Where to Learn Ballroom Dancing After seeing ballroom dancing on television, you decide it's time for you to get up and strap on those dancing shoes. Or, maybe you are looking to get into shape but don't exactly want to pay for a gym membership that may never be used. No matter what your reason, deciding to learn ballroom dancing is an excellent decision. However, if you have never been the dancing type before, you may be a bit apprehensive and a bit confused as to where to start. Here are some helpful tips to learning ballroom dancing. First of all, it's possible that you're really shy and aren't ready to attend a class of other dancers. While personal instruction is best, it isn't your only option. Recently, ballroom dance has been brought into the spotlight thanks to media coverage. Ballroom dancing has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade, and more and more people are catching on to the dance craze. This is important and certainly works in your favor because you can find several instructional DVD's and videos on ballroom dancing. You can watch them in the comfort of your own home and practice at any time. These may also be a more affordable option than ballroom dance lessons. You can also scout out the internet for instructional ballroom dance websites. There are a couple of really good ones out there that break down every type of ballroom dance, and some that even have videos you can watch. This may present a better option for you if you are on a budget, as these websites are free of charge and all you need is access to the internet. If you'd prefer to physically attend ballroom dance lessons, look for local dance studios in your area. You may have to research every studio to see if they offer ballroom dance lessons for adults; several dance studios only instruct children or certain types of dance such as ballet or jazz. However, some dance studios will offer ballroom dance camps or programs that last for a specified amount of time and aren't expensive. One place you may want to consider looking into for ballroom dance lessons is a local college or university. Several colleges now offer ballroom dancing as a credit for physical education, and often they will invite the public to attend the classes. These classes are typically about one hour long, once or twice a week, and last for about four to five months. Although the cost depends on the particular institution, ballroom dance classes offered here are usually very inexpensive or free. A good way to keep cost at a minimum is to share your dance lessons with a friend or partner. Even if you do not have a partner to attend ballroom dance lessons with, most classes will pair you up if you are single. There has never been a better time to learn ballroom dancing, so why wait? Start learning to ballroom dance today! Types of Ballroom Dancing 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. 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). 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. Get in Shape with Ballroom Dancing Nearly everyone got caught up in the dance craze by watching "Dancing with the Stars" this past season. There's just something about the music, the dances, the level of competition, and the sarcastic responses from the judges. But there is also something else to be noticed with the professional dancers - their bodies. Not one single professional dancer had an ounce of fat anywhere on their body. What you saw was lean, toned, and muscular abs, arms, and legs. You probably would never think that ballroom dancing can produce such a workout, but it's actually one of the best physical fitness programs available. Ballroom dancing is much more than a slow dance around a moonlit dance floor. There are several types of dances involved with ballroom dancing, ones that involve twirls, kicks, twists, and bends. In fact, ballroom dancing gives you the opportunity to move your body in a way that you would otherwise never experience -- not even in an aerobics class. It's no secret that most people looking to get fit or lose weight are intimidated by the gym. Not only are you surrounded by people with a better body than you, but often you find yourself having to wait for a machine or struggling to keep up in a class. Ballroom dancing is a great way of making exercise fun, and it's an activity you can do together with your partner or spouse. Unfortunately, some people continue to live inactive lifestyles because they just can't find a physical activity they like to do. You may be surprised to learn that ballroom dancing can burn just as much fat and calories (if not more) than a session at the gym. Depending upon the style of dance, you can easily burn between 200 and 400 calories. For example, the foxtrot or the waltz provide an easy and gentle workout and will burn around 200 calories. This is comparable to a brisk walk in the park or thirty minutes on the elliptical. On the other hand, dances like the jive or paso doble can burn over 400 calories, which is comparable to an intense step aerobics class. While walking on a treadmill or doing crunches are well-known exercises, they only work certain parts of your body -- which leave you to workout longer in order to cover the rest. Ballroom dancing literally works every part of your body and every major muscle group. You are more likely to see results faster due to the challenge your body endures with dancing. And if you don't have a partner to take with you to dance class, don't let that stop you from experiencing the glide around the dance floor. Many classes will pair you up once you arrive, and you may meet some great friends or something more! Most people who get into ballroom dancing have lots of fun, and are more likely to dance longer which extends the duration of their workout. So trade in your walking shoes for some dance shoes, and dance your way into better shape! Dresses for Ballroom Dancing Getting dressed for an evening on the ballroom dance floor is much different than getting ready for a night out at the club. With ballroom dancing becoming a popular American pastime, the attire is also constantly growing and changing. We've seen several styles of ballroom dancing dresses on television, thanks to the media's recent interest in covering this elite activity. However, there are several differences in ballroom dress styles depending on the country. American ballroom dresses are typically easy to distinguish from other nationalities. A primary trait of American dresses is that they "flow" much easier than those from other countries. For example, an American ballroom dress usually has at least two layers of skirt, along with other cuts of fabric flowing from the neck and back. In contrast, international dresses are known for heavier fabrics and feathers. Several American styles also are adorned with feathers, but are not the essential accent of the ballroom dress. Most international ballroom gowns are designed for appearance from one angle - either they look appealing from the front or back, but not usually both. You're most likely to find that American ballroom dresses are accented with sequins or jewels, and come in a variety of lengths. Most ballroom dresses do not extend all the way to the floor -- this is probably because a long dress could become tangled in the dancer's feet and lead to a disaster on the dance floor. However, the style of ballroom dress greatly depends on the type of dance being performed. For example, the paso doble is a popular style of ballroom dance that incorporates Spanish culture in the steps. It only makes sense that the dress would represent the theme; this particular dress would probably have sleeves, a ruffled knee-length skirt that twirls easily, and be decorated with lace. For more contemporary ballroom dances, the dress is usually very lightweight and moves well with the dancer. A popular look for the top of the dress is either halter-style or sleeves that dangle from the shoulder. Strapless-style