Thursday, August 29, 2013

Misc Funnies

Occasionally, I'll post something on facebook, but forget to post it on my blog. Here are some of my miscellaneous ballroom funnies that may not have made it in here yet.


Friend sent me the original. I thought it was missing a stage..

Pretty sure this is what judges do once they're watching the same couples for the 4th or 5th round

Anna Mikhed shares her opinion of her split with Victor Fung, then retires shortly thereafter

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dear Collegiate Club Organizer

Dear Collegiate Club-or-Team Organizer/Captain/President:

Your job is not to produce great dancers.

Your goal is not to have the best dance club/team in the country.

You are not running a dance academy.

These people are not here because their parents paid a large sum of money with the intent of one day producing the best-of-the-best.

Most of these people are well-educated adults that know how to seek additional information. They do not need the hand-holding or direction that youth dancers are coddled with.

For that matter, they don't need an ambitious curriculum forced down their throat. Many of them are seeking release from being told what to do, and are instead asking what to do.

Your job is this:
To create an environment where people can fall in love with Ballroom Dancing, and give them the resources to explore that love to their hearts' content.
You'll have higher retention, happier dancers, and believe it or not, more skilled dancers that decide to take their dance education into their own hands in order to excel. Focus on recruiting and giving people direction to getting more information. Allow and encourage people to get as good as they'd like at the pace they'd like. It's a club, not a certification program. You'll get people with many different goals:

  • You wanna be the best? Join the group that meets twice a week, here are the available practice spaces, and here is the list of coaches in the area, especially the ones that work with the team.
  • You wanna improve rapidly? Let's hook you up with a team mentor, and here are a few well-respected amateurs in the area that said they'd help out.
  • You wanna just have fun and come to the parties? We have a general lesson once per week and a social every Sunday, and a couple of team parties every semester.

All of these people are important to the organization and to the ballroom community. Don't tell anyone what sort of person they need to be to enjoy the sport. Just give them the tools and opportunity to excel, then get out of the way, and above all, make everyone feel welcome to the ballroom family.

You might accidentally enjoy the community yourself :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Art of Following

This should be a quick rant.


FOLLOWING takes practice.
FOLLOWING takes instruction.
FOLLOWING takes real skill. Real intention. Real work.

There are 2 things I keep seeing that bug me enough to prompt this post.

1. "I Can Follow"

I'm at a social. 
"Would you like to dance?" she says.
"Do you dance waltz?" I say.
"I can follow," she says.
No, no, no.

[First of all, if you don't know the dance, why did you ask me in the first place?]

"Do you dance waltz?" is not my way of asking, "Are you cool if I drag you in a circle for 3 minutes?" It's my way of asking if you've spent any time on the matter.

It's like I'm about to hand you a guitar around a campfire. If you even know 4 chords, you can still play quite a bit of decent music. Or you can play Tango en Ski on a steel string. But if you've literally never picked one up, even if you rock at piano, you're probably just going to hurt my ears. The point is, I can enjoy a whole waltz of just natural and reverse turns. But I'd like my partner to know the basic footwork and frame. Otherwise I'm in for a night of shoulder pain.

IF YOU are the follow that says, "I can follow," without any prior training, please take note

By saying, "I can follow" when regarding a style in which you have no training or experience, you insult literally half of the population of that dance community that spends their resources (time, energy, money) on learning how to follow.
Next time, just say, "Oh, not really." That gives me the opportunity to say, "Ok, can I come find you for the next Swing?" or something.

2. "Let's go from the..."

Alright, time for me to rip into the leads. During my recent partner search, I noticed a recurring phenomenon, which I am certain is not unique to Ballroom/Standard (which is my primary style).

I noticed that quite a few of the ladies I practiced with were leaving their previous partners for being controlling. Overbearing. Nearly even bullying at times. Belittling. Blah, blah, blah, long story short, when dudes got good, they often turned into jerks. And I couldn't figure out why.

Until we started practicing. During these "tryouts", we would both show each other our choreography or make something up so we had something to practice. I noticed a theme - often the ladies tended to not know the names of some of the more difficult steps. Or could not dance them on their own in the order we had already determined. Or be able to pick it up from a specific step once we had danced the routine once or twice.

"Let's take it from the [open level step]."
"From the...where?"

Here I was dancing with partners way out of my league, and they couldn't name steps or start/stop anywhere in a relatively simple choreography. And that's when I realized why leads get this idea that they know everything.

FOLLOWING is HARD. It takes CONCENTRATION. For followers, there's a lot more going on internally and a lot less time for decision making. So, when a follow is having to catch your lead, then respond tenfold with a internal reaction, all while knowing that you could change your mind, something's gotta give. 

So you balance each other out. The follow worries about the stretch and the reaction, while YOU worry about the floorcraft and the routine. And it's our own fault that we need a layer of abstraction called "Names" for these steps. We are responsible for keeping the couple moving, so we need to constantly be flipping through our mental index of figures to make sure we know what steps can come next, how far certain steps take us, etc. On top of that, we need to constantly inform the follow of what's on our mind (which, by the way, is different from making them do something). The follow's responsibility is to make it look good and cover your mistakes and do everything possible to not disturb you and your balance.

They don't have to care about what step comes next, because chances are you're just going to change it on them anyway. Their job is to be ready for when you make that change and make it look like you both knew it was coming. So they have one heck of a tough job, and just because you know the choreography better, don't think you can do their job better than they can. Respect the work they've put into making you look good. Odds are, half the time you feel like hot stuff it's because a follow is doing their job well.


Following is an art. Lead-and-Follow is not a Master-Servant relationship. When two people are on vacation, it doesn't mean the person driving the car is "vacationing better". And following takes practice. There's no award for the partner that can hold onto their partner the tightest. Some people put a lot of work into making themselves a "ghost in a skirt" so they don't get drug around.

Follows - what's your take?

Oops. That rant wasn't quick at all.

Footnote on gender: I tried to keep the pronouns androgynous/gender neutral, except when using my own personal stories. In international ballroom, the culture and history is still very gender-oriented, which doesn't seem to be changing any time soon. The technique books even use gender-specific language. Instead, there are now separate events for same-sex couples. I know this isn't the case in many dance cultures, so I tried to de-genderify the post.