* Prices may differ from that shown
I've been to ballet classes at least once a week from the age of 3 so dancing has always been a big hobby and as a child I was also sent to tap and jazz classes. Ballroom though wasn't very widely done and as it wasn't available a my dance school I wasn't sent to lessons.
Then Strictly Come Dancing lept onto the television screen and ballroom and Latin dancing was suddenly everywhere. The sparkle and glamour of it immediately appealed to me and I begged my parents to let me start but the answer was no-I already did too much and had to concentrate on my school work.
I decided as I started looking at Universities and realised that many offered beginners dance lessons that I could finally start learning this style of dance and finding a University with a Ballroom and Latin dance society became a priority(although my parents still don't know this is want swayed my final choice!) I arrived and immediately emailed the society asking to join and from the first steps I have loved every minute.
Two left feet?
When I tell people I dance the reply I often get is 'Oh I wish I could do that, but I have two left feet'. Well here is a style of dance anyone can learn and most importantly enjoy. a basic waltz or foxtrot isn't so different from walking-you just need to learn where to step forward and back and what direction to go in. Add some music and a partner and there you have it- a basic waltz. The other major feature of Ballroom dancing is its accessibility to all ages and body shapes. You don't need to be young, bean pole like and able to get your legs round your ears. You just need to have enthusiasm, willingness to try something new and if your unsure a friend to take with you!
What to wear?
Anything you feel comfortable in and can move in. You do not need any special clothes to be able to learn this style of dance. Shoe wise-men usually wear non-trainer type shoes and ladies a shoe with a small heel will make dancing a bit easier(especially if you come to buy specific ballroom/latin shoes later as these have a heel) but if you are more comfortable without a heel-not a problem at all!
Where to learn?
There are Ballroom schools all over the country and a quick search on Google will find some near you. Some are focused on competing and others on social dancing (see below for details) but a quick look at the schools websites will help you find one that is right for you. Almost all schools have beginners classes, taught as a group at a pace to suit even the slowest learner. Unless specified in the class description, you don't need to take a partner(although ladies if you can drag a man along the classes always need more!). Throughout the class you will often find yourself swapping partners so everyone gets a chance to dance with someone. Classes such as these are social events as much as learning experiences and you will find yourself welcomed. For people who have danced before more advanced classes will be available and giving the teacher a call can help you to find a suitable class for your standard or you could even have some private lessons...
Ballroom schools also offer private lessons usually costing £30-£50 for an hour although this can vary greatly depending on the teacher. A private lesson is fantastic for the more serious dancer to learn technique and progress faster. For anyone wishing to compete seriously private lessons are almost a necessity. Private lessons can be for an individual or for a couple.
Many Ballroom schools also offer private lessons specifically to teach a couple to dance for their wedding dance and enquiring at a dance school will tell you any offers or discounts on booking several private lessons for this purpose.
*Social and competitive dancing-the differences*
- It is for fun and this is what you will learn in many group lessons particularly at the beginner stage.
-for those who just want to learn for fun this is the sort of dancing for them. You will learn the same steps and competitive dancers and the same dances but in a more relaxed environment.
-many dance schools host dance evenings where you can you along and enjoy dancing with others.
-This is a no pressure way to learn ballroom with the emphasis on having fun and learning at a pace that suits you.
-This is where it gets serious and expensive!
-there are competitions happening all over the country from small local ones to big national events.
-you can compete at different levels from competing at beginner level to professional standard.
-If you compete you will most likely have a regular dance partner who you will attend private lessons with(one place where the cost starts building)
-competing at the lower levels (at the bigger comps this is up to intermediate level) you wear non-competitive dress-i.e. no ballroom/latin competition dresses(ones with decoration/rhinestones/sequins/tassels etc.)for ladies and no tail suits/latin shirts for the men.
-at the more advanced levels competitive dress is a must. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a star dress maker in you family ballroom dresses are very expensive with hand made dresses heavily stones with thousands of swarovski crystals costing well over £1000! (it is possible to get dresses from companies in hong kong for as little as £200 although when compared to the more expensive dresses there is no comparison.) A guys tail suit can cost several hundred pounds.
