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re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by Jonathan Atkinson
7/11/2003  9:03:00 PM
These sound like the rants of someone whose exposure to American style is limited to certain chain schools with sub-par training. Those of us in the upper ranks of the American Smooth know that as of about the last 5 years or so, you can't get very far in the professional competition scene without a comprehesive understanding of Standard technique.

That is not to say that Standard technique is the end-all criteria for judging American style. If it were, there would be no reason for having an American style separate from Int'l style. Dancing should be judged on all of its aspects, and since American Smooth incorporates a good deal of open work, including many Latin techniques such as weight connection, inner body action, synchronization in side-by-side position, etc, these criteria should be taken into consideration when comparing couples.

What this means is that, while you may only be able to get so far without proper Standard technique, you may nonetheless sometimes see one couple place below another, even though the lower-placing couple actually has slightly better ballroom technique. But this should only happen when the higher-placing couple has other strengths which outweigh the difference in their ballroom technique.

This fact is often overlooked by many Standard-only judges and competitors, whose only frame of reference is ballroom technique. And this is where I think they fail as judges. They don't know (or more often, simply don't care) what they're looking at until the couple takes closed position hold, and use that as the sole consideration of placement. In my book, we call that a "cop-out". And I hope such judges aren't allowed to judge Latin.

Still, there is in the chain school scene a certain disregard for competitive technique. But this is less an "American Style" thing than it is a social-vs-competitive dancing thing. Chain schools focus on social dancing, as they should, and the technique and ideals for good social dancing are different than they are for competitive dancing. You can call it a shortcoming, but they're the ones laughing all the way to the bank. There's a lot of money to be made in social dancing, and that fact has not escaped the attention of Mr. Murray and Mr. Astaire.

Is this "ruining" American style? Actually, if it weren't for the chain schools, American style probably wouldn't exist as it does today. American style was born of social dancing. The competitive side of American style has the English style to thank for its technical influence, and as time goes on it will only get better. But I should hope that it will never become just another form of Int'l Standard. Thanks to the Americans, including all of those chain schools, we now have a beautiful style which is both unique and technically challenging.

In other words, Americans aren't ruining smooth. They're inventing it.

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