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re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by Karen
8/9/1999  6:16:00 AM

You said:

I agree that it seems our choices are either competition or social dancing, although my local ballroom club does have showcase or exhibition nights 2 or 3 times a year for folks who want to "perform" for their peers. I think this is a wonderful avenue for people who take lessons and are serious about progressing in their dancing but don't want to participate in competitions. >

I have tried different solutions. Since I am a producer of events, I don't have a problem creating performance opportunities. Last year, I performed with a professional partner/teacher in my husband's concert for children. It was a $25,000 production with in a theatre with 4 audiences of 750 elementary school children each. This was a lot of fun. But, it was also very much out of the mainstream of the dance community. And I do enjoy being around, supporting and supported by other dancers.

I have performed in ballrooms during 1/2 time entertainment, and enjoy doing that as well. That seems to be the only performance opportunity within the dance community that is not competition based.

One of the things that I have encountered is that there seems to be some prejudice by those who compete towards those who perform in non-competition situations.

I believe that there really are a lot of people who would like an environment supportive to learning and performing and refining one's skills. But, perhaps we are not speaking up enough about what we want. Perhaps those sharp business dance studio owners and event producers might make some events for us. Or even include non-competitive performance dancing in a competition or a convention.

You also said:

This is a sticky problem. You have lumped a lot of different things together. I have confronted some of the same problems. Unfortunately, there hasn't been anyone to really help me sort it out. I had to use my skills from my piano business and apply them to my dancing to help unravel the situation.

This is what I have done:

1. Defined the reasons that I dance. Defined my goals (this took about 2 years....sigh. All the while I was participating in many various activities and improving my skills)

2. Determined what my skill levels were in various dances (this took hiring a professional in each area to assess my skills), Determining I wanted them to be.

3. Analysized the different social communities surrounding the various dances. For example, Salsa and Argentine Tango communities are entirely different than West Coast Swing or ballroom. I tried to figure out which communities I enjoyed being in the most and where I felt I would get the most support. This helped me to decide which dances to work on.

4. Assessed the teachers available in the various dances in my community. In order to do this, I had to figure out what I needed from a teacher. When I first started dancing, I somehow left the "discerning" part of me on a shelf and just swallowed everything I was told without question. It took me awhile to realise that as a consumer, I have a right to choose a teacher whose style and attitude is compatable with mine. There are many fine teachers out there. But, I what I found that I needed was a teacher's teacher, because I was interested in learning far more about the dance than most students. I also wanted to learn to choreograph, dissect the steps, learn both follow and lead, etc.. Every person would need different things and knowing what you need is a journey of self discovery in itself.

4. Deciding what process I wanted to use to learn to dance. For example, I was involved with three small dance studios in a row. Each one of them closed unexpectedly leaving me with no place to go to practice. Since I was so involved in the life of the studio, I had made it my home base. When it closed, I was really thrown off in my dancing. Now, I have found a house that has a room in it I have made into a mini dance studio. I am having a mirror put up on my wall this week. I decided that I wanted my dancing practice to be centered in my home, a permanent part of my life. This allows me to be more flexible in the studios I attend, partners I dance with. If one doesn't work out, closes, or if someone moves away or loses interest, I can replace them with another without getting so disoriented. I am a very territorial creature and tend to need a home base. If my home base is within my control, then it makes my expectations of the studios and clubs I go to much easier to meet. I can depend on them for what they do best, instead of expecting them to do everything that I need them to be. For others, I am sure they would not be so excentric about this. But, I guess it is just important to know yourself and what you need. Also, to know how you like to approach practicing. If you can communicate what is important to you to a potential partner, knowing where you are flexible and where you are not, then it is easier to determine if you will work well together.

5. Figuring out what I want in a partner and then determining what type of dancer I would need to be to attract that type of partner. I too have not had success finding a partner in the social dance world. In order to be polite and keep with the rules of casualness, I have found that it is difficult to find out those who are interested in serious study of dance.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the best place to find people who are interested in the same things you are is one of the following ways:

1. To be introduced to them by a teacher or collegue. 2. To meet them in a class or through a private teacher. 3. To meet them at a convention or competition.

I think that the dance world could benefit from a classy partner placement service. There are many people who do not want anyone to know they are looking for a partner or who will not advertize it on a website or other place. It seems rather embarassing to just put out there that you are "looking." I think a lot of people would welcome a service where people were formally introduced to each other by a professional third party that had gathered a lot of information about each of them. Kind of like a high class dating service. But, of course for dancing, not dating. For me, dancing is something that is seperate from my romance life. I already have a wonderful life partner (my husband) and look to my dance for artistic fulfillment and because I simply love it.

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