-At a competition many couples dance in each round so it is important that you look your best and this means not just expensive and very elaborate outfits but a full fake tan(the more tangerine like the better!) highly styled and sprayed solid hair and as much glitter and make-up as you can manage on your face(fake eyelashes being a must)
The universities have their own seperate competition circuit called the varsity circuit. over the year Universities with Ballroom/Latin teams will host friendly competitions culminating in the Southern/Northern Nationals(SUDA/NUDA) and the National Inter Varsity Dance Competition(IVDC) held at the Blackpool Winter gardens every year. These competitions feature rounds for all levels of dancer and university is a fantastic place to start learning to dance. These competitions are more relaxed and friendly than the open ones and although dress restrictions do apply for the individual rounds for beginner and Novice the team match at he end of the day allows everyone to wear a competition dress and the university teams all have a supply in the team colour so you can dance in a dress without paying a fortune for it!
*It is worth noting though if you do want to take up ballroom at university that not every Uni has a Ballroom/Latin society and team*
Overall Ballroom dancing is a fabulous way to learn a new skill to show off at the next wedding/party you go to(I have even been known to break into a Jive in a packed club!), meet new people and socialise, keep fit and active, is suitable for all ages and people and if you choose to compete the dresses, hair and makeup are fabulous.
I started ballroom dancing when I was about 11 or 12. The classes I attended taught me ballroom, latin and disco dancing and were amazing fun! I danced alongside my partner in many competitons and had all the pretty dresses and things that go alongside dancing.
I decided to leave dancing at age 16, as I did not want to compete at an adult level. Recently, along with my partner, we have gone back to ballroom dancing as a hobby with our old teacher. There are a few other couples that have also re-joined the class, and we now dance with a few other adults as well.
Ballroom dancing is a great hobby as it keeps you fit and is extremely fun to learn. With the return of Striclty come Dancing to the TV i hope that many more children and adults will join ballroom dancing and enjoy the fun I have experienced.
When I was 5 my mum asked me if I would like to go to dancing lessons. I didn’t really know what I was agreeing to. I said yes anyway, it was an excuse to leave the boredom of the house and the back yard, which had been my boundaries up until then. She took me to a local dance school in the small town that we lived in. It was above some shops in the town centre. I remember holding my mums hand and walking up stairs that seemed to go on forever. We walked through the door into a room full of chairs with bags and clothes all over the place. Mum sat on a chair and I sat on her knee. I could here distant sounds of music, which suddenly came to a stop. “TERRIBLE! Sonya point your toes! …… Julie bottom in when you plié! …. Mary …JÊTÉ…. Do it again, you are going to stay here until you get it right!” The room smelt funny and all of a sudden I really wanted to go home. That woman in there sounded like a real ogre and I really didn’t want any of that. “Don’t worry” my mum said, “That’s ballet, you’re not here for that” All of a sudden about 15 girls came running out of the other room, all of them smiling and all of them wearing beautiful gold shoes. Wow did I want a pair of those shoes. My mum took me into the room that these girls had emerged from. It was huge and had a really shiny floor. There was a record player and a pile of records in one corner and the biggest speakers I had ever seen. Other kids started coming into the room and a lady wearing gold shoes split us into groups. These gold shoes were different to the others I had seen the other girls wearing; these ones had really high heels. Oh yes they were the shoes for me. Her name was Debbie and I was going to be in her group. She was going to show me how to do a dance called the Cha Cha Cha. We stood in a line behind her while she showed us the s
