African-Americans in the Ballroom World

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

  1. apostle

    apostle Member

    McCalla, with his wife Jennifer Ford, became U.S. Amateur Latin, Standard, and 10-Dance Champions, and have represented the United States at four World Championships. The couple became members of the American Ballroom Theatre Company and performed worldwide.
     
  2. fenixx

    fenixx Member

    Corky Ballas is Mexican
     
  3. chocolatchica

    chocolatchica New Member

    No way! Corky Ballas is Mexican??? What shocker! Maybe there is hope for me yet in the ballroom dance world (I am Black and Mexican but kinda light skinned). Now all I need is partner!!! Dance world here I come!
     
  4. delamusica

    delamusica Active Member

    One doesn't need to read it to know it's true. Obviously, since white people can't dance, "organic" dances are out of the question. We're all totally hopeless unless someone sits us down with a syllabus. :p
     
  5. quixotedlm

    quixotedlm New Member

    The 'black' question is interesting, but more interesting is the 'racism' question. Is ballroom dancing (or more popular latin dancing,esp salsa) more prone to racism than elsewhere?

    I can't generalize from personal experiences,obviously. But FWIW, I've lived in the US for almost six years now and the only instances of racist attitude I've been subjected to has been on the dance floor. It's never been overt, but it definitely shows up occasionally. Racism being a power game, it doesn't affect me much. I've usually been more powerful than the perpetrators, so I just ignored them and they had no impact on me.
     
  6. iluminar

    iluminar New Member

    Re: Blacks and Latins in Ballroom dancing

    I have been teaching dance (as a hobby) in the US for over 20 years and I have been quite intrigued by this subject in the last 3-4 years. I am originally from Mexico City. I came to the US when I was 20 to study at a University. I had suffered tremendously in Mexico because I did not know how to dance and IT SEEMED as though everyone around me knew how to dance.

    One day, by accident, I went into a social dance class at the US college I was attending. The professor was great, funny and very patient! I had to take the begining dance class about four times, but by then I was totally hooked. I got into the School's Ballroom Dance Team and then I transferred to another school with probably the largest Ballroom program in the US, if not the world. I got my medals, got into a very good team and I finally started, after many years, teaching dance to the other college students.

    As I did, I found out that I really dreaded having hispanic students in my class for two important reasons. They came with the attitude that they were going to just get an easy grade because they "already knew how to dance".
    The other problem is that I found out that hispanics had A LOT of problems with rhythm!! WHAT??? What kind of heresy am I saying here!!??? Well, what I am saying is true and I must explain the reasons for what I am saying. I am talking here mainly about Hispanics that were born in other countries (like me) and not those born in the US. In most latin american countries there is a very deficient or non-existent program for teaching music in the public schools. What little I learned about music in High School in Mexico was mainly music THEORY and history. I never put my hands on any kind of instrument and had no idea about rhythms, etc.

    This was not because I did not know how to dance. What I have found out with time is that latins (hispanics) learn since they are little to just get out in the dance floor and start moving around without any compunction. That's something that most white US kid do not do. Like some others have mentioned here already, white kids feel they have to take classes to learn to dance. That idea is totally alien in the hispanic world. When you go to a Hispanic wedding, dance, etc, you will see the little kids dancing along with the grandparents. That will never hapen with white kids! Oh my goodness! NEVER! The young white kids would die of shame if they were seen dancing along with the "old folks".

    So, hispanics DO learn to get out in the dance floor and shake, BUT they do not know any of the basic steps of the latin or "tropical" dances. When I go to some dances I see many of the hispanic kids dancing "modern" style steps mixed with latin movementes to the latin beat!! :D

    Someone asked why Mexicans do not seem to participate in dance contests. Well, about five years ago I went to Mexico and since I had already been teaching Salsa for a number of years here in the US I decided to attend the best Salsa dance hall to see what I could learn from the dancers there. There was not a SINGLE couple there doing anything closely resembling Salsa as it is taught in the US (East to West) or PR. I did notice, like I said previously, that they were just shuffling their feet and generally doing the same dance-wise as if it was modern music. Anyway, the group playing was GREAT and I was dying to dance with someone. I started doing some steps by myself and about four Ladies came over to me to ask me to show them what I was doing. Then they had an intermission and they announced they had a special treat. They had a couple that was going to give a Salsa exhibition. The couple started dancing and I was floored!! They were AMAZING! I knew I had to take classes from them. When they finished I went over to ask them if they were teaching and they told me they did. They gave me some more info about their classes and then I finally asked them: Hey, where did you learn to dance so well?? Their answer?:

    SAN FRANCISCO!!!!!:p :confused:

    I MUST add that there are A LOT of hispanics now participating in the Ballroom dance scene. Ron Montez is just one of them (and he's even retired from competitions now!) but there are many others. I think the reason why hispanics will do well is because it is part of the culture to do COUPLES dancing. And this is the important and most telling part. Dancing with a partner and actually holding her is something that in Mexico and all Latin American countries is the norm; even if they are not doing the steps typically considered "school figures". (Except lately when they have started copying the modern US dances and they prefer to hug the floor rather than a girl!!!) :D

    Concerning black dancers, I also started noticing their absence from the Ballroom dance scene, even though I had always considered them great dancers, just like most people think about hispanics. But as I started analizing things I became aware that most of the really well known black dancers are SINGLE dancers. I mean dancers that dance by themselves and not with a partner. I've admired the moves of MC Hammer, Michael Jackson and many others. Then back in the older days the most amazing tap dancers were usually the black ones. There were white dancers that got more exposure but I think that the black tap dancers were just the best. But then I realized that those dancers were usually dancing solo, due to the nature of the dance. But even when they dance with a partner it is usually a side by side action.

