African-Americans in the Ballroom World

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by DanceMentor, Dec 20, 2003.

  1. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I started thinking about it...maybe I'm wrong...but has an African American ever won a major ballroom event in the United States?
    What about at World-class events?

    (BTW, what is the "politcally correct" way to refer to someone who is "black", but not from America? For example...a black person born in the UK. I don't mean to offend anyone here. :oops: )

    I mean...I don't think an African American has ever won at Blackpool or at a World Championship event in the entire history of Ballroom!?

    Are we behind the times here?

    Also, who are some examples of highly successful African American ballroom dancers?

    I know there are plenty on "non-ballroom" dancers such as Gregory Hines, Frankie Manning, the Nicholaus Brothers, and Alin Ailey. Who are some of the others?

    Is the problem that African Americans are just not as interested in Ballroom? Or might there other reasons that aren't so ethical?
  2. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Rufus Dustin. He was a United States Champion in three areas, American style, International Latin and Theatrical Arts. Also a World Exhibition Champion and represented the US in five world championships.
  3. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Ah! Yes, Rufis Dustin...good one!
    Anyone else?
  4. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    It get's so difficult trying to be politically correct sometimes that people hesitate to communicate. I don't think that using descriptive words in the right context should ever be viewed as causing offense.

    How about African of UK origin in order to be politically correct?
  5. salsarhythms

    salsarhythms New Member

    I tell you, I just don't understand the PC crap going around!

    I mean, when I first got out to California, everything was so
    alien to me because back in NY you speak what's on your
    mind and that's it...

    Over here, everyone is so worried about what to say that
    having a conversations is like beating around the bush with
    everything...

    Am I the only one that feels this way?
  6. salsachinita

    salsachinita New Member

    Funny you should mention it, Fernando.

    I ALWAYS speak what's on my mind (ok, not really seen as a good trait in Asia but does that stop me :wink: ?) & someone (an Aussie) asked me a few weeks ago if I was from NY :shock: :lol: !

    So maybe you have a point there.......

    *note to self: spend more time in NY! Spend more time in NY!*
  7. salsachinita

    salsachinita New Member

    :oops: sorry guys, off topic! :oops:

    Please carry on......
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    In the US, people of African origin are African-American. Pretty much everywhere else in the world, they're Black, I believe. And of course, in the diversity training community, they are "people of color," whatever that means. I attended, and even taught, the diversity training, and I don't much care about the labels. *shrug*

    It IS kind of heartening to know that Rufus Dustin is a black man. I wonder why my coach never told me that? Hmm.

    One other thing that bears on this, at least in the US, is African-American culture. You should have seen my black friends' reactions when I told them it was ballroom dance I was doing. Very few could understand why. I think there's a socio-economic divide here. Upper or upper middle class people find balroom dance acceptable. Others may not. *shrug* I just do what I like. :? :)
  9. lindy jihad

    lindy jihad New Member

    i dont think it really matters. americans are the only ones who get so offended by the un-PC.
  10. jon

    jon Member

    Anecdotal data point: 10 years ago I dated a fellow dancer who happened to attend a Catholic "mission" church in Durham, NC whose parishioners were mostly black. I would guess mostly lower middle class as well, because Durham's economy was not very healthy at the time.

    At the Christmas party put on by the church one year, there was quite a lot of dancing going on, mostly your standard club-style solo dancing. At one point the jazz vocalist said they would do some singing music instead of dancing music, and the floor cleared out. It was however a perfectly good blues number, so my partner andI went over to a corner of the floor and started dancing WCS.

    After about 30 seconds the singer stopped the band and told the audience they should remember that stuff from when they were kids, and were they going to let (perhaps there was an undertone of "those white kids" :)) us upstage them? At which point about 10 couples joined us on the floor doing quite credible ECS. Yet, we never saw any of these folks at the swing dance society events. When I asked one of the dancers later on, she said they mostly had their own dance scene (where, I never figured out, unfortunately).
  11. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    never, never generalize. I'm a Black American. Never been to Africa. I hate all the PC labels too.
  12. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Another person comes to mind. Maria Torres made a wonderful impact on the ballroom world, competing international latin, american rhythm, and hustle. She is primarily a salsa dancer now.

