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re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by George
8/13/1999  11:26:00 PM
Social Dancing, Competition Dancing and......How about ARTISTIC DANCING!! Yeh, Artistic Partner Dancing. Its about beauty, grace, elegance, being a "visible instrument in the band", improvising movement to the music, and showmanship.

That is why I dance West Coast Swing. I've only realized this in the past 6 months as a result of trying to fit myself into the Social versus Competitive slots. Neither fit.

Food for thought.

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by KarenLile
8/15/1999  3:51:00 PM
George,

I agree that Artistic Partner dancing is a great idea. In fact, why not even other forms of dancing as well?

As a community, we don't have to limit ourselves to doing things one particular way only.

One of the things I like about West Coast Swing is that improvisation is very much a part of the dance. I took rhythm tap dancing for about a year and found it very helpful in creating syncopations in West Coast Swing. Not a benefit I expected.

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by Matyas
8/14/1999  1:45:00 AM
I am a competition dancer in International style and I also dance socially. It is true that I do not visit the local Saturday social dance club every week so I rehearse more with my partner. (I was in NY at the end of last year and attended social dance evenings in Manhatten.)

So I see no reason why someone could not compete and rehearse and go to social dance places also.

The dance competition is about technique and not artistic values. I think that technique is one tool for good artistic presentation.

I think that being compered to others will help me and my partner and us as a couple to improve our skills and so enjoy dancing more and more. I watch other dancers and look out for qualities that appeal to me, and I choose teachers who can teach how to achive those. So I think competition is a valuable feedback to me. And again about my technique and not my artistic expressions. Competitions provides a focus, a goal, an excitement, a sport like attitude which I need for hard work.

Of course the artistic expression is very important to me on a competition I want the audience to enjoy my performance, beside that I want to make my partner and myself happy. I pity the judges: they have to evalute the couples' technique instead of solely enjoying the performance...

Finding a partner for competitive dancing can happen at a social dance place. It happened to me and my partner. Of course later we realized that we had already met before at studios (she lives in Houston I in Austin) and at competitions. When I started to look for a new partner I went to a dance place in Houston and we met there.

But, the point is that both of us were involved in competition dancing already at that time. So my suggestion is to try to find a partner who also expressed serious interest in dancing by taking lessons or going to competitions (at least watching) etc. I write serious not because I think that social dancing cannot be serious, but to emphasize that preparing for competitions and doing regular rehearsal requires quite a commitment regarding your time and money.

And about money. It is very important to get an amateur partner which is more beneficial than doing pro-am. You need 3-5 times as much practice as much lessons you take, and it is much cheaper with an amateur partner. And personally I beleive that you even get farther in the long run with your dance knowledge. So get a partner, almost anyone would do for a start. Remember you do not have to plan dancing with this one partner for the rest of your dance carrier. Someone said once that she does not find a partner who is similarly committed as she is. Even in this case I suggest to take the best avialable partner. Many man develop obsession to dancing along the way - like me - and have not a well defined goal at the beginning.

There was a comment about competition dancers that some of them look down upon social dancers. I do not think it is more true than that social dancers look down upon competition dancers. On rec.arts.dance some posters regularly paint a picture of competition dancers as being unable to social dance which is the real form opposed to the "fixed routine" dancing and that they unable to lead and follow etc. I do both that says all.

A competition is an opportunity to socialize as a matter of fact. You can support your friends, help each other with the preparation and you can go out to eat or drink afterwards to discuss what happened etc. Of course it would work better if more people were involved in amatuer competitions around here in Texas.

Bye,
Matyas

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by KarenLile
8/15/1999  3:54:00 PM
Matyas,

I appreciated reading about your positive experiences with competitions. You brought up some good points. All of the reasons you listed are a reason why many people can benefit from a competition.

But, the question I ask is this. Do we have to have the first, second, third prize and the importance placed upon the judges opinion in order to receive those benefits?