    If you saw "So you think you can dance" you may have noticed that the really good black dancers that got to the finals did great when they were dancing solo or with a partner at the side, but when they had to actually get into dance position it was their downfall. And maybe that is because, like some people mentioned here, this is not part of their social scene. Maybe they consider Ballroom dancing "elitist".

    And this reminds me that, at least in Mexico, dancing is more of a "populist" activity than something for the "elite". I went to Mexico to teach dance seminars and most of the atendees were middle class people. I did have one Lady that was from the most "elite" portion of the population, but she agreed with me that she was one of the few exceptions as far as dancing was concerned. I must specify that most everyone in Mexico likes to go to dancing BUT the real "adicts" come form the middle class.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share this because I have been mulling it over for such a long time and it took me quite a while to digest it! When I tell the people in my Salsa class that most latins do NOT know how to dance Salsa thay are kind of incredulous, but the few latins that take the class do agree with my assesment.

    Maybe some of the readers here will be able to shed some more light on this subject, which I find quite interesting!
     
  7. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Ballas

    Corky will be pleased to hear you have changed his heritage from greek to mexican !!
     
  8. Some Day

    Some Day New Member

    I would disagree with generalizing that "most latins do NOT know how to dance Salsa." Maybe that's the case on the West Coast, but, from my experience in social dancing on the East Coast and in Florida, where there is more of a Caribbean latin presence (Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans), I would say that many grow up dancing to these rhythms (salsa, merengue, bachata, etc.) and are able to dance them well.
     
  9. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    okay, I am leaving for the morning BUT...I am aware that Iluminar (btw, welcome to DF, Iluminar) has made a post which may rub some the wrong way, just asking in advance that things stay friendly
     
  10. saludas

    saludas New Member

    Agreed! It's one thing to dance TO salsa music, and another thing to dance Salsa.
     
  11. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Someday

    have a flash for you-- I taught in fla for multi yrs, owned dance schools in several cities, taught in latin clubs--- Most latinos dont have a clue when it comes to salsa !!. Go into a true latin club ( the mature crowd ) and compare the numbers that dance merengue ( everyone ) to those who sit out salsa . 98 % of my salsa classes were latinos, cubans , p.r.s, colombians , peru , pick a country. And among those that dance fairly well, they have no idea. or very little in many cases, steps beyond a basic level . That is not what they are about . Its the younger generation that has expanded the content to absurd proportions ( in their eyes ), and have driven many of the "old school " away .They love the music for what it is, part and parcel of their culture .
     
  12. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    Yes, that's my (more limited) experience as well. Have many latin friends through work, most of who dance, many of whom have "great dancer" reputations among their crowd. But when we got together to party, not one knew how to lead anything in salsa. They are fabulous at reggaeton, tho, and certainly knew how to groove to the music.

    And on a recent trip to Miami I went to a large, very well-attended latin club. Only one man on the crowded floor was leading anything remotely interesting. The rest were, again, just groovin to the beat & holding hands with their ladies.

    Even at my favorite NJ latin club, the vast majority of latin guys there don't really seem to know much... when they get on the floor, they mostly just wanna groove. There's a very visible divide between those who have been studio-trained and those who just grew up with the music playing at family & community functions.
     
  13. Some Day

    Some Day New Member

     
  14. dancesportgirl21

    dancesportgirl21 New Member

    One thing that people don't realize is that dancing is often popular is certain regions of Latin American countries. My mom grew up on a ranch outside of Bogota and in the city of Bogota in Colombia and while she took some folk dancing (salsa, flamenco, etc) for a bit when she was really young, she doesn't dance and says people in Bogota aren't that much into dancing. On the other hand, she said that the people who live on the coast, esp in Cali are great dancers and grow up dancing. People generalize too much.
     
  15. alemana

    alemana New Member

  16. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    ditto!
     
  17. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Amen. I've gone to more than a few weddings of Latino people. The people that I've seen dancing well in that context tend to be more mature people. The younguns, to some extent, have no idea of what's going on ... or else they want to dance to reggaeton and therefore sit out the dances at "boring" traditional social functions.

    My favorite dance scene in recent memory is watching my friends Maria and Silos (at least 55 - 60 years old apiece) dance an AMAZING merengue at a Cuban friend's wedding. No salsa. Meregue. (OMG! Their hip motion was astoundingly beautiful! And I have seen more than a few hips move on the dance floor.) They tore up the floor! I'm not kidding. They knew exactly how to shake it, be seen, enjoy the dance, and dance with the music. All without being the least bit nasty or suggestive. Would that their children and grandchildren were willing to learn something from them. :?
     
  18. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    very kewl
     
  19. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yup. Very kewl, IMO. :)
     
  20. steevydance

    steevydance New Member

    Black ballroom dancer

    They aren’t too many African American doing Ballroom dancing but black in general yes, there are a few mostly Haitians
     

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