Three Things Anyone Needs Know About Ballroom Dancing

Three Worlds of Ballroom Dance

Ballroom Dance and DanceSport World is divided into three primary sub categories: Social Ballroom / Competitive Ballroom / Exhibition Ballroom. And for those who question the resemblance and differences, Richard Powers was able to come up with a very detailed breakdown on the differences between the three:

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What is the essential difference between the three?

The main distinction is that they have different audiences.   

Who are you dancing for, beyond your own enjoyment?

Social Ballroom
Your partner
Competitive Ballroom
The judges 

Exhibition Ballroom
An Audience
Then looking closer at the differences…

What are your audience’s expectations?

Your partners want to interact with you spontaneously, for fun, doing steps that are also enjoyable for them.
Judges want to see that the steps and styles are done precisely and correctly, with great flair.
Audiences want to be entertained, often with a preference for beautiful and impressive moves.
What is your attitude?
• Sociable, i.e., friendly and kind.
• Flexibly adaptive.  You value and accommodate to styles that are different from your own.
• Rigorously correct, expansive.
• The many styles outside of the official syllabus are usually considered to be incorrect.
• Performance attitude varies widely, depending on the dance form.
What is the attitude concerning mistakes?
• Mistakes are accepted as inevitable. Social dancers laugh them off and move on.
• When a Follow does something different from what the Lead intended, he knows it’s a valid alternative interpretation of his lead.
• Social dancers are happy if things work out 80% of the time. And the other 20% is when most learning happens.
• Judges deduct points for every mistake, so competitive dance culture is aligned against making mistakes from day one.
• When a Follow does something different from what the Lead intended, he considers it a mistake, which is to be eliminated.
• Competitive dancers work hard to achieve 100%.
• For professional performances, audiences expect perfection, so dance companies rehearse extensively to avoid any mistakes onstage.
• For amateur performances, audiences mostly want to see that the dancers are enjoying themselves, so mistakes are tolerated.
What is your reward?
• The spontaneous enjoyment of dancing with a partner.
• The satisfaction of becoming proficient in a dance form.
• Self confidence.
• Competing. Impressing others. Winning.
• The satisfaction of becoming proficient in a dance form.
• Self confidence.
• Entertaining or impressing others. Enthusiastic applause.
• The satisfaction of becoming proficient in a dance form.
• Self confidence.
Are there standardized steps and technique?
No, standardization doesn’t function because each partner is different.  You must modify your steps to adapt to each partner.
Yes, rigorously standardized, because competitors need to know exactly what technical details the judges want to see.
Sometimes, but in today’s sampling culture (“been there, seen that”) audiences prefer something they’ve never seen before.
Is there a standardized style?
Absolutely not. You develop your own personal style, different from others. Some social forms like swing, tango and salsa especially discourage copying other’s styles.
Yes, absolutely. You are trained to copy the style of champions before you, working hard to imitate every nuance of that standardized style.
Styles may be unique to the choreographer, thus not standardized. But the performing group usually works on copying and mastering that one style.
Is there a fixed choreography?
No. You make it up as you go along, often based on what the Follow is doing at the moment, and what occurs to the Lead spontaneously.Both Lead and Follow engage in a highly active attention to possibilities.
Yes. Competitors usually perform choreographed routines that they have rehearsed.An exception is Jack and Jill competitions, usually in WCS and Lindy hop, with a partner that one has not danced with before.
Yes. Exhibitions are usually choreographed and rehearsed.  Furthermore group routines often have everyone dancing in unison.But improvised exhibitions do exist, especially in swing, tango and blues.
Does it require split-second decision-making?
Yes, continually, in both Lead and Follow roles.
Usually not. Most decisions have been made by others, first in providing a syllabus of acceptable steps, then in choreographing the routine for you. You work mostly on style.
Not often. Most decisions have usually been made by the choreographers, and you work mostly on style.


Difficult technique

To state the obvious, competitive ballroom technique is designed for competitions.  If dance technique is easy, judges won’t be able to separate the good dancers from the very best.  Therefore competitive ballroom technique is intentionally difficult, so that only the very best dancers can master it.  It requires many years, and extreme focus, to master this technique.  U.S. Ballroom Dance Champion Stephen Hannah said, “You must want to go to the very top and be the very best dancer. You must be able to use your time seven days a week without allowing any other influences to interfere.”

Conversely, social ballroom technique is intentionally easy.  Dance partnering is challenging enough as it is, to coordinate one’s movements with another person.  And most people want to dance with their friends as soon as possible.  Therefore social dance technique is intentionally expedient, so that dancers can focus on their partners instead of intricate footwork.

Originally posted by Richard Powers. Read the full article HERE
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