I have really enjoyed the recent interaction that has occurred between some of the blog’s readers and realized that the topics of those posts with the greatest number of commentaries were about practical things we ballroom dancers encounter such as which shoes to purchase and if we should try a competition.
This made me think. Perhaps I should expand the topics I address on this blog. It is pretty self-indulgent of me to describe my dance lessons, I know. I suppose it increases my “expertise” in the area of ballroom dance because you’ll know as a reader that I’m slogging through my continual practice and search for improvement, but maybe it’s not applicable to you, what you want to know about ballroom dancing, the questions you have.
So I thought I’d do a little series of blog posts about various topics that pertain to the experience of ballroom dancing. It might be a great way to start some more conversations since I’m sure many people have many different opinions and experiences to share around such topics as finding a partner, social dance versus competitive dance, navigating the complex relationships with professional instructors/partners (I have no experience dancing/practicing regularly with an amateur partner so if someone wants to write a guest post about that, consider it an open invitation), what it is like to compete, how competitions are scored, and “other” facets of ballroom dancing such as same-sex ballroom, and ballroom dancing where one partner is in a wheelchair (my friend had no idea these existed and though I don’t have experience in them, I am also open to guest posts about these topics plus I love the idea of EVERYONE dancing).
I also want to give a special thanks to Paragon2Pieces for starting the dialogue. She asked about buying dance shoes. I felt awesome that she trusted my opinion enough to ask, and that so many others chimed in with their valuable experience as well. This blog can be a community, a place where lovers of ballroom come to hang out, share, and encourage one another. A place where we can learn from each other.
So, here’s your call to action: think of a topic related to ballroom dancing that you’d like to learn more about or that you have expertise in. Post it in the comments on the bottom of this post. Ask a question, or offer to write a guest post. You can also message me directly via Facebook if you want to remain anonymous. You can do that if you “Like” the Dancing With Stefanie Facebook page here.
Let’s get this conversation started!
Awesome! I’ll start – I’ve never understood the whole points thing, scholarships, etc. for open comps. I don’t do enough open comps for it to matter – but I’d love to understand it. I’ve tried to look it up and other than the official rules which are like like reading a law book ( in other words make no sense to me!) I can’t find a simple explanation of it all. If anyone can give a layperson’s explanation it would be cool!
And Stef – as always – you rock for being so generous with your blog. But please don’t sell yourself short – personally I ( and I’m sure others) love hearing about your experiences.
Ellen, what do you mean by “the whole points thing?” I am under the understanding that in competitions you are ranked in the dances in order of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. as compared to the other couples on the floor. You can be placed 1st in Swing but 5th in Mambo, but generally the judges rank similarly and there isn’t that much variation. Then, like for a scholarship, just like the professionals you dance multiple dances and are ranked on all of them. Then whoever has the most 1st’s gets 1st place and so on. There is a rule about when there is a tie that I don’t remember, but I don’t think that happens all that often. So, I’m just not sure what you mean by “points.”
Maybe you are referring to being top student or top teacher in a competition or a district or in a competition series? If that is the case, what happens is you get a certain amount of points for each entry you are in (or your instructor dances), and then more points for placing higher. Like when I got top student in San Diego it was like 8 points (or something, I don’t exactly remember the point value) for 1st place, 6 for 2nd, down through 6th and then 1 point for participating. You get more points for participating more and for placing higher. Your instructor gets points for the same things, but obviously if they bring more students and dance more often, they earn more points.
Let me know and I will look into it!
Here you can find the guide to proficiency points – if you can make any sense of it – let me know (The link is below the Dancsport rulebook) http://usadance.org/dancesport/
Ellen, I’ve looked at the proficiency point guide and I’m intrigued. Seems to be a complicated system to determine which category you should dance in…what age, what level, as an attempt in making sure people are competing at an appropriate level – not too high or too low. It says in the guide that USA dance will make a database online of the points so I’m now trying to find that. I’m curious to see where I might rank. I’ve always been told that the instructor decides which category you dance at. It seems like the points might be more important for high level amateur competitors or professional couples. I’ll ask Ivan about it, but who knows if he knows anything about it. It does say that you can be disciplined for dancing below your level! Thanks for asking this question. I love learning more about my favorite sport! I’ll keep you updated.
I’ll chime in with Speaker about not selling yourself short! Yes, your blog is intensely personal…but that’s part of the charm of it–hearing someone else’s experiences with dancing, and comparing it with our own. 🙂
It is, however, hard to say much to someone else’s story, because, “Wow, loved your post!” starts to sound a little silly, in a very short period of time…so it’s natural, I think that people will comment less, when your posts are more personal…vs responding to being asked for advice–where I think we can all think of times we wished we knew someone to answer our dance questions–and want to help out. 🙂
(And for what it’s worth…even with the personal posts, if you’d like to see more comments, it might be as simple as ending every post with something like, “What about you guys? Have you ever had a similar dance epiphany?”, etc, etc. I think a lot of readers are shy about commenting–and need to see alot of invitations, before they’re willing to take you seriously, when asked to share their stories/experiences, too! 🙂 I’m not–but I have a theatre background. I’m used to opening my big mouth. Not everyone else is! ;))
As for things that would be interesting to read about…along WITH your own personal stories! ;)…I think you put your finger right on it–it’s practical things–the things that no one tells you, and you have to figure out on your own, through trial and error…like:
1) how to find a partner/do you have to have a partner?
2) how to find a studio/dance teacher
3) what’s the difference between international and American style dance?
4) what’s the difference between social dancing and competition dancing?
5) what do the dance levels mean?
