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Competitive Ballroom Dance - Dancesport

Updated on January 27, 2011

Dancing with the Stars ?

The popular TV show "Dancing with the Stars" has been a huge hit across the world, spreading from the original in the UK to versions in the US, Australia and New Zealand. It has also brought a surge of interest in ballroom dancing, as armchair judges, decide that they could do better themselves!

So if you would like to know more about Dancesport, the sport which the professionals on "Dancing with the Stars" are all veterans of - please read on!

Dancesport, Competitive Ballroom Dancing

There are two main schools of international ballroom dance.

International Style: Developed by the British but now danced worldwide includes 5 Standard (Ballroom) dances: Slow Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep and 5 Latin American dances Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive. Competitors usually specialise in one style but for those who don't they can compete on an international 10 dance circuit

The author and partner demonstrating closed hold typical of the Standard Dances
The author and partner demonstrating closed hold typical of the Standard Dances
Tracey-Leigh Waltz, a New Vogue dance, danced by John and Nanette
Tracey-Leigh Waltz, a New Vogue dance, danced by John and Nanette
The Author demonstrating that not only the young and skinny have fun doing Latin American
The Author demonstrating that not only the young and skinny have fun doing Latin American

American Style: Developed from the style of dance made popular by Fred Astaire and differs from International style significantly - with the smooth style having many steps danced with partners apart. American Smooth Danes are: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz. American Rhythm Dances are: Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Mambo, Bolero. Competitions exist within the Sates but to compete internationally couples need to adapt to the International Style.

In Australia and New Zealand only the New Vogue style is danced competitively which includes 16 dances in the New Vogue Waltz , Slow Foxtrot, Tango and March timings. Similar to other Sequence dances competitors all dance the same steps in a circle, and similarly to the American smooth dance not all moves are in the typical closed hold of ballroom dance some steps are in shadow or semi-shadow hold with the woman in front of the man. The technique however is pure ballroom and New Vogue competitors will typically dance Standard style as well.

This is not your mother's social sequence dance class! It takes incredible amount of stamina and fitness to make it to the top level. In the videos below the competitors may have danced the same 5 routines in up to maybe 8 or 10 rounds earlier the same day!

At the highest level Dancesport has been trying to become an Olympic Sport but to date have not succeeded. The following videos though will give you some idea of the standard of fitness and beauty required to succeed at the highest level.

UK 2007 Open Amateur Latin Final (video - needs fast connection)

Kiev Open Standard Ballroom Dance Competition (video - needs fast connection)

Sorry I can't embed the Videos but they are professional quality and well worth watching!

Can I become a competitive dancer?

To become a world champion its probably fair to say that as well as being over 6 foot tall (men and women) with a long lean body shape (standard), or shorter and compact and very flexible (Latin American), it also helps to have started dancing at 15 or younger and to be physically beautiful as well as obviously well-coordinated. The young dancer should also arrange to finanically secure parents as dancing is certainly not a cheap sport, when you are looking at committing to 2-3 hours of private coaching a week.

However it is entirely possible to start dancing much, much later in life, I had never danced any style before I took up ballroom at 34, my partner was in his 40's when he started. We know competitors in their 80's who still regularly compete. In fact research is now starting to say what we've always known is an excellent form of both exercise and mental stimulation, as you try to remember the steps, timing, hear the music, and for the man, manoeuvre your way around the other couples. In fact one of the larger fields in Australia and New Zealand is the Masters or Seniors grade consisting of dancers over the age of 35, and the recently introduced grade of Masters 2 consists of dancers over the age of 50.

The key things you need to do if you want to become competitive are:

  • find a compatible partner and stick with him/her. Dancesport is above all a partner dance and it takes years to get used to a new partner. Compatible is not necessarily just physical either, the right temperament and a similar commitment in terms of money and time to the sport is also required.
  • time. When we are competition we are committing about 8-10 hours a week of classes and practice. We compete in local competitions maybe once or twice a month from March to November.
  • money. Its not cheap, but dresses can tail suits can now be purchased from China for a lot less than its possible to buy the materials to make them in the West. Similarly dance shoes too are now copied in China and available on places such as EBay for a lot less than the originals. There is also the make-up, hair styles and pieces (that's for him and her!), competition fees ($20-$30 per person in Australia), and travelling to competitions, not to mention the must have CD's and DVD's!

Dance Classes 

Whatever your ambitions are for dancing - whether you just want to have fun, get fit or take it more seriously - then you need to check out your dance classes scene. If you happen to live in the same town as I do then check out my dance classes Wellington site which will have all the news and events as well as general information on learning to dance.

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    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 9 years ago from Sydney

      Thanks Lissie!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      It looks like you're having fun!

      Great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks Zsuzsy - I've always been told I have a great smile when I dance - some people don't and its a hard thing to fake!

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 9 years ago

      You go girl!! GREAT Hub Lissie!! I have ballroom danced for years!! You look marvelous!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks - we have just decided to go back to competing! Went to local comp and decided -yup have to do it again!

    • gamerbots profile image

      gamerbots 9 years ago

      Dancing is a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing.

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 9 years ago from Connecticut

      Great hub Lissie! Sounds like so much fun! Great pictures too :)

    • xtnshun profile image

      xtnshun 8 years ago from Reston, VA

      This is a great page - I love the pictures!

    • agrande profile image

      agrande 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Wow, you are really multitalented. Keep dancing it makes you young.

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 8 years ago from New Zealand

      So I've been told but it makes my legs feel pretty darn old most of the time they hurt!

    • profile image

      Salsa Dancing 7 years ago

      Great Hub! Dancing is so fun and so easy to get into. Before taking up salsa classes and dancing salsa for over a year now I used to have two left feet and often tread on my own feet and the feet of my partner. Now it's become so much easier and surprised how easy it was to get to the level I am now. Of course it requires swalling your ego and going out there and asking 10+ women to practice salsa each and every day I go to a salsa bar, but in the end it's worth it.

    • Sage Knowles profile image

      Sage Knowles 7 years ago

      i'm not a great dancer but DanceSport is fascinating to watch

    • profile image

      Antoine & Petra Wijgers 7 years ago

      Very nice pages and pics....

      Maybe we will once meet on the international dancefloor, during competition....

      Keep smiling that smile and swaying that sway, love....

      Kind regards and merry Christmas.

      Antoine & Petra Wijgers ( The Netherlands - Europe )

      OOOh , we are the once in the pink & white Rainbow Shiu dress..in the YouTube-clip

    • cmlawson profile image

      cmlawson 7 years ago

      Nice Hub. I wrote one on how dancing ballroom can benefit adults and it's aimed more for people who don't want to be competitive dancers but I LOVE seeing stuff like what you've written here about the really tough competitions and stuff.

      Check it out if you get a sec:

      http://hubpages.com/hub/Dance-Class-Benefits-for-O...

    • profile image

      michayla letago  7 years ago

      i just locve ballroom and latin american theres nothing better

      please join a dance schol near you its reali great oh and i belong to C.P Letago school of dancing lol

    • profile image

      Hubert 6 years ago

      Nice Hub Lissie,

      And over 2000 followers.....whoa!!!

      Keep up a good work

    • profile image

      Donna 6 years ago

      Are you willing to recommend a source for custom made "dance" tail suits out of Hong Kong? We are planning to purchase six to eight tail suits for a formation team. Thank you.

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 6 years ago from New Zealand

      @Donna check out rainbowshiu.net - that's where I get my dresses made and I believe they now do tailsuits too

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