Ballroom Dance Helps Teen Find His Footing

By EMILY FONTENOT, Lake Charles American Press (originally appeared in The Associated Press.)


LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Reginald Larkins, winner of four national ballroom dance titles, barely resembles the boy who once struggled to make passing grades and could barely conjure a “hello.”

Larkins, 19, said he was anti-social and timid when he started taking ballroom dance lessons in fifth grade at A.A. Nelson Elementary in 2009.

That year, children’s advocacy group Whistle Stop began offering the lessons at area schools through its Dancing Classrooms program.

One day Larkins’ teacher, impressed by his flair for performance, introduced him to Whistle Stop Director Nancy Vallee.

 “She actually went and got him out of class so I could see him dance,” Vallee said. “She said, ‘He’s a special-ed student, and he’s going to struggle all his life. But he can really dance, and if he has this then I think he’ll be all right.’ Of course nobody knew how his gift was going to develop.”

Vallee encouraged Larkins to join a new after-school program called DanceSport for students interested in competing. Since his parents worked in the afternoon, Vallee agreed to take him.

Larkins said he received positive feedback from teachers and gradually gained confidence. For the first time, he said, he felt he could understand what people were asking him to do.

“I guess that’s why I kept doing it so long,” Larkins said. “I didn’t catch on like everybody else in math or English. It took me longer to learn it than others. But with dance I felt the opposite.”

However, bullying became a problem in middle school. “Fifth grade through eighth I was picked on,” he said. “I was picked on because I danced, because I was so different.”

When he started high school, he said, he promised himself he would never be bullied again, so he made an effort to talk more and let down his guard.

 Larkins’ mother, Michelle, said that over the years her son went from being painfully shy to the “life of the party.”

“He just opened up and started to have a lot of friends,” she said. “His personality really came out.”

She said other parents would approach her at competitions to gush about his talent. “When he starts dancing it’s just perfect, and it’s not just me,” she said. “When he gets out there, he becomes Reginald the dancer.”

Larkins said he has dabbled in hip-hop and other styles popular with people his age but didn’t take to it like he did the rumba, cha-cha or swing.

Something about the smoothness and the partnership of ballroom dancing has kept him interested, he said.

“Ballroom just reminds me of home,” Larkins said. “It’s just something that will never leave me. This is something that I can always relate to or go back to if I ever needed something.”

He said he loses himself a little each time he gets on stage. “When I dance I’m not the same person,” Larkins said. “I feel like I leave my body and somebody else comes in and they do whatever they want to do.”

After racking up awards in Baton Rouge, Larkins took home four national titles in various categories at the U.S. championship in Baltimore last year.

He started teaching at W.W. Lewis Middle School and DanceSport Academy during his junior year, then at Maplewood Middle and Barbe High his senior year.

After graduating from Sam Houston High in the spring, he became a full-time teacher in the DanceSport program.

Looking back, he said, it was Vallee who gave him the opportunity to reach his potential as a dancer. He said that without her he wouldn’t have made it to class, let alone the national championship.

“I have matured so much in the past eight years in my life because of her,” Larkins said. “Everything she has done for me has helped me with my personal skills and just myself. I really do care and love her for just never giving up on me.”

Even now, she’s still looking out for his future. The two are working on an application for Sowela Technical Community College and McNeese State University.

“A plan B,” Vallee said with a smirk.

10 Reasons Why Dance Is A Sport

The dictionary definition of a sport is, an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature. This definition perfectly applies to the activity of dance, so why is it not considered a sport? If you need more convincing that dance is in fact a sport, read these reasons.

1. We compete

The biggest thing that a sports team does is compete against other teams. Have you ever been to a dance competition? It is just as competitive as sports games except with more music and hairspray. Dancers even gain points and win trophies.

2. It’s a workout

If you have ever done dance before, you know it’s not a good practice unless you end up really sweaty and breathless. If you want a good workout, come to a dance practice or two.

3. We stretch

You have to stretch before you do anything physical so you don’t pull a muscle. The only difference is with dance you are dancing to become not only stretched but the most flexible you can be.

4. We gain muscle

A typical dance warm up involves push-ups for arm muscles, crunches for abs and, most importantly, plies for leg muscles. Dancers may not look as muscular as other jocks but that’s because our muscles are compact to make our dance moves better and prettier.

5. You need good stamina

For any sport you need the ability to run back and forth across a field. Well, for dancers to do three to four minute intense dances you need the stamina of an Olympic runner.

6. We have uniforms

.Well, our uniforms are called costumes but it’s the same idea. Our “uniforms” are usually just a lot more glittery or flowy.

7. We could have equipment

You might say how could it be a sport if you don’t have anything like a baseball, basketball, or football. Who says we can’t? We could incorporate balls into our dances and other equipment that athletes use, they would just be called props. Plus there are tons of activities that are considered sports that don’t involve balls, like swimming, and track.

8. We have to remember things

Athletes need to remember plays or sets to pull off during a game and we remember entire dances to perform for everyone. So, while what athletes remember is only a small portion of what they do, for dancers their memory is one of the most important things we use.

9. We get injured

Dance is just as intense as any other sport and can be dangerous at times. If you fail to pull off a certain move correctly, you can get seriously hurt. Just like with lacrosse or football, dancers must be careful to keep themselves from getting injured.

10. Dance is difficult

If you are still not convinced that dance is a sport, try to kick your foot over your head. Try to do four turns in a row. Try to do a split or a straddle leap. Or just try pointe. All while keeping a smile on your face and making everything look effortless. Dance is just as difficult, if not even more difficult in its own way, than any other sport. So dance is a sport.

originally appeared on

Introducing the Dance Vision Circuit


Introducing the All New Dance Vision Circuit!

Featuring over $75,000 Cash Prize Money to be awarded to both Pro/Am students & Studios:

  • $50,000 cash – Top Pro/Am Students
  • $25,000 cash – Top Studios

Over 50 competitions have been added to the circuit so far!

Circuit begins at the 2018 Emerald Ball Dancesport Championships, May 1 – 6, 2018.

More information and website to be announced in the upcoming weeks!

Learning the Different Beats of Ballroom Dances

Originally posted by Sheri Leblane.

New ballroom dancers face the challenge of learning how to tell the difference between the various different music styles.  There are at least 10 different rhythm patterns making up the most popular ballroom, latin and swing dance styles.

To understand what makes a particular song right for a given dance style requires listening  to and analyzing the underlying rhythm pattern.   This pattern is not the  melody but the  underlying percussion pattern.    This pattern can come from a number of different instruments including drums and piano.

Tempo:  Italian for time.  Usually represented as Beats Per Minute (BPM). Tempo is simply the speed of the music.

Beat.  Beat is the unit of measurement in a measure.  A recurring pulse in the music usually represented by a drum.

Different aspects of the Beat are called the following:

Boom – Emphasis or strong beat, most likely a base drum or heavy beat.

Tic – Regular beat, possibly a snare drum or light cymbal.

Tap – Tango beat.

Tada – Samba quick. Sounds like two beats pushed together.

Measure: Simply a segment of time.  A measure’s length will vary from song to song.  A measure will consist of a number of beats which is used to identify the timing.  A measure with three beats and the first beat is the strong beat is considered ¾ time.   ¾ time is stated as three four time, not three quarter time.

Timing: A representation of the number of beats in a measure and what beat receives emphasis.  The top or first number contains the number of beats per measure.  The bottom number represents the emphasis or strong beat.  ¾ timing the emphasis is on the quarter not,  3/8 would be on the eighth note,  3/2 timing the emphasis on the half note.  Most dance music is emphasized on the quarter not so you will usually see ¾ or 4/4 timing for example.

Phrase: A group of measures/beats.  A Phrase can consist of 8 , 16, 24, 32 or more beats.

Mini Phrase: A grouping of two measures usually counted 1-8.  This is the most common phrase discussed when taking dance lessons.  The first beat of a mini-phrase of 8 is slightly accented which is why you will often hear an instructor start counting 5,6,7,8 in classes.

Basic Phrase: A group of eight measures consisting of a total of 32 beats.  This is sometimes called basic phrase.  This is very commonly used in choreography.

What Beginners Should Learn: What are the differences between Beat, Rhythm and Tempo?

  • a Beat is the basic time unit of a piece of music.
  • the Rhythm of a song is made up of a sequence of beats.
  • the Tempo is the speed at which the beats occur.

How to find the First Beat?

There are three ways for picking out the first beat:

  1. Listen for when the singer begins to sing. Singers tend to sing on the first beat of any new sequence of music.
  2. Listen for the beat that has a greater intensity or volume than the others. This is often the first beat.
  3. Listen for the bass line in the drums or bass guitar. The first beat of a bar has slightly more emphasis and can be clearly heard in the bass.

How to Master Finding the Beat?

Finding the first beat takes practice. It requires listening to a variety of music regularly and listening for the different intensity of the beats. as soon as you can pick out the beat of a particular song, your ability to keep time to music improves.

I find that it helps to learn to dance by using all 5 senses in dance classes and practice sessions.

Finding the beat exercise

Now it is time to put into practice what you have just learned.


Timing:  4/4 Time

Tempo:  approximately 120 bpm (beats per minute)

Count:  1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4

Beat Representation:  Boom tic Boom tic

Foxtrot is typically danced to Big Band /Swing music and usually danced slow slow quick quick with each slow consisting of two beats and  each quick of one beat. The basic requires 6 beats so to end on a measure requires two basics in the same manner as east coast swing.

Below are some songs for Foxtrot.  See if you can hear the boom tic boom tic beat.

All Of Me by Graham Dalby And The Grahamophones

It’s Cool to Be Cool by Sarah Moule (Boom is emphasized by piano through portions of this song).

Too Marvelous For Words by Frank Sanatra


Timing:  4/4 Time

Tempo:  approximately 200 bpm

Beat Representation:  Boom tic Boom tic

Count:  1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4

QuickStep is very Fast  and lively Tempo Big Band Swing style music.  Some music may also be suitable for lindy hop or fast swing. Quickstep is danced slow quick quick, slow, quick, quick.

Foxtrot and quickstep are very similar in the musical style as both are danced to big band  4/4 time music.  The main difference is the tempo.  Where Foxtrot is around 120 bpm,  quick step is much faster being closer to 200 bpm.  Identifying quickstep is the same as identifying foxtrot only at a much faster tempo.

Here are a couple of examples:

It Don’t mean a Thing by Count Basie Orchestra

Sing Sing Sing by Benny Goodman And His Orchestra


Timing:  ¾ Time

Tempo:  approximately 90 – 100 bpm

Beat Representation:  Boom tic tic

Count:  1,2,3,1,2,3

Waltz is danced to graceful and elegant music.  The timing is quite different from most other styles.  ¾ time means each measure has three beats and the first beat will be the strong or emphasized beat.   If the music is emphasized every fourth beat then it is not ¾ time and not waltz music.


Open Arms by Journey

Fascination by Nat King Cole

Viennese Waltz

Timing:  ¾ Time

Tempo:  approximately 190 bpm

Beat Representation:  Boom tic tic

Count:  1,2,3,1,2,3

Similar to waltz, viennese has a tempo that is almost twice as fast as waltz.  As in waltz, the first beat is emphasized.   Another major difference is in the timing of the beat.   In waltz, the three beats are evenly spaced, but in viennese, the two and three beat are closer together.   This gives the music it’s rolling slow, quick, quick feel.   One thing to note is that occasionally you might find it difficult to distinguish a viennese waltz from a regular waltz so listen carefully.  You will definitely figure it out when you try to dance regular waltz to this kind of music.


Danube Waves Waltz by Alfred Hause Orchester

After The Ball Is Over by Nat King Cole


Timing:  4/4 Time (usually)
Tempo:  approximately 120  beats per minute
Beat Representation:  tap tap tap tap drum-roll that leads into repeat pattern
Count:  Sometimes taught vocalizing the steps with the letters T, A, N, G, O

Tango music has a distinctive style and is probably one of the most easily identifiable.   It is most often defined by the staccato nature of steps and the unique instrument (bandoneon  similar to accordion) played.

The dance itself is dramatic and danced to a count of : slow slow quick quick slow.  Each slow is danced on one beat of music and each quick on half a beat.

The issue of timing in Tango music is not as cut and dried as most other dances Saying Tango is 4/4 time should be more than sufficient to enable you to identify the style.


Hernando’s Hideaway by Tango Orchester Alfred Hause
Tango Del Amor by Carioca Band  (Listen to the drumroll)

Cha Cha

Timing:  4/4 Time
Tempo:  approximately 112 to 128  beats per minute
Beat Representation: Boom, tic,  tic,  tic
Count:  1,2,3,4 & 1,2,3,4

Cha Cha music has its own distinctive sound that can be identified by distinct percussion instruments giving it a unique staccato sound but has the same tempo as Hustle, West Coast Swing.  As a result, it is not uncommon to see people dancing swing or hustle to some Cha Cha music.   five steps are taken to four beats of music with the break step on the 2 beat and is danced slow, slow, slow, quick, quick.   The emphasis is on the 1 beat.

Tea for Two by Warren Covington And The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
A Bailar Calypso by Elli Medeiros
Pata Pata by Thalia


Timing:  4/4 Time
Tempo:  East Coast Swing:  approximately 140 bpm,  Jive :  180 bpm
Beat Representation: Boom, tic,  Boom,  tic
Count:  1,2,3,4 & 1,2,3,4

Swing and Jive have an exciting up beat feel, usually danced to swing style jump blues music.  East Coast Swing can be danced to a variety of contemporary music styles.

East Coast Swing is counted quick, quick slow(triple step), quick quick slow(triple step), slow slow(rock step)

All Shook Up by Elvis Presley
In The Mood by Glenn Miller Orchestra

Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant
Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry

West Coast Swing

Timing:  4/4 Time
Tempo:  ranges from approximately 100 – 135 bpm
Beat Representation: Boom, tic,  Boom,  tic  (Swing Count is:  Boom, ta tic, Boom, ta tic)
Count:  1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4

Although traditionally dance to slower bluesy Swing style,   West Coast Swing (WCS) can be danced to a wide variety of music including many contemporary songs with the right tempo and 4/4 timing.

Traditional WCS music has a “Swing” Beat that is identifiable by the slight delay in the half note  before the even note.  If you listen to the percussion in the following songs, you will not hear the basic 1,2,3,4 or boom, tic, boom tic.  What you will actually hear is more closely represented as boom, ta tic, boom, ta tic.  Boom is the down or odd beat, ta is a half note that is played closer to the two (Musically, it’s called a swung Eighth)  and tic is the two and so on. Another way to represent this might be 1, ta 2, 3, ta 4.

So on each even beat you hear two percussion beats pressed together.  the half note before the 2 beat and the 4 beat is played not in the half timing but somewhere close to 1/3.   This give it the rolling ta da sound that is the distinctive swing beat.  You will hear this same beat in many East Coast Swing songs as well, only at faster tempo.


I’m the Only One by Melissa Etheridge
No More Doggin by Colin James

All Summer Long by Kid Rock
Buttons by The Pussycat Dolls

The Emerald Ball in 20 Seconds

For the serious competitor, the Emerald Ball is a “must-do”, top-flight dancesport event to capture your ranking on the national scene.

Not competing? Come and watch some of the best dancers in the United States compete in Ballroom Dancesport; competitive ballroom dancing with a distinctive blend of athleticism, traditional ballroom dance technique, and sparkling showmanship.

In your free time, experience the excitement of Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Dancing with the Stars and Disneyland – or relax at nearby beaches and bars.

The Tango Family Tree

Originally appeared on by Richard Powers.

The tango has been popular around the world for over a century. Therefore it has evolved into several different forms over the years. It may be helpful to understand how and why it changed.
Over the past century, tango has branched out into three primary forms. We’ll look at the family tree of tango from the ground up.

The Roots of Tango
The antecedents of the tango are difficult to trace, but may include ● the African candombe, or ● a Spanish tango, possibly of Gypsy origin, that may have been brought to Argentina by touring Zarzuela theatre companies. Or ● the Cuban habanera (“dance of Havana”), or ● an evolution from European social dances brought to Argentina by immigrants, or ● one of the many dances of the gauchos (the gato, chifras, pericon, chacarera or estilitos). Or more likely, a hybrid combination of some of these five possibilities.

The roots of tango are not known with certainty because it was created by the disenfranchised poor, who lived in the arrabales, or outskirts, of Buenos Aires. These barrios were primarily immigrant slums, that expanded with a migration from the pampas as farms failed or were taken over by the land barons. Free from the support or control of the city government, the surrounding arrabales developed their own unique subculture of the dispossessed, and it was here that the tango evolved. When a dance arises from a disfranchised subculture, the roots are especially vague because these developments were rarely described by those in the inner city who could record events for posterity.

And finally, the origins of the tango are not only blurred, but were often intentionally obscured by those who preferred a more respectable heritage, or more sensational imagery (“Born in the brothels!”), for the dance.

The Paris Tangomania
The northern hemisphere first saw the tango when Argentine dancers brought it to Paris around 1908. Its popularity grew, becoming the biggest news in Paris — the 1912-14 Tangomania, which quickly spread to England, the United States, Germany, Russia, and throughout Europe. Dancers around the world fell in love with the tango, and added it to their growing repertoire of social dances.

When we compare European and North American tango descriptions to a Buenos Aires tango manual from the same time, we see that the northern hemisphere dancers mostly got it right, dancing the same steps, in the same style, as the Argentines.

Don’t believe that? Read on.
There are three main branches on the family tree of tango.
1. Living Tradition Argentine Tango (Tango Argentino)

This is tango as danced in Buenos Aires today. Most social dance forms continue to evolve in their country of origin, and tango is the perfect example. Every decade has seen changes in steps and style.

When we compare today’s Argentine tango to descriptions from Buenos Aires tango dance manuals a century ago, we see that the original combination of slow and quick steps has mostly disappeared from tango Argentino today. One typical early Argentine timing was slow-slow-quick-quick-slow. Tango promenade position (both looking forward, side-by-side, clasping hands in front) was featured in early Buenos Aires tango manuals, and has also disappeared, along with other original elements. But these all remain in social (“American”) tango.

Other steps and styles have been added to tango Argentino over the decades, like intricate footwork (ganchos, sacades, barridas, etc.). Close embrace tango was introduced to this country in 1995 at the Stanford Tango Week, and has since been widely adopted. After many decades of changes, today’s Argentine tango is significantly different from the original version.

Living tradition tango Argentino is danced throughout the world today.
2. Social Tango

When the Tangomania hit during the Ragtime Era, social dancers already knew many dances, including the one-step, waltz, two-step, the maxixe from Brazil, and then the foxtrot in 1914. So they enthusiastically added the Argentine tango to their growing repertoire of dances.

Then as time went on, social dancers had no reason to change the tango. It wasn’t broken, so why fix it? Therefore today’s social tango is essentially the continuation of the original Argentine tango. Yes, there have been some evolutionary changes over time, but they’re relatively minor compared to the greater changes that have been made to the other two branches of tango.

Ironically, some people call this American Style tango. They use this term to differentiate it from International Style(British competition style) tango, but it’s nevertheless odd to call the nearly-unchanged original Argentine tango “American” (unless one means South American).

Social tango is also the form of tango most often seen in movies, perhaps to advance a romantic relationship, or to add dramatic flair.

Since social tango is essentially the original Argentine tango, and the least changed of the three branches, it contains many of the foundation dynamics, upon which the other two forms are built.
Which one changed?

Today, most Argentines believe that Europeans changed (“tamed” or “corrupted” or “bastardized”) the Argentine tango, when in fact it was the Argentines who changed it, while European and American social dancers continued the original style. Change isn’t a bad thing — it’s natural, and a sign of healthy growth. But maintaining an original tradition also has value, so all forms of tango are valid, each enjoyed by thousands of enthusiastic devotees.
3. Competition Ballroom Tango (International Style Tango)

The other reason why dances change is competitions. You won’t win by being the same as your competitors — you need to add something extra to stand out. New steps are constantly created, as others are deemed out-of-date. For instance, the Champion competitor Fred Camp introduced a quick head snap from Germany to British ballroom tango in 1933, launching a bitter debate among English dancers about this new “staccato tango.” After the fighting subsided, this German variant was adopted as the “correct” British style. Then during the 1960s it was decided that the woman must dance with a stiffer posture and look away from her partner.

Tango style changed dramatically when the Elimination Round was introduced, in which the competition begins with a fairly crowded floor, filled with all of the competitors dancing at once. The judges thin the crowd down to a few finalists to be individually evaluated. The dancers have to perform far more expansive movements, to stand out from the crowd. Extreme, expanded movements are a matter of survival, either outshining the others, or being quickly eliminated. This expansiveness has become the look of competition-style tango.
Smaller Branches:

Historic Tango

In addition to the three main branches of tango, many dance historians and vintage dancers enjoy learning the original tango from a century ago, reconstructed from dance manuals and films from the period. Early tango is popular at vintage dance weeks, both in the U.S. and Europe, and is re-enacted, in period attire, at vintage balls.
Performative Tango

Exhibition tango, on stage and film, can be considered a separate branch because its intent is substantially different from the original tango. This is tango as entertainment for an audience. Movements are usually exaggerated, and the tango is often reshaped to be more dramatic, or sometimes comic.

Then just as in human family trees, branches often cross-pollinate. For example, Finnish tango can be seen as a hybrid of social tango, foxtrot, and tango Argentino. The English Sequence Dance and Round Dance movements have short repeating tango choreographies, and can been seen as a three-way morph of social, competitive and historic tango. Most of these sequences date back to the 1920s to 1950s, and the choreographies haven’t changed since then. International folk dancers and Australian “bush dancers” still enjoy doing these sequenced tangos, such as the Royal Empress Tango (1922).
Body contact in tango

This is an interesting comparison. We have many illustrations and photographs from the early years of tango in Buenos Aires to know that there was originally little or no body contact between the dancers. The space between dancers varied, from barely touching to six inches, but there was no compressure.

Social tango and Argentine salon style tango continue this distance between partners, as one would expect, since they changed the least. Close embrace tango Argentino connects at the chest. International Style ballroom tango connects at the pelvis.

Which one is best?

That depends on your personal preference. All of these forms are valid, enjoyed by thousands of enthusiastic devotees.