dresses are not very common in ballroom dancing, probably because of the risk of falling off during a fast-paced dance or not fitting properly while moving about on the dance floor. Most ballroom dresses come in a variety of colors and there are usually no limitations in this aspect. It is common American protocol for women to match their partner when it comes to choosing the color of their ballroom dress. However, the color can be anything the couple chooses, but it should be kept in mind that the shoes will need to match the dress exactly. There are many options for finding a ballroom dress to match your needs. Most women choose to have their dress tailor made, especially if it is for a competition. This can get pricey, so there are a few other options. The internet is a great tool for finding everything you need in a ballroom dress. Although you can't physically try it on, most online retailers will allow you to send them your exact measurements and have an excellent return policy. Ballroom Dancing and Television Ballroom dancing competitions have been broadcast on television for years. Men and women of many different ages and nationalities dance in costumes ranging from elegant to sexy to fun and amusing competing for titles in all categories of Standard and Latin American Ballroom. Television aired these strictly ballroom dance competitions where professional dance judges determined the outcome and the audience were merely onlookers. In the last couple years there has been a new twist added to the Ballroom competitions thanks to the "reality television." craze. Television shows like So You Think You Can Dance?, Ballroom Bootcamp and Dancing With the Stars have hit the airwaves with a tremendous reaction from viewers. Millions tune in each week to watch and root for their favorites. Ballroom Bootcamp airs on TLC (The Learning Channel) and is a wonderful series where three everyday ordinary people from all walks of life are paired up with three professional dancers and given five weeks to learn either the Cha-Cha, the Waltz, The Tango, the Jive or the Rumba. At the end of the 5 weeks they are matched against each other in an authentic Ballroom Dance competition where the judges decide the winner. So You Think You Can Dance?, the brainchild of Fox television has its judges (some of whom are also the show's choreographers) go to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta and check out literally hundreds of dancers. Not all the dancers are ballroom dancers; many are students of jazz, break dancing, contemporary dance etcetera. Once the field has been reduced to the top 20 (10 men, 10 women) the dancers are paired up and the main competition begins. Each week each couple is given the dance they are to perform the following week. This may be one of the ballroom dances or they may draw one of the other dance forms, jazz, contemporary etcetera. They have 7 days to work with the choreographer and get their dance ready. The television viewers vote on their favorites and each week the judges decide who among the 3 lowest vote getting couples will leave the show. Dancing With the Stars on ABC is one of the favorites among television dance competition shows. Dancing With the Stars pairs a professional ballroom dancer with a celebrity. There have been sports celebrities, football and basketball players, female wrestlers and boxers and even an Olympic speed skater, entertainers, singers, actors, television talk show hosts and even one contestant who had a prosthetic leg. Each week the celebrities have to learn at least one new dance. Towards the end there are weeks where they have to learn two dances in a week. These are strictly ballroom (both Standard and Latin American) dances. The judges who have all danced professionally critique each dance and score the dancers with a high score of 30 points being possible. After each show the audience votes on their favorites either by phone or online. The audience votes count for 50% of the total with the judges scores accounting for the other 50% and each week the couple with the lowers score is sent home. Ballroom Dancing -- Judging Criteria Ballroom dancing is judged on more than a dozen different points. Some of those are, Posture, Timing, Line, Hold, Poise, Togetherness, Presentation and Power just to name a few. With the number of dancers being evaluated judges rely heavily on the impression each couple makes in relation to the others. With experience the judges learn to do so quickly. Posture: No matter how technically skilled you are, your ballroom dancing will never be graceful, elegant, or lend an air of confidence without the proper posture. Proper poster also improves balance, gives you more control and makes for a smoother dance. The old adage is "Persistent practice of postural principles promises perfection" gives you a clue to the importance of good posture in any ballroom dance. Timing: Just as bad posture can blow you right out of the water, if your timing and the music's timing don't match -- you lose. It wont matter how well you do anything else. Line: The line refers to the line of your body from head to toe. The line can make or break any ballroom dance. Whether curved or straight, good lines will make you look graceful and elegant. Hold: Dancing with arms, hands etc., in an incorrect position or breaking a hold at the wrong time will cost you points. Besides having your body parts in the right place you also need to keep your holds symetrical to your partner. In some ballroom dances one of the worst things you can do is to break your hold. Poise: In smooth dancing, the stretch of the woman's body upwards, outwards and leftwards into the man's right arm will achieve balance and connection with his frame, as well as to project outwards to the audience. Poise like posture and line has everything to do with the image you project as you move around the ballroom. Togetherness: When your bodies are correctly melded together you will be able to dance in total synchronization with your partner and appear to lead and follow with no effort. Presentation: The judges will be looking not only for how you appear to them but how well you sell yourselves to the audience. Are you enthusiastic, happy, confident? It has to show. Even in dances like the Tango and the Paso Doble where the expressions are more somber you still have to appear assured and confident. Power: Energy is a wonderful thing and one of the most important things in dances like the Quick Step or the Jive however, if over-done it just becomes wild movements. Judges, like dancers each have different styles and different ideas of the importance of various criteria. One judge may put a greater value on technique while another thinks musicality and expression are more important. This can cause a discrepancy between the scores of one couple coming from two judges. Keep in mind that the judges see you for only a brief time so whatever happens to catch their eye is going to weigh heavily on your final scores. Ballroom Dance Competitions When you think of athletic competitions, chances are you probably don't think of ballroom dancing. Most people tend to think of football games, tennis matches, or track and field meets. While all of these certainly qualify for an athletic competition, you probably already know exactly what to anticipate as a spectator. However, ballroom dance competitions shed a different light on athleticism and are by far entertaining to watch. Until recently, ballroom dance was something associated with older generations or the wealthy. Around the late 1980's, ballroom dancing began to take light once again but faded around 1995. It remained on the back burner of America's athletic competitions until 1999, when it suddenly gained popularity and has remained stable ever since. With the media taking an interest in ballroom dancing over the past few years, more and more people are learning and competing in ballroom dancing. Some of the most popular ballroom dance