Ballroom Demystified: What “Dancing with the Stars” Leaves Out…

Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert when it comes to the competitive ballroom dancing.  I do, however, know some baseline things that I think people should be aware should they be interested in ballroom dance.


Big props to my cyber-friend and fellow dancer, Stefanie, for inspiring this post through her most recent post.  In reply to her comment, no I don’t have a Facebook and am rather unwilling as I am already an avid technology junkie that’s trying to get a degree.  Heh, not the best idea for me.  (Ooh!  I rhymed with those two sentences!)  And, feel free to add to my post, like I said in the disclaimer, I only know base-line facts that can help the curious.  I know you’re more experienced than I, so you’ll have a ton of room to maneuver once I’m done.

Before I officially start, let me say that this is not a “let’s-bash-a-popular-reality-show” post.  “Dancing with the Stars” inspired me to take up ballroom at the relatively young age of fifteen.  Hence, I am extremely grateful.  I am unsure as to whether it has declined in quality in respect to accuracy, or has always been doomed from the start.  Here’s what I know: I began watching it way, way back in Season 2 when I was in elementary school.  Looking back, it is my perception that things were more accurate in the show’s fledgling stage.  Feel free to disagree.  (Eee!  Another rhyme!)

Point #1: In competition, there are multiple couples on the floor at a time.

I’m not going to fault DWTS for this one.  After all, the show is primarily focused on the celebrities and their progress (or lack thereof) as a dancer.  So, each star and his/her professional take the floor one at a time so we, as the audience, can scrutinize them easily.  Not to mention that it makes it easier on the judges as well.  So, for those of you that think you’re all on your own on the floor, be not afraid.  There will be other dancers with you.  (Stef, perhaps you can elucidate between open and closed competitions, age groupings, skill groupings, etc?  If you haven’t already, they’d be excellent posts for your topical series, or follow-up post.)

The times you may be dancing solo with your partner would be a show or exhibition of some sort.  Arthur Murray has an annual show where students within the general area from other studios combine to show off their dancing skills as each take the stage.  This year’s theme is Broadway.  My studio, in particular, has what we call “Spotlights” where one student takes the floor with his/her teacher during our weekly social.  Last week, one of Nick’s newer students did a Hustle.  I’ve done a Foxtrot supposedly complete with an “obligatory” around-the-world dip.  Ouch, my back!

Point #2: Two Styles of Dance

In competition, one can choose between American and International style, the differences being geographically obvious.  The names and executions of certain steps, like the basics, may differ.  I dance American style, but I’ve been on cruises where the instructors teach familiar steps with slightly different quirks.  They probably dance International style.  It would be logical to infer that DWTS uses the American style since it is American.  American and International also help divide up what dances you may dance in competition.  That’s pretty much all I know.

Point #3: Scoring and Points

Those paddles are just a simplification of scoring.  I can assure you that scoring is more complex than what is seen on DWTS.  But, since I don’t know the nuances click here.  I bow before those more knowledgeable than I! 😉

Point #4: Technique!

If any of y’all remember the old Len, the one who just seemed harp on and on about something called “technique”.  I remember when I was younger I asked, “What’s that?” First, some etymology, technique derives from the Greek techne, meaning “skill”.  Now, think of technique as itsy-bitsy skills that stack up together to form a larger, more complete picture.  Like, puzzle pieces.  If you’ve read my weekly lesson updates, I may get into some weird nuances of a particular dance.  For example, the “swinging” action of the waltz.  That is a technical aspect of the waltz.  Alas, I’ve only scratched the surface.  Know this: technique never ends.  Never.

Point #5: Latin=Legs, Back, and Hips

I figure this will be my last point, and I know it sounds silly, but this really is crucial to Latin. The three components in the title add up to Cuban Motion, which is really hard to master, even for a woman. Now, watch this:

It looks pretty good from a normal audience’s perspective.  But, let met tell you, when I first saw this my very first thought was, “Where’s your hips, William?”  Samba is almost all hips!  And, this was nearer to the finale, so he had plenty of time to polish up on necessary technical points.  I’m not really disappointed in him.  He did his best.  What really disappointed me were the scores.  Thirty, really?  All I saw were some hips, two butt shimmies, and a whole lot of sex appeal.  I’m not saying that aesthetics doesn’t factor, it does.  But, if this show is to be called “Dancing with the Stars”, it should primarily focus on, I don’t know, dancing!

That’s all I have for you.  Stefanie, my dear, the floor is all yours!

1 thought on “Ballroom Demystified: What “Dancing with the Stars” Leaves Out…

  1. Pingback: Topical Series: Ballroom Demystified (Part Deux) « Dancing With Stefanie

The floor is yours now.

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