6) how to find dance shoes/clothes/costumes/competitions
7) how to find other people to dance with
8) where to go to dance
9) important social dance etiquette
10) what are the unwritten rules of competitions?
11) social dancing pet peeves (ie, uncontrollable dancers, dancing in the wrong direction, dancers who drink while dancing, etc)
12) what’s the difference between Latin dancing and “Latin” night at a ballroom? (hint…ever been patted down to get into a ballroom???!!!)
13) what’s the difference between East Coast swing and West Coast…and jive…and jitterbug…and lindy hop…and shag…and Hollywood style vs flavor of the day style? (And who knew that the hustle is just a sort of modified swing?!)
14) what’s the difference between authentic rhumba, etc, vs ballroom rhumba, etc?
15) what’s the difference between ballroom tango and Argentine tango?
16) why do some studios talk about “leaders and followers” and others talk about “the lady” and “the man”–do they mean different things?
17) what NOT to wear at competitions and showcases (even studio showcases)–ie, THONGS, ladies!!!! JUST SAY “NO”, during a showcase, unless you REALLY want to “showcase” yourself! 😉
18) what if my instructor has such a heavy accent I can’t understand him or her?
And so on. Just think about every naive question you ever had, when starting ballroom–and assume that there are people out there without a clue, who are wondering about it. 🙂 (I do know the answers to all the above now…but they are all things I wondered about when I started–and found it surprisingly hard to get meaningful answers to them!)
Aurora, you rock! I love your spunk! I love your exhuberance and I’m glad you’re not shy. Thanks for all the topic ideas! I’m super excited. Sometimes I don’t write a post because I haven’t danced but now I can chip away at this fantastic list of questions no matter how much I’ve moved in a week. I appreciate your suggestions about increasing commentary as well. And, to both you, and Ellen, thanks for the encouragement about sharing my personal experiences. They really are the backbone of this blog and I love writing them. It is like my own personal journal and I’m glad I get to share. They won’t be going anywhere – I’m just expanding. Thanks for everything!
You’re a terrific writer–very passionate, sensitive, and detailed–and that’s JUST the sort of writing that’s ideal for tackling all sorts of things beginners puzzle over.
I, for one, look forward to seeing what topics you tackle–and how you approach them! (As well as looking forward to hearing and seeing more of your own personal dance journey. :))
Awwww thanks! I feel so good about myself today.
II’m looking forward to it too! And Aurora I’m sooo impressed – can’t wait to learn some of your treasures – a few of the things you mentioned are new to me! 🙂
Well, consider us “even”, Speaker–I had a *vague* memory of points, from when I was obsessively reading everything I could about dancesport online…but nothing more than that.
Stefanie–from your explanation it actually sounds a bit like what little I know about the ice skating comp system–thanks for summing it up for us! 🙂
I also really like your personal posts about your lessons, your progress, and what’s concerning to you at any given time. It’s really a treat to hear about the details, right down to what figures you worked on or the videos. It’s interesting to read about what private or group lessons are like with different teachers and at different studios since I have less experience.
One question I have is about the clear heel protectors I’ve seen on dance supply websites and on the dance floor at the one competition I watched. What’s the point of those? Stability? Do you use them when your shoe stiletto starts to get worn down?
Hey Paragon, in answer to your question about the clear heel protectors, I’m gonna request some help from any readers who may know better than I. I don’t use them. I believe they are used to extend the life of heels. From personal experience I know that the plastic cap on the bottom of heels wears down, often unevenly depending on how you distribute your body weight through your feet. Wearing the caps, I think, allows you to wear down the external plastic cap rather than the one on the heel. I’ve also seen people compete with them on and was a little surprised by that. I asked Nona once about them, and she said they should only be used in practice. Maybe they do help with slipping, but generally for a woman, most of their weight should be toward the ball of the foot when dancing. The heels help push the weight forward. You don’t often see them on professional dancers in competition. If anyone else knows more, please chime in!
My knowledge is not to be taken as an absolute – I will never claim to be an authority -just my own knowledge, experience and opinion. Based on that “Ellen disclaimer”, I can say that as far as I know Heel Protectors are used primarily in Standard (and maybe Smooth). They are used because you have so many heel leads and heel turns and heel drags and they give you much better traction.
There are 3 or4 types of them – depending on the shoes you have and what you prefer.
1) Some brands of shoes you can only find the clear heavy plastic covers – I don’t like these as much – they slip off easily and they wear down quickly.
2/3) Supadance makes hard plastic covers that last a lot longer. I like these better – and they also have a version of these with suede on the bottom – these are my favorite! Better traction and they last longer.
4) There are also suede stars that are heel covers – I bought them once but I’ve never used these – some people say you wrap them on the heel and tape them on – I don’t get it – can’t get them to work – and can’t see how they would – but I know some do swear by them. I can see how these might be harder to wear in comp because the color is not always the same as the shoe or clear.
As to wearing the plastic heel protectors in competition – it is a personal preference – I never dance without them – practice or comp. I know some judges who frown on it – others who said they never danced without them and never mark people down for it.
I don’t usually see a lot of people wearing them in latin/rhythm because they help you grab the floor – slow you down – not what you want in spins, etc. for those dances.
Hope that helps. 🙂 Remember – my disclaimer – it’s all in my head! LOL
Thanks Ellen! I have seen people dance with them in Latin/Rhythm, but it makes more sense to wear them in Smooth/Ballroom. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
PS: And you’re welcome! I’m so happy to be able to learn from your experiences and those of the other ladies who are commenting here. Thanks for being open to questions from someone who is just beginning 🙂