How To Prepare Yourself For Ballroom Dance Lessons

Originally appeared on  By Thomas West

Ballroom dance is done with partners and are enjoyed around the world socially and competitively with television, film and stage using them for their entertainment and performance aspects. This may refer to any dances done with partners though their scope has narrowed down since dancesport has emerged. International Standard and International Latin are the two major styles for these.


Determine first which among the various styles you will learn which depends on your preference though choosing first the core ones is advisable. The Standard ones are Tango, Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz while Latin ones are Rumba, Jive, Samba, Paso Doble and Cha Cha. Prioritize first the easier ones and their basic steps.

Decide your reason of wanting to learn these and if that is because of an upcoming social event or there is a competition you are interested in joining. Certain celebrations sometimes need a single only for you to learn though knowing some more would better help you get prepared. Whatever your goals may be, remember them in keeping yourself motivated through the days.

Look for teachers or schools that can teach the specific dance that you want by looking through phone directories or doing an online search. Contact them and discuss your goals to know their plans in helping you to fulfill them. Some are focusing on those that wants to join competitions and others are helping beginners gain first confidence and experience.

If ever you feel nervous in going to the first class you have without any knowledge concerning ballroom dancing then visit websites and watch online videos. Learn some foundations first such as box step that most of them are using and remember that the square is made with your outside leg. Or choose instead a specific step with the style you chose to start studying.

Next, attend a class now with basic knowledge equipped right now because this could help you learn, aside from their steps, the other essential aspects. This include posture, dance etiquette and communication but ask them first if bringing a partner is required. Listen to ballroom music to help your rhythm be improved and quickly familiarize the movements.

Check their prices to determine if the skills and capabilities they have in teaching people to dance is worth the money you would be paying. Many classes are offering group lessons which are cheaper usually and you could find which one fits your style better. Private lessons would be more expensive particularly those that were designed in learning advanced techniques and steps used in competitive ballroom dancing.

Practice dancing even outside the lessons and you may ask for help from more experienced dancers to help you improve. You could also find a partner to practice with during these times and you may encourage them to join you in classes. And go out in public to dance and try the things you have learned.

The History of Ballroom Costumes – Part 2

Originally appeared on & written by Freddie Brock.

Ball gowns and costumes of the 1900s were meant to be ornate and elegant and only worn by the richest women in society. Ball gowns and costumes were also meant to dazzle the viewer while emulating the physique of the woman wearing the costume. Always long and exquisite, the gown would conceal the entire leg. The bottom of the dress was flared to accent the motions of ballroom dance with its turns and sways. The hems on these dresses were hooped, meaning a fish wire was sewn through it. A dress could also have a ruffle or another layer at the hem. While the lower half of the dress was loose (for dancing), the upper part is snugly fit to the body.  It was the end of the Victorian era and women were still wearing corsets in structured gowns. It was very much admired that women have a tiny waist. Although the corset was still worn, even that eventually had to change with the new century and new fashions. The corset slightly changed by being fastened very tight over the waist. It was meant to push hips back and create the S-bend shape that became a feature of Edwardian dress created at the start of the 20th century. This also thrust the bust upwards, with gowns often featuring folds or sheer fabric over the front of the bodice to further accentuate this pigeon-chested effect. Costumes featured a tight bodice over a corset and a trumpet skirt, often times having a train. Bodices and skirts were usually made in separate pieces and hooked together when worn. This was a much simpler version of ballroom dress then the 1800s type of dress with bustles and puffs. Harper’s Bazaar then claimed that women who wished to dance should do away with the train, so that their ball gown would not interfere with dancing. And so, it was meant to be!

Ball gowns in the 1900s were usually two colors, with the main shade either pale or bright. New synthetic dyes of the Victorian era meant that fabric could be colored in a range of hues. The darker and richer colors would be used as edging or contrast. In summer the gowns could be lighter than those in the winter. Popular shades were lilac, lemon, turquoise, red, violet and rose. Bare shoulders were considered acceptable style for a dance gown. The front of a dance gown would slope off of the shoulders and down into a shallow scoop neck. Sleeves were short and could have fine, floaty chiffon that came above the elbow. And of course, long gloves were still worn, with white kid being the most popular. It is interesting to note, that in Europe at this time, from the 1890s to the outbreak of war in 1914, ball gowns were the most lavish clothing of the day (for those who could afford luxury). There was lots of trim and decoration on gowns, which may include, ribbons, bows, embroidery, silk roses, ornate beading, rhinestones and teardrop crystals. Fine layers of fabric, such as tulle and lace, provided the romantic look of the period.

From 1930 going forward, there started to be slight variations in evening wear costumes. Necklines tended to be deep and wide, sleeves were short or were mere straps on the shoulder, skirt lengths varied according to fashions and frequently involved complex floating panels, draping, or layers. Fabrics were extravagantly pliant chiffons and satins and luxuriant velvets and taffetas and exquisite knits.  Pleating, embroidery, lace, beading, fringe, braid and ruffles decorated the dresses. Evening gowns were designed in bias-cut styles and were usually constructed with an open back with fabric skimming the body to the hips and flaring out to the floor.

In the 1950s, women wore very formal gowns that swept the floor for a dramatic look. The hourglass figure was the most prized in the 1950s and gowns were made to create such a silhouette. To further enhance this silhouette, stiff crinoline petticoats were worn under gowns to give them

their distinctive bell shape. However, it was also not unusual to see tea-length gowns being introduced with hemlines that could be any length from the calf to the ankles frequently worn. Hemlines did not rise above the knee. It was essential in ballroom dance to keep the knees covered, creating a demure effect. At that time dresses were made from luxurious fabrics like satin, silk and taffeta. They used plenty of tulle back then as graceful embellishments. Some gowns featured lace overlay with a bold hue beneath. Necklines on ball gowns were varied. A very popular style was the strapless neckline or the strapless sweetheart cut paired with fashionable sleeves to complete the look. The off-the-shoulder gowns and high necklines were definitely in vogue.

By the 1960s and going forward, saw the last of a singular fashion for ballroom dance. New looks took hold on the dance floor with a more rounded shoulder look, a nipped waist and an exceptionally full skirt. Ballroom dresses generally paired strapless bodices with full rather than narrow skirts (easier to dance in) and it was not unusual for skirts to be floor-length. From the 1960s going forward, dance costumes started to have options. You might see a mini-skirt made from metallic fabrics or a brilliant patterned fabric with dress surfaces trimmed with sequins, beads, or plastic bits. But, by the late 1960s and into the 1970s, pantsuits with full-legged trousers and palazzo pants paired with a coordinating top became quite popular on the dance floor. In the mid-1970s, fashionable dance wear was typically long and made from soft fabrics that were more body clinging. In the 1980s, the glamour of the evening dress was back in, introducing bright and vibrant colors with lots of glitter, embroidery, sequins and beading. Also, wide-skirted short styles called mini-crinolines were also popular. By the late 1980s, costumes were made from elasticized fabrics that hugged the body and were short, strapless or had tiny shoulder straps. In the early 1990s, basic slip dresses made from soft crepe fabrics became popular. And by the mid-1990s, full-skirted, short, strapless evening gowns reemerged as well as lace, elaborately decorated bustiers and fitted evening gowns.

The History of Ballroom Costumes

Originally appeared on & written by Freddie Brock.

One of the greatest aspects of dance is the wonderful opportunity to look like ‘Prince Charming’ and/or a ‘Princess’ at the ball. It has been that way from the beginning of ballroom dance and its competitions, and hasn’t changed at all in respect to glamour. It is especially true for women. Ballroom dancing is just not complete if a woman isn’t wearing a beautiful dress or costume when competing. Fashion is a very important element in social dancing. It is interesting to note, that while women’s costumes have changed constantly through the years, the men’s attire has basically stayed the same. Part of the reasoning behind this fashion thinking is, “ballroom dancing” shows off its costumes to heighten the competition factor and make the dancers stand out from each other. “ No better way, than a woman wearing a beautiful costume, “you just can’t take your eyes off.”


Now I will go back in time and show you how ballroom dance costumes have changed through the years. I’m mainly going to concentrate on women’s ballroom dresses. You see, even from the beginning of time, men’s clothing changed very little. With men’s costumes, the element of simplicity was always the plan.   Usually a man would wear a black dress coat, black breeches or trousers and a black or white vest. Men wore very little jewelry, wearing only gold cufflinks and maybe a watch chain. It was important for men to dress in accordance with their own features. A particular hairstyle, coat color or cut of trousers could make one look dapper or dowdy on the dance floor. You could say, “that men should always look sleek and refined on the dance floor.” “But the truth of the matter is, they are really playing it down to allow the woman to be the center of attention.” One other thing I’d like to mention for both men and women in early dance, it was customary to wear gloves. Gloves were a definite fashion accessory no ball-goer would be without. Both men and women were even expected to carry a second pair in the event that the first pair became soiled. Men might also wear a top hat, while ladies might carry parasols, handkerchiefs or a fan.

Let’s start with the 1700s, as ballroom fashion showed one’s standing in society. Women’s gowns were very confining and cumbersome. Most gowns were ornate in design with many layers of clothing and hoop skirts. In those days, women needed help getting into the many layers they wore.  Along with a lavish dress was an ornate hairstyle to go with it. Women wore high wigs with jeweled adornments and lots of ribbons. Upper class women wore gowns that were low-necked over a petticoat open-fronted. Gowns were worn with something called a stomacher. A stomacher is a piece of fabric covering the torso from the neckline to the waist. Stomachers were highly decorated with embroidery, jewels and/or pearls. The gown’s sleeves were tight fitting to the elbows with lace pinned to the cuffs. If a lady ballroom dancer decided to wear a more daring neckline, she would then tuck a fichu – which is a decorative, transparent fabric into the neckline of the gown. Black pleats would hang down loosely from the neckline. Women would also wear an under dress that was tightly fitted in the front.

By the end of the century, gowns had lost all fullness and no longer required hoop skirts. The fashionable gowns to wear in this period had a bustle worn with a sash or bow. This style of ballroom dress was called polonaise (same as the dance). Some women chose to wear this type of dress straight down with no bustles or adornments. Petticoats were still worn, but not quite so many as before. The waistline of gowns of this period rose up to meet the bust line to enhance the bosom. Necklines would still be cut low but the sleeves of the gowns were now down to the wrist with plain white cuffs. The colors of the gowns were not as bright as those of previous eras. The colors were mostly blues, pale pinks, white and silver cotton.

Dress historians say that evening dress became a distinct category in the mid-1820s. It is also the same time that the Romantic Movement in art and literature became a major influence in European and American cultures. At this time in dance history, there was an increase in fabric production, a flourishing textile industry and an expanding ready made clothing industry resulting in greater access to resources. In the 1820s, fashion became a rage, especially in Paris and America. Fashion magazines began to be popular among women in the United States and Europe. During the last 80 years of the nineteenth century, women’s fashions evolved from an X-shaped silhouette (1820s) to the introduction of the cage crinoline (1850) through the bustle period (1870 – 1890) and ended with an hourglass silhouette (1890s), and in each era the evening dress took its profile from current styles of the day.

The difference between evening dresses and ballroom dresses was the use of opulent and supple gauze and satin fabrics. The ballroom dresses were cut so the neckline was low or off-the-shoulder (short sleeves) and embellished lavishly. Skirts were rich in ornamentation. They had layers of swags and puffs with trim details. These details could be artificial flowers, ribbons, rosettes and lace.


Ball gowns and costumes of the 1900s were meant to be ornate and elegant and only worn by the richest women in society. Ball gowns and costumes were also meant to dazzle the viewer while emulating the physique of the woman wearing the costume. Always long and exquisite, the gown would conceal the entire leg. The bottom of the dress was flared to accent the motions of ballroom dance with its turns and sways. The hems on these dresses were hooped, meaning a fish wire was sewn through it. A dress could also have a ruffle or another layer at the hem. While the lower half of the dress was loose (for dancing), the upper part is snugly fit to the body.  It was the end of the Victorian era and women were still wearing corsets in structured gowns. It was very much admired that women have a tiny waist. Although the corset was still worn, even that eventually had to change with the new century and new fashions. The corset slightly changed by being fastened very tight over the waist. It was meant to push hips back and create the S-bend shape that became a feature of Edwardian dress created at the start of the 20th century. This also thrust the bust upwards, with gowns often featuring folds or sheer fabric over the front of the bodice to further accentuate this pigeon-chested effect. Costumes featured a tight bodice over a corset and a trumpet skirt, often times having a train. Bodices and skirts were usually made in separate pieces and hooked together when worn. This was a much simpler version of ballroom dress then the 1800s type of dress with bustles and puffs. Harper’s Bazaar then claimed that women who wished to dance should do away with the train, so that their ball gown would not interfere with dancing. And so, it was meant to be!

Ball gowns in the 1900s were usually two colors, with the main shade either pale or bright. New synthetic dyes of the Victorian era meant that fabric could be colored in a range of hues. The darker and richer colors would be used as edging or contrast. In summer the gowns could be lighter than those in the winter. Popular shades were lilac, lemon, turquoise, red, violet and rose. Bare shoulders were considered acceptable style for a dance gown. The front of a dance gown would slope off of the shoulders and down into a shallow scoop neck. Sleeves were short and could have fine, floaty chiffon that came above the elbow. And of course, long gloves were still worn, with white kid being the most popular. It is interesting to note, that in Europe at this time, from the 1890s to the outbreak of war in 1914, ball gowns were the most lavish clothing of the day (for those who could afford luxury). There was lots of trim and decoration on gowns, which may include, ribbons, bows, embroidery, silk roses, ornate beading, rhinestones and teardrop crystals. Fine layers of fabric, such as tulle and lace, provided the romantic look of the period.

From 1930 going forward, there started to be slight variations in evening wear costumes. Necklines tended to be deep and wide, sleeves were short or were mere straps on the shoulder, skirt lengths varied according to fashions and frequently involved complex floating panels, draping, or layers. Fabrics were extravagantly pliant chiffons and satins and luxuriant velvets and taffetas and exquisite knits.  Pleating, embroidery, lace, beading, fringe, braid and ruffles decorated the dresses. Evening gowns were designed in bias-cut styles and were usually constructed with an open back with fabric skimming the body to the hips and flaring out to the floor.

In the 1950s, women wore very formal gowns that swept the floor for a dramatic look. The hourglass figure was the most prized in the 1950s and gowns were made to create such a silhouette. To further enhance this silhouette, stiff crinoline petticoats were worn under gowns to give them

their distinctive bell shape. However, it was also not unusual to see tea-length gowns being introduced with hemlines that could be any length from the calf to the ankles frequently worn. Hemlines did not rise above the knee. It was essential in ballroom dance to keep the knees covered, creating a demure effect. At that time dresses were made from luxurious fabrics like satin, silk and taffeta. They used plenty of tulle back then as graceful embellishments. Some gowns featured lace overlay with a bold hue beneath. Necklines on ball gowns were varied. A very popular style was the strapless neckline or the strapless sweetheart cut paired with fashionable sleeves to complete the look. The off-the-shoulder gowns and high necklines were definitely in vogue.

By the 1960s and going forward, saw the last of a singular fashion for ballroom dance. New looks took hold on the dance floor with a more rounded shoulder look, a nipped waist and an exceptionally full skirt. Ballroom dresses generally paired strapless bodices with full rather than narrow skirts (easier to dance in) and it was not unusual for skirts to be floor-length. From the 1960s going forward, dance costumes started to have options. You might see a mini-skirt made from metallic fabrics or a brilliant patterned fabric with dress surfaces trimmed with sequins, beads, or plastic bits. But, by the late 1960s and into the 1970s, pantsuits with full-legged trousers and palazzo pants paired with a coordinating top became quite popular on the dance floor. In the mid-1970s, fashionable dance wear was typically long and made from soft fabrics that were more body clinging. In the 1980s, the glamour of the evening dress was back in, introducing bright and vibrant colors with lots of glitter, embroidery, sequins and beading. Also, wide-skirted short styles called mini-crinolines were also popular. By the late 1980s, costumes were made from elasticized fabrics that hugged the body and were short, strapless or had tiny shoulder straps. In the early 1990s, basic slip dresses made from soft crepe fabrics became popular. And by the mid-1990s, full-skirted, short, strapless evening gowns reemerged.  Also fashionable on dance floors were lace or elaborately decorated bustiers and fitted evening gowns. Black was the color of choice.

It’s kind of fun to see how fashion has defined dancers through the centuries. As you can see, dance wear has evolved, while still weaving its deep and impassioned past into our future.

Dance Therapy Can Alleviate Anxiety

When anxiety kicks in, how do you typically respond? Do you take a step back and breathe? Leave the room? Turn on some music and dance? The last option may seem far-fetched, but according to some psychologists and therapists, it could be an effective response.

To see someone dance is to witness release, self-expression, and often, joy. For many of those reasons, many therapists who treat anxiety are finding that dance has the potential to act as an effective treatment for anxiety. Dance can be both an outlet for creativity and a method of accessing a peaceful state of mind.


How Dance Movement Therapy Works

Dance as anxiety treatment is known as dance movement therapy, defined by the American Dance Therapy Association as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.”

How does this approach work exactly? Well, the body has a deep influence on the mind and vice-versa. Just like running a mile can distract you from the pressures of your to-do list, dance uses expressive movement and breathing to deflate hyper-aroused thoughts. In other words, if you’re concentrating on perfecting a plié, you’re most likely not thinking about the outrageous bank statement you just got in the mail. Dancing brings us back to a more primitive, and consequently, more liberated state of mind. It causes our thoughts to simplify, to focus on our bodies and our movements instead of the more complicated stressors of life.

However, the goal of dance therapy isn’t just to distract people from their bills. It is also designed to help those trying to cope with severe anxiety, mental and physical trauma, depression, and/or substance dependence. In a dance movement therapy session, a trained and registered dance movement therapist guides individuals through well-structured improvisational body movement. This means, while participants are not constricted to a strict routine, they are guided towards body awareness, body image exercises, inner focus work, circle dances, and tension and release exercises. 2 Just as words and conversation are tools to walk patients through talk therapy, movements are the main assessment and mode of intervention used in dance movement therapy.

Who Might Benefit From the Healing Powers of Dance?

For those dealing with PTSD or other forms of trauma, dance therapy can be a restorative experience. It can provide the means with which to test reality, to become more grounded, to reach otherwise lost positive body memories, and most of all, reclaim one’s own body.3 The same is true for children of trauma. Dance allows them the opportunity to express their emotional states and experiences with stressful situations without words.

What about those with shy demeanors, who need a little more help coming out of their shells? According to multiple studies, dance movement therapy has been proven to reduce anxiety in individuals, including those who suffer from depression and anxiety in social scenarios. 4,5,6 For example, dance techniques have been shown to help enhance self-expression and confidence in those who are socially anxious, ultimately increasing their ability to feel comfortable in settings that involve interacting with other people.7

Dance movement therapy was even found to be useful for those dealing with substance dependence. In fact, creative therapies have been shown to shift an individual’s focus and regulate and control overwhelming emotions and thoughts—especially for those struggling with a chemical dependency. 8 Instead of knee-jerk self-soothing (e.g. running to alcohol to cope), dance therapy helps people become more aware of their bodies and emotions.

Is Dance Movement Therapy Right for You?

Dance movement therapy is practiced all around the world, with therapy associations anywhere from Australia to Japan. While a healthy mind-body relationship is important, dance as a form of therapy isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some studies found that certain dance therapy treatment techniques were less effective in people who are more likely to reject uncomfortable situations and easily overwhelmed.9 However, for most people, dance movement therapy seems to decrease anxiety and increase quality of life, well-being, mood, affect, and body image.

If you think dance movement therapy is right for you, it’s important to find the right dance movement therapist. The dance movement therapist should be a registered member of the national dance movement therapy association thereby fulfilling the highest standards of ethical practice. Many countries have a national website that can help guide you in finding and selecting a registered dance movement therapists.

Whether performed alone or in a room full of people, dance is a beautiful, creative action that cultures embrace worldwide. As both a creative art and a form of body psychotherapy, dancing can also be used as a method for treating anxiety providing evidence to the old saying: you can dance your cares away.

Date of original publication on March 06, 2015
Updated on: February 10, 2016

Some Interesting Facts about Ballroom Dancing

Originally posted in the Amarillo Globe-News, July 19, 2003

  • The ballroom dancing “closed hold” possibly had its origins when men wore swords. The ladies were always on their right to avoid tripping over the swords
  •  The first record of dance to the rhythm of the waltz is a peasant dance from Provence, France, in 1559.
  • Originally, the tango was a light spirited Flamenco dance from Spain. The Tangano, an African dance imported with the slaves, is a more likely precursor.
  • The fox has been said to have an unusual gait amonst animals: It can walk with its feet under its body to form a single track which is a theory how the foxtrot began. The foxtrot was danced this way early in its history.
  • The mambo dance originated in Cuba, where there were substantial settlements of Haitians. The mambo was originally any rumba with a riff ending.
  • The “rumba influence” came in the 16th century with the black slaves imported from Africa. The native rumba folk dance is essentially a sex pantomime danced extremely fast with exaggerated hip movements and with an aggressive attitude on the part of the man and a defensive attitude on the part of the woman.
  • The samba originated in Brazil. It was and is danced as a festival dance during the street festivals.
  • Originally known as the Cha-cha-cha, It became popular about 1954. Cha-cha is an offshoot of the mambo. In the slow mambo tempo, there was a distinct sound in the music that people began dancing to, calling the step the “triple” mambo. Eventually it evolved into a separate dance, known today as the cha-cha. The dance consists of three quick steps (triple step or cha cha cha) and two slower steps on the one beat and two beat.

Top Reasons Why You Should Take Dance Classes

Dancing surrounds us! From television to movies and even on the streets, you can find dancing basically anywhere you go, and for good reason too! There are many aspects of dance that can greatly benefit our lives. From building social circles to promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, the art of dance promotes nothing but positivity.

However, if you do not know much about dance, or the benefits it can have on your life, you may not currently be taking part in it, and you certainly should be!

  • Improves your health. No matter who you are, chances are you want to be healthy! And live an active and fit lifestyle. If you embark on the journey of dance, you can certainly improve your body by stimulating your muscles, working your joints, moving your spine, and even brightening your mood. We definitely don’t see anything wrong with that! Being active is a step in the right direction to bettering yourself. As you dance, you will feel better, and it will help your body get used to moving better as well, assisting you in getting into shape!
  • Rekindles romance. Sometimes life can get the best of us. When it comes to work, school, and kids, you may find it hard to relax, take a moment to breathe, and appreciate your partner. Through dance, you can rekindle your love and take part in an activity that you can do together, romantically, as a couple. Dancing with your partner will allow you to get close, learn together, and move with one another, promoting intimacy and a special bond that you can enjoy together.
  • Allows you to be in charge. When dancing, you are not limited to just one dance, or one move. You can move your body however you would like and dance any dance that you prefer. Most importantly, you should remember that you are in charge! If you take part in Salsa dancing, but realize it isn’t your cup of tea, try out the Waltz. If you are taking classes that you feel are a little too fast for you, move to something slower. There are no limitations when it comes to dance!

Dancing Makes You Smarter

originally appeared on on June 27, 2008.

“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.” -Dave Barry

The Tango. The Cha-cha. The Waltz. You know all these too well, but what you probably don’t know, is that dancing is the one of the most effective physical activities for enhancing the brain and making you smarter.

Let me explain.

Why Dancing Makes You Smarter

  • Dancing results in increased serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter responsible for enhancing many of the brain’s functions, both directly and indirectly, as I’ve talked about in other articles quite extensively, especially Tip #5: Eat the Right Foods.
  • It reduces stress, which allows the brain to perform better as it’s not under a whole load of pressure. Pressure reduces our thinking rationale, and we tend to make rash decisions, which is not smart at all.


  • Dancing improves your sense of of well being – again, another factor that will affect the way you think, and you tend to make smarter choices when you feel this way. Note that it is not just about mindset, the chemicals your brain gets from dancing contribute to this as well, so there’s a biological part to it.
  • You learn better because of point no. 1 which I mentioned above. Serotonin enhances learning abilities, which means you take in more and better information when you do things, which you will use to apply to other aspects of life. You maximize your experience of doing something because you learn more out of it, so you will be able to make smarter decisions whenever you encounter another situation where you will use what you have learnt.
  • Your memory is improved because of increased serotonin levels. I’ve talked about the benefits of memory on being smarter numerous times in other articles, which you might have already read, or if you have not, just explore the sections via the navigation bar on the right.
  • You have a better appetite, and why is this important? The more you feel like eating, the more enthusiastic you will get about food, and you’ll take effort in choosing what you want to eat. Food has a huge impact on the brain, as I’ve talked about in Tip #5 and Tip #6. If you haven’t read those, scroll back up to click on the links and read them – you wouldn’t want to miss one of the most easily applicable things you can do to become smarter!
  • You sleep better and the benefits of this on the brain is enormous, and the negative effects of having a lack of it is not very nice to hear too. Dancing will allow you to sleep better and get enough proper sleep through the night.
  • Dancing increases your intelligence, because it requires a significant amount of decision making, based on your partner’s moves. When you dance, many aspects of your brain is used – kinesthetic, musical, rational and emotional – which would result in improved decision making, especially split-second decision making. You train your brain to create new neurological paths, which leaves you with more possibilities in solving problems.
  • Your resistance to mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia is increased by 78% compared to if you don’t dance. This keeps you smart as you get older and the amount of synapses (neuron connections in the brain) reduces to less than two times of what you have when you’re young.

I just mentioned a whole load of benefits you can get, and hopefully, you will see how beneficial dancing is to the brain.

Experience the Emerald Ball Dancesport Championships!

Only a few days until one of the biggest dancesport competitions in the U.S.!

If you’re in the Los Angeles area May 2 – 7, the Emerald Ball is a ‘must do’, top-flight event to capture your ranking on the national scene.

If you are new to mega-competitions, Emerald Ball is the perfect place to learn how to compete on the big floor. Take in our dance camp and ‘up your game’ with coaching from the best in the industry.

In your free time, experience the excitement of Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Dancing With the Stars, and Disneyland, or relax at nearby beaches and bars.

The Emerald Ball!

Everyone’s talking about it. You won’t want to miss it.

To see more information about the Emerald Ball and to get tickets, visit

To improve your dance at the Emerald Ball Dance Camp, visit the Dance Camp Website.

Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter, Longer.

Originally appeared on by Richard Powers.

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Most recently we’ve heard of another benefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.

A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.

There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming – 0%

Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%

Playing golf – 0%

Dancing frequently – 76%.   That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.


What could cause these significant cognitive benefits?

In this study, neurologist Dr. Robert Katzman proposed that these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in mentally engaging activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving these neural qualities.

As Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Coyle explains in an accompanying commentary:  “The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.

            Aging and memory

When brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there’s only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information.  If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it.  As people age, some of them learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks.

The key here is Dr. Katzman’s emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses.  More is better.  Do whatever you can to create new neural paths.  The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living.

When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:

The more stepping stones there are across the creek,
the easier it is to cross in your own style.

The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution.  But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical.  Now it’s no longer a matter of style, it’s a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all.  Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one.  Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed.  But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.

As the study shows, we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal connections.

In other words: Intelligence — use it or lose it.


What exactly do we mean by “intelligence”?

You’ll probably agree that intelligence isn’t just a numerical measurement, with a number of 100 plus or minus assigned to it.  But what is it?

To answer this question, we go back to the most elemental questions possible.  Why do animals have a brain?  To survive?  No, plants don’t have a brain and they survive.  To live longer?  No, many trees outlive us.

As neuroscience educator Robert Sylwester notes, mobility is central to everything that is cognitive, whether it is physical motion or the mental movement of information.  Plants have to endure whatever comes along, including predators eating them.  Animals, on the other hand, can travel to seek food, shelter, mates, and to move away from unfavorable conditions.  Since we can move, we need a cognitive system that can comprehend sensory input and intelligently make choices.

Semantics will differ for each of us, but according to many, if the stimulus-response relationship of a situation is automatic, we don’t think of the response as requiring our intelligence.  We don’t use the word “intelligent” to describe a banana slug, even though it has a rudimentary brain.  But when the brain evaluates several viable responses and chooses one (a real choice, not just following habits), the cognitive process is considered to be intelligent.

As Jean Piaget put it, intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do.

            Why dancing?

We immediately ask two questions:

  • Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?
  • Does this mean all kinds of dancing, or is one kind of dancing better than another?

    That’s where this particular study falls short.  It doesn’t answer these questions as a stand-alone study.  Fortunately, it isn’t a stand-alone study.  It’s one of many studies, over decades, which have shown that we increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes.  Intelligence: Use it or lose it.  And it’s the other studies which fill in the gaps in this one.  Looking at all of these studies together lets us understand the bigger picture.

    The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  The best advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.

    One way to do that is to learn something new.  Not just dancing, but anything new.  Don’t worry about the probability that you’ll never use it in the future.  Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.

    Then take a dance class, which can be even more effective.  Dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.

                What kind of dancing?

    Do all kinds of dancing lead to increased mental acuity?  No, not all forms of dancing will produce the same benefit, especially if they only work on style, or merely retrace the same memorized paths.  Making as many split-second decisions as possible, is the key to maintaining our cognitive abilities.  Remember: intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do.

    We wish that thirty years ago the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thought of doing side-by-side comparisons of different kinds of dancing, to find out which was better.  But we can figure it out by looking at who they studied: senior citizens 75 and older, beginning in 1980.  Those who danced in that particular population were former Roaring Twenties dancers (back in 1980) and then former Swing Era dancers (today), so the kind of dancing most of them continued to do in retirement was what they began when they were young: freestyle social dancing — basic foxtrot, waltz, swing, and maybe some rumba and cha cha.

                Who benefits more, women or men?

    In social dancing, the Follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next, sometimes unconsciously so.  As I mentioned on this page, women don’t “follow”, they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.

    This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow.  With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables.  This is great for staying smarter longer.

    But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.

    Here’s how:

    1) Really pay attention to your partner and what works best for her.  Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which signals are successful with her and which aren’t, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations.  That’s rapid-fire split-second decision making.

    2) Don’t lead the same old patterns the same way each time.  Challenge yourself to try new things each time you dance.  Make more decisions more often.  Intelligence: use it or lose it.

    The huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion.  And as a result, you’ll have more fun too.

                Full engagement

    Those who fully utilize their intelligence in dancing, at all levels, love the way it feels.  Spontaneous leading and following both involve entering a flow state.  Both leading and following benefit from a highly active attention to possibilities.

    That’s the most succinct definition I know for intelligent dancing: a highly active attention to possibilities.  And I think it’s wonderful that both the Lead and Follow role share this same ideal.

    The best Leads appreciate the many options that the Follow must consider every second, and respect and appreciate the Follow’s input into the collaboration of partner dancing.  The Follow is finely attuned to the here-and-now in relaxed responsiveness, and so is the Lead.

    Once this highly active attention to possibilities, flexibility, and alert tranquility are perfected in the art of dance partnering, dancers find it even more beneficial in their other relationships, and in everyday life.

                Dance often

    The study made another important suggestion: do it often.  Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week.  If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can.  More is better.

    And do it now, the sooner the better.  It’s essential to start building your cognitive reserve now.  Some day you’ll need as many of those stepping stones across the creek as possible.  Don’t wait — start building them now.


Dance Instructor Passes on Lesson to Next Generation; Kids Learn Art of Ballroom Dancing

Ballroom instructor inspires new generation of dancers
Over 200 kids strut their stuff at a week long ballroom dance camp.

Many may think ballroom dances like the waltz or foxtrot are for parents or grandparents, but some kids are working to change that.

“It’s like reclaiming what dance was, and getting to do it and make it cool,” dance student Amara Mellender said.

Some kids are dancing their way through a week of ballroom dance camp.

“We did my persona favorite, the cha cha ooo-wah ooo-wah,” dance student Luke Mellender said.

“They are learning waltz, foxtrot, tango, cha cha, rumba and East Coast swing, multiple patterns for each dance, so a lot of stuff,” Simply Ballroom Director Rachelle Anderson said.

Anderson has hosted the camp for three years free of charge for more than 200 kids. She said everyone should experience the physical and social benefits of ballroom dancing whether they can afford lessons or not.

“It’s a lot of good qualities they are going to use throughout the rest of their lives,” Anderson said.

Luke Mellender agreed.

“We’re doing a whole bunch of fun dances that you will encounter when you grow up that would probably help a lot if you get a girlfriend or if you go to prom,” Luke Mellender said.

Luke Mellender has also learned another lesson.

“It’s always the guy’s fault when you make a mistake,” Luke Mellender said.

Even if the dances aren’t the standard for this generation, the kids at camp hope to be ballroom dancing for generations to come.

“Dancing is like singing with your whole body. You feel the rhythm, and the beat is just wonderful,” dance student Jonathan Kurtz said.

Shall We Dance? From Ballet to Breakdance, from Hora to Hip-Hop, this Country Stays Moving on the Dance Floor

Originally published in National Geographic Magazine, July 2006 by Senior Writer Cathy Newman. 

Couples Jumping
Photo by Brian Lanker

From the first kick of a baby’s foot to the last “Anniversary Waltz,” we dance—to internal rhythms and external sounds. Before the written word, humans spoke the language of dance. It’s as ancient as the 3,400-year-old image of a man with a lute, dancing on a clay plaque discovered in northern Israel.

We dance, not just with our bodies, but from the heart. “Dance is bodies sounding off,” says Judith Lynne Hanna, an anthropologist at the University of Maryland. We pour out love and hate, joy and sorrow; appeal to the spirits, gods, and nature; flirt, seduce, court; celebrate birth, death, and everything in between. We even presume to reorder the world, as if, in the Shaker song, by “turning, turning we come round right.” Dance is so profane, some religions ban it; so sacred, others claim it.

Dance in America can hardly contain itself. We dance—from Florida to Alaska, from horizon to horizon and sea to sea, in the ballrooms of big cities and whistle-stop bars, in Great Plains Grange halls, underground kivas, church basements, barrio nightclubs, and high school auditoriums. We do the beguine, polka, waltz, fox-trot, tarantella, jitterbug, samba, salsa, rumba, mambo, tango, bomba, cha-cha, merengue, mazurka, conga, cakewalk, Charleston, two-step, jerk, swim, Watusi, twist, frug, monkey, electric slide, Harlem shake, shim sham shimmy, cabbage patch, fandango, garba, gourd dance, corn dance, hora, hopak—as if our lives depended on it. Some believed just that: A medieval superstition averred that dancing in front of Saint Vitus’s statue ensured a year of good health.

We dance out of anguish, to attain solace, and, sometimes, in an attempt to heal. “I remember a couple,” says Lester Hillier, owner of a dance studio in Davenport, Iowa. The husband was a retired farmer. His wife, a housewife, wore flat shoes and a floral housedress. “One of their sons had been killed,” Hillier recalls. “He’d been in a love triangle and was shot in a club. The devastated parents had a dance lesson booked the day after it happened. They insisted on coming anyway.”

They practiced the steps they’d learned—the rumba, the fox-trot, the exuberant movements of swing. As the hour drifted to a close, the couple asked for one last dance. They wanted a waltz. And when it ended, she rested her head on his chest; he wrapped his arms around her shoulders. Then they stood still, clinging to one another.

“If we just sat at home, what would we do?” he said quietly.

Dance, like the rhythm of a beating heart, is life. It is, also, the space between heartbeats. It is, said choreographer Alwin Nikolais, what happens between here and there, between the time you start and the time you stop. “It is,” says Judith Jamison, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, “as close to God as you are going to get without words.”

To dance is human. To dance is divine.

Why Dancing Leads to Bonding

First published in the Scientific American by Jason G. Goldman, May 1, 2016

There is perhaps nothing more universal than the drive to move our bodies in sync with music. Studies show that dancing at parties and in groups encourages social bonding, whether it is a traditional stomp, a tango or even the hokeypokey. Many researchers have argued that people experience a blurring of the self into their groups thanks to the synchronization that occurs while dancing. Yet it is also possible that the exertion inherent to dancing releases hormones—like any other form of physical exercise—and these molecules are behind the bonding effect. A new study suggests both views may be correct.

University of Oxford psychologist (and dancer) Bronwyn Tarr and her colleagues asked teenagers from Brazilian high schools to dance to fast, 130-beat-per-minute electronic music in groups of three. The students were instructed to dance either in or out of sync with one another and with either high or low levels of physical exertion.

Participants said they felt closer to their dance partners than to others in their classes after dancing the same steps at the same time than they did when doing different moves, no matter the level of exertion. Those who exerted themselves more also felt closer to their group, regardless of whether they had danced in sync.

Synchrony and exertion each raised the dancers’ pain tolerance, as measured by a tight blood pressure cuff. Pain tolerance was the highest when the students both were in sync and had high energy, according to the study, published in October 2015 in the journal Biology Letters. (The finding on pain tolerance may come as no surprise to dancers; one study found that more than 80 percent of professional dancers put off seeking medical treatment after becoming injured.)

Tarr thinks that the two separate effects might both be driven by the release of endorphins, hormones responsible for the “runner’s high” and involved in other pleasures, such as sex and eating. “More endorphins in your system mean higher pain tolerance,” she says. “This study suggests that endorphins are activated when we groove with others and that they may be underpinning social-bonding effects.”

Paul Reddish, a social psychologist at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand who was not involved with the study, agrees “there is something special about matching the same behaviors at the same time.” But he says that the jury is still out regarding the role of endorphins in social bonding.

Still, it seems clear that mirroring others—whether in dance, in sports or even in conversation—helps to foster friendships. “We should all dance more,” Tarr says.


In a study exploring why salsa and ballroom enthusiasts choose to dance, men and women had differeing motivations. For both genders, however, the social aspect was key.


Dancing may help people recover from psychological trauma or physical injury, according to preliminary evidence. Studies show, perhaps unsurprisingly, that dancing can improve fitness and reduce stress, as well as boost mood and self-esteem. In Parkinson’s disease patients, learning to dance has been shown to reduce depression and improve movement and balance. The new findings (above) suggest that the social element of dance may also be playing a therapeutic role—regular, positive social interactions are well known to improve health and stave off cognitive decline.Victoria Stern

How to Lead like Fred Astaire

Originally appeared on, October 23, 2013.

It’s amazing to see how two complete strangers can move and dance together as one. And that’s the beauty of partner dancing! You don’t need to know your dance partner previously in order to dance together. All you need to do is effectively perform your role either as a leader or follower. In this and the upcoming blog post, I’m going to offer tips on how to lead and follow like pros on the dance floor.


1. Maintain a Strong Frame.  The dance frame is the most important thing in lead and follow as it helps you maintain the connection between you and your partner. Your frame should be firm and steady all time. “Noodle arms” or a weak frame will hinder the connection to your partner. Think about the cup phones you played with when you were a kid. Your frame is similar to the string that connects the cups.  To communicate effectively through the cups, you and your friend at the other end need to keep the string taut by maintaing the distance between you two. And when the string is loose, you lose the connection. When you have a good connection/frame, your partner will feel like he/she is part of your body. Wherever you go, he/she can sense the movement from your body instantly. Here are a few checkpoints to help you maintain a strong frame:

  • Cup your partner’s shoulder blade with your right hand
  • Lift your right elbow
  • Roll your shoulders back
  • Stand up straight
  • Engage your core (tuck your belly in!)
Proper dance frame for strong lead.

Proper dance frame for strong lead.

Duet Dance Studio's students practicing the proper dance frame in a private dance lesson.

Duet Dance Studio’s students practicing the proper dance frame in a private dance lesson.

2. Take Decisive Steps. Accidents often happen when the driver isn’t sure where he/she is going and is being hesitant with his/her moves. On the dance floor, when you are hesitant about your dance steps, your partner will often start leading and you will end up stepping on each other’s toes. As a leader, you must take strong, intentional steps and be clear with your leads and signals. When you are new to a dance step, practice it a lot until you can perform it confidently. Remember, leader, you are in charge on the dance floor!

3. Lead with Your Body. One big misconception in leading is to lead with the arms and hands, which can cause a lot of yanking that is ineffective and uncomfortable to the followers. Remember, movements are initiated from the core/torso, your arms are simply the extension of the torso that connects to your partner. So, when you are about to take a step, think about moving your body first before you take the step. Along with a strong steady frame, your partner will be able to react to your movement accordingly when you lead with your body.

4. Be Gentle.  Relax your fingers and try not to squeeze your partner’s hands. Your partner should feel some pressure from your hand but you shouldn’t hold your partner’s hand too tight that causes discomfort and/or hinder the fluidity of a movement, such as a spin. Spins are the very few movements that you use your hands and fingers to lead, but still, you don’t want to force a spin. Instead, pay attention to where your partner’s weight is before a spin, find the right time to initiate the spin and let momentum do the magic.

5. Listen to Music.  When you are new to partner dance, I understand how difficult it is to listen to the music while executing all the details in leading. However, you must try your best to dance to the beat of the song. Even though your partner is supposed to follow you no matter how off you are with the music, it will make it easier and more enjoyable for your partner if you dance to the music. Check out my previous post that teaches you how to find the beat in music.

Happy leading!


Why You Should Come to the Social Dances (even when you don’t know anything)

Originally appeared on by Lora LaMon, Septembeer 12, 2016.

Since you are learning how to dance, then actually dancing is the best thing you can do for yourself and your partner. Coming to an actual dance is different (and better) than dancing in your kitchen. The environment and experience is better. There is a sense of “community” at the dances, a community that is a safe place for you to work on and improve your dance skill. This is especially important for new dancers.

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be scary, but . . . Coming to the dances is well worth the effort. Others will dance with you, which helps you get better and more confident, too. And yes, you can decline if dancing with someone else is still too scary. But it gets easier and better the more often you attend the dances and the more involved you become in them.

At the dances, you have a good floor, the right music, and comradeship to encourage you. The dances are where you will meet other like-minded people who love to dance, just dance. You’ll get to know your classmates, and meet others, too. As you enlarge your dance “circle”, you will find yourself dancing more (and loving it!). The more you dance, the larger you dance circle becomes. See how that works? It’s ALL good.

Yes, we have singles who come to the dances.
They find out there are other singles who are coming to the dance, and Waa Laa, they don’t just find a dance partner, they find SEVERAL dance partners.

Finally, dancing need not be overwhelming. The dances are the best place to just watch, ask questions, see what all those dances look like and what music goes with each. If you are not sure where to start or where to go next with your dancing, coming to the Social Dances will help you sort it out and decide by getting eyes and ears on the variety of options.

See you on the Dance Floor, and remember . . . . . Keep Counting !

January 2017 NDCA Meeting Final Agendas






December 6, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Enclosed/Attached are the Final Agendas for the upcoming semi-annual meeting of the National Dance Council of America which will take place Saturday, January 7, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 2337 International Parkway, DFW Airport, TX 75261.  Committee Meetings will take place on Friday, January 6, 2017.

This hotel is located in Terminal D of the Airport and is accessible via Sky Link or Terminal Link (see attached information). For hotel reservations call 1.888.421.1442 or (402.592.6464) and mention that you are attending the National Dance Council of America meetings.  Our rate is $175.00 for a Single/Double room plus all applicable state and local taxes, which is currently 13%. The deadline to book your rooms at this rate is Friday, December 23, 2016.  After this date reservations will be accepted based on availability.

You may also utilize the following link for your reservation, please contact me if the block is sold out so that I may attempt to have more rooms added.

Other reports and documents will be available during this meeting.  If your organization has requested electronic transmission of these documents please print the portfolio for your attendees.  There will be a limited number of printed portfolios available at the meeting.  For those organizations requesting hard copy portfolios, these will be in the mail shortly.

As a reminder, Robert’s Rules of Order: (Newly Revised) shall be the guide for rules, order procedures and debate.

If you have any questions or if I can be of assistance in any way, please let me know.


Cassandra V Schneider

Executive Secretary, National Dance Council of America
1705 Banks Road, Margate FL 33063
Phone: 954-601-1775

Fax: 954-601-1776

Download January 2017 Portfolio (pdf)

How to Live Your Dream in Your Senior Years

Originally appeared on Jewish News, 11/30/16 by Audrey Matalon

How will you live your senior years? Will you be standing on your head? Or dancing on land or ice? Some choose to use their later years to find or rekindle their dreams …and go beyond.


