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Ballroom/social dance in concert and commercial dance performances

May 28, 2011

Today I’ve decided to share a growing pet peeve of mine. I love dance in all its forms; watching dance, learning dance, attending shows, even squeezing in the occasional television program as time permits. As I progress in my cross-training in jazz, ballet, hip hop and tap, my understanding and appreciation for the training and abilities of performers in those styles continues to grow. However, it has also brought to light a notice, dare I say trend, in concert and commercial dance. And that is the choreographer’s choice to do partner/ballroom-stylized movements when it is painfully clear that he/she and their dancers have little to no training in those styles.

I would like to say that it was an isolated incident that caused me to cringe, but I have seen it on television (Glee, I’m looking at you), high profile music videos and at professionally staged dance productions. With the large scale access to and visibility of ballroom/social dancing, particularly in the Los Angeles area, I’m appalled that these shows think it is acceptable to “toss in a little ballroom” without making the effort to work with someone and/or dancers properly trained in that specialty. There is nothing sadder to this ballroom dancer than to see beautifully and obviously highly-trained dancers get into a closed dance hold with their hands splayed open, uncomfortably prancing around each other. It’s like watching a beginner who has no idea what they are doing. It’s not pretty, really. Imagine seeing a kindergartner’s finger painting next to Degas and Rembrandt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The contrast is that obvious, especially to anyone with a trained eye, and frankly, it looks unprofessional.

So my call, my request to the dance community – if you are a choreographer who is considering using partner/ballroom-based dance or movements, please make the effort to contact someone within that community for assistance. A trained professional ballroom/social dancer can make a huge difference in helping the movement and your dancers look like the professionals they are by working on form and function. If the choreography has an emphasis on that style, hire dancers trained in that area, instead of using ballet/jazz/hip hop trained dancers. Dancers, take private lessons in partner dance. Even just a few lessons focusing on hold and styling will help clean up basic mistakes. And no, a handful of group classes does not constitute ballroom training. Just as you wouldn’t expect a tango, salsa or ballroom dancer to excel and perform professionally in hip hop or ballet, don’t think the reverse is true. Let us please respect each other’s art forms.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 31, 2011 5:19 pm

    i am with you!

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