dances, it was time.
I quickly retired to the changing room to put on my very fitted costume. The shirt was official competition style… buttons in the crotch and all. The pants were also competition style where they didn’t hide anything. So then I went back to the ballroom to wait for our time.
Once the time came, I took my position and my instructor took hers. I’ll be honest… once the music started, it’s really all a blur. I do know that I didn’t see any of the audience during it. I was so in character that and into the dance that I could help but have tunnel vision. It must have been good, though. The entire section from our studio were on their feet giving honest applause and recognition. One fellow dancer said that she actually cried. Now, for me it’s not about the awards or accolades. If I can actually move someone with my dancing then I know I’ve won. And now I’m hooked on performing choreography.
Shortly after the competition, I acquired more choreography (this time a Rumba).
Let’s see if I can pull that one off…
OK so it’s been a good while since I’ve been back in here. I promise to post more since there’s so much that’s going on in my world of ballroom dancing. For this post, though, I wanted to discuss a phenomenon that happens to gentlemen that engage in ballroom dancing. So we’ve discussed the social and personal benefits of ballroom dance: better self confidence, better cardiovascular strength, and the sharper mind.
What I’ve noticed over the past few months is another remarkable value with ballroom dance: a chistled male ballroom dancer’s body. You’ve all seen what I’ve talked about. It’s the slender body that has rock-hard muscle. And gentlemen, this body does make women go a bit nuts.
So why does ballroom dance create such a physique? Well, if you think about it, you use muscles you would never ever use otherwise. I’m talking about every aspect of the core. Since it’s your spine that drives moving in ballroom rhythm and it’s the strength and consistency of the frame that drives ballroom smooth, a man’s body starts to strengthen these certain areas and the physique is born.
Then you go one step further. Especially in rhythm dancing, you start to isolate hip action, core and rib action, all while keeping your top line straight. This again works all of those muscles from the 6 pack to the obliques to every muscle in your back.
So gentlemen… as if you didn’t have enough reasons to get into ballroom dance… it will make you look fantastically sexy… and the ladies love that!