UMASS: trying to learn international

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by UMASSshoesandcostumes, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. UMASSshoesandcostumes

    UMASSshoesandcostumes Active Member

    Okay so, I was talking with the RPI team over this past weekend and another thing all of us seem to be annoyed about is the lack of standardization in judging. Maybe that's not exactly the best way to put it, but the idea being that one gets judged on what they do, of course, unfortunately that does not necessarily mean that one gets judged on what one is SUPPOSED to do. I know the RPI team is very heavy in American Style dances and they have a problem going to a lot of Boston schools which are very heavy in International Styles that even if they do American technique correctly sometimes they get beaten by people who do almost International-style American Dances-- who don't necessarily have as solid American technique because the judges tend to be skewed towards International style. On the other hand, yesterday at RPI my partner and I put together a legal International Foxtrot routine just to compete it, despite having never done international before (we found we were able to vary some of our I-Waltz routine and put it to Foxtrot counts in order to make it completely I-Fox legal)-- we were pretty proud of it, and while it wasn't great it was good for never having done International Foxtrot before. So anyway, in the end we went in and did it fairly solidly (admittedly it wasn't the greatest, but it wasn't bad either) and we ended up placing lower than a couple who were both doing American Foxtrot and Tango in an International round. All of us agreed we'd like to see syllabus rules enforced more heavily and to be judged on the style we are dancing more evenly.
  2. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Err... while, yes, there is such a thing as "American" technique, it needs a foundation in "Standard" technique. I hesitate to even call it "Standard" technique, because it's technique shared by both styles. Pretty arms don't mean anything if your footwork, posture, etc. is no good... not to mention, you can't correctly do most "American" technique without having a nice solid "Standard" underpinning.

    That said, yes, it's annoying when people go out of syllabus and aren't called on it. But that's a separate matter from technique.

    (For what it's worth, I'm saying this as a member of a very Smooth-heavy team...)
    smidra86 and danceronice like this.
  3. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Moderator

    I'm having difficulty picturing how one would tweak an International waltz routine to turn it into International foxtrot.
  4. suburbaknght

    suburbaknght Well-Known Member

    As a predominantly American dancer I sympathize and I went through the same frustrations when I started. Then I decided that if that's the way it was going to be I was just going to have to work harder to make sure my American technique looked better than their international technique.
  5. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I'm curious: what exactly do you classify as "American' technique in this context?
    Larinda McRaven likes this.
  6. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member


    From previous conversations SK and I have had, I'm assuming bent-leg Rhythm technique, whatever school you ascribe to.

    I'll admit I'm a bit confused by this post. Unless you were competing straightaway in the Open levels, which it doesn't sound like, there aren't very many if any patterns that can be taken from Standard Waltz and put into a Standard Fox, especially at lower syllabus levels. Also, what do you mean by "doing American Foxtrot and Tango in an International round"? They went into open positions? I agree with dbk -- in fact, my partner and I regularly recognize that our lack of a Standard/International technical base makes our Smooth (our primary style) suffer.
  7. smidra86

    smidra86 Active Member


    Just had a conversation with the coach about that for my smooth. We did a rather standard focused lesson today because we weren't happy with our standard.... sigh
  8. middy

    middy Well-Known Member

    Pet peeve: otherwise great smooth couples who have awful frame in closed hold. Gah! (This is going a bit off topic, whoops.)
  9. UMASSshoesandcostumes

    UMASSshoesandcostumes Active Member

    Okay, so we compete Silver, I love I-Tango so I wanted to do I-Tango/I-Fox, and since neither of us know I-Fox we needed a simple I-Fox routine and ended up looking into what we could do. We didn't use our entire routine, but there is a chunk which is a natural turn to an open impetus to a weave, which puts us back into position for the natural turn. So we used this as our 'basic' to get around the floor. Very simple, especially already basically knowing the footwork since we use the exact piece for I-Waltz, and it was exactly what we needed. The timing is different, but the footwork for it is basically the same-- we found an instructional I-fox video on youtube that used the same phrase so we double checked the footwork and timing through that and used it. This couple admits that they do not know I-Fox and go out there and just basically use their American Foxtrot routine with a few edits to eliminate the moves that are seriously obvious. And I'm not exactly sure how you could go out there and mistake I-Tango for A-Tango-- they look different and they use a different syllabus. Maybe it's just sour grapes, but I am frustrated that we did go through the trouble to learn International Foxtrot to compete it, and ended up placing lower than a couple who didn't even try. If we'd been lazy enough to just use our American Foxtrot routine instead of going through the trouble of learning the dance then we certainly would have danced it better than we did because we're very comfortable with our American routine.

    And also-- that's what I'd always been told about technique, that American technique will follow International, but talking to them I can see how it would be frustrating. My partner and I do all four styles, and at least in L/R our technique tends to lean towards Latin, so we don't have that problem as much. But the RPI team was talking to us about how they go to competitions and they see people placing in American while doing moves that are illegal in the American Syllabus, but legal in the International Syllabus-- I know they also said one that particularly bugs them is seeing Jive technique placing in Swing, which they see quite often. They were saying that particularly at places like Harvard and MIT you get judges that may have trained more in International and so they tend to move couples who lean towards International technique forward instead of moving correct American technique forward. I just feel like maybe what I'm trying to say isn't coming out right-- sorry if I'm poor at explaining this correctly-- I'm just trying to say that there are different techniques for a reason and I wish that judges took that more into account than they do.
  10. apeacock

    apeacock Member

    My guess, based on what I've seen FAR too often, is a low-level couple that doesn't know International Tango and/or Foxtrot doing the American versions of those closed basics - forward, forward, forward, side, together for Tango or forward, forward, side, together for Foxtrot. I can't imagine someone dancing in open position and getting anywhere in an International round.