teps. “Forward, back, cha cha cha, back, forward, cha cha cha, 2, 3, cha cha cha” He hey I can do this cha cha cha, its easy cha cha cha. “Carry on” she said and walked off up the room. Hey! What’s going on… whose feet am I supposed to watch… oh no lost it! She had gone to put some music on for us to try it to. The song was “A Walkin’ Miracle” by Limme and the Family Cookin. Ready… and … 2, 3, cha cha cha. After we had done that all the groups joined together and we did the Hokey Cokey and the conga and a couple of other party type dances and then it was time to go home. As we were leaving the Ballroom the Ballet class were just coming out. There were seven or eight girls with their hair in buns wearing pale blue leotards and headbands. They were wearing pink tights and on their feet they had pink leather slippers that tied around their ankles. Lucky escape. Mum said if I went to dancing lessons for a few weeks and I still liked it she would buy me some gold dancing shoes. Then we went to Woolworths and she bought me my first record, “ A Walkin’ miracle” I went back every Saturday morning until I got my flat gold shoes. I really loved those shoes. Those shoes meant I had learnt the basic steps to the Cha Cha Cha and the Waltz. Those shoes also meant I was ready for my first exam session. Exam day meant that I had to have a new dress and perfume sprayed in my hair; I had to look the best I possibly could. At the dance school everything was really quiet. Everybody was really nervous, what if I forget the steps…what if I stand on Debbie’s toes…what if the examiner has a big spot on her nose and I want to laugh. Debbie called my name and she gave me two pieces of paper. These were my report sheets. I went with her into the Ballroom and handed my papers over to the examiner. <
br>She was a plump lady with a really big smile. The music started and I danced my Cha Cha Cha with Debbie. Head up, cha cha cha, Smile, cha cha cha . The examiner put her head down and started writing on my report. Oops sorry Debbie didn’t mean to stand on your toe…I wonder if she noticed…no I don’t think so. Next my Waltz that I did without a hitch and that was it, all over. Well that didn’t hurt did it…what was I so worried about? That was it I could go home now, the whole thing took about 15 minutes. I would get my results at the next class. I couldn’t wait for Saturday to come. Did I pass? Did she see the mistakes? At the next class we all sat down while Debbie handed out our report sheets and shouted out our grades. The grades were pass (over 65%), commended (over 75%) and highly commended (over 85%). I got highly commended for both my dances and the comments she had written on my report were very nice about my style and competence. This meant that I could go to the “Medal Presentation Evening.” This was held at a big hall in the town and meant I would be able to stay up late as it was held in the evening. Some town big wig came to present the medals we had earned at the exam session. Everyone was called out individually to receive his or her medal. They started with the lowest exam rank that was us, the One Dance test. I had done two of these, one Ballroom (Waltz) and one Latin (Cha Cha Cha), so I had to do the long walk across the deserted dance floor with everybody watching me, TWICE! Then on through Bronze, Silver, Gold, Gold Bar, Gold Star, Presidents Award and International Award until everyone had received their medals and certificates. Then there was a special award for the highest mark in each exam grade. This was a big silver cup that you could keep until the next Medal Presentation. Your name and the year were engraved on a litt
le gold plate on the side along with everyone else’s who had ever won it. I was absolutely gob smacked when I heard my name being called out. I had won the One Dance Cup. I had to do the long walk again to get my trophy and I dropped it on the way back to my Mum. The photographer was there and he took a picture for the local paper of everyone who had took an exam, all the dance teachers and the dance school mascot that I got to hold (a big yellow teddy bear called Sam who sat in the Ballroom and watched all the lessons and travelled to all the functions and competitions. Then it was on to the fun. The lights were turned down, the music was turned up and the dancing started. I sat on the edge of the dance floor and watched as the gold and silver high heels danced the night away. They did all the ballroom dances (Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot and Tango) the Latin Dances (Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Paso Doble, Rumba and Jive) all of which I had read on the report sheet at the exam session. They also did some dances that I had never even heard of such as the Square Tango, the Barn Dance and the St Bernard’s Waltz. I thought that these dances were great because everyone doing the same thing at the same time. These are called Sequence dances, they are easy to pick up because you just keep your eye on the couple in front or behind you and hope they know what they are doing. There was food and drink laid on and we had a fantastic time. I carried on with the Ballroom dancing for many years. As I got older one thing led to another and before I knew what was happening I was doing Ballroom, Latin, Sequence, Rock’n’Roll, Freestyle Disco, Ballet, Tap, Modern Stage and Gymnastic Dance. I had a dance lesson every night of the week and all morning on a Saturday. On Sundays we used to attend competitions all over the country. This is where the hobby starts to get really expensive. On top of the travelling ex
