Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by cantskiforlife, Sep 20, 2008.
Oops, that question was for Josh, not cantski. Sorry. And you answered it in that post, thanks.
I can't find the post from several days ago where I answered this, specifically for bronze, along the lines of "to be able to cooperate with a partner in accomplishing a dance". I remember writing it, but maybe it didn't actually go through.
But no, I don't really believe that there should be any abstract standards in a competition focused program, real world comparison to others seems to do a much better job.
Every attempt that I've seen to mandate abstract standards tends gets caught up in fakery - things that kind of look right, but really aren't sound, to the point of being bad habits that will have to be eliminated before they can be corrected. That happens in large part because the students don't have the prerequisites yet to accomplish the real deal, but often also because the teachers who usually work with syllabus-level dancers have some degree of remaining confusion (or at least lack of clarity) in their understanding, which then gets amplified in their students. Meantime, this false focus is impeding progress in the world of competition against peers.
It seems that those who make lasting progress are those who work on technical issues to support their dancing, but do not let concern for abstract standards pace their progression of experience.
Its the latter. If you were judging bronze, what would you look for? When teaching someone how to dance, when do you introduce a concept and how much of it should be mastered before moving on to the next level?
NOTE: Chris - I do recall that posts. Could you elaborate more though? I am not sure what you mean by cooperate or accomplishing.
Nothing particular to contribute. Just wanted to say I am enjoying reading this thread.
You wrote it, and I remember reading it. But the problem is, "what does that mean?" Sure, I understand what you mean and actually agree with it, but what technically does that entail? That could mean lots of different things to different people.
So put it like this--if I'm interviewing to hire a graduating student for a technical position, I have to have some kind of technical requirements for what the student knows and can do, right? Essentially, what's my checklist for what I would expect an XYZ graduate to be able to practially demonstrate? This, I believe, is the essence of cantski's search for opinions.
Exactly my view Chris--I now realize, you may have misinterpreted my intent, or I may have made myself unclear. Perhaps you thought my list was something like:
"Okay student, we'll now do the natural turn. Foot positions, check. Rise and fall, check. Footwork, check. CBM, check. ..."
Maybe, I dunno. But having that list of expectations in no way means learning those things for those things' sake. It just means that that's what the dancer will be showing. Maybe I'm way off on my last paragraph here, just thought I'd give it a try.
I have discussed this with several coaches, and they agree the system in place has issues and pushes too many couples into the next level before they're able to handle it. While they'd love to change it and believe it would ultimately be better for everyone involved, realistically, doing that would create a huge uproar and major upheaval. I think it's going a dedicated group of people with the stones to move forward and pursue this massive undertaking.
It means that you can put on music, direct a partner towards them, and they will go out and dance together, without looking pained or anxious about it.
Judging of beginner competitions is basically about the distinction between those who can and can't do this, with degree of extraneous "noise" determining the placements in the final.
They need to be able to accomplish a task: to acquire knowledge and implement its application.
This is the opposite of hiring a programmer because they know, I don't know, "ruby on rails" - what you really need is someone who can install a development environment, research language syntax and methods online, and then use that acquired knowledge to solve a problem.
My expectation is more about what they will be doing than what they will be showing. When what they are doing is entering large bronze events and consistently making the finals, its starting to be time for a new peer group to dance against.
This still seems grounded on the fallacy that what level you dance determines what you can work on in lessons.
If a couple has placed out of a level, chances are they don't belong with the group of people they placed out of against. That may not mean they are doing well against the next group, but it does mean they're no longer fair against the old group.
What they choose to work on is much more a matter of personal interest, coach priorities, and yes, coach knowledge. If top US champ couple's lessons with visiting blackpool judges can safely turn into an explanation of footwork, then surely newly minted collegiate prechamp couples have license to work on that issue too?
The problem is not that they are competing prechamp, the problem is that they aren't addressing their issues.
I don't disagree with this at all. Can't tell you how many times I've heard a couple say "We can't dance X-level.... we don't know any X-level steps". So? IT DOESN'T MATTER. Dance what you can, dance what you know, and continue to work on what you don't. I've had a number of couples come over and ask "Hey, can you show me some Silver American Smooth? We're dancing it this weekend." :shock: Truly I don't know where the belief came from that OMG, I have to use these steps at this level. Yeah, getting out on the floor with a bunch of Champ dancers and stumbling through Bronze is a Really Bad Idea. Is it that dancers see flashy steps danced badly making callbacks and finals? Sometimes. Do couples dancing simpler steps, but dancing them well, get overlooked? Sometimes. I really don't know who's to blame for the majority of the problems we see in the collegiate syllabus levels. Part of it is misunderstanding of what is expected (hence the title of this thread), part of it is naive newbies getting bad advice and not knowing any better, and it continues to funnel down to the next batch of newbies. You know, this is the way I was taught and what I was told, and so on and so on. How do you break the cycle?
I'm not sure I think that there is a cycle that needs to be broken, since this system is so far ahead of any other large scale option available to adults.
I see the problems as being much more individual than systemic - there's still a shortage of places where those getting towards the end of the fantastic momentum of the collegiate syllabus arena can go to get support for continuing that kind of progress.