Fran Reich dances away “everything that might be bothering her, physically and emotionally, on all levels.” When she enters the studio of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Scottsdale, Reich says, “The music, movement and environment take over.”

EB15_44851Reich attributes this to the atmosphere at the studio. “The staff really emanates life. And they are not acting. They are really feeling the joy of dance.” Studio Executive Assistant Isis Velasquez, agrees. “Many of the students refer to this place as a Disneyland for adults, forgetting everything at the door ­– the happiest place in the world.” Velasquez has known Reich for four years and says, “Fran, she’s definitely a performer. A fantastic dancer… got charisma.” Reich continues to insist that “being in a positive environment, with loving, enthusiastic, talented teachers, is contagious and inspiring.”

A self-proclaimed “excellent tennis player,” Reich never thought of herself as a dancer until she became a student at the Fred Astaire studio she frequents. “Music and dancing were like the backdrop of my upbringing. My parents were from Vienna and they looked lovely on the (dance) floor.” Reich takes a breath and with her arms flowing through the air she says, “The floor opened up for them.”

These days it’s Reich herself whom the floor is opening up for. Reich participates in competitions and showcases within the Fred Astaire studio circuit. This means beautiful outfits, sequins and a few minutes of hometown fame.

Reich smiles as she remembers her first starlet moment in childhood. She holds her hand about 3.5 feet in the air telling me she was “yay high” at the time and reveals, “I was in white satin shorts tap dancing on the Arthur Godfrey show!”

Yet for much of her life she wasn’t dancing. She kept active in many ways, like playing sports, traveling and being a board member of two dance companies and The Roundabout Theatre in New York City. As a member of the advisory council for The Roundabout Theatre, she “loved an exciting life meeting important business people and notable performers.”

Reich’s advice for seniors, and anyone else who might take up dancing: “Let yourself feel the music. It’s healing.”

But “know your own limits. If you go beyond that you can hurt yourself.”

Prepare your body. “One of the things we do at the studio is strength and stretch classes.”

Try to “go a little further everyday, while being aware of your personal limitations.”

Fred Astaire Dance Studio shared research information in a press release validating the value of dance for maintaining health, particularly in the later years of life. “A study featured in Frontiers in Psychology found that adding dance movement therapy was beneficial in the treatment of depressed patients.” The release went on to say that research shows dancing reduces isolation that can come about in senior years and helps with aches and pains, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Reich recommends ballroom dance because “the combination of music and movement is stimulating. Music stimulates your mind. You hear a beat, you hear a tempo, you decide to move. Your mind tells your body what to do.”

Reich continues, “Stimulation plus moving plus remembering. Dancing is a puzzle. You have to put a lot of the pieces together if you’re going to be successful.” Reich says of the last five years she’s been dancing, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

A Special Announcement to Our Canadian Friends from DVIDA




To all CDF Members,

The Canadian Dancesport Federation has been conducting exams with DVIDA® in American Style Smooth & Rhythm after receiving the authorization from Mr Wayne Eng, founder of Dance Vision.

This implies that all Canadian dance teachers wishing to certify in American Style must apply to CDF. All necessary information is on the CDF website:

The “Education title” will be on the left side of your screen – click on Examination information and click again on Professional examinations available. You may wish to consult, as well, the Chapter entitled: “Request for Recertification in the DVIDA® American Style – Smooth & Rhythm”

The application forms for the exams are on the CDF website. If you prefer, you may email directly to the Examination Coordinator, Alan Armsby –, who will be happy to send you the forms and give you all the necessary information.

DVIDA® DVD’s and Technique Manuals to be used for (Smooth) Examinations:

Revised American Style Smooth DVD’s in Bronze, Silver and Gold with Michael Mead and Toni Redpath

Revised American Style Smooth Manuals:

  • Bronze: Edition Date: January 2015
  • Silver: Edition Date: May 2015
  • Gold: Edition Date: January 2015

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a period of two years from the “Edition Date” when both syllabi

“Old and Revised” are accepted for the examinations


DVIDA® DVD’s and Technique Manuals to be used for (Rhythm) Examinations:

Revised American Style Rhythm DVD’s in Bronze, Silver and Gold with Donald Johnson & Kasia Kozak

Revised American Style Rhythm Technique Manuals:

  • Bronze: Edition Date: January 2014
  • Silver: Edition Date: October 2014
  • Gold: Edition Date: November 2015

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a period of two years from the “Edition Date” when both syllabi

“Old & Revised” are accepted for examinations

How to order the required DVD’s and Technique Manuals from DVIDA®

You can view the Dance Vision online catalog on their website:

Special Note from Pierrette Chartier, Chair of CDF Technical Committee

The authors of the Revised DVD’s and Technique Manuals for both DVIDA® American Style Smooth and Rhythm have done an outstanding job. The Technique Manuals have been improved tremendously and you can count on their accuracy to make your studies a lot easier. Besides the precise and clear description of each figure as Leader and Follower, you will appreciate the Dance Position Definitions, the Musical Information, the Full Bronze, Silver & Gold Routines and the Glossary of Dance Terms Etc.

Please let me know if you should need further assistance:

Enjoy your studies !

CDF Technical Committee

Pierrette Chartier, Chair

Alan Armsby

Barbara Child

Jane L. Edgett

Ann Harding-Trafford, President, Canadian Dancesport Federation

To download report, click here

Cast Your Eyes Upward by Harold & Meredith Sears

This article was published in the Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association (WASCA) Calls ‘n’ Cues, 49-2:9, 10/2008; reprinted North Carolina Round Dance Association Quarterly Newsletter, July 2012.

Round dancing can be an intense activity, particularly when we are dancing a new routine, one we have only just learned or are still learning. Round dancers can develop facial expressions of intense concentration—the furrowed brow, pursed lips, little grimaces of annoyance when things don’t quite work. Sometimes it seems that you just can’t get that figure to work unless you hold your tongue in just the right place, poked firmly into your left cheek. Sometimes guests will watch a roomful of round dancers and ask, “Aren’t they having fun? No one is smiling.”

Well, yes, we’re having fun, but sometimes it’s not the loose and jolly kind. It’s more the intent and focused kind of fun. It’s fun to hit a fastball out of the park, to make a hole-in-one, maybe to execute a perfect jackknife dive, but you probably won’t be sporting an easy grin while you’re doing it. Afterward, maybe.

Photo Credit: Stephen Marino
Photo Credit: Stephen Marino

Our story got a little sidetracked there. We don’t really want to think about the smiling but about the intensity. You might think that intensity and focus would help your dancing, but intense concentration can lead to some uncomfortable habits, too.

For instance, some dancers listen hard to the cues and focus inwardly, intently searching their brains for what those cues mean, and they dance with their eyes cast down in concentration—staring blindly at the floor. Other dancers don’t stare blindly, but they too look down, watching their feet, to make sure they put them where they should go. Don’t do it. Don’t look down.

Over here is a couple who know not to watch their feet, but they too are intently focused on the cueing and the music, and they are turned inward in their attention. They have settled on their partner’s right shoulder as a conveniently nearby focal point, and they are stiffly staring there. Not only are their heads down a little, but their shoulders are tensely forward. All this arises from our intense concentration on what we’re doing. We have allowed our whole upper body to curve in and down, like a rush-hour driver hunched over the steering wheel.

The effect of this downward and forward concentration is to push into your partner, maybe come over on top of her or him, like a vulture over a piece of road kill. You push on each other and become off-balance and jerky.

So, get your eyes up, your head back and to the left, your shoulders back. Let your toplines “grow” and blossom in a spreading, vase-shape kind of way. Try to look at a point high on whatever wall you happen to be facing. Depending on the size of the ballroom, you might focus on the juncture between the wall and ceiling.

By getting your eyes off the floor, off your feet, and off your partner, you get your whole upper body off and away, and both of you will feel much less oppressed. There will be less pushing and more freedom of smooth movement. Let’s note that you do still have contact at the hips and lower rib cage. Helpful lead and follow occurs here, close to our centers of gravity. But any contact or pressure higher up is not lead and follow; it’s just shoving. It pushes us off balance.

So, expand your view as you dance, take in the wider world—get your eyes up.

The Heel Pivoting Action by Kora Stoynova

Originally appeared at

Heel turns are difficult. Heel turns done well take years of training. Given the difficulty and the common occurance of heel turns in International Style Standard dancing, it is of no surprise that many misconceptions have arisen as to the performance of heel turns. In this article, I will offer some advice as to the correct performance of heel turns, and I hope to be able to offer some tips that will lead to a greater intellectual understanding of this commonly misunderstood action.


The title of my article is “The Heel Pivoting Action”, not “The Heel Turn”, because a heel turn is only a type of heel pivot. There are multiple types of heel pivots, which included the Heel Turn, the Heel Pull, the Open Heel Pivot, the Open Heel Pivot Action, and the Rising Heel Pivot Action. To start, I will give a definition of all of the above Heel Pivoting Actions, as written by Geoffrey Hearn in his book, A Technique of Advanced Ballroom Figuresl turns.

The First, the all-important Heel Turn. In The Ballroom Technique, arranged by The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), a heel turn is described as such: “A turn that is first commenced on the ball of the stepping foot and then continued on the heel…. The weight is transferred on to the foot that has closed as the turn is complete.” Mr. Hearn gives the following disambiguation: “The turn commences with at toe turned in and is completed on the heel of foot with foot flat whilst the other foot closes flat with weight…. Foot rise will not occur until the projection of the body weight forwards into the following step.” The above definitions can be practiced with a simple exercise. Start by standing on the right foot, the left foot back behind you. Step back on the left foot, toe turned in, and transfer weight into the heel before any turn is made. Pivot on the heel of your left foot whilst turning to your right; for ease of the exercise, turn only 1/4 to your right. As you turn, practice gradually bringing in the right foot, toes parallel, until the feet have closed completely. Once your feet have closed, transfer weight onto the right foot and project your body weight forward. Complete with a forward step on your left foot. You are now in a position to repeat the exercise with right foot back, turning to your left.

Secondly, we have what is called a Heel Pull. The Ballroom Technique begins their definition with the following notation: “A type of Heel Turn”. They continue: “The turn to right is made on the heel of the supporting foot, and the moving foot is pulled back and to the side of the supporting foot (slightly apart).” In Mr. Hearn’s definition, he chooses to ignore the specification of the direction of turn. Probably this is because in The Ballroom Technique, which covers only steps that are permitted within the medallist’s system, the only time a Heel Pull is danced is when one is turning to the right. For instance, the second half of a Natural Turn in Foxtrot, or on step 5 of the Hesitation Change in Waltz. However, as Mr. Hearn’s book covers the technique for the many advanced steps danced at the Open level, he neglects to specify the direction of turn most probably because it would be possible to dance a Heel Pull turning to the left. Here is Mr. Hearn’s disambiguation: “A turn made on the heel of foot with foot flat whilst the other foot is ‘pulled’ to side with feet parallel to end flat.”

The next three types of heel pivots are not mentioned in The Ballroom Technique because they are danced in figures that do not exist within the medallist system. For instance, the first of these heel pivots, the Open Heel Pivot, is danced on step 3 of the Man’s Telespin. The Open Heel Pivot Action, meanwhile, is danced on step 4 of the Man’s Quick Outside Spin. The term Open is used to specify the action of a heel pivot wherein the foot of the free leg does not close to the turning foot, as opposed to the original action of a Heel Pivot, wherein as the turn is made of the heel of the supporting leg, the foot of the free leg closes to the turning foot. Note, that in a Heel Pivot, weight is not transferred to the closing foot. This action can be found in the Man’s technique of the Quarter Turn to Left in Quickstep.

Mr. Hearn’s definition of an Open Heel Pivot is, therefore: “A turn made of the heel of foot with foot flat whilst the other foot remains in place until rotation is completed.” Please remember, this is danced  on step 3 of the Man’s Telespin and is, therefore, considered a very advanced technique. My suggestion is to apply to your teacher for an example of this action.

As definition of the Open Heel Pivot Action: “[the same as above], wherein the turn originates on the heels [as opposed to the toes].”

And finally, the definition of the extremely rare Rising Heel Pivot Action, which was not written by Mr. Hearn in his A Technique of Advanced Standard Ballroom Figures, but compiled through my own experience with this action: A turn made on the heel of flat foot whilst the other foot attempts to close. At the last moment, the foot of the free leg will slip forward into a toe pivot. This action is only danced as Lady.

Now that we have a basic understanding of Heel Pivoting Actions, I will attempt to dispel some common myths and misconceptions about performing them. Most of these will be concerned with specifically the Heel Turn, as this is the most commonly danced Heel Pivoting Action.

Many students think, as many teachers instruct, that in order to lead (or, as lady, to follow) a Heel Turn, there must exist a type of action called “Early Rise”. I cannot disagree more. If one were to read the technique under any heel pivoting figure in The Ballroom Technique, the rise given for Heel Turns, specifically, is no different than the rise given for any other type of turn. In fact, there are some Heel Turns that have no rise at all; such as, the Heel Turn danced on step 2 of the Lady’s Open Reverse Turn, Lady In Line in Tango, and step 2 of the Lady’s Zig-Zag, Back Lock, and Running Finish in Quickstep. Furthermore, in the Advanced Technique, the Lady’s part of an Open Telemark and Telespin, danced in Tango, also has a Heel Turn with no rise. The existence of these three figures, alone, should dispel any myths about the enigmatic “Early Rise”.

Yet now the question arises…. If “Early Rise” is not required to lead (or feel the follow into) a Heel Pivot, what is required? For this answer, we turn to an analogy that was given to me by 5-time World Standard Champion, Michael Barr. He described the act of leading the lady into any type of turn as playing Billiards (or Snooker, or Pool; call it what you like). Even if you don’t play Billiards, you surely know the basic idea. Using a long stick, called the cue, you must hit a white ball, called a cue ball, into any number of colored balls, therefore ricocheting the colored balls into a socket. All the best Billiards players have a good understanding of geometry and the physics of angles and spin (as do the best Ballroom Dancers). Imagine you want to hit the green ball diagonally forward. You would aim the cue ball to hit at the back corner of the green ball. This would be a normal turning figure. Now imagine you want to hit the green diagonally backward. You must aim the cue ball to hit the front corner of the green ball, creating a back spin that will ricochet the ball almost into itself, therefore causing the green ball to move back. This would be a Heel Pivoting Action.

Next, beginning students often misinterpret the priorities of a Heel Turn. This misinterpretation also extends to inexperienced teachers, who in their zeal to produce good quality dancing, often over-emphasize the requirement of the student to close their feet. Time and again, I have seen the student step back and hurriedly close their feet, resulting in a heel turn that is danced on two heels simultaneously. With nothing else to do, they then pop up onto their toes while their feet are still together. This mix-up of priorities leaves the student looking very ignorant, and even more so in the case of the teacher. It will be remembered that the name of the step is a Heel Turn, not aHeels Turn (plural). Turn is danced on the heel of one foot only; meanwhile the foot of the free leg is drawn in gradually, with the weight not transferring until the count of the second step. Geoffrey Hearn writes: “The foot should be felt as ‘pulled’ into the closed position from a position of movement under its own hip line.”

Once the first mistake is corrected, chances are the second mistake will be corrected, as well. You will remember that the student who closes their feet too soon invariably rise too soon. However, the student should not rise to their toes until they project their weight into the forward step (step 3). Mr. Hearn reminds us clearly: “Foot rise will not occur until the projection of the body weight forwards into the following step.” Obviously, this mistake has been around for a long time. In 1971, dance legend Phyllis Haylor wrote an article intended to aid candidates for professional examination. In this article, she described the above two mistakes and offered some advice on how to fix it:

“When asked to give the Rise and Fall in the Natural Turn in the Foxtrot as lady, the candidate, after closing the feet hurriedly without any lift of the body – knees bent – stops with feet together and rises immediately on to the toes of both feet… this interpretation shows a completely misunderstanding of Body Rise and has a very detrimental effect on the movement of the dance…. The first way to correct this fault is to understand that on a Heel Turn the Rise concerns the body only on the first step – corresponding to the man’s swing as he makes the turn between steps 1 and 2. The turn for the lady should be completed on her left foot before she transfers her weight onto her right foot, maintaining the body rise and releasing her right heel as, on the third step, her left foot moves immediately forward… as [her partner] steps backwards.”

In conclusion, I hope that these definitions and pieces of advice will help both the medallist, the student both competitive and social, and the teacher in correctly explaining and dancing the Heel Pivot Actions, and in particular the Heel Turn, in the future.

The Love of Dance and The Dance of Love

Source: | Written by Rachel Hartdegend

img_9445wFrom the dawn of history dance has always provided a medium of communicating emotions and thoughts between both animals and humans alike. Dance provides an avenue of expression and communication that is instinctively understood – even at the most basic level. In the animal kingdom, almost every species performs a particular form of dance in order to communicate their desire to mate, warn others of imminent danger while establishing foraging areas and to define territorial supremacy.

Throughout the ages dance has acted as a repository for physical pleasure; however, in some cultures dance has been used as a medium for altering a person’s state of consciousness. In some ancient societies, shamans believed that a dance-induced trance could open portals to an ethereal world where they could obtain the knowledge required to provide treatment for mental and physical afflictions within their tribes.

Ancient history is rife with documentation of how dance was used as a precursor to romantic attachment; Records outline incidents where a sometimes intricate and evocative dance was performed in order to promote fertility of not only the land but also the female species. Prior to the onset of Christianity in Rome, pagans dedicated certain days and, in some cases, entire weeks to adoration of the gods – and dance always played a prominent role.

In modern day society dance still plays an important role in defining cultural and social situations. From carefully choreographed ballet moves to the reckless abandon of Rap, dance is still one of the most popular outlets for expressing cultural ideologies. This is what makes it so difficult to actually define and compartmentalize dance. Regardless of whether it consists of functional movements associated with folk dancing or the detailed precision of ballroom dancing, the communication aspect of movement accompanied by music has always garnered universal acceptance.

Music, and by default dance, has been instrumental in establishing a cohesive identity between people of varying ethnic backgrounds. By the inter-fusion of various black, white and mulatto cultures, Latin dances like the cha cha, Rumba, Samba, Salsa, Mambo and others have been very successful in creatively creating a fusion that equally combines the various cultural identities of both Spanish and Afro-Cuban elements.

As a medium to promote romance, dance is almost always performed as a kind of choreography based language – one that has been instrumental throughout history and within varying social background as a means of introducing and encouraging inter-relationships between interested parties.

In the early twentieth century dance began to assimilate qualities that expressed individuality in conjunction with traditional ritual and religious themes while still retaining the primitive, expressive and often emotional undertones of the art itself. Modern dance grew exponentially under the guise of creative freedom in that many genres of expression that were once frowned upon by civilized society now were considered as an acceptable art form.

In the past forty to fifty years, traditional walls of propriety have been scaled so that modern dance is now an expression that encompasses simplicity, beauty and sophistication – often within the same dance movements. What is now known as contemporary dance has retained its technical and, in some cases political, connotations while exuberantly embracing a competitive, artistic atmosphere which has progressed to productions that stress expertise, strength, flexibility and beauty.

This creative licence has greatly contributed to the expansion of a form of creative movement called street dance. Based on expressing and encouraging individuality and originality, street dancing lends itself to an interpretation of moves designed to portray a freedom of personal style that is unparalleled in the history of traditional dance. In recent years the development of strictly choreographed moves has led to the improvisation of street dance and its acceptance as a viable art form which has enabled this creative and expressive movement to be assimilated by many other styles of dance.

The correlation between dance and romance has always been a strong component in its inception and production. A particular dance, like ballet, is often performed to portray a sense of subtle intimacy, while rappers and rockers tend to stick to moves that, although a little more vulgar in their makeup, still encourage a duality between diverse people.

As an art-form dance is constantly evolving both in its intensity and its value as a communication device. As newer, more risqué dance moves become developed and accepted there is still a growing appreciation for the more traditional, partner based dance moves, such as those exhibited in ballroom dancing.

The renewing interest in the various forms of dancing from traditional to modernistic is evident with celebrities appearing on televised shows that promote dance as an artistic and energetic competition and is rapidly attaining popularity between old and young alike.

From ancient and primitive art depictions on pottery excavated from sites that date back thousand of years to televised portrayals of inter-twining cultures, dance has always had an immediate and contemporary meaning and has historically been employed as an artistic, intrinsic and authentic documentation of interpersonal relationships within a particular society.

In the overall evolutionary scheme of the universe, humans may be considered newcomers; yet it seems that from the advent of man self expression has always been an integral part of all cultural developments. Some historians believe that dance, and its ability to provide communication modules that require no language, have been a viable way for people to interact and cohabit with each other for many eons.

Dancing has traditionally been a vital element in identifying and lending credence to many cultures. As a means of reflecting various societies throughout history, dance has always maintained an important place in society. By reflecting on the many and varied dance forms throughout history we are able to better comprehend past eras and the people in them. One can only wonder how our present day actions will be interpreted when historians record our method of dance in the coming centuries.

Baby Boomers Turning to Competitve Ballroom Dancing

Originally appeared in The Boston Globe, July 26, 2013. Article by Cate McQuaid

Out on the competitive ballroom dance floor, you’ve got 90 seconds or less to prove your grace and your mettle. For a group of baby boomers who started competing just in the last three years, the pressure is intense. And they love it.

“You have to want it badly. You have to love every minute, and you have to have a competitive drive,” says Bette Bissonnette, 64. She entered her first pro-am competition, in which only the amateur is judged, in late 2010.

George Lacerte and Bette Bissonnette competing at the Yankee Classic DanceSport Championships in Cambridge last month.

Bissonnette had been dancing socially with her husband for 10 years, when a groundswell started building at the Steppin’ Out Dance Studio, where they were taking lessons. One of the students convinced studio owner George Lacerte, who had danced professionally 22 years ago, to train and partner her in competitive ballroom.

Soon others caught the competitive bug. Lacerte now partners in pro-am competitions with Bissonnette, Valerie Gillett, 59, Carole McOsker, 65, and Gloria Scollo, 66. In the last year, Scollo has also entered amateur competitions with her husband, Nathan.