competitions are hosted by Access Dance with competitions held nationwide. Competitions are held all year long with prizes ranging in money to vacation packages. The competition is divided into three main categories: youth, amateur, and professional. This allows everyone of all ages and ability levels to compete in ballroom dancing. The Maryland Institute of Technology (MIT) also hosts an annual ballroom dance competition. The competition is open to members of the MIT ballroom dance team and anyone else who would like to compete. The competition is divided up according the style of dance you want to enter -- for example, the mambo, jive, paso doble, etc. Each dance is classified into two categories, beginning and intermediate, with everyone invited to compete at the championship level. The cost for entering this competition ranges between $10 and $40 depending on your skill level and which category you are entering. Perhaps the most notorious ballroom dance competition is "Dancing with the Stars", aired twice annually on ABC. This highly addictive dance competition features celebrities from various backgrounds, from the entertainment industry to athletes. The most recent champion of ballroom dancing, Apollo Anton Ono, is a gold-medal Olympic speed skater who had no prior knowledge of ballroom dancing prior to the competition. The prior season of "Dancing with the Stars" also produced a winner from the athlete genre, Emmitt Smith, a former NFL player for the Dallas Cowboys. This competition pairs up celebrities with no ballroom dance knowledge with professional partners who teach ballroom dance. It begins with ten couples and each week, viewers eliminate a couple by voting for their favorite. It was after the first season of "Dancing with the Stars" that people took an interest in ballroom dancing and the craze soon spread all over the world. Now, over twenty countries host their own version of this televised ballroom dance competition. If you are interested in competing in ballroom dancing, a simple search of the internet will provide you with information regarding a competition near you. Even if you are just starting out, there are competitions for every skill level and ability. Ballroom Dancing -- The Rumba Unlike all the other ballroom dances, the Rumba emphasizes ones body movements more than their footwork. The rhythm of the dance, which is emphasized by any type of percussion, drums, pots, maracas, etc., is more essential to the dance than the tune itself. The fascinating rhythms and mesmerizing body movements of this dance make it one of the more popular ballroom dances. The Rumba was influenced by the Spanish and Africans with most of the development of the dance taking place in Cuba. The Rumba evolved in 19th century Havana, originating with the African Negro slaves who had been imported. The rural Rumba was originally for exhibition rather than participation. In some reference works the Rumba is said to be a pantomime of the movements of barnyard animals with the steady level shoulders depicting the movements of slaves as they carried heavy burdens. However, most look at the Rumba as a dance of love and sensuality with the woman tempting the man with her charms, teasing then withdrawing. Some go a step farther saying the dance is a pantomime of sex with the man dancing very fast in a very sensual yet aggressive manner with greatly exaggerated hip movements, and the woman responding with a defensive attitude. Whichever is correct, the Rumba is the most sensual of all the Latin ballroom dances. Son, Danzon, Guagira, Guaracha and Naningo are all names for the Rumba. The Son, which is a slower more refined Rumba was a favorite among the middle class Cubans. The wealthy section of Cuban society preferred the Danzon, which is an even slower Rumba using very small steps and more subtle hip movements. The modified version of the Rumba known as the Son was introduced to Americans in 1913. In the late 1920's Xavier Cugat formed an orchestra specializing in Latin American Music which really didn't develop a following until around 1929. By the end of the decade Xavier had the best Latin American orchestra of his day. Monsieur Pierre Lavelle, a London dance teacher, and his partner Doris Lavelle were responsible for bringing and popularizing the Rumba and other Latin American dances to Europe. In 1955 with the help of Pierre and Lavelle the Cuban Rumba was finally named as the officially recognized version of the Rumba. During ballroom dance competitions the judges will be watching for the following: * Interplay between the partners -- this is a dance of love, a portrayal of romance. This is not the time for solemn, passive expressions * A strong direct walk * Lots of slow body shapes -- the body NEVER stops changing its shape * Figure eight hip rolls -- hips alternating in a forward motion * NEVER leading with the heel, stay on the balls of the feet * The Cucaracha step -- you should rock to the right or left then replace and close * The fan position -- the woman positioned to the man's left side, at arms length and at a 90° angle to the man Ballroom Dancing -- The Jive 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. 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. 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. Ballroom Dancing -- The Viennese Waltz and the Quick Step The Viennese Waltz which was derived from the Austrian Landler is an elegant fast paced, whirling dance where the partners hold each other as if in a romantic embrace. This raised more than a few eyebrows of "polite" society. The rise in popularity of the Viennese Waltz, like the standard waltz, can at least in part be contributed to the music of Johann Strauss and toVienna's famous ballrooms. As with the standard waltz the music can be either vocal or instrumental and can be classical, country, or even rock. The Viennese Waltz is a faster paced dance than the standard waltz which also makes it somewhat more challenging to do. Like the standard waltz the Viennese Waltz incorporates a simple, elegant rotation and swinging movements, though there should be no foot rise on the inner turns. The Viennese Waltz also requires a good deal of stamina, the equivalent, actually of the amount of energy that would be needed to dance a polka. The Viennese Waltz uses a right turn (natural turn), a left turn (reverse turn) and two change steps that link the moves between the turns. Dancing the line of dance (direction of traffic -- turning left at the corners of the dance floor) and rotating in a clockwise direction is the Natural Turn. Following the line of dance and rotating in a counter-clockwise direction is the Reverse Turn. The step links (change steps) allow you to change directions while still following the line of dance. The step links are simply two normal steps down the line of dance followed by a third step sliding the moving foot to the standing foot. By performing a string of change figures you can work your way through the tight spots on a crowded dance floor then resume the rotation. The "sway" is simply leaning slightly in the opposite direction of the line of dance movement. Ballroom Dancing -- The Quick Step The Quick Step: The Charleston, the Black Bottom, the Shimmy and probably a couple other dances all melded into a faster version of the Fox Trot, which in 1923 became known as the Quick Step. The evolution of the Quick Step ended with a dance that utilizes a lot of movement, hops, runs, Quick Steps and rotation. It is a very brisk, energetic dance that was developed with very fast paced jazz music from the ragtime era. The Quick Step is a fast, happy, lighthearted dance, the footwork can be a little complex using a slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick tempo. Like other dances the slow steps on the heel, Quick Steps on the toes. The Quick Step utilizes a fast paced up and down swing motion. It's important to look light on your feet even though the movements are powerful. Due