My gripe is that instead of trying to fill in the gaps where things starts to slow down, people seem instead intent on breaking the system at the level where its running strong and building the kind of wide base of participation needed to seed a healthy advanced population.
(To take for a minute the unique case of american smooth, there I can see some legitimacy in feeling hesitant to take bronze movement onto a continuity floor, though it has been done to success. More practically there's still comparable foot closure technique to be competed in standard for those who feel unready tackle continuity)
I think that although abstract standards shouldn't be the criteria for judging in and of themselves, they could be helpful in determining approximate levels.
For example, I haven't competed yet, and for various reasons have only been able to attend one (non-collegiate) competition. When I (hopefully) start competing this coming spring, it is possible that I will start with silver. Without any abstract standards, how would I be able to guess which level most suits my abilities. I don't have the time to start in bronze and see where I place over various competitions.
Granted my instructor will be able to tell me where to go, but it is nice to be able to judge for yourself/have some outside opinion on the matter.
I second that this thread has been really interesting. I'm part of a collegiate team that sees regular turnover each year-- ppl generally don't stay in this city after graduating, unlike say, NYC, so we don't have a lot of long term continuity in terms of team members. After a year or 6mos in newcomer, we put people in "bronze" and then the year afterward most move to "silver," but in reality the coaches are basically saying some very similar things across the bronze/silver/gold group lessons. The ppl who are motivated, practice and have partners will often take the group lessons at multiple levels so they improve more. We might cover more figures in the upper level classes, but our coaches recognize that there's a huge bell curve that overlaps across the "levels," and they'll cover the same material if they feel they need to.
I should point out that we also don't make ppl compete, and what level they compete at is also their choice (although we try not to let ppl sandbag), so we definitely have a population of social dancers in our team lessons. One last thing is that we experience a lot of attrition over the levels (<10 ppl in the gold/open classes, ~50 in bronze?) -- the guys drop out b/c of the usual (interested in other things), the girls drop out as there are no partners or might still be taking classes but not competing.
Just to toss in another dimension to this, I think it could be argued that collegiate programs collectively training several hundred people a year to the point where they have the confidence to go out and dance a "bronze" competitive event may do more for the overall state of ballroom in the US than the possibility of graduating a half dozen adult prechamp couples after some more rigorous many year hypothetical path with a presumably higher attrition rate than the present "social promotion" collegiate system.
We already know that the champ winners are not coming from adult or collegiate beginners anyway; but a more widespread basic grounding in ballroom sounds like a good thing (future ballroom parents?)
Suppose many knowledgeable observers attend a syllabus competition.
Suppose they achieve consensus that -- step patterns aside -- gold finalists have visibly better fundamentals than silver finalists, who in turn have visibly better fundamentals than bronze finalists.
Is there something else that the syllabus gradations should achieve?
Suppose our observers *can't* achieve such consensus. Can we prescribe a solution that would have made the consensus possible -- without being among the observers?
In my mind, supposing that the original question for this thread has a straightforward answer seems equivalent to answering, "yes," to both of the questions I pose above.
I recall a case where the winners of bronze defeated the winnners of gold when they met each other in silver... But this was an adult competition, where due to lack of qualifying events the proficiency system is so out of touch with reality that everyone is eligible to enter just about any level where they feel they belong, and opinions about that obviously differ.
In that case what the divisions accomplished was to divide the dancers into manageable sized groups.
Not including the most beginner divisions, sometimes the difference is more about overall confidence, energy, presentation than about specific skills. These things tend to win competitions more than "fundamentals" do, in part because they are more obvious. Something like correct footwork theoretically matters to overall performance, but may not practically matter if there's something else preventing its benefits from showing - then it's only noticed by judges who look for it, and not necessarily seen by those who look at the overall dancing.
cantski, I tried to keep this thread on topic yesterday but it appears to have gone the "Merits of Collegiate competition" way... sorry!
Lol. I would agree that collegiate competition is one of the best things to happen for ballroom dancing. That is where I started (and still dance) and it introduced me to the other worlds such as am-am and pro-am.
In terms of expectations, I think I must clarify that there is a difference between judging an individual competition (and who shows up) and how you define what the overall expectations are for an X level dancer.
If two brozne couples are the only couples to compete in a gold event. It is still a gold event and they will still need to be placed. This does not mean that they have the characteristics of a gold dancer. It only means that they chose to compete at that level.
So to clarify my question. If you were at a social dance and someone asked you to point out a bronze dancer, a gold dancer, and a silver dancer. What criteria would you use to determine these people. Do you base it solely on the moves they are doing? Their connection? How often they run into other couples? How often they have to stop and restart to stay on beat? What criteria would you use to say "Little Johnny displays the characteristics of a bronze level dancer?"
Sounds like you've seen me try to dance 3 count hustle.
Lol. After watching my last few videos. I could say that about almost all my dancers.
Keeping it very simple, this is my general take on how the levels evolve, based on watching them at comps:
Bronze: Signs of understanding basic fundamentals.
Silver: Bigger movement, technical consolidation, and stability.
Gold: Greater movement, better shape & expression, and increased harmony between the couple.
Open: Greater precision, noticeably increased integration of everything above, with more dynamics.
Separate names with a comma.