Ballroom and Latin Dance
...by Giorgio Christou
A bit about the sport
This may come a surprise but Ballroom and Latin is considered a sport as you require significant fitness in all aspects to perform the dances. In many competitions you could be required to spend a full day dancing in rounds that each require you to perform for 1-2 minutes straight in a full out competitive manner – portraying energy, enthusiasm and accuracy. This sport is all about core strength, precision and accuracy in the execution of movements. As a general rule, the male always leads and he will dictate the movements and extensions of the female. If you are able to achieve a high level of dance, you will learn to dance with your partner by only feeling each others presence and can move in sync with your eyes closed – this is a rather amazing feeling once you achieve it!
For competitions, you need to spend quite a lot on the garments that are tailored to each individual. Womens outsfits would cost around £800 or more depending on the quality and number of stones, whereas the mens outfits would start at £500. Added to this, many couples also have to undergo a rather significant amount of make-up to a theatrical point – yes even the guys, as on the floor you would look ghastly and pale with all the spot lights. As a whole, this sport can be rather expensive when competing around the country and world.
I first discovered Ballroom and Latin at the age of 20 while at University where I attended a taster session and came to realise the beauty, passion and elegance that comes with Ballroom and Latin dance. It was then that my journey began which allowed me to grow and learn from a few of the greatest international dancers in the world giving me the opportunity to hone my skills, compete and teach.
I managed to excel in all ten dances and achieved various awards and prizes throughout this chapter of my life. My passion was predominatly in the latin dances however my natural body structure always proved to be that of a ballroom dancer. After university, I trained under Kyle Fisher and Jade Main who are both international professional dancers – Jade having recently won the international ballroom and latin 10 dance placing her at the top in the world. It was here that I learnt the most about ballroom and latin on weekends and trained while offering lessons to beginners and novice students of all ages.
At one point in my dance career, I was approached to feature in a music video for a French singer – Sonia Dersion in Sweet DJ. This experience was very exciting but also cold, we had to carry out the shoot in October by the beach in nothing but out dancewear.
A bit about the dances
The ten dances are split into the two categories equally, for latin they are the cha cha, rumba, samba, jive and paso doble. In ballroom these are the waltz, quickstep, tango, foxtrot and vienese waltz. Each dance comes with their own unique style and tempo. Here is a brief description of all the dances each with their own specific characteristics.
The Elegant Waltz
The Waltz is the traditional ballroom dance that is most often associated with weddings and events. It is one of the most graceful, romantic dances that comprises of soft, flowy movements. This dance is most characterised by its "rise and fall" movement coupled with a natural sway action and a gliding stride which when put together creates the romantic theme that portrays the dance.
The Dramatic Tango
This is by far the most dramatic of all dances which encompasses flamboyance and passion between the couple. The tango is characterised by strong, dramatic head snaps while moving in a stalking manner across the dancefloor.
Often the movements are slow but at times they are sharp and quick. Unlike other ballroom dances, there is no "rise and fall", instead the dancers bodies should remain at a constant level throughout the whole dance.
Spinning with the Viennese Waltz
Though this dance is similar to the Waltz in elegance and grace, the Viennese Waltz is much faster and incorporates a constant rotation movement throughout the dance.
Within the movement of the dance, the sway and motion is still present which adds to the beauty of the dance.
The Smooth Foxtrot
The foxtrot is characterised by long, smooth movements across the dance floor. The "rise and fall" action is present in this dance and it comes from the long walking movements made by the dancers. In order to maintain the "trot" in this dance, the dancers need to execute short steps as the tempo of the music increases.
The "Quick" Quickstep
This dance is the most fast paced of all the ballroom dances. It is a collaboration of various dances such as the foxtrot and Charleston .
As such, the dance portrays a sense of energy while appearing to be light and quick on the feet. Elegance and smoothness is still present in this dance as well as the "rise and fall" motion.
The Cheeky Cha Cha
One of the main characteristics of the cha cha is its sexy and cheeky nature. The steps are small and the focus of the movement is on the rotation of the hips throughout the whole dance. This creates a sense of playfulness between the couple which is entertaining to the eye.
Sexy with the Samba
The samba is known as the "carnival" dance which originated in Brazil and portrays the feeling of celebration and joy within the dance. One of the main features of samba is the gentle but rhythmical "bounce" movement felt through the knees and ankles. This action must however be executed in an effortless manner which adds to the overall character of the dance.
Passion with the Rumba
Rumba is the slowest of all the latin dances and it is characterised by the emphasis of the sensual hip movement. This dance tells the story of love and passion between the couple. It is considered the sexiest of all the ballroom dances. It is considered the dance of love.
The Domineering Paso Doble
The story behind this theatrical dance is a result of its origin in Spain. The male dancer acts as a matador on the dance floor while the female acts as his cape thus creating the fiction of a bullfight.
This dance is characterised by dominating the dance floor with strong and proud steps. Arrogance is a major factor in this dance and is embodied in the powerful movements.
Getting Jumpy with the Jive
This is by far the most energetic latin dance as it involves a lot of pumping action with the legs. The fundamentals of the jive movement is the bounce and pendulum effect throughout the dance. One major feature of the dance is the many various kicks and flicks that are present.
Though the movement is very quick, this dance requires precision, tightness and neatness with the feet, in order to master.
This chapter of my life is now over, but it will always be a significant part of me as it has shaped my personality in many ways. I remember leaving the dance sessions at 11:00pm and heading home always practicing what I leant at bus stops, the tube or even in the shower once home. That is what being a dancer is all about – commitment and sacrifice – and though I received very strange looks from random passersby by, it never put me off in the slightest. I will always have the urge and passion to dance and am grateful for the things it has taught me – posture, presence and awareness of my body. Should you wish to take up this sport I highly recommend it and would be more than happy to show you some basic steps.
London also offers many open tea dancing sessions where you can meet people and have fun learning and dancing informally with all ages. I hope I have inspired you all to start tapping to the beat of the music at whichever dance you prefer and have a go at this amazing hobby. It is a great way to keep fit, have fun and show off too :)