Ballroom dance has its own unique look and feel. Each style within ballroom does too. If you look carefully at the walk and posture of long-term, high level, dancers who dance exclusively standard, smooth, latin or rhythm, they are distinct from each other, and also do not look quite the same as other types of dancers. The same is true for high level ballet dancers, hip hop dancers, contemporary and argentine tango dancers to name just a few.
Each dance style develops physical strength and flexibility in a slightly different way. Each dance has its own unique artistry as well. For reasons of creatively and physical development, cross-training or cross-learning between dance types makes sense. These are a few points on the essential skills that ballroom dancers can get from other dances.
Line, Lead and Connection – Argentine Tango
At its most basic, argentine tango is a walk, with the partners in an embrace. When danced well, it is so very much more. The intrigue of the tango for an audience is the beauty of the lines that the couple create. The emotion of the dance is shown through the intense connection of the partners. Lead and follow is often shown at its best in this dance. Even though there is showdance argentine tango, the core of argentine tango is improvisation, some of which involves extraordinarily intricate moves.
- With all of this, a dancer who learns argentine tango can hone the skill of leading with the body with subtly and absolutely clarity. Followers can develop not only a seamless response to the lead, but the art of amplifying the lead to show both personality and clear and stunning lines.
- The value of the simple connectedness of the partners can also not be underestimated. It is not uncommon for choreography to actually interfere with the connection of ballroom dancers. In argentine tango, lack of connection makes the dance pointless if not impossible. As such, this tango can be a great way for partners to discover or rediscover an intense and beneficial connection in their dancing.
Contour, Control and Never Let Them See You Sweat – Hip Hop
Hip Hop is actually a group of different dances with many variations. The main commonality is the feel of the dance, which is created through very specific body isolations. Hip hop’s body positions are very unique. On one hand they are “natural” – no pointed toes, a grounded feel and several everyday actions, but everything is put together in a pretty unnatural way – slow motion dives, sharp twists and extreme contours. Good hip hop is hard, but looks absolutely effortless.
- Hip hop is great way to develop skill in body isolations. Strength in your core and well developed body awareness is a must in this dance, and will benefit any dancer.
- By keeping the body’s centre of gravity low, even high jumps in hip hop look grounded and seem effortless. Fluidity through excellent body control is critical for the effortless feeling as well. Sometimes ballroom dancers forget that this effortless feeling is also essential for us. At times we have all seen ballroom dancers who look strained when the real intent is to show power or emotion. If you dance hip hop, it will pretty much fall apart without the technique behind a controlled effortless look, so you will learn it early on. Given this, any training in hip hop can be a great way to make sure you have this important skill.
Flexibility, Accountability and Technique – Ballet
The physical capability of a ballet dancer is very specific and often very extreme. Ballet dancers know that knowledge of technique needs to be deep, but is not enough. This is one of the dances where drills and exercise outside of any specific choreography is the most fully appreciated as essential.
- Ballet requires a high level of personal responsibility. When dancing side by side with others, each individual needs to maintain a consistent standard. In couples ballet or pas de deux, the structure typically makes it hard for one partner to compensate for the other, so responsibilities tend to be crystal clear and repetitive practice is unavoidable.
- The training approach of ballet dancers has many things that others can learn from. Drilling the basics is as important in ballroom as in ballet. So is individual accountability. So is taking care of one’s body by building strength and flexibility. So is solo practice….whether we like it or not.
Expression, Musicality and Floorcraft – Contemporary
Contemporary dancers are among the best story tellers in dance. Each dance, each move, each nuance has a clear purpose in showing a feeling and connecting to an audience. Contemporary dance has unpredictable changes in rhythm, movement and direction, but it all works and is part of what makes it interesting.
- Contemporary dance openly invites elements for other dances – everything from ballet to hip hop to African folk dance. The contemporary dancer may use his or her own body weight, a partner or the floor as props, which opens up interesting possibilities. This dance style truly inspires creatively.
- Contemporary dance offers as way to tap into and develop your creativity in choreography and your expressiveness. Many ballroom dancers, smooth dancers in particular, are clear about the story they want to tell in their choreography, and then adapt that story to the music that is playing at any given moment. When this is done well, the dance is more pleasant to watch and to dance. Contemporary dance offers a great way to hone this skill, for any dancer.
These are only a few dances and a few points on what each can offer ballroom dancers. The main point is that other dances are not a distraction in your training, they can help you break through specific challenges and inspire your next level. The flip side of this is that the reason ballroom dancers benefit so much from other dancers is that ballroom at its highest level incorporates the best elements of many dances and adds its own unique technique. That is part of what makes ballroom so beautiful and challenging, and how it offers great inspiration to other dancers as well.