to the quickness of the dance keeping in sync with your partner and trying to keep similar tension in the legs is a necessity. More so than the other dances facial expression is vital to express the fun aspect of the dance. Ballroom Dance Clothing and Shoes Dressing for ballroom dance is a lot like getting ready for the prom. You have to find the perfect dress (or suit and tux if you're a guy), perfect shoes, and coordinate your hair and makeup for a complete look. However, getting ready for an evening of ballroom dance is slightly more complex than dressing for the prom. While the concept is the same, a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration when choosing ballroom dance clothing and shoes. First of all, there is really no set dress code for ballroom dancing, which leaves you with the freedom to choose your attire to your comfort and practicality. Whether you are dancing a slow dance such as the waltz or an upbeat dance like the jive, you need to choose attire that you can move easily in and won't get tangled up around your partner. For example, consider choosing a dress made of silk; it flows easily and doesn't tangle. Remember that although ballroom dancing is a formal and elite event, your dress doesn't have to be covered in heavy sequins, jewels, or feathers. Choose a dress with a moderate amount of accents, as overbearing decorations can easily get in the way and cause discomfort to both you and your partner. Fashion is definitely an important factor, but not as important as your level of comfort while dancing. Choosing shoes for ballroom dancing are just as important as choosing the dress. However, the shoes you wear largely depend on what type of dance you will be performing. There are special shoes for jazz dances, jive dances, swing dances, etc. Therefore, advance preparation is the key for choosing the right shoes. Most ballroom dance shoes are lightweight -- heavy-soled shoes can greatly obstruct your dancing and leave you with extremely sore feet. The maximum height for ladies' shoes is three inch heels, whereas men's shoes are around one and a half inches. Like choosing a dress, shoes for ballroom dancing should not be based on appearance alone. Again, you will have to jump, twirl, and kick in these shoes, so you need them to be comfortable and supportive of your feet. Most ballroom dance shoes are open-toed, although this may not be the best choice. This easily exposes your toes to be stepped on, so consider going with a close-toed shoe. If you find that the heel is too uncomfortable, you can purchase insoles designed specifically for women's high heel shoes. The last thing you want to do is damage your feet, legs, or back because your shoes did not fit properly. Finally, beware of shoes with tight back straps or are heavily decorated. This can cause undue rubbing on your feet, which in turn leads to nasty blisters. Shoes that are too busy could easily damage during dancing, so try to keep accents to a minimum when choosing your ballroom dance shoes. By following these tips to choosing your ballroom dance dress and shoes, you will not only be fashionable but comfortable -- the most important factor in any type of dancing! Ballroom Dancing -- The Paso Doble The Paso Doble, originally a Spanish folkdance, has the distinction of being one of the only ballroom dances that is only danced in the ballroom world. You will find people in clubs doing the Waltz, or the Tango or the Quick Step but you won't see them performing a Paso Doble. Although bullfights can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece they weren't a part of the culture of Spain until the 1700's. The excitement and tension of the bullfight, the pride and dignity of the matador as well as the flair of his cape are all portrayed in the Paso Doble. Paso Doble is Spanish for "Two Step" which is a reference to the marching style of this dance with its 1-2 count. For the ballroom competitions the Paso Doble is done with chest high, shoulders wide and down, head back but slightly tipped down. The body leans slightly forward and the majority of the forward steps are done with the heel leading. The dance is further enhanced with strong steps and dramatic poses. The Paso Doble is one of the most dramatic of all the ballroom dances. The Paso Doble is one of the few dances that is for the man. The woman's part in this dance is strictly a supporting one. Depending on their interpretation she may take the part of the matador's cape, or the bull, or in some cases even the matador at different times throughout the dance. Some distinctive steps of the Paso Doble are the chassez cape (where the man uses the woman as the cape), the Apel, where the man stamps his foot as if to attract the attention of the bull (a very strong move) and the Arpel which is a movement that starts with stamping of the feet then the couples walk in opposite directions.
Ballroom Dancing -- The Cha-Cha The London dance instructor Pierre Lavelle, who was responsible for having the Cuban Rumba declared the official Rumba, while on a visit to Cuba, had noticed that sometimes there were extra beats added to the Rumba. Upon his return to England he taught these steps as a completely new dance. It has been suggested that the name Cha-Cha (or Cha-Cha-Cha as it is called by some people) was coined for the sound of the 3 quick steps after the forward and back step (or back and forward steps). The steps for the Cha-Cha are taken on the beats accompanied by a strong hip movement as the leg straightens on the half beat. The Cha-Cha is a fun, flirty, lighthearted dance that gets its distinctive "cha, cha, cha" rhythm because there are 5 steps danced to four beats. Dancers work parallel with each other in well synchronized movements sometimes employing the "New Yorker", a step where one of the dancers steps across the other and checks to change direction. Cuban motion, the hip motion derived from alternately bending and straightening the knees, is an important factor in this dance. United States Amateur Ballroom dancers Association, Inc. In 1965 Norman Martin, a leading social and competitive ballroom dance champion put together a group of dancers known as the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association, Inc. or USABDA. Their purpose was to petition the Olympic committee to include ballroom dancing in the Olympic program. Unfortunately they were not able to accomplish that goal at that time. However, while working on their bid to get into the Olympics, the group was setting up their bylaws and came to the conclusion that there was a definite need for guidelines for the large number of Social Dancers and American Style dancers, as well as the International Style competitors. While working to help the dancers compete nationally and internationally they also helped to set things in motion to insure the availability of floors, music and locations for a group that turned out to be the backbone of the USABDA, the Social Dancers. The early years for the USABDA only saw a small number of members in New York state, a few in the Washington, DC area and a small number on the west coast. In 1978 USABDA started its mid-eastern chapter and the push was on to take their little group to a national level. The next few years saw chapters being formed in several other states. Throughout the 80's the USABDA recruitment efforts consisted of trying to get all amateur dance organizations to join them as a national organization with a regional chapter structure. In 1985 with their new bylaws in place the USABDA was given tax-exempt status by the IRS. With the unification process started the USABDA was officially recognized by what is now known as the International DanceSport Federation (IDSF). The USABDA now governs all forms of amateur ballroom dancing in the United States. Over the last 12 years USABDA has promoted the growth of all forms of ballroom dance as well as coming up with a program to establish chapters in each state. They