penses there was also the cost of outfits and shoes. Luckily my mum was pretty nifty with a needle and she spent hours making Ballroom gowns with layers and layers of netting and hundreds of sequins, Latin dresses and Disco costumes with sequins, beads and feathers. At least I got my gold shoes with heels. Image is very important in the competition world and the right outfit can make all the difference. Competitions are very different to exams. Instead of one examiner you have three of five adjudicators watching your every move. Competitions can be very loud as you have the support of your whole school behind you with everyone cheering you on and screaming your number. Performing in front of an audience is an amazing experience. The nerves are jumping, the adrenalin is pumping and you get a better natural high than you could get from any legal (or illegal) drug. This buzz makes you want to do it again and again. When you hear people cheering you on and shouting your name it makes you realise that all the pain, hard work and effort are worthwhile. At the age of thirteen I decided that I was going to make dance my career. The hard part was deciding whether I wanted to perform or teach. Performing is where the money is but teaching is more fulfilling. I decided I was going to do both. My partner and I got a job at a local nightspot doing cabaret. We were paid £50 for the night, which usually meant two five-minute performances. Not bad money for the early eighties. The money I made from performing went to pay for my professional training to become a teacher. All the hard work paid off as there can be nothing more enjoyable than showing the skills that you have learned to others so that they may enjoy the sport too. I was very proud of the kids I taught to dance, especially when they started doing well in exams and competitions. We taught them how to be part of a team and to take pride in their appe
arance and behaviour. We taught them how to accept defeat gracefully and how to enjoy success. Eventually I got married and had kids of my own. I gave up the dancing to concentrate on being a full time housewife and mother. My partner does not dance, so although I spent all those years learning the art, if we go out anywhere I rarely dance because I don’t have anyone to dance with. This is such a shame and I am trying to persuade him to learn. Very few people my age can Waltz or Quickstep and Jiving is something that your Mum and Dad do at Christmas parties. As soon as my daughter was old enough I took her to our local dance school and now the cycle has started again. She absolutely loves the competition scene, not only the competing but also meeting people from different parts of the country. I now sit at night sewing sequins on to costumes and helping her practice her routines. At the age of ten she now has fourteen lovely trophies on our windowsill and dances three times a week. Some of the rules of competition have changed slightly from my day but the buzz and the excitement are still the same. I hope she carries on for many years and gets as much enjoyment from the dance world as I have had.
I have been dancing for 19 nearly 20 years, and I must say it is great fun. You can: *Compete *Take exams *Do it just for fun What ever your reason, it will help keep you fit and you will meet new people. If you just want to do it for fun, it doesn't really matter how good you are, as long as you enjoy yourself, that is all that matters. Examinations You can take exams, if you feel you want to. Any dance teacher, who has the right qualifications, can enter you for exams. There is no age limit. I was three when i took my first exam, and the oldest person i know who took an exam, was 82. The exams are marked in three stages. These are: *A pass. You will pass if you score 65% *Commended pass. You will achieve this if you score 75% *A highly commended pass. You will achieve this if you can score over 85% All the dances are marked out of 100%. If you pass, you recieve a certificate, saying what level you have passed at and the percentage you got, and a trophy, to show off to all your family and friends. I have completed all the exams that are available, and i know want to train to be a qualified teacher, so that i can run and manage my own dancing school. There are a lot of exams, that need to be taken, before you can train and these are: *Rosette awards. For children aged 3 and up. *One dances. You only dance one dance, for each of these exams. These levels are more for the younger children. Adults or teenagers would start with: *Bronze *Silver *Gold *Gold Bar awards. (1 to 3) *Star awards. (1 to 5) *Presidents awards. (1 to 4) *International awards. (1 to 4) *International certificate *International supreme awards. (1 to 4) Only when you have completed these, can you go onto train. If there are any parents out there that think it is a good hobby, for your children,
