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Ballroom Dancing

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What is exciting, graceful and good exercise? Did you guess ballroom dancing? You're right!

Ballroom dancing includes everything from the traditional waltz, along with dances like the tango, foxtrot, rumba, two-step, quickstep, and polka, to fast, energetic dances like jive.

Ballroom dancing involves dancing particular steps in sequence, to music, with a partner. It is also sometimes called traditional dancing.

Each of the partners in ballroom dancing has their own steps to do. The male partner guides, or "leads," while the female partner dances the steps in reverse.

A lot of people get into ballroom dancing so they won't embarrass themselves at weddings. But once they start lessons, they're hooked!
Courtesy of: San Francisco Ballroom Dance Theater

Some types of ballroom dancing have been around for over 100 years. And ballroom dancing itself has progressed from being a formal activity to a recreation and even a sport. In its competitive form, it is called dancesport.

Ballroom dancing is to become a full, medal-granting sport in the 2008 Olympics. There are two main divisions of dancesport competition: professional and amateur.

Dancers compete at various high-profile events, like the World Professional Standard Competition, and the World Amateur 10 Dance Dancesport Championships. These events give the public a chance to see the world's best dancers.

There are many people around the world who regularly compete in ballroom dancing competitions. However, most people are just in it for fun.

"It's a fun way to keep fit and meet people. It's a very social activity," says Katsuhiko Suzuki, a ballroom dance enthusiast from Tokyo.

Ballroom dancers can be found dancing in dance studios, university clubs, community centres, YMCAs, YWCAs and just about anywhere else where there's room to dance and music to listen to.

Many people say one of the best things about ballroom dancing is that you don't have to be in great shape to do it and you can keep doing it all your life.

"As long as you can walk, you can dance. Dancing will also improve your physical conditioning overall, especially your legs," says Bob Meyer. He is another ballroom dance enthusiast in Portland, Oregon.

Everyone needs lessons in order to learn ballroom dancing. Group lessons are a good way to start out and, at a cost of around $50 to $60 for 10 one-hour lessons, you won't break the bank.

"Especially if you're just learning for fun, ballroom dance lessons don't need to be expensive. Group lessons are good. Besides, you meet more people that way," says Suzuki.

Eventually, if you want to compete, you'll need one-on-one lessons with a professional dance instructor. That can cost as much as $90 per hour.

For most people learning to ballroom dance, the hardest thing to overcome is self-consciousness. They also say it takes a bit of time to get used to this type of music.

"I was nervous at first with everyone watching me, and I didn't understand the rhythm of the music," says dancer David Green, another ballroom dance enthusiast.

Experts suggest ballroom dancing is gaining popularity again as a sport. All you have to do is look at the number of clubs and associations on the Internet to realize how popular it is.

"Once upon a time, ballroom dancing occupied the place in society that the disco has today," says Green. "The elder generation probably still account for the majority of ballroom dancers, but in recent years I've seen a real resurgence in ballroom dancing among the young."

The popularity of ballroom dance isn't limited to a specific region. There are dance clubs all over the U.S..

"When I was young, I always thought ballroom dancing was something old people did. Now I love it," says Suzuki, a competitive dancer.

Some professional ballroom dancers take their love for this activity and turn it into a career by opening a dance studio or a nightclub. Others teach lessons. Whether you open a studio or just dance a couple times a month, enthusiasts say there's nothing like the feeling you get when you finally realize you can dance.

"There's nothing like the euphoria and excitement you feel when you experience flight for the first time and surrender to the rhythm," says Meyer.

Getting Started

Getting started at ballroom dancing is pretty easy, according to the experts. You need some comfortable clothes, a good pair of shoes -- preferably with leather soles for easy movement -- and a few lessons.

"Go to general dances, hang around a bit to absorb the music and get a handle on how the people act. Sign up for some lessons. If you don't like it, take up racquetball or skiing. But if you do, progress at a speed you enjoy," says Meyer.

Listen to the music and get accustomed to it. You can do this by buying a few CDs or checking out records at your local library.

Try watching some old ballroom dancing movies with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to see how it's really done. Here are a few you might want to check out at a local video store:

  • Flying Down to Rio
  • Swing Time
  • Shall We Dance
  • Simply Ballroom

Look around for a good instructor. "Check advertisements in dance magazines and ask friends who dance," says Suzuki.

If you're still having trouble finding an instructor, check your phone directory for a dance studio. You can also check with your local college or university. They often have clubs.

Once you get started, experts like Suzuki say it's not a bad idea to videotape yourself dancing to see how you're doing. If you're camera shy, better get over it!

Finally, experts recommend joining an amateur ballroom dance association. They can help you find clubs and instructors, and tell you when and where competitions are being held.


United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association
1472 Buckridge Circle
Southampton , PA   18966
Toll-free :  800-447-9047

American Dancesport Organization
Toll-free :  800-ADO-8211


Much Ado About Ballroom Dancing
A great primer on dancing, with how-tos and info on shoes and music
A directory that leads to sites that teach dances

Ballroom Dance Resource
A site dedicated to the promotion of ballroom dancing, social dance, and dancesport

Websurfer's Guide to Ballroom Dancing
Beginner's basics and more, like links to ballroom music and videos of championships

World Dance and Dance Sport Council
Represents professional dance teaching and professional dance in 50 countries worldwide

Dance America
Links to tons of dancing sites from these promoters of social dance

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