Showing posts with label Ballroom Dancing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ballroom Dancing. Show all posts

Sunday, June 25, 2017

BALLROOM DANCING - The Jive and Samba

The fastest of all the Latin dances would be the Jive.  According to some sources the roots of this dance are in New York's Harlem area, others put the origin of the dance with the Negroes of the southeast United States where it resembled the dances of the Seminole Indians.  Depending on which source you are looking at either the Negroes copied it from the Indians or the Indians copied it from the Negroes.

Jive performed by Charles-Guillaume Schmitt and Elena Salikhova, France
Photo: Wikimedia

The Jive is a face paced, rhythmical dance that was influenced by a number of other dance styles including Boogie, Rock, African American Swing and the Lindyhop.  In the late 1800's the Negroes in the south held Jive competitions where the prize was a cake which is how the dance became known for a while as the Cake Walk.

Unlike the other ballroom dances the Jive doesn't require moving around the dance floor, however, even though it looks like the dancers feet are flying every which way the feet should be directly under the body with the knees always close together.  You'll see the woman being twirled a lot and lots of kicks.  The music that is associated with the Jive is commonly called Ragtime, possibly because the participants dressed up in their finest clothes ("rags") or maybe because of the syncopation of the music giving it a ragged feel.   

Ballroom Dancing - The Samba

When the Samba music plays its party time!  The Samba originated with Brazil's Rio Carnival and is comprised of several different South American dances.  While walking and side steps are the main moves with heavy hitting rhythm and lots of hip action the Samba is the perfect party dance. 

By Ailura  - SAMBA - Photo:  Wikimedia Commons


Slaves imported into Portugal in the 16th century brought along their dances (a few of which are the Catarete, Embolada and the Batuque).  Europeans thought these dances were quite sinful as the dancers were close enough to have their navels touching.  The Batuque was an incredibly popular dance - so much so that at one time it was outlawed.  The Batuque was done in a circle with dance steps resembling those of a Charleston with a solo dancer in the center of the circle.   Down the line carnival steps were added and members of Rio's high society decided that once the dance had been modified to use the closed ballroom position it was then a proper dance. 

Eventually aspects from all these dances and probably others combined emerging as the Samba we know today.  

Some things the judges watch for in a good Samba are steps like the Volta (crossing in front of the body), the Samba Roll (moving the upper body in a circular motion while going through a six step turn), Botafogo (traveling walk that includes a direction change) and dancers who have a good balance of moving and stationary moves.  They will also look for outstretched arms and the distinctive climax of the Samba where the dancers throw their heads back and their arms are splayed out to the side. 



Sunday, May 21, 2017

BALLROOM DANCING - Slow Fox Trot

There are several different theories on the origin of this ballroom dance's name.  The most often told story is that the dance was made popular by a young man named Harry Fox who was a vaudeville comedian with the Ziegfeld Follies.  Another story says that the dance is so named because of the similarity to an equestrian gait that was dubbed the Foxtrot by the military.  It is a gait where unlike a normal trot where the front left and rear right (or front right and rear left) legs are moved at the same time causing a somewhat jerky motion, the Foxtrot has the animal moving each leg one at a time making for a smooth trot that is easier on the animal and the rider.  This trot actually led to the development of a breed of horse known as the Missouri Fox Trotter.   Still a third suggestion is that the dance (in its earlier version) resembled the way a fox walks (with one foot in front of the other leaving a single track).  

Ballroom dance lesson
Ballroom dance lesson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the early fox trot the feet were placed in a single line one in front of the other.  It wasn't until the 1950's that this ballroom dance was revised to have two different dance lines, one for each foot.  Around 1922 the jerking, trotting steps of the dance were exchanged for a more relaxed movement called a Saunter.  By 1927 the jumpiness was gone and the steps were smooth and gliding and the dance was now referred to as a Slow Foxtrot.   

This ballroom dance is composed of walking steps and side steps.  When on a crowded dance floor like in a night club short steps are used.  For ballroom dancing long, smooth, easy gliding steps combine to give the Fox Trot its unhurried appearance.

The Fox Trot is danced with the same type of hold that is used in the standard waltz, with a combination of long slow steps and short lively ones.  The timing of this ballroom dance is of great importance.   The slower steps are done on the heels while the quick steps are done on the toes. 

