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The ten dances

"What does a Syllabus for Competitive Dancing mean?"-
my unobtrusive attempt to help you to differentiate between Ballroom (Standard) dances and Latin dances so that it can be easier for you to understand how dance competitions are held...


I've heard people talk about Dance Sport whatever they wish and these people at their majority do not have the slightest idea what meaning does the word "dance" convey. However, I will not argue the stereotypes and the opinions that had been necessary for the years; I'll just put some facts here. And those of you who wish it will draw a lesson from them.

People have been talking about it for years, and it has been proved since a year or so, that dancing causes the most muscle strain, compared to any other sport. It may be a cliche but it is also true that the typical (a minute/a minute and a half long) Viennese Waltz equals more than a kilometer and a half Marathon Running. And on a Dance Competition it is a rule to dance all the five dances (according to the age of the dancers and their competitive class – for more information see the Competition Section)!

This website doesn’t aim to hyperbolize the good sides of that sport. Dancing strengthens the body, the physique, etc. as any other sport does. However, in contrast to all the other sports, dancing develops something else – one’s aesthetics. How and why is it so? – The answer of that question will easily be found when/if you start dancing or when you spend some more time communicating with people who do Dance Sport.

So, here I go on with giving you some information about the

Dance styles

It should have already become clear, that the dances are divided into two main categories: Standard (Ballroom) Dances and Latin-American Dances.

  1. Standard dances (English Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep) are the so called “children” of the Balls - the most important social events that the aristocracy was involved in, in the past. At that time, before becoming a Competitive Category, people called them Ballroom Dances. I have no doubt at all that you've all heard about them, as well as you are well-acquainted with the fact that Ballroom Dancing was also organized among the Highlife until not so long ago. Furthermore, you have heard about the formal wear that was obligatory, as well as about the behaviour and the good manners that were required at such events.

    The word 'ballroom' denotes a room where balls may be held (formal social dances). Balls were important social events in the days before radio and television (as in 'having a ball'). The word 'ball' derives from the Latin 'ballare' meaning 'to dance'. This is also the origin of the related words : ballet, ballerina, ballad, etc. Note that this origin is quite different from that of a 'ball': a round object used for games. This derives from the Old Norse : 'bollr', meaning 'to inflate'.

    The most common thing between all Standard dances is the Hold. The closed ballroom hold requires the maintenance of five points of contact between the partners while they are dancing. These consist of three hand contacts:

    • the man's left hand holding the lady's right hand;
    • the lady's left hand resting on the top of the man's right upper arm (behind the arm in the Tango) (!);
    • the man's right hand placed on the left shoulder blade on the back of the lady;
    In addition to these 3 hand contacts, there are two more areas of contact:
    • the lady's left elbow rests on the man's right elbow;
    • the right area of the chest of each partner touches that of the other.

    Ideally, in this hold, the lady's upper arms are both held horizontal by a suitable placement of the man's arms and hands. This not only makes it comfortable for the lady to follow the man's lead, but also gives the couple a deportment of regal appearance. This deportment is a characteristic of dances coming from Western Europe, and is a heritage of the origin of ballroom dancing in the royal courts of Europe.
    The peculiar ballroom dancing "Closed Hold" possibly had its origins in the time when men wore swords while dancing. This can be seen on many 16th century paintings.
    As most men are right handed, it was conventional to wear the sword and scabbard on the left-hand side of the belt, to facilitate the drawing of the sword with the right hand. It is hard to draw a sword with the right hand with the scabbard on the right. Thus if a man was to put his arm around a lady's back, she would have to be on his right, or she would keep tripping over the sword.
    For a simple promenade around the floor, the man would naturally take the inside of the circle, so that his sword did not hit the legs of the audience around them, and the woman would be on his right arm on the outside of the circle. They would then have to promenade anti-clockwise which is probably the origin of the anti-clockwise progression of the ballroom dances around the floor
    The resting of the lady's left elbow on top of the man's right elbow is probably a hangover from the days when lady's were socially restrained from making advances to a man: the man always had to take the initiative: he offered, and the lady either accepted or rejected. He would offer his right arm for support, and if she accepted, she would lay hers on top. One aspect of this elbow contact is that the man must keep his right shoulder over his right hip and not twist at the waist, and he must also keep his right elbow in front of the line of his shoulders, if the lady is to feel comfortable.
    The man would reasonably then offer his left hand for the lady to hold for additional balance while dancing. The facing of the palm of the man's left hand and the lady's right hand has its origins in the same social gender constraints as described above: the man offers his hand (palm up), and the lady accepts by putting hers on the man's (palm down).
    A very good idea of the hold and the way Waltz was danced during balls you can get from Sergei Bondarchuk's movie adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace".

    Thus, we have put the “framework” of Standard Dances in the Syllabus for Competitive Dancing: Elegant and formally dressed couples – ladies and gentlemen – dancing at a closed hold with each other and not for the audience, but more - for the partner dancing with them.

  2. I‘ve used the expression ”FOR the other/the partner”, because next I’m going to write about Latin-American Dances (Samba, Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive), which are more opened to the audience. Here, the playful gestures and motions of the dancers towards the audience are a part of the Dance.
    Note that the term 'Latin-American' here is an abbreviation of 'Latin and American' rather than a reference to the geographic area of 'Latin America' (P.Lavelle, 1975).
    It is more difficult to trace the exact time they differentiated as a separate group of dances. It is also difficult to relate dances like Samba and Jive to one and the same group of people, but at the same time we cannot simply separate them from one another in the Syllabus for Competitive Dancing.
    According to me, the relation between the different Latin Dances has been getting stronger with time.

It is an interesting fact that some Standard Dances can be compared to other from the Latin-American ones. The playfulness of the Quickstep is similar to the one of the Jive, and the passion in the Tango reminds of the aggressiveness of the Paso Doble. Of course, that’s just my point of view, so we are not going to look for answers like “Am I right or not?”

Perhaps, some of you will ask where dances like Rock’n’Roll, Salsa, Merengue, Argentine Tango, etc. are and why aren't they included in the Syllabus for Competitive Dancing. I do not happen to have the exact answer to that question. Some countries, The USA for example, have found a solution to that, organizing Competitions and World Championships, at which the dancers are supposed to dance only one type of dance.

At that point I will stop my writing on the present topic. While I’m writing this information, the website is not ready yet, there is a lot more to add, and on the other side I am sure I may come to think about some things I can add lately. That is why I do not say it is the end. What I actually say, is that there is a lot more to come. So long!

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