I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

Karen

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by Matyas
8/17/1999  12:29:00 AM
About whether we need 'prizes' for the benefits:

It seems to me that the answer is yes. At least presently. However I think dancing is not alone with this phenomenon. I did athletics for 4 years and the competition was required to be a member in the club. Of course it was not a written rule, but the athletics division was rated among the others (volleyball, basketball, martial arts etc.) according to how many qualified competitors we could present. I hated competitions then but liked doing athletics. I was stressed out before the races - but actually during them it was ok - but I am happy that I did it, because I did not have problem with the competitive environment in high school (I did math competitions very successfully), or today in dancing or in everyday life.

Take those city marathons or 10K races. They are competitions and prizes are given but the majority goes because it is fun, challange and healthy activity etc.

So I think it can be done the same way in dancing, as a matter of fact I think many dancers do it this way being aware that they will not be champions but still will get a skill which will put them well above the average population regarding dancing.

I have only one concern namely that on a dance competition couples are eliminated in the rounds while on a marathon they do not. So for this reason I support that on large events the organizers should schedule a re-dance(?) so everyone has a chance to dance at least twice, and also that they do a B final for the 7-12 placed couples from the semi-final.

It was mentioned that more other opportunities, like demonstrations should be avialable to dancers. I like the idea! But I heard dancers who said that they would feel embarassed on a demonstration and not on a competition. On the latter they are not alone on the floor and they do not feel stressed if they are not dancing well, while on a demo environment they feel that much more is at stake. Therefore demonstration might be good for only those who are quite accomplished dancers.

Matyas

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by Belle1
8/17/1999  4:06:00 PM
After reading the above replies I feel very fortunate to be at a (country dance) place which is both a studio and a dance club. We have a lot of competitors (our pro is a past world champion in country dance) but we also have a lot of good social dancers. We all trade partners quite frequently, even the comp folks (they can practice on the practice floors, so when they are upstairs in the club they are known to be social dancing).

I used to ride, and I was taught there that it is the pursuit of excellence that is the goal and competitions were only a way to measure your progress, not an end in themselves. Certainly I spent far more time riding at home than I did at comps! That is how I have continued to see competition dancing. It's hard to work on improving yourself if there are no "tests."

I think there will probably always be people for whom the prize is the most important thing, but I'm not one of them. I think it's very important that your self esteem is not linked to your performance at a competition. It seems like the most aggressive competitors are often the most insecure about themselves.

It is frustrating not to have a partner at your exact level of skill and interest, but it's also true that this is just dance, not dating or marriage, and things can change if they need to. I guess you do have to be careful of friendships though, not to just drop someone without warning unless you have an understanding about it. I recently started dancing with a practice partner close to my level of skill but well below my level of interest...it's better than only dancing with people much better or much worse than I am, or not practicing at all.

I can't imagine being only a competitor or only a social dancer. It's a complete thing for me.

--Sandra

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by KarenLile
8/21/1999  6:28:00 PM
Matyas,
You mentioned in your last post:

You have brought up a good point. Not everyone likes to be the center of attention, even though they do like to perform. For example, some people sing in choirs and others sing solo. Some musicians play in combos, orchestras, and others play solo. So, if there were to be a non-competitive performance event, it would probably be a good idea to have some group performances as well as solo performances, to give everyone a chance to peform, no matter what their preference.

I don't believe that the judges and the prizes need to be present in order to create a performance with more than one couple on the floor.

------------------
Karen E. Lile

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by Matyas
8/22/1999  1:50:00 AM
About not solo performances.

There is such a thing as formation dancing, however I am not sure that many such group prepares only for demonstrations. The first dance club I went to did such demonstrations (that club was against competition dancing.)

In England I went to Tea Dances which were social dance afternoons. There 30% of the dances where kind of choreographed dances where everyone danced the same steps some of them had partner changes.

