Ballroom Dance > Ballroom's Place in Society

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by pygmalion, Dec 12, 2003.

  1. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I think dancing in general is still very commonplace. People still flock to nightclubs to dance to current music on packed dance floors. They choose to "freestyle" though, and not to partner dance... probably because it is simply easier to move to a song you like, then it is to take lessons and learn the various ballroom dances. DWTS has brought ballroom vocabulary to the main stream, so people know terms like "paso doble" and "foxtrot", but sadly, don't truly know what the dances look like as they are more of a show dance format on DWTS. Nevertheless, DWTS and recent ballroom focused movies resulted in peaking my interest and getting me to the studio, for which I am etenally grateful!
  2. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    That's my feeling. I never really watched much of these shows. What inspires me are those friendly social ballroom dancers.
  3. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    right...I used to have people reference the elegance of ballroom and refer to the pbs showings of it is always about dwts and never in a way that conveys that aspect of ballroom
  4. BreAna

    BreAna Member

    I think ballroom would be more popular if more people knew about it. For most people on my campus, the concept of ballroom dancing brings about images of stuffy and prudish dancing to a lame and cartoony imitation of 18th century music, dancing with the stars, or our grandparents. I've started a ballroom club on my campus this year and while I've been advertising, I was telling an acquaintance about it (he seemed ever so interested - don't they all when they want something?) and when I said he should come try it out, his response was "I - I'm not gay..." as if he literally thought ballroom dancing = gay. That's probably a stereotype more popular in my age group though. I've noticed that any guys who are into salsa/bachata/merengue don't think ballroom is "gay" and view partner dancing as a way to meet women.

    Most people just don't know what it's really about. DWTS gives a bit of a clue, but it's becoming a parody of itself at this point. One of my professors today asked me if I owned a victorian style outfit (he was under the impression that ballroom dancing is like social dances from a few hundred yrs ago) and I tried to explain what ballroom is really like, relating to DWTS at some points, and he was like "oh! so you mean it's actually athletic and competitive?"

    The only way that modern ballroom is going to be understood by the masses is if they're exposed to it, and in order for that to happen, it needs to either be forced upon them (ex: taught in school) or communicated through the media (like DWTS).
  5. vit

    vit Active Member

    No quite sure about that. For example, there are 3 salsa schools in my town and lots of young people are attending salsa classes. All three salsa schools also have social ballroom classes - but almost nobody of those people dancing salsa is interested in it (only some of their parents came to those ballroom classes)
  6. sudoplatov

    sudoplatov Member

    From reading the "academic literature" on dancing (check Amazon or Google for some excepts), the academic world (outside of the music and phys ed departments) seems to think that "ballroom" is a "white" activity. Also there are some explicit comments on rhythm and latin dancing implying that the "white participants" want to feel like they are acting "latin" or "black" or whatever. In my days as a professor, I criticized such attitudes as being ignorant of what actually happens in the "real" (non academic) world. I stand by my comments of those days.

    Most of the places that I dance are filled with older people (even older than me and I've been retired for years.)
  7. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi sudoplatov, and do you think what sticks in these heads only reflects the historic development ( BR indeed stems from european higher society or middle-class activities) or actually resembles what BR is like today?

    Sorry I´m no native speaker, so ..
    did you criticize the assumption mentioned in those comments or did you criticize all dancers adopting and incorporating stylistic elements directly?
  8. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I am certainly not a dance historian, but I think many of the ballroom dances.. if you include rhythm/latin, originated from Cuba ( chacha, rumba), Brazil ( samba), Argentina ( tango) and I think jive/swing originated in the US.
  9. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    ChaCha was invented in NYC, as was foxtrot. Jive/swing came to popularity in Harlem.
  10. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    Didn't chacha evolve from mambo?
  11. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    yes, in the Palladium club in NYC.

    The mambo music was too fast for the NY socialites who were frequenting the trendy latin music nights. So the bands slowed it down a bit. The extra time gave the dancers a little bit of shuffle between the rock steps. As the floors were powdered with cornmeal the was a shusshing sound as they "chassed" ...shu-shu-shu... which later was identified as "cha-cha-cha".
    NonieS likes this.
  12. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    Oh, I see. It is described as a dance of cuban origin, but perhaps that is because it was based on mambo, which is a dance of cuban origin?
  13. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    yeah, I guess that makes its origin still Cuban. Or Haitian, depending on which historical records you study.
  14. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I can't figure out how to use quote feature on the new DF... but I was just trying to point out to opendoor that ballroom has had a variety of influences and origins, as he stated in his post that ballroom stems from european and middle class societies. I wonder if the history of these dances were better known, perhaps they would have broader appeal.
  15. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Sorry to have pulled you offtopic... t'was not my intent.