There are a lot of baby boomers on the competitive dance floor these days, with contests broken down according to age and ability. Lacerte says he sees dancers get involved before they have children, then drop out, and then there’s a resurgence after children have grown up. For the older set, he adds, there are no disadvantages to ballroom dancing. It keeps you agile, fit, and mentally keen.

Gloria Scollo says it beats going to the gym. Gillett boasts that dancing helped her recover more quickly from knee surgery.

Although most of these dancers have been competing less than two years, the group is on fire. At the Yankee Classic DanceSport Championships in Cambridge last month, dancers from Steppin’ Out Studio (the baby boomers plus one 18-year-old Latin dancer) entered 31 dances and scored 24 medals, according to Lacerte’s tally: 12 gold, eight silver, and four bronze. Lacerte partnered in all of them.

There are two styles of competitive ballroom dancing, International and American. They mostly cover the same dances, but with different technical standards. The Steppin’ Out competitors practice the International style, which means the partners must remain in the closed position, body to body, throughout the dance. They perform Quickstep, Foxtrot, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, and Tango.

On a recent visit to the Steppin’ Out studio, some of the baby-boomer competitors have gathered in chairs ringing the studio floor to demonstrate their moves to a reporter — McOsker can’t make it; she’s at work — and the Scollos, in their street clothes plus dancing shoes, jump up to waltz.

The Scollos dance the International Standard Waltz, also known as the slow waltz, to piped-in instrumental music. Lacerte says that the country tune “You Light Up My Life” has a slow waltz tempo, and the Scollos glide across the dance floor, formal yet serene, transported in one another’s embrace.

Ballroom dancing can be dicey for a couple. Traditionally and competitively, the man leads and the woman follows. That may not be easy or natural for either party.

“I’m a control freak,” Bissonnette admits. “As a woman, when you come through the door, you have to give up all control.”

“You have entered the dance zone,” Gillett says. “But the bottom line is, when you have a man who is a good lead, there’s nothing better.”

Being a good lead, according to Lacerte, isn’t about moving your partner. It’s about your own body position.

“A big part of it is experience on the floor,” he says. Up to a dozen couples can be dancing at once. “If there’s another couple in the way,” he says, “that’s a split-second decision. We need to be prepared to navigate.”

And yes, there are collisions. Bissonnette and Lacerte suffered one the very first time she competed. They didn’t lose points, though. Judges are less interested in the crashes than they are in the recoveries.

Back in the demonstration session, when the waltz ends, the Scollos sit down. Their marriage, says Gloria, has weathered competitive dancing. Like Gillett and Bissonnette, the Scollos took up dancing when their kids left the house.

“We have our moments, sometimes,” Gloria says. “We practice in the basement when we’re not in a good mood, and by the time we reach the top step [after a workout], we’re fine.”

Bissonnette and Gillett both dance socially with their husbands, but have not invited them to compete.

“I can’t compete with my husband because I want to stay married,” Bissonnette says. “There’s no room for error, and my husband does not have that motivation or desire for perfection.”

“I’m in the same situation,” Gillett says. “Only I could go a step further, where if I competed with him, I might kill him.”

“Extreme ballroom,” Lacerte says, laughing.

Each dance has its own personality. The quickstep is lively; the waltz is dreamy, the tango, passionate. McOsker, in a phone interview, says it’s the music that keeps her coming back for more. “Right now, my favorite is the fox trot. I love that music — the tempo, the old Frank Sinatra tunes,” she says. “It takes you away.”

In competition, you know what the dance will be, but the music is always a surprise. There’s no counting on Ol’ Blue Eyes.

“Sometimes when we train, I put on horrible music,” Lacerte says. “It doesn’t matter what the song is, we have to make it look like you’re having the time of your life.”

Bissonnette’s goal is a gold medal in the waltz. It’s her favorite dance: “When we hit it, it’s like floating,” she says.

Whatever dance you’re competing in, the trick is to know the footwork, maintain your posture, and then let go. “It’s a strange combination of intense concentration and relaxation,” says Gillett. Their next competition: The Massachusetts Dancesport Challenge on Aug. 24 at Melrose Memorial Hall.

At the Lowell dance studio, the fever is spreading. Another dancer has joined the group training for the August competition.

Bissonnette nods at Lacerte, a trim man in black patent leather shoes. “His harem is growing,” she says.

The group agrees that dancing isn’t merely good exercise, it’s a great form of therapy. “You have to leave your issues at the door,” says Gillett.

But they take the dancing home. “It is such a high, you cannot imagine,” says Bissonnette. “I dream about it at night.”

Getting to the Next Level

Originally published on Access Dance Network, 8/9/16.


This article serves as a guide to assist in getting your dancing to where you want it to be. Sometimes as students, we get frustrated that we are not as proficient as we think we should be given our time frame or effort given.

1) Have a good instructor/coach and see them often.

Whether you are a pro or amateur dancer, you need somebody to guide you in the right direction. A coach should be able to help shape your dancing the way it needs to progress because they know what to look for and what to fix. Private 1 on 1 lessons are absolutely necessary in getting to the next level. Group classes and instructional DVD’s are only slightly helpful as these are designed to only introduce patterns or technique. Only after your level of dance comprehension is at a much higher level do DVD’s become a valuable tool. 80 percent of your growth and learning will come from your coach. A good instructor must be able to attentively listen to your goals and have a plan of how to accomplish them! Discuss with them what your goals are and they will help you get there.

2) Take notes. Take notes. Take notes.

If you are ever going to be able to practice effectively, you need to write down the concepts and guidance of your coach/instructor so you remember them for later. Written notes will help clarify what you need to practice and how you practiced it in your private lesson. Taking notes helps you recreate those results in your practice time. Video notes are also a great tool but do not replace written notes. The act of writing down the information personally is what helps your brain recall and explain it back to yourself in detail on paper. Everybody has a different way of making their notes. Find what works for you and do it.

3) Practice patterns & technique by yourself.

Sometimes the distraction of a partner will hinder what you are trying to do. Practice technique and patterns by yourself and be able to imagine a partner in front of you. If you can’t do it correctly by yourself, then you don’t know it well enough to do it with a partner. Using a mirror when practicing is vital to being able to emulate the look in what you are trying to accomplish. Once you feel confident enough with what you are working on, go try it with a partner. If you are still messing it up, make a note and take it back to your instructor to see what it was you are missing.

4) Practice patterns & technique using a partner.

When you practice with a partner, it can make your patterns easier to visualize by having a point of reference. When you DO practice with a partner, make sure that you use them as a “body” to help visualize where you are and what you are doing to help YOU practice. If both students are trying to practice different things at the same time it can cause issues and frustration which is counterproductive. When issues arise, write them down and take them back to your coach. In the meantime, practice something else together or practice by yourself.

5) Be patient!

And don’t be so hard on yourself. It takes time to learn how to dance! Set small goals to achieve and don’t look too far ahead. Learning how to dance is a journey, not a destination. There is no end. You will always have something new to learn and it will never stop, no matter what level you are at. Never directly compare yourself to other dancers. You worry about you. We each have our own measuring stick that we use to evaluate our progress and everyone is unique. Practicing your dancing on a consistent basis, after taking private lessons and writing good notes, is the quickest way of getting to the next level. Above all, take the word “can’t” out of your vocabulary. As a teacher, the most defeating words to hear a student say is “I can’t ____ _____” or “I could never dance like so-and-so….”. If you don’t believe you can do it, your teacher might as well just go home for the day. Anything is possible with enough time and effort. Suck it up, push through it, and trust your teacher.

6) Leaders: Learn your patterns. Then, when you’re done with that, learn the follower’s patterns.

As the leader, you have many responsibilities. You need to know what you’re doing, what your partner needs to do, how to lead/initiate the steps, dance it on the correct timing, and watch where you’re going; just to name a few.. Studying the follower’s patterns will help elevate your leading because you will be able to better understand what foot they are supposed to turn on, change direction on, rotate, etc. When you only know when you are supposed to raise your arm for a turn, but don’t know what foot the lady needs to be on for that turn or how far over her foot she needs to be, you now have to guess that she is going to do the turn correctly.

7) Followers: Learn your patterns.

I believe that in order to get to the next level a follower must learn their patterns and understand that their role is to react faster, slower, smaller or bigger than their leader and the only way to do that is to know what those are. So, the follower should know just as much about the lead as the leader. I also believe that they should never attempt to help their partner by doing things for them, but the follower should adjust their sensitivity level and reaction time to help follow a lead better. On a final note, take interest in what it takes to be a leader and even try it yourself. Please do not get the mindset that your leader is the one who

8) Practice your technique in the most basic step suitable for what you are working on.

Many times as students, we get too excited about patterns and lose sight of the technique. Technique is what makes you look good and dance better! Patterns do not do this. When working on technique, i.e., Cuban motion, body isolations, frame, rise and fall, footwork, posture, head position, connection to your partner, etc; master them while using simple patterns and then work your way up from there. Technique is for social dancers and competitive dancers alike. To be an enjoyable dance partner, you need to be able to communicate through your body. Your connection and frame are the medium that that conversation travels through. At its core, technique doesn’t exist just because it looks pretty but because it serves as a communication tool to effectively dance with another person. If you want to get to the next level, practice your technique. Why is it typically more fun to dance with an instructor than another student? One reason is because they are better communicators.

9) Practice to slow tempo music or no music at all.

The whole adage “You have to walk before you can run, and you have to crawl before you can walk” holds true in dancing. Students learn Waltz before they learn Viennese Waltz. It is the natural progression. To get to the next level, you have to be able to do the technique properly, at a slow tempo, before you can speed it up. Sometimes I will hear, “I hate slow Waltzes!” and my initial thought is that they probably don’t like them because they lack the control to dance them properly at that speed and therefore uncomfortable. When dancing to slow music, you need to have control over your own body and this forces you to analyze what you are doing more; each little movement by little movement until the body feels natural doing it.

10) Be able to clearly explain to another person what you’re doing.

Often times I ask my students to explain dance concepts or patterns to me so I can gauge their understanding of it from their own mouth. I love teaching because it helps challenge me to explain what I know in many different ways which in turn helps me solidify and understand the topic on a different level myself. Make sure you can explain your pattern or technique with a clear understanding to yourself and then explain it to somebody else who is not as familiar with it as you are. You will get to re-hash your thought process and find the holes in the given topic. At that point, go back to your teacher with the questions during your private lesson and get more clarification.


“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
― Bruce Lee

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
― Bruce Lee

Setting Goals

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
― Bruce Lee

“Some people seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I have known are taught or trained”

― Fred Astaire



Grief Can be Softened by Ballroom Dancing

“It felt like we were always soul mates,” said Levison, an interior and landscape designer from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

The two had met when Robert Levison was 44, dated for 22 years, were married for 22 years; he died on his 88th birthday.

“Toward the end, he said, ‘It’s time for us to say goodbye. How do we say goodbye?’ … And I said, ‘We say goodbye with a kiss.’ A couple days later, he passed away.”

 Barb Stawick experienced a double loss the same year.

First, her son died at age 42 from complications of a lung infection.

“They just kept giving him drugs, and one day, he didn’t wake up,” said Stawick, 63, of Bloomfield Township, Mich.

Then, her husband succumbed to acute myeloid leukemia a few months later. He’d been in treatment three years.

Numbed by grief, both Levison and Stawick found an unconventional way to cope with their sorrow.

They started to dance, and, in the process, found the unexpected support of other women who’d also turned to dancing after similar losses.

“I was in a real serious state of mourning, but dancing allowed me to move freely and to laugh again, and to feel good about myself” said Levison, who dragged her neighbor, Uda Shallop — by then already seven years a widow — to lessons at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio. “It gave me a reason to get dressed up, and made up and go out. There’s a tendency to want to stay home in your jammies.

“It’s a great confidence builder,” Levison added, “and for people that are a bit on the shy side, coming out and dancing is a great way of breaking the ice.”

At the dance studio, Levison and Shallop met not only Stawick, but Michelle Allen, 61, of Oxford, Mich., whose husband, Richard Allen, died in 2012.

“I met my husband on the dance floor,” Allen said. “I wanted to be Ginger. I grew up watching those kinds of shows — Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers were always the big ones. I always liked ballroom dance. It took me a year after his death to get myself to walk back into a studio.

“Until you’ve gone through it, you can’t understand. It helps to find other people who know what you’re going through.”

Indeed, Dr. Monica Starkman, associate professor active emeritus in the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School, said finding others who have experienced similar grief can help to get through the pain.

“There’s a sharing of an experience that makes it feel a less lonely one, and that does provide comfort. I think these women who have found each other are doing what is psychologically useful and will help them move along in the process of mourning. It is a comfort to be with people who know what you’re feeling and you know what they’re feeling,” she said.

The death of a spouse is considered one of the most stressful things that can happen in a lifetime, said Dr. Michelle Riba, professor of psychiatry and associate director at the University of Michigan Depression Center.

She referenced the Holmes and Rahe stress scale that measures the effects of major stressors and noted that losing a spouse ranks first.

“What people have to endure is pretty amazing,” Riba said. “I am in awe every day.”

And yet, said Starkman: “It’s a natural thing. We often don’t realize how many people are suffering. But, obviously, in a marriage, somebody has to go first, and somebody has to be left. So there are a lot of people coping with this.”

Statistics show it’s women who are most often left behind.

In 2013, 36 percent of all older U.S. women were widows, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And there were more than three times as many widows (8.7 million) as widowers (2.3 million).

For Stawick, following her husband’s prolonged illness, his death and her son’s death, it was important to find a reason to be happy again.

“I think when you go through that long windup period, you’re ready to get back to living. You really are,” she said. “It’s not that you don’t miss your partner.

“Another gal I had met said she and her husband had tried ballroom dance. I said, ‘Wow, that is something I have always wanted to do.’”

So in late June, Stawick, who works for ACE Group insurance, found herself at the Fred Astaire studio.

“I was really apprehensive about walking in the door,” she said. “This was very out of the box for me. I kept telling myself, ‘What are you worried about? You sit in front of Fortune 500 accounts, why are you nervous?’”

Now she dances five days a week, and will perform in a dance competition this month on a cruise she’s taking with some of her newfound friends.

“It’s so joyous. I really come here to get my joy back,” she said. “This has really helped me, tremendously find joy.”

Dr. Phil Lanzisera, a clinical psychologist at the Henry Ford Hospital Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, said people should understand that grief knows no timetable.

“It’s highly variable, but what characterizes grief is the ebb and flow,” he said. “In natural grief, well-progressing grief, individuals will feel horribly lost in the beginning, dashed and hopeless. But with the help of family and friends who assist them to continue to participate in social activities, they begin to recognize that life continues, that there are opportunities for life experiences, that other relationships are important and matter. It’s kind of a start and stop type of thing. You are alone, something reminds you of your loved one. You cry, you feel terrible. Then you get hooked on some type of activity.

“The important thing is to remain active, and not to allow withdrawal to take over, not to allow yourself to dwell too long on the hurt and the loss, and to remain as engaged in your social surrounds as possible.

“Allow yourself time for grief. Don’t try to stop it prematurely — but rather, when the feelings occur, allow them to happen. Things will remind you of your loss. It’ll be a picture, an article of clothing, a favorite chair, or a television program that you used to like watching together. Allow it to occur and then get on with other activities.”

Balance and Control of Smooth Movement

Originally Published: Tue, January 10, 2012, by Enrique Treviño


The concept of connecting to your partner is difficult to grasp when dancing smooth dances like Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot. Learning not to pull when moving backward or not to charge from the head and shoulders when moving forward is the one skill I find dancers have the greatest difficulty developing — the control necessary to learn how to connect to their partner. Controlling back movement means that we do not move our weight back from the shoulders, but that the torso is managed in a way that we keep the weight of the head and shoulders centered over the hips. Of course, as the lady, we still want to have our head reaching up and back, but it does not mean that the lady should let the weight collapse over the heel of the foot that is receiving the weight. This is the same for the gentlemen when they are executing a pattern that involves backward movement. The most difficult thing about it is controlling the inclination of moving backwards or forwards with the shoulders instead of moving from the hips with all the weight of the torso and head centered over the hips. This habit tends to put dancing couples off time resulting in getting ahead of the beat. In a competition this can be disastrous as keeping time is principle in any judgment call.

When practicing your back movement, what I suggest is an exercise to help you learn to keep your weight forward until you push off the supporting leg. You can do it by yourself or you can do it with a partner. If you do it with a partner, I suggest you do not use a closed dance position – but possibly a slight mutual support with the arms. The important thing to remember is to make sure that the diaphragms are contacting throughout the exercise. What you want to accomplish in this exercise is to make sure to lower far enough onto the supporting leg so that you may push off against the floor, with the heel being the last part of the foot that pushes against the floor. Thus, at a certain point, the heel is the only part of the foot that is still in contact with the floor. For the lady, this exercise helps tremendously to learn not to pull on the gentleman. I spend many hours with my students just on developing this skill and understanding the concept.

A lot of concentration is required to keep yourself from moving back from the shoulders. One thing to think about when doing this exercise is that the receiving leg takes the full weight without rolling back onto the heel. You have to control your body weight resisting slightly forward while moving back. This we can call “resisting through the leg and foot” and it helps control the momentum backwards. That is, we stay with balance forward on the receiving leg with the whole foot flat on the floor, but the weight is concentrated over the ball of the foot of the new supporting leg and the knee pulled towards the inside so as to keep your weight slightly towards the inside edge of the foot. If you can accomplish this then you are in position to use the new supporting leg and, again, at your starting point.

IMG_4737wThis is how I work with my students who are learning how to control movement. I suggest this exercise from an angled position in front of the mirror. If you are moving back from the shoulders, you should be able to see your torso tilting back. Once you realize you are doing it, you might begin to feel the difference when you do it right and then you do not necessarily have to use the mirror any more.

Remember, the normal mistake is to let the movement happen through the shoulders. When this happens, the person moving back usually ends up taking the weight over the heel instead of receiving the weight on a full flat foot.

— Lower deeply on the supporting leg with the knee over the toe of the supporting foot. If you are lowering far enough and your weight is concentrated towards the inside of the foot, you ought not be able to see your foot when you look down at it. This is given that you are lengthening through the torso, elongating the spine (no slouching). There should be no weight on the leg that is extending back.

— Keep the arms in a plane just in front of your torso. This means the elbows need to be in front of the body. Although I suggest no use of the arms in the exercise when working with a partner, keeping the elbows in front of the body will help sustain your weight forward and get you used to the position for when you are in a closed dance position.

— Push off the floor with the supporting leg, not just with the heel (and especially not with the toe — a cardinal sin of ballroom dance) but with the whole foot. If you are pushing properly the toe should pop off the floor at the moment you push off.

— At this point, an important thing to remember is not to tilt back before moving. If this happens, stop, readjust your weight and restart the exercise. Make sure you are holding your abdominal muscles in to keep the hips tucked under your ribs — this will help your balance.

— Practice dragging the heel against the floor just after you push and as you are moving back. Use the floor to control your weight and to help stop uncontrolled momentum back. For this, make sure you have good shoes with good caps so as not to mark the floor.

If used as a warm-up before a lesson, this exercise will help you improve your technique and partnership plus it helps to have a more productive lesson. This will help set you on your way to becoming a more independent dancer able to control your own weight. See you on the dance floor and good luck.



Ballroom Dancing Helps Kids with Confidence, Manners

Originally appeared on, October 14, 2013. Article by Alicia Lozano


“What do we say to a new partner?” ballroom dance instructor Jennifer Christophel asks a class of shy 8- to 12-year-olds.

 “May we have this dance?” they respond.

The kids — five girls and one boy — move forward to practice a few steps before coming to a rest. A lone father watches from the benches inside Avant Garde Ballroom Dance Center in North Bethesda, Md., which offers classes for teens and children as young as 5 years old.

 “Not only is dancing a fun way to get much needed physical activity, but ballroom dancing has also been proven to promote manners, good posture, social skills, and to boost confidence in children,” Avant Garde Ballroom says on its website.

Several dance studios in the region offer ballroom classes for children. DC Dancesport Academy promises a youth program that gives kids “the perfect opportunity for your child to learn and develop skills which can be carried over into every part of their lives.” They have classes in Northwest D.C. and Fairfax, Va. Forever Dancing in Falls Church, Va., and Studio Dans also offer youth programs.

 At Avant Garde Ballroom, instructors emphasize the life lessons children can take with them after classes are over.

Kids learn about posture, etiquette and teamwork. During Christophel’s second class, the dancers focused on social manners.

 “The first thing we start out with is how the gentleman escorts the lady on the floor,” she says. “We also reviewed how we ask someone to dance and how to look each other in the eye.”

These kind of life lessons drew the attention of Thomas Evers and his son, Tom. The elder Evers grew up shimmying with Latin American friends who weren’t shy about taking over the dance floor. Evers laments that American men aren’t so free when it comes to dancing.

 “I dragged him out,” Evers says in reference to his son. “A lot of kids nowadays can’t do the formal dances.”

Stephan Leder had an easier time convincing his children to attend ballroom dance classes. His 10-year-old son, Max, is the only boy in Christophel’s class for that age group, and Leder’s 12-year-old daughter, Paulina, is often Max’s partner.

 Leder’s children became interested in ballroom dancing after Leder confided in them that he had been a competitive dancer in his native Germany. The revelation piqued his son’s curiosity.

“Men or boys are usually often not that into dancing, so boys always have opportunities to dance with other girls,” Leder told his son.

 Despite all the attention, Max remains “a little shy about it,” Leder says. “Hopefully he will grow out of it.”




Why Ballroom Dance?

General Benefits

Ballroom dancing is fun and is a great teacher. It teaches:

  • Relationships necessary in close teamwork
  • Discipline through practice and routines
  • Goal setting, planning and actions to achieve agreed goals
  • An appreciation and further understanding of music’s rhythm and tempo
  • Economics and fluidity in movement
  • Poise and balance
  • Self-confidence

In summary, it teaches skills and abilities that will be very useful throughout your life – in social situations, in business growth, and in offering a great exercise.


Physical Benefits

Physically, the general conditioning that ballroom dancing provides will benefit you in many ways. If you practice regularly, you will build stamina equal to that of soccer players or runners. You will acquire far more lasting physical stamina than football or baseball players who “stop and start” rather than continuously move.

Another plus is that ballroom dancing will provide excellent physical conditioning without the risk of injury inherent in some physical sports.