have enjoyed major growth in numbers of chapters, dancers, competitions, workshops and social dances each year. Each year the USABDA sends United States representatives to the World Games. The World Games provide a venue for Olympic recognized sports that have not yet been added to the Olympic program. The USABDA's quest to get their spot in the Olympics is still going strong. To date the ISDF has been granted full recognition by the International Olympic Committee as the worldwide governing body for DanceSport and the USABDA has been granted affiliate membership recognizing them as the national governing Body of DanceSport in the Untied States. The last remaining step is for DanceSport to be granted Program Status by the IOC at which time DanceSport would then be added to the Olympic program. With continued hard work and a little luck this will be accomplished in the near future. The USABDA has grown into an organization with thousands of members who volunteer to help promote social and competitive dancing on college campuses and in communities across the country. Choosing a Ballroom Dance for your Wedding Weddings are a special time for everyone. It's a time of new beginnings for the happy couple and friends and families become witnesses to the exceptional event. With so many details that go into planning a wedding, often choosing a dance for the reception isn't a priority; rather, a lot of time goes into choosing which song the bride and groom will dance to. Selecting a song to dance to is typically the first step in the couple deciding on a ballroom dance. Most couples will opt to enroll in professional ballroom dance lessons with a certified instructor to come up with a dance for their song. With ballroom dancing growing in popularity, couples are beginning to steer away from the traditional circular dance. In fact, more and more engaged couples are choosing to learn a ballroom dance for their wedding. Not only is performing a ballroom dance for your wedding very sentimental, but it is also likely to be remembered by everyone. However, a ballroom dance doesn't have to be strictly between the bride and groom. It can involve the bride and her father, the groom and his mother, or anyone else the happy couple chooses to share a dance with. With so many variations of ballroom dancing, it may be difficult to select a specific dance. Below are some popular song suggestions for weddings and ballroom dances that would be appropriate with them. Two very well-known wedding songs are "Love Me Tender" and "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You," both performed by Elvis Presley. These songs, while traditional at weddings, set the perfect tone for a slow waltz. The waltz is a careful collaboration of steps involving walking and side to side motions - these songs provide the exact tempo and beat for this style of ballroom dancing. Another major plus of performing the waltz is that it's easy to learn and can be done by nearly anyone of any skill level. "From This Moment On" is a song performed by legendary country music singer Shania Twain and is a popular choice among bride and groom dances. This song remains slow and romantic, but the beat is slightly faster compared to the Elvis Presley songs. "From This Moment On" is an excellent choice for dancing the foxtrot, a slow yet very smooth dance that follows forward and backward patterns around the dance floor. Like the waltz, it is fairly easy to learn. A few popular choices for dancing with the parents of the couple are "Through the Years" by Kenny Rogers and "Wind beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler. The waltz would also be appropriate for these songs as well as the tango, although this ballroom dance may take a little longer to learn due to its sharp and precise steps. By choosing to perform a ballroom dance at your wedding (as opposed to just moving about in a circle or from side to side), you are sure to create lifelong memories for yourself and your guests. Ballroom Dancing -- Ballrooms There are hundreds of ballrooms in the United States and throughout the world. There has been a renewed interest in holding weddings, and other important occasions in a luxuriant ballroom setting. The Danceland Ballroom in Cedar Rapids is probably the best-known ballroom in Iowa and in 1957 it was the first ballroom to reach out to the teenage population by booking book the rock and roll band Bill Haley and the Comets. Darlowe Oleson, who owned five ballrooms and was considered Iowa's premier ballroom operator, owned the Danceland Ballroom, which remained an active ballroom right up until its demolition when it was replaced by the Cedar Rapids Five Seasons Center. In Illinois, on Chicago's fabulous Gold Coast you'll find the Germania Place, a landmark building that had been designed in 1888 and underwent a complete restoration in 1994. This gorgeous building houses two cavernous ballrooms. The Grand and Royal ballrooms both feature Victorian architecture, 35-foot ceilings, mahogany bars, crystal chandeliers, hardwood floors, 20 foot arched windows and inset, gilded domes. A masterpiece of a stained glass portrait crafted in Germany and first exhibited at the 1893 worlds fair adorns the entrance to the Grand Ballroom. A balcony large enough to accommodate 150 guests overlooks the Grand Ballroom. The Grand ballroom can serve up to 400 guests for dinner, the Royal Ballroom can seat and additional 250 and the two rooms can be combined by opening the set of double doors that separate the two. In Columbus, Ohio the Grand Valley Dale Ballroom is significant in as much as it is one of the few nationally renowned ballrooms left from the big band era. In the 30's and 40's big name entertainers like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby performed there. The Grand Valley Dale Ballroom has been admitted to the National Register of Historical Places and has been completely renovated. The restoration included the ballroom (which now boasts a 2000 square foot wood dance floor), a circular art deco bar, twin staircases, historic stage with velvet curtains, 13 chandeliers, columns, mezzanines, and a much-sought out bridal parlor among other improvements. The Charles Ballroom in the Charles hotel in Cambridge has played host to such notables as The Clintons, Barbra Streisand and Gwyneth Paltrow. The hotel is decorated in a minimalist style so the bride and groom are free to design the wedding of their dreams. The 4700 square foot ballroom features dramatic double doors that open to a room with floor to ceiling windows, showcasing an interior courtyard and a view of the Charles River. The Grand Ballroom in the Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston was opened in 1912 and features Louis XIV style furnishings, crystal chandeliers, and gold leaf accents. The room has a massive dance floor and a stage large enough for an orchestra. It has the capability of holding up to 1,000 people. The Holiday Villa, Subang, Malaysia is home to the finals for the 2007 World Golfers. The hotel is set on 6.8 acres overlooking a beautiful lake. The Holiday Villa features three ballrooms along with 18 convention and meeting rooms and several sports and recreational facilities. Ballroom Dancing and the Movies Hollywood has always had a love affair with dancing. That includes everything from Ballroom dancing to break dancing. Great music combined with talented dancers and flamboyant costumes makes for a hit whether it's Standard Ballroom dancing, Latin American dance, jazz or disco In some movies the ballroom dancing comprises just a scene or two as in with Gone With the Wind, when Rhett bids for the honor of dancing the Virginia Reel with Scarlett or in The Shining when the hotel ghosts dance the night away in the grand ballroom. For other movies the ballroom dancing is the basis of the story as in Shall We Dance, a Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez film about a family man who signs up for ballroom