The Fox Trot can be danced to most any music regardless of whether it is slow or fast.  In the 1920's the Fox Trot was embraced by America's youth.  They loved this ballroom dance, which started out as a bouncy trot-like step that had been incorporated into the vaudeville act of Harry Fox.  The Fox Trot has become one of the most loved ballroom dances to date.  It is also one of the hardest to learn.

There is also what is referred to as an American Smooth style of Fox Trot that differs in as much as the hold can be broken throughout the performance so you will see more open movements and underarm turns.  



Ballroom dancing has undergone many changes and one of the most significant developments was the use of the quick and slow steps of the Fox Trot allowing the dancers more variety than the earlier one and two step dances.   

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Not DANCE?

There are some religious taboos when it comes to dance other than religious reasons why on earth would anyone not want to experience the mind and body renewing energy that results from dancing? Truthfully, not all dancing involves the wearing of pink tutus and many forms of dance are quite masculine in nature so preserving masculinity cannot in any way be an adequate excuse for not dancing.

ballroom dance entertain gentle icon symbol
Ballroom dance entertain gentle icon symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to dance there are many interesting and amazing styles of dance that span the globe. From the weapon dances of old (which are a perfect display of virility and masculinity though not widely practiced today other than in ceremonial dance) to the grace and beauty of ballet or ballroom dancing there is almost certain to be some form of dance that should appeal to almost anyone on the planet. 

Native Americans had an excellent attitude and ideals when it comes to dancing. They danced for almost any reason and let the beat of the drum serve as their guiding spirit. Native Americans danced for worship, for rain, for joy, for grief, and to prepare for war. Their dances were heartfelt and as much a part of their individual natures as it was their tribal identities. Dancing was an essential part of their culture and heritage and is still passed on today though to a much smaller degree. 

While some religions discourage dance, others embrace dance as a form of worship and commitment to their deities. Some encourage dance as an expression of praise. Others dance for the joy of the blessings and bounty of their gods or in submission to their gods. Regardless the fact remains that dance plays a vital role in many of the world's religions. If you are a believer, I can think of few better reasons to dance than to express your beliefs in a physical form.

Some people dance simply because they like music and enjoy watching other people dance. There are all kinds of fun dancing styles that can be practiced alone, as a couple, or as a part of a much larger group. In the United States line dancing and square dancing are excellent ways to dance as part of a larger group as well as many types of competitive dancing and as part of a ballet company or other type of competitive or professional dance company. Couples dancing to some degree includes square dancing but other forms of dance such as ballroom dancing as well. Singles dancing is pretty much reserved to competitive dancing and often requires years of practice in order to perfect. Some people devote their lives to this sort of dancing and still never manage to make their mark on the competitive dancing circuit. 

Dancing for fitness is another wave that seems to be taking the world by storm. There are many ways that this can be done and it is quite effective among those who would otherwise not exercise at all as well as those who simply love to dance. It is getting out of your seat and moving around to the music. Find a nice driving beat, close the curtains, and dance until you can no longer breath. It's a great way to get that much needed exercise while having fun and not even realizing that you are (gasp) exercising. Mind over matter is a great thing. If it doesn't feel like exercise then there is no reason for your body, mind, or spirit to protest, right? 

Dancing is becoming somewhat of a novelty sport around the USA and around the world. Reality television shows such as "Dancing with Stars" and movies such as the one with Richard Gere-Shall We Dance have made ballroom dancing popular and attractive to the average person who would have never considered this form of dance before. With so many wonderful reasons for a person to dance why on earth wouldn't you want to dance? 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Real Men Aren't Afraid Of BALLROOM DANCING

Anybody who still believes the myth that ballroom dancing is for sissies has either been living under a rock or is simply using that as an excuse for their own fears.

Emmitt Smith of Dallas Cowboys fame, and former Superbowl Champion, waltzed away Wednesday night with another winning trophy to place on his mantel, this one the championship Mirror Ball Trophy from ABC's "Dancing with the Stars".

Young couple dancing cha-cha-cha at a junior L...
Young couple dancing cha-cha-cha at a junior Latin dance competition
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
I am so proud of this man for shattering all the stereotypes, and offering a resounding response once and for all to the age old question: what type of man learns ballroom dancing? The answer....a REAL man!