With dance, you will become involved with disciplines and movements that can instill innate knowledge of body dynamics and skills that will enhance your life in many ways. Mutually engaging in dance with a partner requires balance, synchronized and coordinated movement, and this develops prime and usable body skills.


Mental Benefits

Mentally you will find great satisfaction in the achievements afforded by dancing – whether “a great dance” in social situations, or participating in a hotly contested competition. Students are greatly drawn to competition endeavor. Unknown to most, dancing offers keen and top-grade competition in formation teams, team matches, and couple dancing.

Ballroom dance programs usually include top academic leaders of the school or college. They are attracted to ballroom dancing by both the mental and physical challenge.

Ballroom dancing will stretch your thinking and “do-it” abilities. As your dancing improves, the sense of achievement will build confidence and pride. The teamwork needed to dance with a partner is mutually stimulating to concentration and learning.

Regardless of your age, dancing will be an excellent learning experience in discipline, achievement, assuredness, and self-confidence. These favorable attributes then will transfer to other aspects of your life and this will provide even greater benefits in your future. When you dance you will enjoy it and thrive.


Social Benefits

Ballroom dance clubs provide a great social network in a controlled environment that is free of smoking, alcohol, and drugs. Emotional health is impacted in a positive way by learning a new skill and achieving set goals . Socially, you will discover a new alliance with the opposite sex, an alliance built on courtesy, consideration, and mutual achievement. As a good dancer you will find yourself much appreciated at social functions and always popular. This will build “social confidence.” Ballroom dancing, a valuable lifetime social skill, will provide much joy and be useful for your entire life. It is a skill to be learned, practiced, enjoyed frequently and treasured .


Career Benefits

The ability to dance well is a definite asset at social events related to the business in which you are engaged. The poise and confidence developed on the dance floor translate into everyday life in myriad ways.

5 Ways Leaders Build Trust With Their Partner

Originally Published February 18, 2016 on by Iva Crewe

When a follower agrees to dance with you, they are trusting you with a lot of control over their body, including where you are going to move them next. The leader’s job is largely to prove themselves worthy of that trust. Less-trusting followers will try and protect themselves by back leading or fighting your leads, while more trusting followers may allow you to do just about anything, comfortable in the knowledge that you have their interests at heart. Here’s how you can create more of the latter.

1. Keep it simple, keep a buffer.

Rule number one of developing trust is ‘keep your partner safe’. That means no risky maneuvers that could cause an accident or collision. Unless your are practicing something specific, stick to the moves you know the best. And keep a buffer of air, two steps wide, between your partner and every other solid object in the room.

2. Frame vs force.

Many leader’s try and ‘make their partners go’, by muscling them around with their arms. In doing so, they sacrifice their frame and posture, both of which are much more helpful in guiding their partner to where she needs to be. Instead, move her as you would a shopping cart – with the momentum of your body, which comes from leading with the chest and pushing off with the feet, while keeping your arms gently static.

3. Be a gentle giant.

Building trust with your partner also means finding the balance between too much force and too little. Some new followers may need more ‘persuading’ to get to their destination than others. Others may move at a feather’s touch, and you might find yourself holding back to avoid sending conflicting signals.

How do we change the strength of our lead?

a. By varying the sharpness of our changes in direction and tempo.

b. By beginning our lead for a step earlier for beginners than experienced dancers.

4. Step straight, don’t hesitate.

One of the most common mistakes nervous leaders make comes from a fear of stepping on their partner’s feet. They avoid this by stepping to either side of their partner instead of straight towards them, creating an awkward, waddling movement. Not only will this send confusing leads to your partner, it tells them you don’t trust yourself to protect them.

If you are leading clearly and assertively, it’s their responsibility to move out of your way. So step directly where you want to go, keeping your speed consistent. And unless she is flat-out stopping you from moving, follow through with your leads without hesitation. You don’t want to hurt your partner, but you do want them to know you believe in your leading ability (even if you really don’t yet) so they won’t feel like they have to ‘help’ you.

5. Before you accuse her, take a look at yourself.

Finally, trust is increased for a leader willing to admit his own mistakes. The inconvenient truth leaders everywhere face is that they have the larger responsibility in guiding the action, and the mistakes that can result.

So before you start pointing fingers, ask yourself: Is there anything more I could have done?


About the Author:
About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada

5 Ways Leaders Build Trust With Their Partner

Originally written by Iva Crewe for AccessDance.


When a follower agrees to dance with you, they are trusting you with a lot of control over their body, including where you are going to move them next. The leader’s job is largely to prove themselves worthy of that trust. Less-trusting followers will try and protect themselves by back leading or fighting your leads, while more trusting followers may allow you to do just about anything, comfortable in the knowledge that you have their interests at heart. Here’s how you can create more of the latter.

1. Keep it simple, keep a buffer.

Rule number one of developing trust is ‘keep your partner safe’. That means no risky maneuvers that could cause an accident or collision. Unless your are practicing something specific, stick to the moves you know the best. And keep a buffer of air, two steps wide, between your partner and every other solid object in the room.

2. Frame vs force.

Many leader’s try and ‘make their partners go’, by muscling them around with their arms. In doing so, they sacrifice their frame and posture, both of which are much more helpful in guiding their partner to where she needs to be. Instead, move her as you would a shopping cart – with the momentum of your body, which comes from leading with the chest and pushing off with the feet, while keeping your arms gently static.

3. Be a gentle giant.

Building trust with your partner also means finding the balance between too much force and too little. Some new followers may need more ‘persuading’ to get to their destination than others. Others may move at a feather’s touch, and you might find yourself holding back to avoid sending conflicting signals.

How do we change the strength of our lead?

a. By varying the sharpness of our changes in direction and tempo.

b. By beginning our lead for a step earlier for beginners than experienced dancers.

4. Step straight, don’t hesitate.

One of the most common mistakes nervous leaders make comes from a fear of stepping on their partner’s feet. They avoid this by stepping to either side of their partner instead of straight towards them, creating an awkward, waddling movement. Not only will this send confusing leads to your partner, it tells them you don’t trust yourself to protect them.

If you are leading clearly and assertively, it’s their responsibility to move out of your way. So step directly where you want to go, keeping your speed consistent. And unless she is flat-out stopping you from moving, follow through with your leads without hesitation. You don’t want to hurt your partner, but you do want them to know you believe in your leading ability (even if you really don’t yet) so they won’t feel like they have to ‘help’ you.

5. Before you accuse her, take a look at yourself.

Finally, trust is increased for a leader willing to admit his own mistakes. The inconvenient truth leaders everywhere face is that they have the larger responsibility in guiding the action, and the mistakes that can result.

So before you start pointing fingers, ask yourself: Is there anything more I could have done?

About the Author:
About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada


How to Dress When Attending Classes and Parties

Originally written by Sunny Smith of A Step to Gold International Ballroom


We are constantly asked the question of how to dress when attending classes and parties at the Ballroom. To answer that question, the dress at A Step to Gold Ballroom is dressy casual and a little more dressed up for parties. For those who would like a few more guidelines, here are my suggestions.

Beginning with the ladies, we recommend wearing something comfortable whether attending private lessons, classes or parties. Many women wear slacks as well as skirts or dresses to both lessons and parties. It may be necessary to wear comfortable shorts under your skirt or dress if it rises when spinning. Women wear all types of tops but it may be best to wear short sleeve knitted tops or cotton shirts to keep cool. In addition, bring a sweater or a jacket in case the air conditioning gets to be too cold. We try to keep the temperature comfortable for the majority of the dancers. Some people get really warm when they are dancing. For men attending their 1st lesson and party, they usually wear slacks or even nice jeans. Think casual but neat.

(This is a typical night at a dance party. On a theme night people dress accordingly.)

Personally I enjoy dressing up for the parties with a skirt and jewelry.

Ballroom Dance Shoes

The biggest concern is shoes. For Ladies, shoes with a low or medium heel with leather soles will give you better ability to spin and keep the stress off your knees. Men should wear shoes that will slide across the floor. Sneakers and flip flips are not functional. Professional dress shoes are fine if they are comfortable, loafers or even Sperry’s (boat shoes) work. After beginning lessons, men might consider ballroom dance shoes as they are more comfortable and create a smoother glide on the floor.

Do Not Let Wardrobe Issues Keep you From Dancing

The best advice I can give is to not allow wardrobe issues to keep you from dancing. Dressing up is enjoyable to some but again it is not necessary for dancers at any level. For those who do like to dress up, do not worry about being overdressed because there is a wide variety of dress , especially at parties. We look forward to dancing with you!

World Champions Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova – Coming Soon to Dance Vision!

2015 United States DanceSport Championships. Photo by Alex Rowan/Dancesport Photography
2015 United States DanceSport Championships. Photo by Alex Rowan/Dancesport Photography

Exciting news from Dance Vision! We just wrapped up filming 5 brand new International Ballroom Technique DVDs by World Ballroom champions Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova!

Arunas & Katusha filmed technique instructional videos for all five International Ballroom/Standard dances (Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz & Quickstep) that we know will help you become a better dancer! Filming with them was a pleasure since they were so knowledgeable and professional – You definitely will NOT be disappointed.

We don’t know exactly yet when the videos will be available for purchase, but stay tuned! We’ll definitely let you all know!


Dance Business Seminar at the Emerald Ball Dancesport Championships

Michael Reeves, Ballroom business consultant

Along with Wayne Eng, I’ll be hosting a variety of topics regarding our dance business including:

(1) Merging competitive & social students under the same roof. Is it possible to create a positive, unified environment?

(2) Where do we see our business in 10 years?

(3) What’s the most lucrative part of our business & why aren’t we giving it more attention?

(4) Location, Location, Location & how we utilize space effectively.

(5) How we market potential customers in 2016.

These are some of the topics we’ll discuss so if you’re a new studio owner or looking to restructure an ongoing business, join Wayne & I for discussions pertaining to studio owners/managers. If you’re planning to open a studio in the near future, these topics should be of particular interest. The meeting is free of charge & you may visit or email for more information. See you in LA!

We Welcome a New Member to the ProDVIDA Family!

We are excited to introduce you to our newest ProDVIDA Examiner, Ronen Zinshtein! Please check out his studio website at He will soon be starting a DVIDA Student Medal Program within the studio. Welcome to the DVIDA Family, Ronen.

A reminder that DVIDA offers Professional Examinations in American Style Rhythm & Smooth, International Style Standard & Latin, Argentine Tango, Nightclub Two-Step, Salsa and Hustle. To view all ProDVIDA information and learn how to be certified, please visit

The Emerald Ball (Really) has it All!

Ever thought of participating in a dancesport competition? For the serious competitor, the Emerald Ball (April 26 – May 1, 2016) is a “must do”, top-flight event to capture your ranking on the national scene.

Photo by Alex Rowan / Dancesport Photography, 2015

If you are new to mega-competitions, Emerald Ball is the perfect place to learn how to compete on the big floor.

What can you expect at the Emerald Ball? Plenty of things, including:

  • 6 days of dancing, including Kids day on Sunday, May 1st! We’ve also expanded the open Scholarship Championships to 5 age divisions: A(16-35), B(36-50), C(51+) S1(61+), S2 (71+). Absolutely EVERYONE is invited to be out on the dance floor!
  • A 4 day Dance Camp open to all students, amateurs and professionals, that will “up your game” with coaching from the best in the industry.
  • The California Gold Rush Dancesport Circuit Series – A dancesport series circuit designed for competitors who live in, or love visiting California. The Emerald Ball is the last stop and the grand finale!
  • Located at the LAX Hilton, just minutes away from many famous attractions such as Hollywood, Disneyland, Manhattan Beach, Beverly Hills and so much more.
  • So many prizes and awards, including cash scholarships, vouchers for other competitions and even Emerald rings!
  • Need a new dancesport dress? New accessories? New shoes? No problem — The Emerald Ball hosts over 35 vendors to suit your needs.

SEB15_74386ounds like the competition to be at, doesn’t it? If you want more information and every little detail, please visit and sign up! Hurry, only 7 weeks until the registration closing date of March 31st, 2016!

4 Exercise Benefits of Ballroom Dancing with a Partner


The exercise benefits of ballroom dancing have been well-documented. It only boils down to common sense when you consider that with all the turning, stepping and maneuvering in ballroom dancing, you stand to burn a lot of calories in a session with your partner. The exercise benefits of ballroom dancing apply to all age groups, which is another attractive reason to take it up as a form of working out. Ballroom dancing is not typically seen as an exercise first and foremost, which contributes to the fun of this kind of physical activity. Here are several exercise benefits you’ll gain from ballroom dancing with a partner.

1. Flexibility
Flexibility is a key exercise benefit of ballroom dancing. While women are generally more flexible than men just by nature, both sexes can benefit from ballroom dancing’s provision of more flexibility. When you join a ballroom dancing class, you will find that it will likely begin with quite a few stretching exercises just to protect against injury, as well as to prepare your body to be able to do the dance steps with greater ease. Flexibility is something you come to gain more of as you do the actual dance steps. The reason for this is that many of these dance steps automatically call for moves that necessitate a lot of stretching and bending.

2. Strength
You get to develop more strength as you increase the time you spend ballroom dancing with your partner. The manner in which ballroom dancing contributes to strength buildup is by forcing a dancer’s muscles to resist against their own body weight. For example, ballroom dancing involves the use of quick turns, spinning and strutting. Male dancers in particular get to really build up their leg muscle strength during the times when they must lift their female partners high above their heads. All these force-intensive actions require strength from your leg muscles, so your leg muscles are built up more and more just by doing the regular dance moves.

3. Endurance
A good way to define endurance is the capability of your muscles to work harder for longer and longer stretches of time without succumbing to fatigue. The intensity that you’re required to put into ballroom dancing makes this form of exercise a particularly potent means of building up your endurance. Each time you dance with a partner and work on your quick steps, lifts or twists and turns, you are conditioning yourself to be able to do these with less and less fatigue.

4. Mental Health
Since ballroom dancing is a communal activity, it has positive effects on your mental health. Studies back up what is common knowledge: Being around other people builds up your social ties, and socializing contributes to a positive outlook as well as a higher sense of self-confidence. Joining a ballroom dance class is one such way to accomplish this.

Originally appeared on


Dance Ettiquette by Vivian Beiswenger

Reprinted from the Delaware Valley Dance Spotlight, a publication of USA Dance. 


In researching this article, I came across several web sites with good advice, but no one site that I thought said all that was needed. I decided to try my own hand at coming up with a set of guidelines and now that I wrote them down, I may actually have to follow my own advice! Where I agreed with published advice, I incorporated it and added many of my own thoughts. I’d like to acknowledge some of the authors and web sites that, in my opinion, had good ideas: James Marshall, Aria Nostratinia, Erik Novoa, Jean Kim, and

I invite your comments and suggestions for improvement. Please email them to me at


1. Before you even show up at the dance, prepare for a social activity that involves sharing your personal space with others. Shower, use deodorant and mouthwash, minimize the colognes and perfumes, and pack mints. If offered a mint, consider that there may be a reason, and take one or check your breath. If coming directly from work or a workout, pack toiletries and/or clothing to freshen up before you ask someone to dance. If you are allergic to perfumes, consult a physician, as it will be impossible to eliminate these completely from a social dance unless you are the czar of the dance and can refuse admission. If you perspire profusely, I suggest bringing an extra shirt (or two) to change, if needed. The number one reason why people don’t want to dance with another person is how he/she smells.

2. Wear clothing that does not restrict your or your partner’s movement. Wear appropriate footwear. Dance shoes are best, but, if you don’t have or can’t afford dance shoes, wear a shoe that has support for your heel (no flip flops or open-back shoes) and avoid heavy footwear (boots, platform shoes, work shoes, etc.). Clothing and hair styles/adornments should not have moving parts that will hit or snag on your partner or your partner’s clothing. Follow the dress code for the event you are attending. It’s fun to dress up once in a while. Don’t wear jeans and sneakers to a dress-up event.


1. A smile is your greatest asset. The more of them that you give away, the more you get. Use a smile to ask for a dance, to accept the invitation, during the dance, and at the end of the dance when you thank your partner. Everyone wants to feel that the person with whom he/she just danced enjoyed it (so show it or fake it until you make it).

2. Make eye contact and ask your partner’s name if you don’t know it. The best way to be interesting is to be interested.

3. Accept an invitation whenever possible. It’s okay to refuse a dance if you don’t know the dance, have promised it to someone else, or need a break. If you must refuse, give your reason, and then never turn around and accept someone else’s offer for that same dance. When possible, offer to do the next or a future dance that you know. It’s always acceptable to refuse someone who has hurt you, put your safety at risk, behaved inappropriately in the past, or become a pest by requesting too many dances, but do it graciously. Avoiding eye contact with these individuals is often a good way to avoid the request in the first place.

4. It’s acceptable for women as well as men to request a dance. If the person you are asking is with someone, be respectful and considerate to that person, but do not ask the partner for permission for the dance. This is passé and potentially offensive. Ask the individual directly. Do not interrupt a conversation and yank someone away. Personally, I appreciate it when someone asking my partner or me to dance begins by asking “us” if we were going to do the dance, especially when the dance is one that may only be offered once or twice during a dance, such as quickstep or Viennese waltz.

5. Don’t monopolize a dancer, especially one who is a better dancer than you.

6. Be willing to dance with beginners. We were all there once and he/she might remember you after he/she becomes a great dancer.

7. If you are being turned down a lot, check your personal hygiene, your approach, and your smile. Be sure that you are not being a pest by asking the same person too often.


1. First, do not join a lesson advertised as above your level in that dance. Intermediate to advanced dancers may often take a lower level class to review basics or practice the other role (lead or follow), but beginners should never jump into a higher level class without the approval of the teacher. If you are an intermediate to advanced level dancer in one dance, it doesn’t mean that you can jump into an intermediate or advanced level class in another dance. You should start at the beginning, master the basics of the new dance, and ask the instructor to advise you when to move up.

IMG_53222. Follow the rules of the class. If the class requires rotation, follow the rotation as instructed by the teacher. Do not jump the line in rotations. Leave personal issues outside the classroom and do not let your like or dislike of an individual disrupt the flow of the class. Do not disrespect other members of the class by skipping them or not dancing. Many classes allow couples to step out of the rotation. If this is important to you, ask before you join the class, and if you choose to dance with one partner, move out of the line of rotation, if possible. Personally, I recommend rotating. You and the class will accomplish more. When the good dancers rotate, they bring up the level of the other dancers and the class as a whole accomplishes more. When the slowest learners don’t rotate, the teacher has to decide whether to slow down the class for them or lose them. When regular partners rotate, they hone their own skills and truly learn to lead and follow anyone. Finally, rotating may reduce/avoid stress or identify issues in a regular partnership. A lady may actively back-lead her own partner, but not someone else. Finally, if the lead/follow isn’t working with anyone, then maybe the problem isn’t with your partner.

3. If you are a student in the class, do not attempt to assist the instructor without being asked. Do not talk to your partner while the teacher is talking. It disrupts the class and often requires instructions to be repeated. Pay attention and do not deliberately deviate from the steps being taught. It’s unfair to your partner and disrespectful to the teacher and the rest of the class.

4. One approach I learned the hard way: always try first to do the last thing the instructor asked to be corrected. The teacher is usually looking for a sign that most of the class “got” this point before moving on. By focusing on earlier instructions rather than the last, you may hold up the class by repeatedly missing the current task.


1. Never criticize your partner’s dancing or blame your partner for a misstep. The single biggest secret to success in social dancing, or any kind of partner dancing for that matter, is to make your partner happy. Make your partner feel appreciated and as comfortable as possible. Personally, I would rather dance with a smiling, appreciative beginner than an advanced dancer who looks bored, angry, or put-upon. Smile (always) for social dancing. You are not putting on a performance where negative body language may be part of the act. Thank your partner at the end of the dance and walk with him or her off the dance floor unless he or she is picked up by his or her next partner. Remember the Law of Attraction: what you give, you will get back in spades!

2. When engaging in a dance that usually travels (waltz, foxtrot, tango, quickstep, Viennese waltz, samba, paso doble, Peabody, country two-step, polka, etc.), follow the line of dance. Travel counter-clockwise around the perimeter of the floor. If you are not traveling, stay in the center of the floor. If you are traveling slowly, leave room between you and the wall for faster dancers to pass. Do not stop and talk on the dance floor for a significant length of time or backup into moving dancers. For some dances that move very little and do not follow specific alignments (rumba, cha cha, swing, jive, hustle, mambo, salsa, merengue, etc.), you can use the entire floor, but only if no one is doing a traveling dance at the same time (e.g., swing and foxtrot music overlaps). The spot dancers should leave the perimeter of the floor to the traveling dancers.

3. Be aware of other dancers around you. Do not crowd others, if possible. Avoid collisions and protect your partner. If a collision happens, briefly apologize, no matter whose fault it was. Gentlemen, please, please, please, do not overpower the lady and throw her in the direction of other dancers. Leads should be subtle and allow the lady to dance herself and avoid accidents. It is unnecessary to push or pull the lady around the floor. If she is not following, rather than strong-arming her, adjust your step patterns to her level. Ladies, you can help to avoid incidents by warning your partner of traffic behind him, either verbally or by squeezing his hand/arm. And, before you extend your arm in that long stylish reach, check to be sure no one’s eye or other body part is in the way.

4. Ladies, do not attempt to lead or back-lead. Gentlemen, please be aware that a beginner lady may not have enough control and balance to avoid stepping first. Don’t chastise her for leading when she might be simply struggling for control. Adjust your patterns to her level and avoid giving instruction on the dance floor unless it’s specifically requested.

5. No matter how good you are or how incapable your partner is in your own mind, do not volunteer dance instruction. Don’t count or call out the steps. If you can’t lead the pattern acceptably for your partner’s ability level, use another figure.

6. Use common sense appropriate with the crowd on the dance floor. Don’t take over the dance floor or use extended arms or competition routines on a crowded floor.

7. Mixers are often used during social dances to facilitate meeting and dancing with new people. They usually raise the fun quotient at an event. Whether you are the best or worst dancer in the room, if you know the dance, participate. Dancers who don’t participate take away from the festivity. Ballroom dancing is a social activity and a mixer is a great way to meet new people and make new friends. You can never have too many friends. Remember, though, that a mixer is about mixing. It’s offensive and insulting to the other dancers to observe the person who tries to “cherry pick,” hanging back to dance only with the best dancers in the mixer line.