you would be right. Let me warn you though, you may need a bank loan, if your child is serious about the sport. Each exam will cost you money. They start off pretty cheap, for the children, but they do grow, the more you progress. The prices can start from just a few pounds, but that can grow into a hundred pound an exam, or more. Then on top of that, you need the right shoes. Dancing shoes range from £20 to £100. Depending on the style you want. Any old shoes will not do, they have to be within the regulations set by the examaning board of directors. Then there is the outfits you wear for the exams. These, if you want the proper sort can set you back serious money. Saying that though, as long as you were a dress that is long, floaty and nice fitting, you can save yourself a fortune. Men, no trousers that are too tight across the bum. I've seen a lot of split trousers over the years. Tightness restricts your movements. Prices for lessons may vary. I was paying £4 for half and hour. If you want a private lesson then, it will cost you at least £9 for half an hour. If you are going to pay these prices, then you must be hooked. The dances that are classed as Ballroom dances are: *Waltz (a slow moving,very floaty dance) *Tango (a rough, sharp, dominant dance) *Slow foxtrott (a slow and sensual dance) *Quickstep (a quick moving, energetic dance) Every exam, that you do, you will have to dance all four dances, with a partner, in a room with just one person watching you. They will award you a mark and then comment on what you have done. The down side is, you are marked there and then, but you have to wait upto a month for the results and certificates to get back to you. Competing This can be very difficult and extremely hard work. There are a lot of rules that must be met, with ages, partners, costumes and dance moves. *Partners must fall in the same age catorgory. *T
he outfits must be within the guidelines for that age group. *You do not have to be a male and female couple. *The standard and movements within the dance, must be recognised by the awarding body. Competing is something all dancers want to do, but it is very demanding. I do not reccommend it for the very young. There is a lot of travelling involved and then a lot of waiting around. The outfits are very expensive at the competing standard. Believe me when i say, they can cost you a couple of hundred per outfit, and it is nice to have a different outfit for each dance. I haven't competed since i was a child, because it is too expensive. I don't know how my parents afforded it back then. Whether you do it for fun or for the exams or competing, it is highly addictive and a lot of fun. Anyone can learn Ballroom dancing, so i say get the yellow pages out and give it a go. Especially the blokes. There is a shortage of blokes. For some reason they don't like doing it.
OK, let’s get one thing straight first of all. I can’t dance. Put me on the dance-floor in a nightclub, and I look like king dick. Seriously, I have disgraced and embarrassed myself quite horribly before now. With that in mind, I’m still not a hundred percent sure of my reasons for starting ballroom dancing. This is how my story goes… --==How I got into it all ==-- I went to Southampton University. In my first year, one of my new-found friends joined the university ballroom dancing society and spent the rest of the year raving about how great it was. We remained unconvinced. Towards the end of the first year, we had to sort out renting houses for the second year and decide who we wanted to live with. I ended up moving in with this girl and two other guys. So the second year started, and my female housemate once again began extolling the virtues of ballroom dancing, and tried to get the rest of our house to go along to a lesson with her. Just to give it a go… She actually sunk pretty low in her attempts to get us to go along – telling us how many attractive girls go and how you get to hold them and everything! In the face of powerful arguments like that, I decided I’d go and try it out. Since that very first fateful night, I was hooked. I joined my housemate in singing the praises of ballroom dancing to anyone that would listen, and probably chronically pissed off my mates in the process! I joined the society’s committee in my third year, and ended up representing my university in the national inter-varsity competition, where I competed in the A-Team quickstep and reached the semi-finals! So far, so groovy. Now… --==What’s so great about ballroom dancing, and why should you give it a go? ==-- Well, I would like to reiterate my first point. You do not need to be a good dancer to learn ballroom. I am still not a good dancer. Even now, i