dance lessons in the hope of meeting the beautiful woman he has seen through the window of the dance studio on his commute home each night. He ends up truly falling in love with the dancing and finds himself having to do some fancy juggling to not let his secret out to his wife and co-workers as he trains for Chicago's biggest ballroom dance competition. Strictly Wonderful is a romantic comedy about a rebellious ballroom dancer who pairs up with an amateur to practice for a big ballroom competition. This film received a 15-minute standing ovation when it played at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie Dance With Me, is the story of a young Cuban, Rafael, who comes to America after the death of his mother where he meets his father who runs a dance studio. As fate would have it Rafael turns out to be a great dancer and becomes his father's best hope of winning a championship for his studio. The thing that makes this movie truly unique is that it is one of only a few movies that actually used ballroom competitors making for wonderfully realistic ballroom dance scenes. Dance, ballroom or otherwise has played a large part in hundreds of movies. The Sharks and the Jets danced their way through West Side Story, Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze put Dirty Dancing on the map. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers awed the world with the beauty and grace of their dancing. There was even a joke at one time that Ginger Rogers should have gotten top billing since she did everything Fred Astaire did and she did it backwards in high heels! In 1935 Shirley Temple tapped her way through The Little Colonel with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and in 1939 after Judy Garland watched dozens of "munchkins" dance and sing to celebrate the wicked witches demise she joined with the scarecrow, tin man and lion and they danced their way to the land of Oz.. In 1983 Flashdance put the exotic in exotic dancing and 2004 saw the animated characters of Shrek dance the night away. Ballroom dancing is exciting to watch in person and enjoyable to watch on television, however the big screen brings an added dimension to the grace, romance and passion that is ballroom dancing. Music for Ballroom Dancing When you think of ballroom dancing, you probably think of slow music being played by a violin. Centuries ago, your thoughts would have been very accurate. Ballroom dancing was originally performed to acoustic guitars, violins, and cellos. This kind of music was appropriate at the time, as most ballroom dances were slow and very precise. However, as time passed and ballroom dancing gained popularity, the music changed right along with the dances. Gone are the days of the mellow acoustic strings; today, a variety of music is used in ballroom dancing. The music depends strictly on the type of dance being performed. In ballroom dancing, there are over ten traditional dances with many more variations, so obviously the music will be different for each one. Here is a look at some examples of music and songs appropriate for each dance style. The paso doble is a Spanish dance that demonstrates the bullfighter's bravery and agility. Often, the woman represents the matador's cape. The paso doble is a very intense and dramatic dance, so the music selected should fit the scene. Most of the time, the music for this particular dance is instrumental, but fast-paced with a dramatic appeal. The Spanish culture should be kept in mind, so choose music with horns, maracas, and acoustic guitars. The jive is a fun and upbeat dance that allows the dancers to express their careless personality. The moves are quick with lots of fast kicks and spinning or twirling of the woman. Most of the jive is performed in a stationery place and does not involve moving around on the dance floor. Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" is a great example for the jive, as is the obvious song, "Born to Hand Jive". Any song that follows this kind of tempo is appropriate for the jive. The quickstep is a combination of the swing and the jive. The steps are very quick and movements must be fast and concise. This dance is usually best performed to instrumental music. A couple of songs most commonly used for the quickstep are "Big Band", "Flash", and "Spoonful of Sugar". These songs have a cheery and upbeat tempo and have a 1940's dance club appeal. The foxtrot is one of the most popular ballroom dances, although it is also one of the most difficult to learn. The foxtrot is a very smooth dance with fluid movements, and the movements are "slow, quick, quick, slow". This dance is considered to be elite and one of the most formal, so choosing music can be quite a challenge. Keep in mind that the music should not be very fast, but should follow along with the steps. Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes" are excellent choices for the foxtrot. Although not the last of the ballroom dances, the cha cha is a very lively and even flirty style of dance. It is also fast-paced and combines a lot of hip action with quick footsteps. This dance is one of the easier styles of ballroom dance when it comes to choosing music. Shakira's "Whenever, Wherever" and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" are ideal songs for dancing the cha cha. Media Coverage of Ballroom Dancing Until recently, ballroom dancing was not considered to be a popular American pastime. In fact, most people thought of it as something best left to the older generations or the wealthy. Although ballroom dancing has existed for centuries in countries all around the globe, it wasn't until the media took an interest in it that it began to take off. Now, ballroom dancing has grown in popularity, encouraging more people to take an interest in the fine art of ballroom dancing. Currently, there are two television shoes that focus on ballroom dancing: "Dancing with the Stars", and "So You Think You Can Dance". Both of these shows cover various aspects of ballroom dancing and are reality-based. Basically, the contestants perform different dances every week, the viewers cast a vote for their favorite couple, and every week the couple with the least amount of votes is eliminated. "Dancing with the Stars" is aired on ABC twice annually. The contestants are celebrities hailing from various backgrounds; actors, athletes, and entertainers. Prior to becoming contestants on the show, the celebrities have no prior knowledge of ballroom dancing and are paired with a professional dance partner. Each season begins with ten couples and one is eliminated every week. This past season, it was a close competition between Joey Fatone (formerly of n'sync), world champion female boxer Laila Ali, and olympic speed skater gold medalist Apollo Anton Ono. Laila remained a strong competitor through the very end, but was eliminated just before the finals. It became a very tight battle between Joey and Apollo, but in the end Apollo prevailed with his professional partner, Julianne Huff. This isn't the first time an athlete has claimed the "Dancing" trophy -- former NFL player Emmitt Smith took home the trophy the season prior thanks to the help and instruction from his professional partner, Cheryl Burke. "So You Think Can Dance" is aired on the fox network is comparable to "American Idol". It differs greatly from "Dancing with the Stars" because it involves amateur dancers who are not celebrities. The show covers many aspects of dancing, from street to hip-hop and of course, ballroom dances. Like most reality shows, it involves the audience eliminating a contestant every week until one dancer remains. That dancer takes home the grand prize consisting of $100,000, a new car, and a usually some kind of contract that employs them as a professional dancer. Prior to these two shows making their debut, there were several dance programs that aired throughout the years. "American Bandstand" and VH1's "Dance Machine" were two very popular shows