Above all, be happy and have fun! Remember that the Law of Attraction is always at work! “Do what you love. … As you commit to your joy, you will attract an avalanche of joyful things because you are radiating joy.”

Dancing and the Brain

Originally appeared in Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute’s “On the Brain” Newsletter.

Millions of Americans dance, either recreationally or professionally. How many of those who are ballroom dancing, doing the foxtrot, break dancing, or line dancing, realize that they are doing something positive for their bodies—and their brains? Dance, in fact, has such beneficial effects on the brain that it is now being used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological movement disorder.

“There’s no question, anecdotally at least, that music has a very stimulating effect on physical activity,” says Daniel Tarsy, MD, an HMS professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). “And I think that applies to dance, as well.”

Stimulating movement

Couple ballroom dancingScientists gave little thought to the neurological effects of dance until relatively recently, when researchers began to investigate the complex mental coordination that dance requires. In a 2008 article in Scientific American magazine, a Columbia University neuroscientist posited that synchronizing music and movement—dance, essentially—constitutes a “pleasure double play.” Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits.

Studies using PET imaging have identified regions of the brain that contribute to dance learning and performance. These regions include the motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. The motor cortex is involved in the planning, control, and execution of voluntary movement. The somatosensory cortex, located in the mid region of the brain, is responsible for motor control and also plays a role in eye-hand coordination. The basal ganglia, a group of structures deep in the brain, work with other brain regions to smoothly coordinate movement, while the cerebellum integrates input from the brain and spinal cord and helps in the planning of fine and complex motor actions.

While some imaging studies have shown which regions of the brain are activated by dance, others have explored how the physical and expressive elements of dance alter brain function. For example, much of the research on the benefits of the physical activity associated with dance links with those gained from physical exercise, benefits that range from memory improvement to strengthened neuronal connections.

A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered that dance can decidedly improve brain health. The study investigated the effect leisure activities had on the risk of dementia in the elderly. The researchers looked at the effects of 11 different types of physical activity, including cycling, golf, swimming, and tennis, but found that only one of the activities studied—dance—lowered participants’ risk of dementia. According to the researchers, dancing involves both a mental effort and social interaction and that this type of stimulation helped reduce the risk of dementia.

In a small study undertaken in 2012, researchers at North Dakota’s Minot State University found that the Latin-style dance program known as Zumba improves mood and certain cognitive skills, such as visual recognition and decision-making. Other studies show that dance helps reduce stress, increases levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, and helps develop new neural connections, especially in regions involved in executive function, long-term memory, and spatial recognition.

Movement as therapy

Dance has been found to be therapeutic for patients with Parkinson’s disease. More than one million people in this country are living with Parkinson’s disease, and, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, each year another 60,000 are diagnosed with the disease. Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called motor-system disorders, which develop when the dopamine-producing cells in the brain are lost. The chemical dopamine is an essential component of the brain’s system for controlling movement and coordination. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, an increasing number of these cells die off, drastically reducing the amount of dopamine available to the brain.

According to the foundation, the primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include bradykinesia (slowed movement), stiffness of the limbs and trunk, tremors, and impaired balance and coordination. It is these symptoms that dance may help alleviate. “A lot of this research is observational, not hard science,” says Tarsy, “but it’s consistent and there’s a lot of it.”

Tarsy says that dance can be considered a form of rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS). In this technique, a series of fixed rhythms are presented to patients, and the patients are asked to move to the rhythms. Studies of the effects this technique has on patients with Parkinson’s or other movement disorders have found significant improvements in gait and upper extremity function among participants. Although there have been no side-by-side scientific comparisons of RAS with either music or dance, Tarsy says people with Parkinson’s “speak and walk better if they have a steady rhythmic cue.”

Complementary moves

At the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Peter Wayne, AM ’89, PhD ’92, an HMS assistant professor of medicine at the hospital, studies the clinical effects of mind-body and complementary/alternative medicine practices on patients with chronic health conditions. He has conducted clinical trials designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of tai chi for patients with Parkinson’s and other balance disorders. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art once used for self-defense but now performed as exercise. Wayne considers tai chi to be a more ritualized, structured form of dance.

“The focus of our work is to take advantage of traditional exercises in which it’s implicit that the mind and body are connected more efficiently,” says Wayne. “Tai chi is one such exercise that we focus on because of its benefits for both balance and mental function.” Research, he says, has shown that the increased susceptibility to falls that occurs among people who are aging or who are dealing with disorders such as Parkinson’s can be mitigated by the practice of tai chi; it improves their strength and flexibility as well as their cognitive performance.

One such study appeared in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine. In this study, a team of investigators led by a scientist at the Oregon Research Institute found that tai chi helped improve balance and prevent falls among people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease. After six months, those who practiced tai chi twice weekly were physically stronger and had better balance compared with those who did either weight training or stretching. On average, the participants who did tai chi achieved balance measures that were two times better than those achieved by weightlifters and four times better than those participants who stretched. Those people who practiced tai chi also fell less and had slower rates of decline in overall motor control.

Wayne says tai chi may possibly benefit people with Parkinson’s disease in other ways, too. “Practicing mindful movement,” he says, “may help compensate for some of the motor deficits that are common in Parkinson’s and aging.”

Under Tarsy’s direction, BIDMC has initiated several wellness programs, including ones that feature tai chi, Zumba, yoga, and drumming, designed to help people manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Although it is still unclear to what extent these programs benefit patients, Tarsy says there is evidence that such activities as dance and tai chi can stabilize the effects of the disease and slow the degree to which everyday movement is affected.


Scott Edwards is a freelance science writer based in Massachusetts.

How Does One Improve Body Flight Speed? by Jim Maranto

The answer to this is complex. First of all, are we referring to control of the speed or just going faster and further?

2015 USDC - Photo courtesy of Alex Rowan / Dancesport Photography
2015 USDC – Photo courtesy of Alex Rowan / Dancesport Photography

Body speed is generally dictated by the music played and the figures you choose to dance. The slower the music and the fewer the steps within the bar, the slower you must go. The opposite is true of course. We also must consider time and distance. The further you travel in a given time, the greater the body speed. Again, the opposite is true. So the formula for speed is simple, more distance per step and more steps per given unit of time. But remember, given any tempo of music, you can always manipulate your time of movement within it, decreasing it so you look faster when you move by standing on your leg longer.

You can also appear both faster and slower by contrasting your speeds and choreography choices. But when all is said and done your answer is in the control and release of your body weight. Controlling your body weight to your standing leg, allowing you to move where and when you want.

This is the key to not only body speed but great dancing!


What I Look For While Judging a Competition by Kasia Kozak

KasiaHeadshotA great deal of work goes into the preparation for any competition and I would like to share with you ways by which you can ensure that your preparation is going to yield the best possible results. In other words, lets talk about “ preparing smart”!

As a judge, we have a limited amount of time to assess each couple. Therefore it is so very important to show off your very best assets – the steps, style  and “look” that set you apart from others. Think of it this way- if you are getting ready to attend a glamorous party you will carefully shop for a dress that shows off the best parts of your figure and hides the less than perfect parts! If you have short legs you might choose a long svelte dress to give you a longer, leaner look – conversely if you have great legs you might go with a short and sassy length dress to show them off. So it is with your dancing – present the judges with the very best possible overall picture of your dancing by choosing steps and choreography that highlight your look and your strengths. Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to show qualities that you are simply not good at or that your particular body type isn’t suited for. FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS! For example, if you have a long body think about showing nice stretched lines and be aware that you can and should cover a lot of space on the dance floor which will draw the judges eyes to you in a very positive way. If you have a short body then use it your advantage by working on dynamite speed  and sparkling footwork to get the judges attention! In summary…… know yourself and embrace being special.

So, one might then ask “what is the purpose of technique?”Is it not the same for everyone?  Yes, it is and all dancers need to be fully knowledgeable on technique, BUT, what is missing in my opinion, is an understanding of how to apply the technical knowledge dancers have worked so hard to acquire. Just having extensive technical knowledge wont make you a great dancer but understanding how to apply it will.

I like to think of technique as tool or ingratiate necessary for me to have in order to create things.  Just like going to Home Depot or the grocery store I need to know what it is that I need to get for my project.  I need to know exactly what my final result is going to be in order to pick the right tools for the job.  Without the result in mind I might get the wrong stuff.  And even though it is nice to have many tools, they might not necessarily be the right ones for my project.

It is exactly the same with our dance technique – if I have a product in mind I can than use a particular technique that is the best for my project.  For example, if I’m trying to be rhythmical I need to bend my knees allowing my hips and my ribcage to respond to it creating a body rhythm. Working on straightening the knees will not get that done. On the other hand if I’m trying to look very strong and powerful I definitely need to straighten my knees allowing the whole body to have an upright position.

Kasia Kozak with partner Donald Johnson during their competition days.
Kasia Kozak with partner Donald Johnson during their competition days.

I urge you to have a clear picture of what you are trying to produce on the competition floor, bearing in mind that we judges have only seconds to form an opinion of each couple. Concentrate on creating an overall positive impression with a clear message that judges can instantly identify and relate to.  I recommend that you devote great thought to identifying exactly what you are try to show on the competition floor and than practice with that in mind. “One thing at a time” should be your motto.  Keep it in mind we do not mark “any” movement, we mark movement that is appropriate and expected in a particular dance. Often times dancers think any movement is a good movement – unfortunately, that is not true. We all know that, even from everyday life. If I go to Starbucks for coffee, I’m only satisfied if I get the coffee that I ordered, not just any coffee – The same exactly with each dance. There are specific expectations that need to be full filled in order for a performance to be rewarded.

So, make sure that you are very familiar with the authenticity of each dance.

Remember, all the pieces are only as important as the final result.  Don’t fall into the trap of getting hung up on one or two steps – use your practice wisely.  Make sure you focus on the overall picture you wish to portray on the dance floor.

DVIDA: The Ultimate Tutor for Your Private Lesson

smallarticlepicPractice Makes Perfect!
The benefits of private dance instruction are priceless. A professional instructor can develop each session based on your individual strengths and weaknesses. Through positive reinforcement and personalized feedback, private coaching with a qualified instructor provides the attention needed for you to perfect your skills.

However, the price of perfection can end up being costly. Depending on your location, an instructor may charge anywhere from $60 to $150 for an hour long session. Students who value their time and money can supplement their private lessons by practicing at home with Dance Vision instructional DVDs and Digital Media.

Each Dance Vision video is structured in a one-on-one format, that isolates each step and describes the foundational elements for every dance figure. By practicing with Dance Vision videos, you can review these elements as many times as you like in the comfort of your own home.

Studying the school figures at home with a Dance Vision video can reduce the amount of time spent learning footwork in your private lesson. Practicing with Dance Vision content is like having a Top Champion of Dance as your own personal tutor. Imagine having a study session with Smooth Champions, Michael Mead & Toni Redpath, whenever you want. Dance Vision videos provides you with access to all the tools you need to successfully prepare for your next private lesson.

Supplementing your lesson at home is great value for both the student and teacher. Students that devote time and attention to practicing outside of the studio can use Dance Vision videos to enhance their progression in private lessons. Maximizing the time spent focusing on perfecting techniques at home can minimize the time spent correcting mistakes in the studio. The student remains dedicated to learning new techniques from the teacher. The teacher is able to cultivate and inspire the student’s passion for dance with personalized feedback and positive reinforcement.

Dance Vision instructional DVDs and Digital Media are the best tool to use to get the most value out of any private lesson. The first rule of any private lesson is that practice makes perfect. Make your practice perfect with DVIDA!


The Important People at a Dancesport Competition by Paul Hermanson

PaulHermansonOne cannot help but be impressed with the dramatic growth of Dancesport as demonstrated by the number of competitions and explosion of individual entries.

Equally impressive is how smoothly and efficiently most of these events run.  The preparation and behind the scene activities that contribute to a successful Dancesport competition are innumerable;  but on “Game Day” 6 key positions working seamlessly will keep a competition running like clockwork.  A breakdown in any one of those positions can turn “Game Day” into chaotic calamity!  The 6 positions?

  • Chairman of Judges
  • Registrar
  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Deck
  • Music
  • Scrutineer


Chairman of Judges

The Chairman is the Head Coach.  The team is on the field and this gentleman or lady is the one who guides everyone through the day.  Forethought to always be looking and thinking ahead is a consummate skill that should not be underestimated.  On “Game Day” anything that affects the activity on the competitive dance floor falls under the auspices of the Chairman.  The Chairman has the final say.



The Registrar does an incredible amount of preparatory work days and even weeks before the actual competition.  But on “Game Day” the consistent heat sheet adjustments and possible scheduling changes are coordinated at this position.  The Registrar keeps the Chairman, Emcee and Deck constantly supplied with the most up to date information.  Isn’t it amazing how the Registrar still manages a smile when you ask to revise all those entries?


Master of Ceremonies

If the Chairman is Head Coach the Emcee is analogous to Quarterback.  The Emcee is constantly aware of the momentum of the game.  When the momentum is racing out of control the Emcee restores calm.  When the momentum begins faltering the Emcee applies the necessary resuscitation.  The Emcee knows a sense of humor is invaluable, but more importantly knows his/her job is not mainly to entertain.  Under the guidance of the Chairman, the Emcee’s job is keeping the judges, competitors, stewards and audience completely informed in an efficient and timely manner.



Your Deck Captains are the unsung heroes of any Dancesport competition, especially when the size of the competition demands running two or more floors consecutively!  The ability to have the competitors calmly ready to enter the correct floor immediately following the previous heat is a cultivated and necessary skill.  The combination of a firm but nurturing personality is greatly appreciated by all competitors whether professional or amateur.   A combination of Squad Leader and Psychologist your deck captains can literally make or break the efficient flow of a competition.



Clearly the choice of music in type, tempo, volume and color can dramatically affect the ambience of a competition.  Another unsung hero your Deejay only seems to get noticed if there is a musical mistake.  An immediate response to the Emcee Quarterback’s signal calling by providing tight sound cues and proper length of music are essential to staying on schedule.  A Deejay in tune with the mood of the Game has the ability to nurture a continuous energy and excitement in the ballroom.



These people are not just flying fingers on a computer keyboard, though nowadays top notch ten key skills are essential.  Your Scrutineer is the Scorekeeper and tallies the marks from innumerable Judges non-stop. Probably the most pressure filled job of a Dancesport competition, this position demands the ability to concentrate calmly and should, god forbid, the computers crash, an ability to tally marks manually!  Especially during multi-dance events a timely tally is essential.

So the next time you attend and appreciate a flawlessly run Dancesport competition give thanks to those 6 positions manning the trenches on “Game Day”!

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching!

Most people experience some level of self-consciousness when performing in front of others. Sometimes, just knowing that someone is observing while you’re trying to perfect a skill or technique can cause a tremendous amount of pressure. That type of pressure can be a huge obstacle, especially if a person isn’t fully prepared when it’s time to perform.

We’ve all heard the expression “Dance like nobody’s watching,” but have we really taken into consideration what this means? For all intents and purposes, it’s a saying that promotes self-confidence. It reinforces the idea that a person who is able to eliminate the feelings of judgement from others can focus on the pleasure found in dancing. Even though the phrase is hardly ever used in the literal sense, this message can be quite beneficial in the world of Professional Dance.

Dance Vision Instructional Videos Can Help!


The DVIDA Syllabus is a complete system of learning that allows dancers to progress from one skill level to the next in an organized way. In the world of dance, the key to improvement is the repetition of the correct technique. Dance Vision instructional videos are taught by some of the most talented Top Champions in the world. Each lesson provides a complete demonstration of the elements needed in order to improve a specific technique.

Dance Vision videos are a great tool that allows a student to reinforce the techniques learned during studio instruction. Students that have access to The DVIDA Syllabus at home have more control over the pace of their learning. Dance Vision videos can offer anyone the opportunity to master the figures that they learn in class by providing visual instruction of the proper techniques in the comfort of their own home.

Dance Vision Videos Are The Perfect Companion To Group Lessons!

The benefits of Group lessons at a Professional Dance Studio are tremendous. Taking a group class is an excellent introduction to different styles of dance.  They offer personalized instruction, immediate feedback, and the social experience of dancing with a partner.  Most classes are affordable and they are a great way to get some exercise while meeting new people.

Many students who invest in The DVIDA Syllabus have a significant advantage over their peers. Dance Vision videos can supplement group lessons of any size. By alleviating some of the pressure associated with performing in front of others, students can focus on the techniques required to improve their skill level. As the level of skill increases, so does the level of confidence. So, when the student is faced with performing their technique in the studio or on the dance floor, they are better prepared to “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching”!

“C-O-M-P-E-T-E” by Scott Anderson

IMG_4737wTaking your dancing to that next level – that of competition dancing – can be a daunting decision.  Here are a few simple tips for professionals AND students to keep in mind so you don’t lose your mind along the way!


C – Confidence

You want to show confidence when you walk on the floor and that you are ready mentally and physically to be your BEST! Confidence comes through preparation and planning. – peaking at the right time, having rehearsed and polished routines whether they are bronze freestyles or open level advanced.

You should have confidence knowing that from head to toe you look like a champion.  No matter what someone’s budget is, they can still come out onto the floor like a champion with a clean hair style and well groomed.  Even if you’ve had a bad morning, you’re nervous, or have a sore left knee – no one knows that – you have to put it behind you once you take the floor.  Go through one door, and then close it behind you.  You want to be confident without being arrogant.


O – Organized

You should be organized in your weekly lesson and practice time with your note taking and reviewing your skills.  If you are a Newcomer student, make sure you come to your lesson the week before an event with a list of questions.  If you are a teacher of a Newcomer, don’t assume that your student is set with – extra items – hose, shoes, etc…..

Once you are at the competition, you need to organize each day by having proper rest, warm-up time, and meditation. Make sure your hair/makeup appointments have enough time to adapt to any schedule changes, etc.  Somebody that is a top competitor will have everything in place so that you are not scrambling around in case you lose a button or need superglue, etc.  Another important thing is to make sure you know who is responsible for picking up your tickets, packages, and Heat Sheets.  Check your Heat Sheet carefully.  Students – don’t assume your teacher has checked to make sure you have all the dances you signed up for.


M – Make Believe

You should keep in mind that each dance should tell a story, and make believe you are telling that from your performance. This may be a bit harder for the newer students.  However, once you can get in that mindset, it makes it easier to perform.  Here are a few fun tips…

  • Make believe you absolutely love the song being played, even if you don’t.
  • Make believe your feet feel great, even if your shoes aren’t totally broken in
  • Make believe you hear the “two” in Mambo, even though you want to dance on the “one.”


P – Practice

All the best dancers have regular practice time.  The worst thing to do is only practice your choreography.  Dancing the proper technique, timing, and arm styling is a must.  Not only should you practice with your partner, but you should be able to practice on your own.  Most likely your teacher or coach will give you certain exercises or combinations that will develop your quality of movement, swing, sway, latin motion, forward poise, etc.  At the competition I see many top competitors warming up by themselves, maybe with or without music – getting ready to hit the floor.  Remember, once you hit that floor it’s not practice anymore – it’s PERFORMANCE!


E – Enjoy

Enjoy the whole process!  Take time to laugh on your lessons or practice time – no one is perfect! Take time at the event to get outside the hotel.  Sometimes a walk, a visit to a nearby restaurant, or doing some sightseeing will rejuvenate your spirit and clear your head of the stress of competing.  The hard work, the sweat, the blisters, the muscle soreness, the wins, the loses…  they all are a part of the commitment of competing… but how you’ll enjoy that massage when it’s over!!

And one last thing… don’t forget to enjoy watching and cheering on your friends and fellow competitors.  You always dance great when you have a crowd behind you, so remember to return the favor!!


T – Tell Me

Tell me, the judge, that you deserve my mark by your having that “total package.”   A few things that will stand out before you even take a step are grooming, correct choice of costume that is age appropriate and based on your body type.  These things could make or break a mark.  Don’t forget that the judges are watching you as you walk out on the floor…  are you smiling with confidence?  Are your shoulders pulled back?  Believe me, we want to mark you – don’t blow it before you’ve even danced a step!  Get the audience behind you when you dance.  Don’t focus on impressing the judges by catching their eye or dancing so close to them.  The total package you present on the floor will stand out on its own.


 E – Effort

All of the above takes great effort.    Not only does it mean effort on your lesson, it means taking extra time to study DVD’s, and attend seminars.  It’s also a great idea to watch and study performances on DVD’s of the “greats” – they are all available through Dance Vision and are a great source of inspiration.

Your journey of competitive dancing will most likely follow a normal learning curve.  There will be good days of practice, and not so good.  There will be good performances on the floor, and sometimes your mind may go blank.  Remember, there is only one first place that can be awarded but, if along the way, you are developing great skills and making friendships you will always enjoy it!!



Scott1Scott Anderson is a United States Professional Smooth finalist, and Rising Star Champion.  He is also an Adjudicator and member of the US Terpsichore Association.  Scott is an Examiner with DVIDA.  He and his wife, Amy, reside in Minneapolis.  Together they run the Twin Cities Open Ballroom Championships –

High Heels and Low Heels by Heather Smith


An issue I feel that needs to be addressed which may seem like a small problem to some of you, but believe me it is gradually starting to affect the lady dancer in quite a big way, is the ultimate need to wear the ladies low heeled practice shoe right up until the day you are competing.

Please don’t misunderstand me all of the social dancers out there, or all of the ladies who have foot or ankle problems, this issue is not for you. I am simply directing this to all of the pro-am, amateurs, and pros out there who choose to compete.

First of all the lower heel changes your center of gravity and weight to your partner, and the minute you wear that high slinky heel, oh my goodness, suddenly everything changes and we blame the floor and our partner etc, etc. But really the bottom line is you haven’t rehearsed enough in your high heels to have perfect balance.

Ladies, please take note on this one because my growing concern as a judge and traveling coach is that when I travel to many studios and see good dancing and good balance, then get overwhelmed when I see these same students compete with almost no balance after too little time in those Standard pumps. My advice is at least 3 times a week leading up to a competition, wear your pumps and the week of the event wear them as long as you can.