f you put me on a nightclub dance floor, I’ll look like a pillock. But change the nightclub for a ballroom, give me a partner, and I’ll glide around it quite happily. It’s different. Don’t let a lack of dancing ability put you off. Secondly, my house-mate was absolutely right. It’s a great way to meet people, especially those of the opposite sex, as they’re generally the ones you dance with. (you occasionally see all-female couples at competitions, and I have actually danced with another guy once or twice. There was nothing homosexual about it. I took the female part, we were damn good and were considering entering a novice competition as a couple. So there.) As she said, there were indeed lots of really nice girls there, and I’ve been going out with one of them for the last 18 months. That’s another reason for me to have a special place in my heart for ballroom, and hey, it could happen to you too. Finally, and I would guess this is the main reason, it’s bloody good fun (and not bad exercise either!). It’s not hard to learn, and with a good teacher you can be taking you first faltering steps around the ballroom floor in minutes. The basic steps and rhythm of each different dance can be picked up easily, but there are a seemingly endless amount of steps and routines to progress on to. Also, if you’re a girl, you’ll have it even easier because, technically, if your partner has a good enough lead you cannot go wrong. Saying that, however, if you’re determined enough… Overall, when you’ve actually got a bit of experience under your belt ballroom dancing is amazing – you feel stylish and sophisticated and sexy all rolled into one! --==OK, so what are the different dances? ==-- Well, the ones that I’ve learned (with varying degrees of success!) are: Waltz Quickstep Foxtrot Tango Viennese Waltz <
br>The Waltz is a lovely slow, graceful dance with, at advanced levels, lots of wonderful poses and twirls – very romantic. Think soft lights, last dance of the evening, propose to your girlfriend to it – I saw someone I know actually do this! The quickstep, as you’d kinda guess, is fast. One of my favourites, I was pretty good at it a few years ago (see above). It’s very bright, cheerful (if you know what I mean) sort of dance, very good fun, and good to show off with because you go very fast and some routines can get quite twiddly. The Foxtrot is a dance I’ve never quite mastered. It’s again a very graceful dance but it has a peculiar rhythm to it that is hard to pick up and follow. Think back to your old movies – this is Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ dance. Tango is great. My favourite. You all know what it’s like – powerful music, dramatic steps, rose clenched between the teeth! If you’ve seen True Lies you’ll have seen a pretty good Tango (Arnie Schwartzenegger and Tia Carrere). The Viennese Waltz essentially is a simple waltz routine, done very quickly. Constantly spinning around, you can get very dizzy with this one… --==I’m interested. What do I need and how much is it? ==-- The simple answer is ‘not a lot’. If you’re going to go to a class you probably won’t need a partner. You don’t need any experience. You don’t need any special clothes. You might however need an appropriate pair of shoes. If you try to quickstep in a pair of chunky Reeboks you will realise this very quickly. A comfortable pair of flat shoes (for guys, heels for girlies I guess) without rubber soles is OK, proper ballroom shoes are better. Best not to invest until you know you enjoy it, as these start at around £35. Mine cost me £55, they’re a very stylish black patent leather and nubuck, and ha
ve lasted me over two years! The other thing you will need is lessons. This is the downside. You knew there was one coming somewhere… Lessons are expensive. Unless you happen to be at University, and have a uni society you can join, it is going to cost you. As a rough comparison, at uni I paid £1.50, which covered my lessons for the week (four hours of them, in a class of about 80 people). When I had private lessons at the teacher’s studio, it cost £21 an hour. Ouch, I hear you cry! --== A summary ==-- Ballroom dancing is a very cool way to spend your time. You get to meet some very nice people (most dancers seem to be nice) and have a lot of fun. You can show off if you go to posh balls, and you get to prove to yourself that you actually do have a halfway graceful and elegant side. It is also, unfortunately, quite an expensive thing to learn and keep up. --==Some links, if you’re interested ==-- The Southampton University Ballroom Dancing Society: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~subds/index.htm If you follow the links to the photo page, and look at the newest photos, there’s actually a picture of me there! I’m the guy with the blue cummerbund, in the picture of ‘some of the guys at the Bath Ball’. Rather more disturbingly, I’m also the guy in the purple shirt in the Rocky Horror theme night photo… The Diment Macdonald dance school http://www.dimentmacdonald.co.uk/ This is the dance school that came and taught our society. They’re based in Southampton, and are extremely good.
These Standard Ballroom dances have diverse origins. rhythms, tempos, and aesthetics, but have one thing in common: they are all danced by a couple (usually a man and a lady) in Closed Hold , maintaining five areas of contact between the partners while