Imagine a lot of people warming up, pivoting and stretching, the smell of hairspray, the sound of loud, rhythmic music and bright lights. Imagine women in beautiful dresses and men in tailcoats wandering between cloakrooms and a huge floor, and lots of viewers… well, if you are a ballroom dancer, this obviously sounds like most of your weekends during the year. But if you have no idea what is going on with this description, I definitely encourage you to continue reading and get to know a little more about ballroom dancing, the most glamorous sport ever, from the insider’s perspective. You’ll find out what to do to join the community and you’ll get a little sneak peak from the dancer’s life.
But first, let me acquaint you with some basic information. In the past few years, ballroom dancing has experienced its thriving thanks to the very popular TV show, Strictly Come Dancing. The show was first aired in 2004 in Great Britain by BBC. After its huge success, it was adapted by many other countries. Currently, the format has been licensed to over 42 countries all over the world, including Poland. There were 14 editions of this programme aired by TVN. Last year, the show was taken over by POLSAT and about a month ago the 15th edition ended. Its formula is based on the weekly dancing shows, performed by a local celebrity and a skilled ballroom dancer. Due to the great popularity of this show, people started to attend dancing classes and they wanted to know more about this type of dancing.
Ballroom dancing, perceived by lay people, is any kind of social partner dancing. However, there is a differentiation between social dancing and competitive dancing. According to the rules of the latter one, two styles belong to sport dancing: five International Standard dances (English Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep), and five International Latin dances (Samba, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive). Nowadays there are competitions for ballroom dancers all over the world, including world championships.
This set of information is accessible to everybody. However, not everybody can find out how the life of a ballroom dancer really looks like and what happens before you actually get to dance in a competition.
First of all, you look for trainers and a dancing club. When you treat your dancing seriously and you are determined to achieve success, there is no possibility of doing it without good coaches. Ballroom dancers usually have one coach that lead them from the very beginning, and a few consultants, who come e.g. once a month to a dancing club. When you perform in a competition, you always represent a given club and city in your country, e.g. Finezja Poznań or Astra Szczecin, as it is the case with football teams.
Secondly, you have to find a dancing partner. This is the first, and sometimes the most difficult step. There are many people, especially girls, who want to dance but cannot find a partner. Not only should he or she be approximately the same height or slightly taller than you, but he or she should also live in the same city, have strong motivation, a lot of time and… be likeable! From now on, you will spend with him or her most of your time, so you better hit it off or else you will find yourself in a bit of a spot.
Next, you start training. Now all the fun begins! Blood, sweat and tears, as they say, hours spend in a dance room together with the other dancers, from this moment – your rivals on the floor. Long days of practice during training camps, exercising the difficult technique, the speed and the connection with your partner. What’s more, when you want to be really good, you can’t focus on ballroom dancing only, but you should practice also ballet, and preferably stretch every day. But no worries: with all of it comes a lot of laughter, great friendships, satisfaction, fulfillment and probably the best days of your life! So, it is definitely worth it.
Now, when you’ve been exercising long enough to say that you’re ready to compete (ok, let’s not deceive yourself: once you start practicing and find out what is to be done to be at the top, you’re never going to think that), you choose a competition that you want to compete in. After that comes two weeks of even more intensive training, and a couple of days before the competition, you exercise lighter and try to focus on the goal – winning it. All the best trainers say that if you’re not going to a competition with a view of winning it, you shouldn’t go there at all.
And finally, when the big day comes, you wake up well-rested and with a positive attitude, but obviously stressing out inside. You do your make-up and you hair (apply to both boys and girls, which might come as a bit of a shock for some of you, but you’ll get used to it), pack your glitter dress (girls) or a tailcoat (boys) to preferably a car of your parents’, but unfortunately sometimes to a train, and travel to your destination. When you finally reach it, often after a couple of hours of travelling, you are even more stressed out than at the beginning of the day. But once you enter the sport facility, when the competition takes place, you just get the spirit. You know from the very beginning that people who have come there know what they want and what their goal is. If you don’t, you feel lost. But if you do, you start feeling the thrill of excitement and that’s something worth the effort.
The dancing itself lasts about 20-30 minutes altogether during one competition. There are breaks, but you still have to be in your prime as the physical fitness goes. And each competition is indeed a fantastic experience, but what counts the most is the way that had lead you towards it.
All the dancers agree that dancing is about transgressing your restrictions. It is a constant fight with your weaknesses and a strong will to get better and better. But with the passage of time you will learn, as the old saying goes, that the only person you should be better than, is the person you were yesterday.
And don’t delude yourself: there are no shortcuts. It’s the organic work, full of sacrifices and a life that is highly structured. You hardly have any holidays, and even if you do, after 2 days you start to repeat the steps in your mind and if you hear a song, you always wonder what you could dance to it (well, you do that basically any time you hear music, not only during holidays). But, once you taste it, you’re never going to regret it. So, don’t wait, get your dancing shoes and let the fun begin!
Here is a video of the current world latin champions, Nino Langella and Kristina Moshenskaya, who represent Italy.