I think that a social dance club can be a good place to "perform" also. It worked this way In Hungary. Competition dancers filled up usually the floor. Some dance nights were organized right after the competition (there should have been more of that!). A poster here also mentioned that in C&W competitors are active social dancers too.

I think that the problem in ballroom dancing in the US is the low number of people involved in competitions. The reason behind this - IMO - is partly cultural and partly the consequence of Pro-Am which discourages dancers to partner up between each other - and who goes to social dancing with their pro?

The result is that if you go to a social dance it is more probable in the US that you will have a comment like one of the posters said who complained about lack of partners of her level provided you take private lessons and prepare for competitions seriously. In a healthy environment you could find fellow competitors out there near to your level.

I know that some will say that my opinion about Pro-am is an oversimplification, that might be so, I just wish to make the point that it is a kind of Catch 22 situation: lack of partners will support existence of pro-am which in turn dicourages am-am couple dancing which leads to less amateur dancers and so possible partners etc. I do not claim that I have a solution.

Matyas

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by Belle
8/25/1999  1:00:00 PM
In my (limited) experience, pro am does not mean fewer people dance as amateur couples. The pro where I dance is very good but also very expensive. I think most of his students would jump to have a partner at their level (and some do). They would have more practice time that way. Our group has always accepted that individuals do both (makes for a lot of similar costumes though!).

And then there's poor little me, who doesn't have a competition partner and can't afford pro am . Oh well! That's another topic .

re: Are Competition & Social Dance the Only Choices?
Posted by KarenLile
8/25/1999  11:12:00 PM
I have been recently trying a new avenue, or let's say a strategy for getting my needs met as a dancer. I have decided to do several things at once:

1. I am taking a teacher training course with 16 other teacher's in training. It so happens that there are more women than men in the class. But we are all learning lead and follow, so it doesn't matter. This class is giving me experience in learning details about the steps and patterns, as well as talking to a group, selecting music, performing, calling out the count and the steps, etc. This is providing me challenge and interest. It also allows me to progress through all the different levels of the different dances from the leader perspective, which I haven't done before, and I test at the end of each segment, which gives me a sense of accomplishment. The test is predictable and there is no limit as to who can pass it. Anyone who knows all the steps, can perform them well, etc. can pass to the next level.

2. I am social dancing 1 to 2 nights a week, to keep a connection with a group of people and get some good aerobic exersize. This is also an opportunity for me to meet the other teacher's in training and for us to practice what we have been learning on the social dance floor.

3. I have set aside a room in my house where I can practice by myself and with various partners. I meet with another woman in the class who is a teacher in training to go over class material, choreograph routines from the material, discuss technique, etc. This is really rewarding because it she is as interested in the subject as I am.

4. Those of us who are in the teacher training program can take as many of the group classes as they want and weekend parties are free to us. So, I am taking technique classes, as well as dancing leader and follower parts in various classes that catch my interest.

5. I plan to find an ametuer partner to work with at my home studio. This will give me the benefits of working with someone close to my level and we can set some peformance goals. We will probably perform at the 1/2 times of the social dances, since this is an easy and accessible avenue.

6. I plan to select a pro partner to work on choreography for public performances. I will probably have to set up my own performance opportunities. Before when I was doing Pro/Am work with my former teacher, I did not have any other activities to balance my dancing life. And so when he closed his ballroom, it set me adrift for a while.

I now realise that I need many different opportunities to meet my needs. There probably isn't one teacher or partner or ballroom that can meet all my needs . By putting together a mix, it makes it easier for me to be satisfied.

I think that I will go to some competitions sometime in the future and watch how they are set up and operate. I would like to see if I can come up with a plan for a non-competition event that accomplishes the positive goals that the competition is currently achieving, without the competition element.

When those of you who are contributing to this discussion tell your stories about what you like and don't like about the scene out there, it helps me understand more.

Thank you for discussing these things.

Karen E. Lile

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