There can surely be no question as to this man's virility, nor his confidence in himself. Not only did he plunge wholeheartedly into unfamiliar waters, but he chose to do it on nationwide television, in front of millions of viewers. How many men (or women, for that matter) have the guts to do that?

I've heard all the whiny excuses for not taking ballroom dancing lessons...I've got two left feet....dancing is for sissies....I don't have time to learn something new....what good does it do to know how to dance, I'll never compete...I'll look stupid....I'm no good at it...I don't like it....it's too expensive...and on and on ad nauseum. It doesn't matter the words they choose, they're all saying basically the same thing..."I lack confidence in myself and I'm scared". How terribly, pathetically sad.

Knowing what I know about ballroom dancing, there simply is no excuse for not learning. I've seen men without legs on the ballroom dance floor. I've watched macho types, geeky types and overweight men move with grace as they executed a beautiful promenade. I've known men who took on odd jobs to pay for continued lessons. I've witnessed men literally dragged into the studio against their will and watched with pride as they developed into, not just great dancers, but one even went on to become a phenomenal instructor. How much they all would have missed if they had let their fears keep them from trying.



There are many things in this world to be afraid of. Ballroom dancing isn't one of them. Don't be afraid to open yourself to new possibilities. The numerous benefits you'll receive may shock you.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Types of BALLROOM DANCING

English: Victor Fung and Anna Mikhed dancing a...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With ballroom dancing growing in popularity, more and more people are choosing to learn how to dance. Until recently, ballroom dancing wasn't an ideal activity for everyone - it was mainly reserved for the older generations and the wealthy. When most people think of ballroom dancing, they tend to think of a gentle trot around the dance floor to slow, acoustic music. However, ballroom dancing involves so much more than a typical slow dance. There are several types of ballroom dancing, so let's take a look at the variations.

Believe it or not, the swing is actually a type of ballroom dance. This light-hearted dance involves concentrated footwork and lifting or twirling your partner. It became popular in the 1920's and was originally invented at the Savoy Ballroom in New York. A spin-off of the Lindy Hop, the swing dance combined fast twirls and steps to the beat of jazz music. Today, the swing dance is still performed in an old-fashioned manner using the exact same techniques developed decades ago.

The jive is a very popular form of ballroom dance that is closely related to the swing. It involves several of the same steps and techniques, but is more fast-paced and involves more movements of the arms rather than the legs and feet. Although considered to be a Latin dance, the jive became very popular in America during the 1950's "rock and roll" era. The basic concept of the jive involves changing the weight from one foot to another and is best performed to classical and upbeat music, such as oldies or jazz.

The paso doble is a Spanish dance that has become a favorite among ballroom dancing. This particular dance probably contains the most meaning and sentimental value among all ballroom dances. In the paso doble, the male represents the bull fighter while the female represents the cape of the matador. The dance is a symbolic representation of the bravery of bull fighters and their ability to tame the wild beast. It is dramatic in nature and the steps are quick, concise, and forceful.

The Rumba is a dance that demonstrates the unique love and attractions between a man and woman. It is based around the concept of a lady's pursuit of the man, with the steps representing the woman's charm. Often, the woman dances around the man and has quick and withdrawn steps, as the man pursues her. This is a Latin-based danced and is considered to be a very sensual performance in ballroom dancing.


The waltz is a dance that originated in Germany in the 17th century and is a familiar favorite among dances in the ballroom. The dance moves are smooth and precise as the couple dances in a side to side motion, usually in a circular pattern. The waltz is a very popular dance in weddings and special events and is considered to be one of the most romantic dances.

Last but not least, the tango is a dance performed which demonstrates the history behind Argentinean cowboys and their dance partners from centuries ago. Often the cowboys would attend night clubs after a day of riding their horses and would not shower, which compelled the women to embrace them in the crook of the cowboy's right arm. This dance hold became a popular dance and soon developed into a favorite in ballroom dance. The dance moves are very sharp with quick head turns.


Friday, April 29, 2016

BALLROOM DANCING - The TANGO

Staccato steps, and sharp head turns set the Tango apart from the Fox Trot and the Waltz.  This dance is extremely sensual and provocative.  In general the hold used by the dancers keeps the couple much closer together than in other dances.

