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re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by OldHag
7/20/2003  8:18:00 AM
Are Americans ruining smooth?

This question is wrongheaded. Smooth is an american style of dance. It is not Standard. The two styles do not serve the same purpose. Standard is by and large a competitive activity and, in Europe, for example, is taken up at a young age when a person is willing or forced to spend long hours learning and physically mastering to one degree or another the basic priciples of movement (that of the body weight/mass, in particular). Smooth was originally conceived of as an artifice to get americans dancing who generally take up the activity in adulthood and are not going to be willing to start at square one learning basic principles of quality movement, etc. That is still the case. What then happens, however, is that at the competitive level in the u.s., and i'll confine my remarks to the professional ranks, there is a pretense of infusing Smooth with Standard. I say this is a pretense because at this moment in time very few american Smooth competitors possess the sort of physical skills associated with quality Standard dancing, because they too began ballroom dancing as young adults. There's a lot of mostly ill-informed yakking about technical details (footwork, swing/sway, etc.) memorized from "The Ballroom Technique" and/or imperfectly recalled through the haze of mostly scatter-shot coachings with, at best, qualified European/Asian Standard professionals and, at worst, americans who, with a handful of exceptions, masquerade as Standard coaches, but no deeper understanding of WHY these details are prescribed and certainly no physical ability to put them into practice.

And this conversation about franchises vs independent is also based in misconception. Franchises have started almost every american professional born in the united states. What you are confusing is quality competitive instructors/coaches (also few and far between) and franchise instructors. Apples and oranges. I have worked all over this country as an instructor. I have been in franchises and independents. My experience has been that bad instruction is everywhere (independent and franchise). What most people miss is that the best instructors are independent because franchises are not built by paying their instructors a decent wage. So economics drive the top level of competitive instructors to be independent. But that doesn't mean all independent instructors are better than their franchise counterparts. In fact, quality instructors -especially those willing AND ABLE to train beginning dancers- are a very rare commodity, and americans readily conflate a competitor's competitive success with his/her ability to teach dancing; they're not mutally exclusive, but by no stretch of the imagination does one necessarily imply the other. It's known as star-f**king. And, finally, american dancers, especially the competitive ones, usually get what they deserve in coaching and training, because what they invariably want are bandaids to cover up some shortcoming in their dancing, not a look at the kind of unglamorous, serious work on fundamentals it's going to take to put some quality in their movement. Ask any European coach who comes over to this country and doesn't know where to begin and so provides the bandaids because it's the path of least resistance.
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