that involved media coverage of dancing, however the focus was not really on ballroom dancing. (Although they can be accredited to starting the "dance craze" in America.) Thanks to the recent shows of "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance", the desire to learn ballroom dancing quickly spread across America and many other countries. In fact, over twenty countries have their own versions of these popular television shows, increasing the popularity of ballroom dancing worldwide. Ballroom Dancing -- The Handicapped and the Disabled Dancing is good for your overall health, for weight loss and for mental relaxation. Everyone loves to dance, including those people who just happen to be blind, deaf, missing limbs or confined to a wheelchair. Many groups have formed classes to teach these people ballroom, line dances, jazz ballet and anything else they may want to learn. The Malta Wheelchair Dancesport Association is one of those groups. Wheelchair dancing had been practiced in parts of the world since the 1970's but wasn't started in Malta until 1999. The group holds classes to teach dance to disabled people using a format very similar to that used to teach non-disabled people. The classes are open to people who just want to learn to dance and those who want to dance competitively. When it comes to the competitive dances there are two groups, Combi (one partner is in a wheelchair the other is not) or Duo (both parties are in wheelchairs). They learn all the Standard Ballroom dances and the Latin American Ballroom dances. For those who are just interested in social dancing they offer courses for line and solo dances. Wheelchair dancers use their upper bodies and arms to perform the same movements in the same manner as non-disabled dancers. Also, no different from non-disabled dancers, some are good and some aren't but ALL dance because they love it. The dance classes have the added benefit of teaching both the wheelchair users and their helpers more and better uses of their chairs encouraging them to become more independent The Gallaudet Dance Company is comprised of about 15 students all of whom are deaf or hard of hearing. Gallaudet is the worlds only accredited Liberal Arts University for the hearing impaired. The dancers rely on many things using their vision and sign language to communicate. For years hearing people have bought into the theory that the deaf "hear' by feeling vibrations through the floor. Although that may work when standing still on a surface that will conduct the vibrations it wouldn't do much good when you are moving, jumping, or standing on a concrete floor. The Gallaudet Dancers practice for hours on end to develop an inner sense of the timing for each dance. This is accomplished in part by watching an instructors counting out the rhythm of the dance. The instructor will give a sign for each step in much the same way hearing dancers will get a vocal count from their instructor. Deaf and hearing-impaired dance students work had to remain "in time" with or without music. The most important things for teaching these students to dance are a visual count, high quality sound systems and use of sign language. . Hundreds of viewers watched fascinated as Heather Mills competed for several weeks on Dancing with the Stars with one prosthetic leg. Not only was it difficult to tell which leg it was most of the time but she performed some high difficulty moves that the other dancers didn't even attempt! Ballroom Dancing -- Dancers, & Judges Ballroom dancing has been around for decades upon decades producing thousands of dancers, and judges. These are all people dedicated to their craft. Some are big names that everyone knows but most, the average person would never recognize. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are probably two of the most recognizable names when it comes to dancers. Fred Astaire, a native of Omaha, Nebraska was born in 1899. He started studying dance at the age of 4 and by the time he was 7 he and his sister Adele had formed their own vaudeville act. By the time he hit his mid-twenties he had already garnered international acclaim for his roles on Broadway. In 1933 he landed his first film role, a small dancing part in Dancing Lady and later that same year he and Ginger Rogers appeared in their first film together, the musical comedy Flying Down to Rio. Ginger Rogers was born in 1911 in Independence, Missouri. Her mother's big ambitions for her took down the same roads as Fred Astaire, vaudeville, Broadway, then Hollywood. Fred Astaire danced with many ladies over his long career but none of them matched the chemistry he had with Ginger Rogers. Irene and Vernon Castle were among the first to make a career out of social dancing. At the time the world was looking for something new, more exciting, less stiff and somber. The Castles, both athletes had an exotic, stylish air about them. They were a breath of fresh air for the world of dance for the short time before the world war brought everything to a halt. Gocha Chertkoev and Shorena Gachechiladze are powerful competitors who have become much sought after performers. Originally from the Soviet Republic they have trained in ballet, jazz, disco and ballroom. They have performed on the "Championship Ballroom Dancing" for five years running and hold many titles between them. Cheryl Burke is the 2005 World Cup Professional Rising Star Latin Champion. She is one of the pros, and the only one to have won 2 straight seasons, on the popular television show Dancing With the Stars. Cheryl grew up in San Francisco, California and began dancing at the age of four. At the age of 10 Cheryl came to the realization that ballroom wasn't "just for old people" and started training in both the Standard and Latin dances. Jonathon Roberts, another pro from Dancing With the Stars has half a dozen championships under his belt. He had a strong background in basketball and other sports but after watching Al Pacino dance his famous Tango in Scent of a Woman basketball took a backseat to ballroom dancing. Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman are the three judges on Dancing With the Stars. Carrie Ann was a professional dancer, choreographer and director; Bruno was also a dancer and a top-notch choreographer and Len, specialized in Exhibition Dancing winning the British Exhibition four times. He is also an accomplished judge of professional Latin dance competitions. 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. 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. Modern Ballroom Dancing -- Standard Waltz The standard Waltz is a graceful ballroom dance of turns and glides that was done in parts of Europe as early as the late 17th century and is thought by many to be the basis for many modern day dances. The early dances were done in the round and at the end of the dance the circle would break into couples who would then begin doing turns. In Italy the dance was called the Volta, in France the Volte, Germans called it the Weller and in Austria the dance was known as the Landler. Although they probably all had some influence on the modern Waltz, at some point the Landler's hopping movement became more of a gliding motion, which is why the Landler more than the others, is sometimes considered the forerunner of the modern Waltz. In the early 19th century the popularity of the Waltzen rose to such a great degree that several large dance halls were opened to accommodate the crowds. The dance stabilized during the 19th century its popularity was helped along by the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. You can find references to the Waltz that go back more than 400 years, however the popularity of the dance had started to wane until 1913 and the advent of the Hesitation Waltz which, as the name implies, slowed the dance down considerably incorporating hesitations and poses throughout the dance. Before the Hesitation, dancing the Waltz was pretty much an endurance test