HeatherSmith~ Heather Smith
Former 5 Time Professional United States Standard Champion

How Can Dancers Get Some Emotion in their Dances? by David Hamilton


I think that the reason that we dance is because we enjoy music. Music is where it all starts. And so, when we dance, it gives us an opportunity to express ourselves emotionally as to how the music moves us and we do that in physical forms, which is sometimes a difficult thing to do. But normally, when we react off of anything emotionally, we react off of the spontaneity as to how that moment makes us feel. We emote most of the time by saying something, but if you think about it, every time you say something and you react, there’s got to be some form of expression in your face. It’s just a human reaction.

In the first place, for every dancer to get emotionally connected with their dancing, they must get emotionally connected with the music. We get so involved in “step here, step here, look over here, shape here, la-la-la-la-la,” that for some reason our subconscious has the ability to tune out the music. I train (especially my pros) with a basic constructive count to their routine. But a count of music has a tremendous amount of longevity to it. If you were to take a beat of music and break it up into percentages, how many sections of that note are being played? A quarter note, a triple note, a sixteenth note, etc., so your body has to eventually be able to react to whichever section of that music is being played and that you’re emoting to. So, you should really know the technique and your routine in your bones because a lot of your reaction emotionally comes from your confidence in your dancing.

If you’re feeling good about how you’re dancing, it gives you an opportunity to start expanding emotionally. Sometimes we don’t experience learning the other way. Sometimes the technical aspects of your dancing become natural by your emotional reaction to the sounds of the music. So that would be my biggest pointer. Really understand why you’re dancing – because you love music and you love what music does to your emotional soul. I teach group classes and I call it ‘The Motion of Your Emotion.’

Another thing that I think is very challenging about what we do is that every round of dancing that you do, you get a different piece of music. So, although we have a muscle memory of what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been feeling, I think that because we change the music from round to round, it still should allow you to feel a different emotion and a different feeling because the music is different from round to round too.


 In 1995 David Hamilton took the American Smooth national title with his partner at the time, Teresa Shiry, followed by two more national titles with Olga Foraponova. Other titles include three time World Showdance finalist and 68 National Dance Council Championship events. David resides in his hometown of Nashville, TN, where he co-owns and operates Dance World of Nashville. David is registered with the World Dance Council as an adjudicator for World Championships and is registerd with the National Dance Council of America to adjudicate nationally recognized dance championships.

What is the Major Difference in Motion between American Style Rhythm and International Style Latin? by Ron Montez

“What is the Major Difference in Motion between American Style Rhythm and International Style Latin?” 

Photo credit: Alex Rowan / Dancesport Photography
Photo credit: Alex Rowan / Dancesport Photography

“It depends on how far you go back. We think of the American Style Rumba as a social dance primarily and it’s based on a different timing than the International style. International style has a different timing for its basic figures. But also, American social dance has a tremendous amount of variety. You can go from one figure to another very easily and have many more options. So, as a social dance form, it’s far superior.

“The International style is superior as far as standardization goes. It has techniques and figures known worldwide, so in other words it makes more sense globally. The American style can be a little bit confusing because some groups use a different timing than other groups; they call the same figure something different from place to place. But maybe that’s the beauty of the American style – the variety of it.

“Other than that, there’s a different type of action of the body. The American style is quite a bit more compact than the International Style. It’s meant to be danced in a smaller space – a dance floor as opposed to a ballroom. It’s not set up in a linear style, like your International Rumba is. It’s more of a circular idea. There are many other differences, but that’s a good start!”

– Ron Montez

(Former 7-time undefeated United States Professional Latin Champion, Teacher, Coach and Adjudicator)

Growing Strong, Dancing Better by Donna Edelstein

How can you;

  • Grow stronger
  • Maintain an ideal weight
  • Lessen your chance of injuries, and
  • Improve your mental focus?

You might be surprised at the answer – which is — EAT!

So many dancers are concerned about weight and body fat. With busy teaching schedules, travel, and long competition days it is easy to miss meals, eat whatever is handy, and load up on food or drinks when our day ends.

However, the Center for Dance Nutrition points out,

”Going for long periods of time without fueling your body can result in loss of muscle mass and increased body fat percentage”.

Avoiding injury is also a central concern for dancers. A healthy diet and good nutrition is a proactive way to prevent injury, build lean muscles, and keep your body in top dance condition.

We often view calories negatively, but because dance demands high levels of energy we need to eat regularly. Constant training, rehearsals, and competition takes a toll on muscles, joints and bones. Eating well can help you recover from strain, and assist with lean muscle growth and soft tissue repair.

So, what should you be eating and when?

  • Eat a breakfast that combines protein and carbohydrates. It doesn’t have to be big. A banana with a nut butter (like almond or peanut) will work — but eat something and make sure there is a protein involved.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day. Plan ahead and have small meals or snacks between rehearsals, teaching or lessons. Fruits, cut up veggies, hummus, hard-boiled egg or cheese will work great. Include a small amount of protein in each meal/snack.
  • Eat within 40 minutes after exercise, or as soon as possible. Sports nutrition research shows that an optimum window of time exists within 30-40 minutes after intense activity.  This window is when the body is at its peak for absorption. Getting food into the body during this period helps prevent soreness, improve the recovery of muscles and tendons, and encourages the growth of lean muscle tissue.
  • Research has shown that the best ratio for combining carbohydrates to protein after exercise is four parts carbohydrates to one part protein. Every body is different, so learn what works best for you.

Eating a wide variety of real food is important. Food that grows in the earth, on trees or plants, or is farmed from healthily raised animals will give you optimum vitamins and minerals.

Healthy carbohydrate rich foods include:

  • Whole grain breads
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Fruits
  • Rice, oats, barley, quinoa
  • Potatoes and starchy vegetables like corn

Healthy proteins include:

  • Lean meats raised without antibiotics
  • Poultry raised without antibiotics
  • Fish (wild is preferable to farm raised)
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Tofu
  • Beans

Avoid packaged or processed foods, sugar and soft drinks. Stay away from added preservatives, chemical colorings and flavorings.

Eating whole foods is important because they have enzymes that are useful for digestion, but also because they are full of nutrients, antioxidants and photochemicals that help us stay healthy and fight the strain on our bodies.

It’s important to eat essential fatty acids (EFAs) as well.  EFAs come from oil in foods like fish, flax, avocados, nuts and seeds. They are essential because the body does not produce them. Foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA such as salmon, mackerel and flaxseed have been proven to decrease inflammation.  Other good oils are canola and olive oil.

Some dancers use vitamin and mineral supplements to cover for their food deficiencies.  Make sure to work with a knowledgeable homeopath, naturopath,  kinesiologist or dietician to choose the supplements that your body needs.

Drinking lots of water is also critical. In addition to over-training, the two major nutritional factors that contribute to muscle soreness are lack of hydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Our body fluids are like seawater in that they are primarily water and salt.

Sweat losses during a hard rehearsal or competition can be substantial.  Fluid loss can result in dehydration that can impair performance and mental functioning. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty – that is a sign you are too late! Avoid carbonated drinks, sports drinks with sugar or food coloring or fruit juice.

Adding a pinch of good quality Celtic sea salt to our water can help stabilize electrolyte levels. This can be especially important in hot weather, and during increased physical activity. The salt will help your body retain the water that you drink.

Ultimately, hydrating and fueling your body throughout the day is one of the best things that you can do to achieve or maintain a healthy body – and stay competitive in the dance world.

Most importantly – food is pleasure. Enjoy your food!

written by Donna Edlstein – popular coach, championship adjudicator and organizer of The Snow Ball Dancesport Competition


United States Championships Circuit

It not too late to enter Capital Dance Sport, member of the United States Championships Circuit. More info at

Coming up in 3 weeks the last event on the US Championships Circuit: Embassy Ball Dancesport Championships hosting the 2015 WDC World Professional Ballroom Championships in Irvine, CA.
More info at

To learn more about the US Championship Circuit, visit

Why Should I Compete? by John DePalma


Anyone who has ever walked into a dance studio and peeked into the ballroom can immediately tell you the dual feeling of excitement and intimidation upon seeing a pro/am or professional couple practicing in the ballroom.  New students will immediately tell you that is not what they are looking for, or they may say that is exactly what they want, thinking the task can be easily accomplished in a few private lessons.  Once your instructor has had the opportunity to teach you the fundamentals of ballroom dancing and all the patterns and partnership techniques become more familiar, the inevitable question about participating in a dance competition will come up. In most cases, you may have never expressed an interest or a desire to dance competitively, and will say to your teacher, I’m interested in social dancing, why should I compete?

There are many benefits of participating in a dance competition  regardless of the skill level of a student.

The opportunity to prepare with a professional for an upcoming event, whether it is for closed syllabus material, open choreography in Bronze , Silver or Gold, or a solo exhibition gives you a concentrated and focused goal.  That short term goal immediately brings you to a more advanced skill level at a quicker pace, which makes you a better dancer faster.

Regardless of the normal butterflies, participating in a dance competition will build your confidence as well as your dance skill. You will work through your nerves in your first few dances, and then wish you had done more entries once the realization of how much you have accomplished sets in. Before you know it, you become more aware of the other dancers you are competing with and new acquaintances become quickly forged in the “On Deck” area.  You will have the opportunity to dance with your peers  and the chance to see the advanced  pro/am levels you will aspire to. Not to mention fantastic professional  dance events and wonderful special performances that easily rival a Broadway or Vegas production!

Competing allows you to get in touch with your creative self and in some cases discover a creative part of you that you never thought existed.  Students prone to shyness discover a more outgoing side to themselves as that feeling of accomplishment starts to come through, and before you know it you will welcome the challenge of preparing for your next event at a higher level.

The locations for dance competitions range from local to exotic, and some students love to compete so they can visit places they have always wanted to go to, or combine a dance event with a visit with family or friends and the opportunity to display their new found skills.

Whatever the individual reason, the student who chooses to enhance their lessons with competition comes away a better dancer with more poise, more confidence, a better awareness of how their body moves, a few new friends made and an overall wonderful experience. The level of success at any competition should never be measured by receiving a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. That is just an added bonus. The real prize is coming back from a competition feeling the personal accomplishments of a job well done!

Do You Suffer From “A Pain in the Neck”? by Maria Hansen

How many ladies have issues with neck pain in dancing? Do you find yourself praying to get through the round when you’re just in the middle of the Viennese Waltz? Do you love dancing the Ballroom, but hate the fact that you have to see the chiropractor after every competition, or worse, after each lesson!? And to top it off, do you never seem to be able to get your head in the position your teacher wants it or if you do manage to, you just can’t maintain it? Do you ever wonder why this is happening to you, why is this so hard, and what can you do to fix it?

After I retired from competitive dancing, I was determined to find out the reason why so many ladies suffer through this pain, what is causing it and what can we do to fix it. I wanted to find a different approach because I felt that I wasn’t really finding the root cause to the problem. I wasn’t satisfied with the answers that were given to me so I decided to look outside of the dance business. I was, at the time, working on correcting some muscle imbalances with my personal trainer who was a graduate of the CHEK Institute in California. CHEK (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology) practitioners focus first and foremost, on postural correction and then implement a functional training program geared toward the sport that you do. I found it extremely helpful in correcting my own issues and I decided to study at the institute and learn more about the function of the body from a different perspective.

As we all know, posture is extremely important in dancing, not only for aesthetics, but also for our health. If we do not have optimal posture, our body compensates in various ways which often manifests itself as pain. So,what is optimal posture?

For me, optimal posture is the state that our bodies are in when all of our bones are lined up properly, allowing us to have perfect balance and also giving us the ability to release all tension and stress from our muscles and joints. Optimal posture gives us the ability to move freely and naturally. There are several components that I look for when I am assessing posture. They include: Curvature of both the Thoracic and Lumbar spine, Pelvic Tilt, Core Strength and Control, Flexibility and Rotational Ability of the Spine, Muscle Imbalances throughout the body, Forward Head Posture and First Rib Angle. What I would like to address in this particular article is First Rib Angle.

Neck Pain articleFirst Rib Angle refers to the angle of the first rib (located basically underneath your collar bone) and the point at which the cervical spine (neck) meets the thoracic spine (upper back). If you were to place your finger on your sternal notch (the little hole in the base of your throat where your collar bones meet) and the space between C7 and T1 of your upper back, an angle can be measured. That angle is the First Rib Angle. The optimal angle for the average person is 25 degrees, but unfortunately, a majority of the population have much steeper angles. I have measured angles as much as 40-45 degrees. So what that basically means is that the entire shoulder complex is tipped forward and does not sit properly on the rest of the spine. (I think we can thank the computer age for that!).

When the lady is in dance position, I like to see her have the ability to change the angle to around 10-15 degrees which means that the upper back needs have the ability to extend. But often times, when the rib angle is too steep, it causes the lady to have a “fixed” upper back and doesn’t really allow her to change the angle in an effortless way. This is generally due to an imbalance in the musculature of the chest and the upper back. Basically it means that the chest muscles have become too tight and short bringing the rib angle down and the upper back muscles have become too long and weak in relation to the chest so there is no help coming from the upper back to help bring the shoulder complex back into balance.

So how does that affect the lady in dance position? Picture this…you go to your lesson and your teacher asks you to put your head back (either that or he shoves the ladies head back which, incidentally, annoys me to no end!). What do you do? You probably stretch the muscles in your neck in a vain attempt to put your head where you think it should go, often times straining the muscles in the neck and producing a very contrived look. Or, you lean back from your lumbar spine (lower back) making you look and feel very heavy to your partner and causing lower back pain in the process. Or, maybe you tighten the latissimus dorsi in an effort to pull your shoulders back but in the process you become as stiff as a board and it still doesn’t really correct the first rib angle. It’s not about “using muscles” to keep you in the right position…if you are in the proper posture, then your muscles will support you in a relaxed manner without excessive activation.

The problem is that you don’t have the bones in the right place to support the position or the weight of the head. The ladies dance position should be easy and natural to attain and to hold, without the intentional activation of muscle groups to keep it there. The true support comes from the positioning of the bones and the first rib angle on the spinal column. Sometimes, the solution is easy and it’s just an awareness issue of knowing where the bones should sit and having the ability to extend the vertebra in the upper back. But other times there is an imbalance in the musculature of the chest and back that lock the rib angle down and don’t allow you to naturally change the rib angle to a place that it can support the head properly. If that is the case, then you will need a corrective program to solve the problem consisting of stretches, strengthening exercises and spinal mobilizations.

The good news is that a steep rib angle and fixed upper back can be corrected and it will help improve your posture and dancing tremendously. And even though I have geared this article mainly towards women, the same ideas can be applied to gentlemen who also have difficulties in “keeping their head up”. To sum it all up…the idea of keeping your head up rarely has anything to do with actually lifting just the head. The entire shoulder complex needs to be situated on the spine correctly in order to support the weight of the head and make the posture feel natural and easy to attain.


MariaHansenMaria Hansen is a 7 Time United States Ballroom Finalist and has been a representative for the United States in the World Ballroom Championships. She was also the United States Vice Ballroom Champion and a Former North American Showdance Champion. Maria is the co-organizer of Vegas Open Dance Challenge. In addition to coaching, Maria is a Check Practitioner.

Take Your Dancing to the Next Level: Success Strategies from Two Ballroom Champions & an Executive Coach – By Jessika Ferm – Founder, Next Level Dancing

Are you ready to take your dancing to the next level, but just don’t know how?

In this informative Q&A, Executive Coach and Amateur Ballroom Dancer Jessika Ferm asks American Smooth and 9-Dance Champions Peter and Alexandra Perzhu to share strategies, stories, and secrets to help amateur and professional dancers alike reach their ballroom best.

Peter & Alexandra Perzhu
Peter & Alexandra Perzhu

Jessika Ferm is an award-winning amateur ballroom dancer, executive coach, author, and creator of the transformational Next Level Dancing program. This article is excerpted from Jessika’s second book, Competing Like a Pro: Spotlight Strategies To Help You Shine On and Off the Ballroom Floor (available at

Jessika Ferm: Peter, not only are you a U.S. and World Champion professional dancer, but you also are a top teacher competing almost every weekend with your students. What type of student do you attract, and what are some of their common characteristics?

Peter Perzhu: All my current ladies came to me ready to compete. They knew who Alexandra and I were, and I believe they sought us out because of our professional reputation and success with Pro/Am students. None of my ladies live in St. Augustine, so they travel to dance with me, which means they are motivated and focused. I would say that all of them are driven to be their personal best, and they are open to feedback that helps them improve and reach their goals. They are also disciplined and hard working and are serious about competing.

Jessika Ferm: In your opinion as a teacher, what are some of the benefits of competing?

Peter Perzhu: There are a lot of benefits to competing, and each student gains something special from the experiences. For example, some students benefit from expanding their social networks, and others gain increased self-confidence through competing. Competing gives students measurable milestones for reaching their goals faster, which is a great motivator for almost all our students.
Jessika Ferm: What are some of your expectations for your competing ladies when they attend competitions?

Alexandra Perzhu: All of our students are sophisticated and have impeccable style. We do expect them to be dressed and groomed appropriately, and we offer suggestions and advice to make sure they look their personal best. If there is anything we don’t like or approve of, we tell them right away. Because all of our students want to be and look their best, they are always open to feedback. When you move up to a new level of dancing, we may need to review how these changes need to be reflected in your dancing persona, and we offer feedback that helps you embrace a new style or approach. We expect all our students to listen to our feedback and take it to heart in order to help them reach their goals.

Jessika Ferm: Your students are very lucky to have both of you on their competing team. What are some other benefits your students receive from having both of you attend competitions?

Alexandra Perzhu: Because I don’t have as many competing gentlemen right now, I am able to set aside time for Peter’s students during competitions to help them maximize their success. I often serve as a good sounding board to Peter’s students to help them manage the emotional roller coaster that sometimes take place while competing. It isn’t always a good idea for students to address their frustrations with their teachers, and I’m often able to help a student refocus or redirect challenging emotions in the moment. That way, it doesn’t affect their dancing, and Peter and his students can focus on dancing with joy and ease instead.

Peter Perzhu: I love it when Alexandra is in the ballroom watching my students and me dance, because she can offer us invaluable feedback about how we look on the floor and how we can improve. I can’t see it because I’m dancing with them. I trust her judgment implicitly, and so do my ladies. Alexandra is my co-pilot, and we work as a team for the benefit of our students.

Jessika Ferm: What are some of competition strategies that you encourage students to use to get ready to compete?

Alexandra Perzhu: I tell students to listen to their favorite music as they warm up. Play something that makes you feel good, and avoid listening to songs that make you overly emotional or sad. You need to prepare yourself to compete, not snuggle up in bed to cry. You want to get in tune with the right “competing emotions” and feel inspired and energized.

Peter Perzhu: Practice is key. When you get to the competition floor, you can’t think of your frame or footwork. When you are competing, you need to dance from the heart and be in the moment. Remember how lucky you are to be able to do this.

CLP-cover-3D-web01Want to Read More Tips from Peter and Alexandra (and Over 25 Other Ballroom Experts)?
Order a copy of Jessika Ferm’s newest book, Competing Like a Pro at
or contact Next Level Dancing at or call (614) 441 – 8972

Jessika-Ferm-Headshot-web01Jessika Ferm is a master-level, award-winning executive coach. She runs a global leadership development company in Columbus, OH. Jessika began ballroom dancing in 2009, and her life has never been the same. A competitive amateur ballroom dancer, Jessika has earned several distinguished awards in the Pro/Am arena, including the World Pro/Am Bronze and Silver Rhythm Championship at the Ohio Star Ball and United States Bronze Rhythm and 9-Dance Championships at USDC. She also placed second in American Rhythm, American Smooth, and 9-Dance at the Silver level at USDC.

Her commitment to competitive dancing led to the 2011 creation of Next Level Dancing, LLC, a training company and online community offering tools, advice, and services to the ballroom dancing world.

More than 1,000 ballroom dancers seeking to transform from hobbyists to champions have turned to Jessika’s first book, The Ballroom Dance Coach: Expert Strategies To Take Your Dancing To the Next Level. Her second book, Competing Like a Pro: Spotlight Strategies to Help You Shine On and Off the Ballroom Floor, was launched in September 2014.

Jessika completed her master’s degree in teaching/instructional design and her undergraduate work in business management/leadership at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. She has been named a “Forty Under 40” by Columbus Business First and a “Top Ten Business Coach” by the Boston Business Journal. Jessika grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden, and now resides in Columbus, Ohio, with her beloved Scottish Terriers, Mac and Ruby. For more about Next Level Dancing, visit or call (614) 441-8972. Copyright © 2015 by Jessika Ferm. All rights reserved. No reproduction or use without permission.

“What Do You Look For When Judging Pro-Am Competitors?”

We asked adjudicators and former champions of dancesport this question; here, they give their insights on what they look for while judging at a competition.



When judging, the first and foremost attributes I desire to see are inner spirit and self- confidence. Having said that, a student/amateur only has the ability to display confidence when the necessary work has been done to peel off any layers of physical and/or emotional limitation.

The work that I am making reference to is meant to be facilitated by the instructor and carried through by the student, all of which becomes apparent to the judge during a performance. Furthermore, I like to see students dancing at the appropriate level for their abilities wearing the appropriate costuming for there age and body type.

However, most importantly, an awareness of body tone, vertical alignment, frame, foot and ankle pressure, an understanding of weight distribution and overall knowledge of timing and space rises to the forefront of my priorities when judging.

It is my belief that the ability to connect to the core of one’s own body enables us connect to our partners body. All these components are what create confidence and build spirit. These elements become the building blocks for entertainment and showmanship to be delivered with clarity and precision.

Even the most gifted of us have to do the work, the more talent a student has the greater the responsibility the teacher has at helping them reach their full potential. Confidence and knowledge are key. For no one can avoid the need to prepare and study this will always remain true for both teacher and student.

Welcome to the Exclusive Content Periodical!

I like to give a very warm welcome to the DVIDA magazine. Finally the DVIDA app is here and the team at Dance Vision are very excited in this new journey. We know that thousands of Ballroom dancers will embrace the DVDIA APP as a tool to help them improve their dancing along with taking private or group classes. With the help from the Dance Vision team, this Magazine will bring you many interesting articles in the world of Ballroom Dancing.