All the Sparkles

Hello Everyone! Sorry for this post being so late, this past holiday season has been a little crazy.

So the topic of this weeks post has to do with sparkles, more specifically ballroom dance costumes and when they should be allowed and when they shouldn’t. Now before I step into this someone volatile territory, I will say this: it has nothing to do with judges marks or being seen. That has been argued and I have heard judges and professionals give their opinions. I will let them debate that topic, because they only know what goes on in their heads. In the current trend a lot of syllabus dancers (newcomer through gold) in the collegiate community are starting the wear costumes.

However, I believe that costumes should be reserved for those who have made it in to the open levels of dancing. These levels include Novice, Pre-Championship, and Championship (and of course professional). Now I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for this be hear me out, and remember this is one lowly dancer’s opinion. The reasons I believe that costumes should be reserved for these levels are that many times syllabus dancers aren’t ready to dance in them, and that it is a right of passage of sorts.

The first reason I will address is that many lower level dancers aren’t necessarily ready to wear these goureous gowns. What I mean when I say this is that the gown in a lot of ways can overshadow the dancer. Syllabus dancers, for many reasons, do not have all the proper technique down. And that’s completely fine. There is nothing wrong with that state of being. In fact it’s a good thing, because that means you are dancing at the correct level. Syllabus dancer’s focus should be on learning and improving their techinque on frame, movement, cleanliness, and musicalilty. However, the dresses you see a lot of open dancers wear require a dancer to have a very good understanding of the tenique behind the style to make the dress function as it should. For one, these dresses tend to be much heavier than their plain, syllabus counter parts. First of all, they are covered in rhinestones. And who would think that those little shinies would be so heavy, but when you have a at least 10 gross (1400 stones), which is a minimum for most dresses, it can add a lot of extra weight. Also, at least in a dress that is built for the International Ballroom style of dance, the skirts tend to be much heavier as they have many layers built into them to give them volume. This extra weight requires a dancer to be able to move more to create the same amount of movement in the costume dress than in the basic dress. More movement comes from understanding what standing leg is and how to apply it and use it to move across the floor. The concept of standing leg is not only very hard for lower level dancers to grasp, but it also takes a long time to reach your standing leg’s full potential. I’m still working on making my stride long and powerful! If you don’t have standing leg down, then the dress will not have that nice swoosh to it has you dance and will look rather limp. 😦

Secondly, (some of) these dresses have things dangling of the arms, whether it be large swatches of cloth, ribbons, or balls of feathers attached to chains or ribbons (yikes!). These things are usually called floats or wings and have many variations and styles. Just like the heavy skirts, floats need lots of movement from the dancer to enhance your dancing. Otherwise, they will just hang limply by your sides. This will enhance the fact that you do not have a lot of movement to begin with and could possibly hurt your scores.

My second reason for not liking syllabus dancers wearing open level costumes is that I believe you have to earn them. They are a right of passage. They say, hey you have worked this hard and achieved so much, go wild! It’s one more thing for a dancer to look forward to and work towards when they are in the lower ranks of syllabus. Sure, awesome open level choreography is incentive too, however in no competition I have been to do they allow anyone dancing in newcomer through gold break syllabus. I feel dresses (and tailsuits for that matter) should be the same way.

Let me know in the comment section below if you agree or disagree with my ideas about costumes and whether they should be allowed in the syllabus levels! I would love to hear your ideas!

Dance Levels

As I promised in my very first, this is a post about the different levels in ballroom dancing. First there is the distinction from Pro and Amateur. You either compete in an amateur division or in the Professional division. Within the professional division, there are two categories. There is the main Professional category and Rising Star category. Rising star, as I understand it, is basically the stepping stone between amateur and professional. These are couples who have just announced their professional standing but aren’t quite ready to play with the big boys yet.

In the amateur division there are two main categories: Open and Syllabus. The Syllabus category has 4 to 5 levels within it depending on the competition. These levels are Newcomer, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Each level as a set of moves for each dance which the dancer is allowed to dance; hence the name syllabus. Every time the couples moves through a level, the more dance moves they have available. Yet this comes with a price. In competition, not only are you allowed to execute more difficult moves, but you are expected to have more advanced technique under your belt. You are pushed to be a better dancer. In newcomer, judges are just looking for an upright couple that is on time and smiling. However, judges are looking for big frames, more fluid and large movement or hip action, and the hint of musicality from a couple dancing gold.

After a couple has mastered the syllabus and its techniques, a couple will move up to the Open levels. There are three levels within the Open category; Novice, Pre-championship and Championship. Even though the couple has mastered all the moves and technique in syllabus, there are many more moves and a ton more technique to learn within the Open levels. In novice, couples are just getting their first open routines. These include the “basics” of open, like pivots, step hops, and picture lines. These routines are much longer and much harder than any syllabus routine.

Here are some videos so you can see the difference:

Professional Foxtrot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD-Ph2dv240

Amateur Champion Foxtrot:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODZpprFbrpE

Amateur Gold Foxtrot:

Amateur Newcomer Foxtrot: