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re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by Independent Thinker
7/12/2003  5:13:00 AM
Jonathan raises an interesting point about a special smooth action that may not appear in standard:


Normally when dancing a Twinkle, for example, I would sway left from 2-3 as man. But if I were to release the LH-RH connection and open the "V" to a wider angle (as in a Flip-Flop), I would be more likely to take just the opposite sway -- to the right. I would then switch to left sway for steps 5-6, as I flip-flop to CPP.

This type of sway would be terrible if you keep a traditional closed position hold, but the open promenade position affords you the space you need to sway right and still maintain a positive direction as you step into PP.


I think I generally agree with you about the execution of this action, however I feel that it is fairly consistent with the underlying rules that govern standard technique. Two specific comments:

1) I'm moving in opposition to my parnter on these (typically crossing eachother's paths) and that is going to change the relationship between the direction in which I'm leading her and the direction in which I'm taking my own body - even if we aren't touching or even both on the floor when I try it.

2) I think of these figures as somewhere between a feather with waltz rise and a closed telemark (and their mirror images). Both of those are outside partner figures, and because of that there is going to be some change in the sway that feels right to me. In standard, the ISTD gives a R sway for the feather, and though the book claims it should be straight I would guess I'm presently using a bit of R sway when I step outside partner in the closed hover telemark too.
re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by Independent Thinker
7/12/2003  5:17:00 AM
Oops, here I go again... Obviously the hover telemark is not an outside partner figure, but it sets up for one - and I'm already thinking about that.
re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by CampionDancesportKC
7/19/2003  9:51:00 PM
Dear Indy-

Of course American social schools are butchering smooth and smooth technique. A glance at the history of the American franchise dance schools will tell you that they have not historically been very concerned with turning out well educated dancers. The very reason the American styles were originally created was to enable American franchise schools to commercialize dancing here in the US for an adult social market.

When I began dancing many years ago I was trained at two major franchise schools...their technique and training programs were abysmal. However, their sales training was first class, and we typically devoted about twice as much time to sales training as to dance training. C'est la vie. After several years I was lucky enough to find qualified instructors who opened my eyes to many elements of dance I had NEVER EVEN HEARD OF in my original training.

The United States seems to be in a painful transition right now...trying to make the jump from the passe commercialized "American" styles taught by entrenched franchises, to International style dancing and the "new" American Smooth which proceeds quite naturally from an understanding of Int. Standard (Modern if you prefer).

The transition unfortunately leaves a large number of traditionally trained instructors wanting to butcher smmoth and arguing heatedly against it's natural relation to Standard. It is understandably a difficult change to make for those who have made a living teaching the old smooth for 20 years or more. They are not only concerned about changing their own dancing but are uncertain if the new techniques will sell well to social students. Have you noticed that Standard in the US is typically considered a style for "serious" or "dedicated" dancers only? It is often dismissed as too challenging for social students.

Besides, in many areas of the US it is still impossible (I'm not kidding) to find a reputable instructor of Standard and Latin! Even teachers and studios who want to change and grow in their dancing may not be able to do so.

Not to fear Indy, some chain schools can be relied upon to butcher not only Smooth but also Rhythm and Latin. Yet Latin competition has been steadily improving in the US of late. The US Junior Dancesport competitors are dragging us out of the dark ages Slowly but surely the US will have to _sway_ into compliance with the rest of the world, if we ever hope to create competent dancers.
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.
re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by MSC
7/20/2003  12:10:00 PM
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.


I guess this sort of sums up my feelings towards smooth. It appears the emphasis is on variety of movement, expressiveness, etc., but not on quality of movement, or heck even being on time in some dances, particularly VW. Of course, there are similar problems in the other styles, but it seems exacerbated in smooth.
re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by ninedancer
7/20/2003  1:42:00 PM
Originally posted by MSC:
It appears the emphasis is on variety of movement, expressiveness, etc., but not on quality of movement, or heck even being on time in some dances, particularly VW.


You must be referring to individual dancers you've noticed dancing off time, not instructors teaching the moves wrong on purpose, right? Timing is one of the elements for which a competitor is judged on - an important one at that.

Deejays are supposed to play American Style Viennese Waltz a few beats slower than International Style to accommodate for the open and fuller movements of the Smooth figures and choreography. I can speak from personal experience, that some/many of the songs I've danced to in competition are played at full INTERNATIONAL speed, which is very hard to dance advance Smooth choreography to. I try to compensate by keeping my steps and shapes smaller, as to not sacrifice the timing, but Smooth dancers should not be finding themselves in this predicament as often as we do. I know for a fact that an International Style dancer would be struggling to dance Samba at the [faster] American Style speed.

So, keep in mind that you may have noticed some timing issues with American Style Viennese Waltz, but this probably has more to do with the level of dancing you're watching and/or the occasional inappropriate music choice of a ballroom Deejay.

No DanceSport style incorporates poor timing in its syllabus or discipline, so I think some of the broad [negative] statements here have been based on either not having enough exposure to high-quality American Style coaching or not getting to see enough championship-level exhibitions of American Style.
Re: re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by Bryan M
1/12/2014  5:18:00 AM
Interesting, and misguided subject line "Are Americans ruining Smooth". You all seem to forget why 99% of American adults, who want to learn to dance, take lessons. It is to have a social activity/ hobby and spend time with their significant other, have some fun, and learn to dance socially. Are they ever going to meet your high standard of judgement? No. Taking lessons and practicing 3-4 hours a week will not get these students (including myself and my wife) to the critical acclaim some of you seem to want us to be. If I wanted to be a professional dancer, I would take a much different path to meet that end and do what any pro would- find instruction that teaches the styles that would please a majority of judges, whether it be International or American.
American adults who want to dance do so for fun, and to have a social hobby that non-dancers do not enjoy- whether it be a night out on the town, A wedding reception or just having a fun activity on a Tuesday night instead of another evening in front of the TV.
Re: re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by O.K.
1/24/2014  11:22:00 AM
Reading all the comments, and being neutral. I don't do American Smooth. I would say that Are Americans ruining Smooth is the winner, judging from the comments made in this column
Re: re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by terence2
1/29/2014  3:59:00 AM


First.... the comments are over TEN years old .. I wonder if any past posters, have re-evaluated the purpose of Amer. smooths existence ?..
It is, as someone stated, a "social " animal only in the lower divisions,( altho it did creep into the Comp. arena ) and, this is where the problems lie.

Sadly, the technique for dance at these levels, is often commonly overlooked, for expediency .

When one does apply standarised technique to a genre, it needs to fit the purpose . The majority of social students, are more interested in variety than accuracy. And, this has been perpetuated by the " chains" in many cases ( NOT all ).

Many small studios, are woefully lacking in training.
So.. the style does meet a need, and to para-phrase Alex Moore
" I realised after teaching for one year that, not everyone wanted to be a world champion ". read into that what you will.

I am not sanctioning poor technique, at any level or genre, just pointing out the facts of dance " life " .
Re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by terence2
1/29/2014  4:12:00 AM
I do not know if you are still reading posts here, but.... A major correction to one of your insertions, that being.. there is no way Amer. studios ( chains particularly ) can turn out top level Intern. style dancers.. well.. heres a few for your consideration..

Joe/ Nancy Jenkins.. 3rd in the world 1972/3 Blackpool finalist .. Standard

Larry/ Betty Silvers.. eighth in the world.. Intern. Latin 19 70s

Bobby Medieros.. coached numerous latin european couples in the 70/80s ( a former F.Astaire teacher ).. I could go on.

but, I do think you may need to re-think your post.

P.S. I was one of the 1st coaches for Larry and Joe,among many others, both from F.A. in D.C,( 1964 ) and yes, they did go to the UK for training. doesnt everyone ???

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