    I seem to think that Maria is not black, as in Africa, but maybe Puerto Rican. And Dustin is maybe Portuguese... Either way their skin is very dark and probably faced a bit of an uphill battle to become recognized for their amazing talents.
  13. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    That's a good point, Larinda. I've never been at a high enough level to experience (and probably never will LOL) but it's not surprising that high level Black ballroom dancers would have difficulties being accepted.

    While I was lying awake early this morning, it also occurred to me that there is quite a bit of acceptance of balroom dance in the African-American community. But it's at the socially elite level. The wealthy still have their daughters and sons taught the social graces, including ballroom dance. However, it's not generally accepted by the rest of the population, maybe because of the appearance of elitism. Mostly the wealthy and the wannabes do it. (These are generalizations, of course! :lol: )

    That said, in my two and half years of ballroom dancing, hundreds of people I've met dancing and thousands I've seen, I would guess I've seen about fifty Black ballroom dancers. And many of them came into the studio to learn swing or salsa. As d nice will be glad to tell you, ballroom ECS is a derivative of dances invented by African-Americans. (Hope I'm not misrepresenting here, dnice. Correct me if I'm wrong). So there's nothing surprising about seeing Black people swing dance. And salsa is widely popular with people of all backgrounds, at least these days it is.

    But the African-Americans I've seen doing strictly ballroom were for the most, learning wedding dances, or members of high school/college dances teams. Very few weirdos like me.
  14. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I believe that is correct. Swing is a marriage of Afro/American and European/folk musical traditions. :)
  15. Porfirio Landeros

    Porfirio Landeros New Member

    Once, someone asked me why ballroom dancing had virtually no participation by Mexico. Yes, there are Mexican-Americans that participate in ballroom dancing, but as far as the country Mexico, they (as far as I know) have never sent representatives in danceport to any championships. The answer seems to be that culturally, Mexicans already have their own dances. These dances are generally passed on through friends and family, and not usually through formal/classical training. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the same is true for African-Americans/Black Americans, because within their own culture, they have musical and dance preferences that may not be perceived as compatible with dancesport (from either those within or outside their peer groups).

    Obviously, the ability is there, and I don't beleive that anyone would experience significant prejuduce if the technique is there. At least one Black American example of a champion has been named here, and I consistently see examples of Latin-American (hispanic) dancers participating in DanceSport (me included).
  16. jon

    jon Member

    Doubtless the ballroom world will continue to adapt, codify, and boring-fy contemporary dances from black and Latin cultures just as it's done for decades if not centuries. International Style Hip-Hop, anyone?
  17. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    This, then should help increase the participation of more black and latin people. And is that such a bad thing?
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I don't know about that, Sagitta. Maybe it increases participation. Maybe it just creates parallel universes -- the ballroom universe and the real world universe.
    I just recently found a samba.org website, which is an international samba organization that obviously has nothing to do with ballroom. And from what I'm reading, it's a lot more .. um ... visceral, ... um passionate ... you know. Ballroom samba also appears to be a very
    watered down version of the real thing. Are there any carnavale afficionadoes in the DF house who can comment?
  19. I've never seen ballroom samba, though I would like to. There was a jazz samba class I used to take over and over again (for about a year and a half) until I started getting into salsa pretty seriously. It was close to the African dancing I had done previously, though slightly less challenging (but still plenty challenging for me). We did a warm up, then, while live percussionists played, we went from one end of a large room to the other, doing whatever footwork the teacher happened to throw at us (it would vary slightly from week to week); then we would link a series of movements, using some of that footwork, and we would basically work on the same choreography week after week (except he did occasionally rearrange things at will). Class ended with a brief session of samba freestyling.

    I wanted to start taking those group classes again, but unfortunately they are no longer being offered.
  20. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    British ;)

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