Tango-ballroom-competition
Tango-ballroom-competition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At one time it was said that the Tango was a dance performed between a prostitute and her pimp in the brothels outside Buenos Aires Argentina.   Another explanation for the stance and movements of the dance is that the Argentinean cowboys (Gauchos) would show up at night clubs without the benefit of a shower so when a lady agreed to a dance she would dance in the crook of his right arm keeping her head back.  The knees bent stance of the dance was basically the way the Gauchos naturally walked as a result of wearing chaps that get soaked from the sweat of their horses then harden as they dry.

The Milonga is the forerunner of the Tango.  It also used the same sharp head and shoulder moves and the characteristic sudden stops of the Tango.  The Milonga, early in the 20th century was entertainment meant for the high society of Brazil and it was during that time that the name was changed to the Tango
There is the American Ballroom Tango, the International Ballroom Tango and the Argentinean Tango. 

Unlike the American and International style of Tango the Argentinean Tango is danced in a close embrace utilizing intricate footwork and leg movements.  Because the Argentinean Tango doesn't require a great deal of movement it is well suited for nightclubs and other places with small dance floors.  Unlike the Waltz, the sway and the rise and fall motions are to be avoided at all costs.  The desired movements are very sharp and well defined.

The music for this ballroom dance is usually provided by an orchestra that has a piano, guitar, violin, flute and a bandoneon (an offshoot of a koncertina, which looks a little like a small accordion).  The bandoneon is essential to Tango music.

The Tango has always been a very popular dance with Hollywood moviemakers.  For example Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Tia Carrere danced a sexy, sultry Tango in  True Lies , while Al Pacino showed Gabrielle Anwar the secrets of the Tango in  Scent of a Woman and in a much earlier movie Rudolph Valentino Tangoed in  The four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.



What the judges will be looking for are lots of clipped movements, sharp head turns and stops, staccato actions, knees slightly bent at all times.  They also expect the dancers to project the great emotion the dance needs to convey.

Although the Tango's moves are staccato you don't want your dance to look mechanical, but rather give the impression of feline grace.  The woman should project a haughty attitude while at the same time seeming to meld into the man's body.  Your Tango should be firm and convincing, with catlike flexibility, the moves crisp with clear switches to complete stillness.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

BALLROOM DANCING - Discover the Various Types of Ballroom DANCE MUSIC

Ballroom dance music is as varied and eclectic as the dancing can be itself. Depending upon the types of steps that a dancer is performing, the tunes can be really fast and peppy or slow and melodious. Throughout the course of history, the tunes have been meant to be enjoyed whether the listener is dancing to them or not. Ballroom dance music can be listened to for dancing, as well as for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Big Bay Ballroom - Harbor Hop
Photo  by Port of San Diego 
Slow and fluid music is the choice for dances such as the Waltz or the Viennese Waltz. These tunes are melodious and traditional, with most being classical compositions that were written for Royal entertainment several centuries ago. Composers such as Lanner, Strauss, and Shubert were the original composers of music for the Waltz, which was started in Vienna by the Court of the Hapsburgs. With the creation of the American Waltz in the 1800's, other composers were let into the close Waltz circle. Popular artists such as Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, and even Stevie Wonder are now contributing to the types of tunes that are classified as ballroom dance music.

There are also the types produced exclusively for dances such as the Tango. This type of dancing was long thought to have originated in Argentina, but was actually started in either Spain or Morocco and brought to the Americas by explorers and settlers. In the United States, the Tango was influenced by African American and Creole elements and made popular in the early 1900's by Rudolph Valentino's movies.

Popular Tango artists include Gotan Project, Carlos Di Sarli Strictly Tango, and Victor Hugo Morales. When people are just starting to learn the steps of Tango, a slower tempo in ballroom dance music is definitely recommended. Once they get the steps down, then they can pick the speed up a bit and even add a flourish or dip to make it a little more interesting if they like.


Quick and sultry Latin dancing also requires another form. The Salsa, Rhumba, and even the ChaCha require a totally different beat, rhythm and speed all together. For example, some Latin styles are danced on the up beat of the tune, while others are danced strictly on the down beat. Each Latin style is considered unique and usually requires its own style and tempo to be danced to properly.

Latin dancing is extremely hot right now which means that songs are widely available to choose from. Most are only offered in Spanish; however artists such as Lou Bega sing popular top forty songs in English. No matter what your choice in ballroom dance music, there are several tunes to choose from for every style of dancing.