    and the quote feature is now called "Reply" and it is the bottom right of the post you want to quote.
  16. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    Nothing is off topic for me Larinda! I actually find ballroom dance history quite interesting and I thank you for you input. I also thank you that I now know how to quote! :)
  17. NonieS

    NonieS Well-Known Member

    Well... That was cool. Thanks for the history lesson, Larinda!! :)
  18. GGinrhinestones

    GGinrhinestones Well-Known Member

    Actually, I'm not so sure it is entirely off topic. How ballroom is perceived in society has a lot to do with whether or not people will participate in it. Ballroom (leaving out latin for the moment) IS a product of upper and middle class European society - to a large extent, even including Tango. Waltz and VW have their roots in social dancing of the 19th century. Foxtrot was a product of early 20th century "animal dances" that became all the rage in clubs frequented by the middle class. Tango...well, the tango we dance in ballroom today has *roots* in Argentina, but really is a product of France. It's about as Argentinian as Cha Cha is Cuban. Over time, we've done even more to highlight the traditional link to the traditional upper class ballroom - long dresses dripping in pseudo-diamonds, updos, tail suits, heavy jewelry...argue the practical reasons for all these things all you like, ballroom is still a "social grace" of people who care about presenting themselves as "socially graceful" to the outside world.

    Latin and rhythm, on the other hand, are "hotter", "sexier", "wilder"...women wear skimpy costumes, men wear tight pants...the perception is that latin dancers are exciting, flashy, beautiful, sexy...and ridiculously tan, and fit, and athletic. Swing has roots in the wild youth culture of the 1930s and 1940s (ECS being a simplified version for "average" people of what was being danced in the clubs at the time by the young and crazy kids).

    Has it changed? Not really, I think. DWTS has exposed more people to dance, but they still see the same thing. When I tell people I dance rhythm or latin, their eyebrows raise and they ask about skimpy dresses and being sexy. When I tell them I dance ballroom, they ask about long dresses and formal parties. Singles ask about latin. Married couples ask about ballroom. The disappointing thing which I am constantly trying to explain to them is that they also all seem to think that dancing equals performing, and isn't worth trying if you aren't interested in dancing on a stage.
    debmc likes this.
  19. Steven123

    Steven123 Member

    The only place I have seen the ballroom style danced socially outside of a studio was at a USABDA social. People were practicing steps they were taught in the studio. It was a nice atmosphere. Primarily, though, ballroom dance is for competition and used in performance. Social dance, on the other hand, requires its practitioners to listen to the music and interpret it. Feeling the music is the master. That doesn't mean contorting your face into phoney expressions either. That is why people go to clubs and are always inventing new dances to the new types of music that come out. Dancing chachacha to rock music? Yeah, it is the same beat, but the feeling is so different. People at rock concerts bang their heads because rock is a little bit about venting some rage. I don't really want to take away from the effort ballroom dancers put into their choreographed performances and competitions because I know these people are sacrificing a lot for that. The performances do look really nice. It is just not very honest to say it is a social dance. Social dance is improvisational and the individual dancers are empowered - not a whole industry that prescribes proper dance moves. The ballroom industry usually co-opts popular social dances, changes them a little bit to make them more proper and provides basic steps to make them easier to learn for beginners, writes a syllabus to prescribe proper moves, and then calls them the same name. Most people don't even know what is happening until their pocket book is a lot lighter than the social dancer who didn't spend anything and can kick their butt on a real dance floor. Ballroom will always be behind the times and a caricature of social dancing. Nevertheless, the performances look nice and classy.
    opendoor likes this.
  20. Cal

    Cal Well-Known Member

    Steven123, I’m not sure how you define a “real dance floor.” In the last 8 weeks, I’ve danced at a competition with a really experienced, versatile dancer where we tried our best to use “pre-planned” figures but still had to improvise at times, mostly with a bit of success; I’ve been at a USA Dance where I’ve danced with a really experienced, versatile dancer with no “pre-planned” figures ,and with several inexperienced non-versatile dancers where there were no “pre-planned” figures; and I was at a wedding where I danced with people who moved while music was playing but had no experience at all with figures, pre-planned or not, and essentially I was dancing on my own, freestyle. Is one of those scenarios “real” dancing to you in a way that the others are not? To me, they all seemed pretty “real” at the time. (I will say that dancing with the really experienced versatile dancer without "pre-planned" figures at the USA Dance was probably the most satisfying to me. I will acknowledge that, even though we didn't have "pre-planned" choreography, we still used figures that were familiar to both of us.) But, why would one those scenarios be more "real" to you than the others? (And I’m not asking this in a snit – I really am trying to understand what people define as “real” dancing.)

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