with the couples dancing in one direction then reversing direction when they became dizzy. The Waltz is an easy dance to master and has a grace and elegance that makes it wonderful to watch. The one thing that does cause beginners some confusion is that with a 3 count each bar is started with the opposite foot as the last bar. The slower version of the dance is known as the English Waltz while the faster version is the Viennese Waltz. . Waltz music is played in 3/4 time with a distinctive 1-2-3 rhythm. The dance is a simple one with just 3 steps, first step forward (backward for the woman), one step to the side and the last step to bring the feet together again. The first step is the power step, matching the accented first beat of the music. A good Waltz has a smooth rise and fall; it's a gentle dance with turns, poses and long sweeping movements. Waltz music can be found in many venues, some examples are: The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss Jr, Show Me the Way by Styx, Waltz to the Death from the Batman soundtrack by Danny Elfman. Either Waltz can be danced to any music with a three-quarter tempo regardless of whether it is classical, rock, country or anything else. In competition ballroom Waltz there must be a clear pendulum movement, the right balance between up and down and spatial movements. The moment when you start your up and down movement from your supporting foot is crucial to keeping the movements smooth and graceful. Some competitions use the American Smooth style of Waltz. This means that the couples are allowed to occasionally break the hold thereby enabling more open moves and underarm turns. To this day the Waltz is still popular world wide. History of Ballroom Dancing Until recently, most people haven't thought much of ballroom dancing. It has become a popular worldwide pastime, thanks to the media bringing it back into the spotlight with shows like "Dancing with the Stars." It wasn't long after the first season that the dance craze soon swept over America, with more and more people choosing to learn to dance. However, ballroom dancing is certainly nothing new and has quite an extensive background. Let's start by discussing the meaning behind the world "ballroom". In simple theory, it means a place where balls may be held. The English language adopted this term from the Latin word "ballare", meaning "to dance". Ironically, this also serves as a base for words like "ballerina" and "ballad". Ballrooms were a very popular source of entertainment before the days of cable television, internet, or satellite radio. Often couples would congregate here to socialize and dance with other couples, and it wasn't long before dance competitions gained popularity. There are many different dances and versions of ballroom dancing. Each of these unique dances has specific steps and characteristics that make it different from other dances -- but there is one aspect that remains constant throughout each style of dancing. No matter what dance style is being performed, you can bet they are being performed by a couple. Every ballroom dance involves a man and a woman, usually remaining in contact throughout the entire routine (although there are some ballroom dances where contact is broken, but the couple reunites by the dance's end). As common as it seems, this style of dancing was developed in Western Europe in the early 1600's. Dances were often held the evening prior to men going off to battle, as a way for the men to go off to war in good spirits. Men often wore their swords while dancing with a woman and it is believed that this led to a woman placing her left hand on her partner's right shoulder, while grasping his left hand for additional balance. This is also where the concept of men leading on the dance floor was developed. As time passed throughout the centuries, many styles of ballroom dancing were born. Each particular dance has its own history, but the Waltz and Foxtrot were the first to gain popularity in the realm of ballroom dancing. Dancing soon became a growing trend in several countries, and other styles of ballroom dancing were formed based on the various cultures. For example, the paso doble was developed in Spain in the 1700's to demonstrate bullfighter's agility and strength. In Italy, the mambo became a popular dance at weddings and special events, while the quickstep became the trend in America after World War I. By the 1970's, all of these different dances had made their way to America's ballrooms and dance competitions soon became popular. Today, ballroom dancing is the number one form of dance among adults and is widely covered by the media. It is also now being offered as an alternative to physical education to high school and college students -- a good indicator that ballroom dancing will remain a favorite activity for years to come. History of Ballroom Dance 2 Ballroom dancing conjures up images of beautiful women in flowing gowns and tall dark handsome men in tuxes waltzing their way around the dance floor. Ballroom dance is not just the Waltz. Ballroom dance can be elegant and sophisticated (like the Waltz) but it can also be hot, sultry and sexy (like the Tango or Paso Doble), or a good bit of lively fun (like the Fox Trot Jive or Quick Step). Webster defines ballroom dancing as simply "Any of various, usually social dances in which couples perform set moves". The word "ball", when referring to a social gathering as opposed to a child's toy, comes from the Latin "ballare" meaning to dance. This is the base for ballroom (a room for dancing), ballet (a dance), and ballerina (a dancer). In the late 18th and early 19th centuries ballroom dancing was very popular among the upper classes of England. It didn't really catch on with the working class until the late 19th and early 20th century. In the early 1920's competitive ballroom dancing was gaining popularity so the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (formerly known as The Imperial Society of Dance Teachers) formed a Ballroom Branch whose function was to standardize the ballroom dances. Modern ballroom dancing revolves around five dances, the Modern Waltz, the Viennese Waltz, the Slow Foxtrot, Tango and the Quickstep. The Latin American ballroom dances are the Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, Cha-Cha and the Jive. Latin American ballroom is short for Latin and American -- not a reference to Latin countries. The modern ballroom dances vary in tempo (beats per minute) and rhythm (structure); however, they all involve a couple dancing in a closed hold. A closed hold involves 5 bodily points of contact between the couple. Three of these points involve the hands, his left hand holding her right, her left hand on top of his right upper arm (for the Tango her hand would go behind his arm) and his right hand on her back resting on her left shoulder blade. The other two points of contact are her left elbow resting on his right elbow and the right side of her chest touching the right side of his chest. This dance posture goes all the way back to the ballroom dancing in the European royal courts and makes for a very elegant look as the couples float around the dance floor. This right side-to-right side contact of the closed hold may have originated from a time when men danced while wearing their swords, which were hung on their left sides. This would also explain the counter clockwise movement around the dance floor as the man would've stood on the inside of the circle so he wouldn't inadvertently hit any of the people watching the dancers with his sword as he danced past. In Latin American ballroom the postures vary from dance to dance with some using the closed hold and others where the partners hold each other with only one hand. Like the Modern Ballroom the Latin American Ballroom has been standardized for teaching purposes and has a set, internationally recognized vocabulary, technique, rhythm and tempo.
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