    I am also confused as to what syllabus figures someone could borrow from an I Waltz and put into I Fox with a timing change and put together a whole I Fox routine.
  11. UMASSshoesandcostumes

    UMASSshoesandcostumes Active Member

    Apparently, the RPI team was telling me, that their coach went up and personally asked the Chairman of the Judges a couple years ago at their competition to ask the other judges to please try to be more conscientious of the syllabus when they were placing couples and the chairman of the judges told them that "Good Dancing was Good Dancing regardless of the syllabus" which to some degree makes sense, but to what degree do we stretch that?
  12. UMASSshoesandcostumes

    UMASSshoesandcostumes Active Member

    Like I said, it was a VERY simple I-Fox routine, Natural Turn to an Open Impetus to a Weave back into a Natural turn, and when we got to a corner we would just overturn pieces of it to get ourselves on the next wall-- basically we just needed a way to get around the floor, and this little chunk in repetition worked. In a very real sense we were just doing it for fun, but we were quite frustrated to see we were placed below a couple in which the leader actually kind of bragged to me that he always went out on the floor for I-Fox, danced A-Fox, and could still place doing it.
  13. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Ah, ok. That's a whole different bag of worms! :p
  14. apeacock

    apeacock Member

    Sorry, I hadn't seen your subsequent post when I was composing mine. I completely agree with you though - it would be great if collegiate competitions could have invigilators on site to properly monitor and consistently enforce syllabus violations. Nothing irritates me more than the rules being inconsistently enforced - at my first gold competition (a local USA dance competition even), the rules said "no costumes". Apparently we didn't get the memo that they weren't enforcing that rule and every single other competitor was wearing a full costume. In the end it shouldn't/didn't matter, but it was irritating never-the-less to have the rules inconsistently enforced.
  15. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I agree wholeheartedly, but IME many (very good, very skilled) pros don't actually have a firm grasp on the syllabus/levels. Plus - granted, I've never judged, so I don't know - I imagine they're too busy looking at other things, not thinking "ok, that was a left whisk, that's a gold step, this is a silver round..."
  16. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

    Perhaps I'm being nitpicky, but a Waltz Nat'l Turn and a Foxtrot Nat'l Turn are not the same thing with a timing change by a long shot, what with the heel turn and the continuity footwork of the Foxtrot Nat'l turn. Unless the dancers in the Youtube video are world champs, renowned coaches, or ISTD Licentiates/Fellows, I'd be quite wary. Even in talking about the crossover from American Fox to International Fox, an Open Twinkle, one of the most basic staples of a Silver American Foxtrot, is equivalent to a Hover Telemark with a promenade ending. Running Steps that end outside partner in American Foxtrot is a Feather Step in International.

    I understand the frustration of working on something and not seeing that work rewarded, but I would try to focus on what you can improve in your own dancing rather than on a couple that managed to "get away with it" for a single comp. Even if they admit they don't know International Style, if their technical base is solid enough and enough of the steps can be construed as fitting within the syllabus, they would have done well. Instead of asking about theirs, how about yours? Did you have an early rise in the Natural Turn? Proper heel turn action for the gentleman in the Open Impetus? Correct footwork for the weave? Those are things you can fix, not what another couple does or doesn't do.


    I recommend looking at the following threads that discuss it:
    http://www.dance-forums.com/threads/update-to-judging-policies-for-latin-styling-in-rhythm.40975/
    http://www.dance-forums.com/threads/what-makes-rhythm-rhythm.39647/page-3#post-905608
  17. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Moderator

    Did you have a three step between the weave and natural turn?

    I'm sorry you placed behind that couple that had such disrespect for the dance. :(

    Kudos to you for making the effort to learn the dance!
    twothreefourone likes this.
  18. UMASSshoesandcostumes

    UMASSshoesandcostumes Active Member


    Like I said before, it probably is sour grapes, it was just a little bit frustrating. And I'm not saying our technique was perfect, we tried to gather what we could from these videos-- they were the Andy Wong videos that are available on youtube which are normally pretty reliable. And honestly, we did come out of the competition feeling how much our dancing needs work, I'm not saying that our dancing is perfect by a long shot-- we have come out much humbled (it was our first comp together so we were kind of expecting that though, it was more a comp to gage where we stand among other Silver couples and test run everything-- we kind of hoped it would go better than it did, but overall we couldn't be terribly disappointed because it was our first comp together and we have had 2 practices in the past three and a half weeks since my partner got VERY sick and couldn't practice). Admittedly our footwork wasn't perfect, but like I said, I-Fox/I-Tango was sort of just for fun since I love I-Tango, so it wasn't serious frustration, but it's just kind of an example for the idea that syllabus should be enforced more at collegiate comps in general. I've seen couples move on doing Fan Hockeysticks in American ChaCha for example, which is (at least to me) kind of obviously International. I'm really not trying to complain about this specific incident as much as I'm trying to complain about the idea that the system is flawed in that the syllabus isn't as strictly enforced. And it's really interesting to hear that American and International are more closely linked than I had previously understood-- what our team always tells us is that they are completely different and that they really should not be crossed at all (the routines we teach are not even remotely similar which adds to that impression).
  19. nikkitta

    nikkitta Well-Known Member

    The invigilator ultimately decides what is and is not acceptable, and some are more, uh... anal than others. Saying your coach approved it or you saw it on YouTube won't always fly. Be ready to adjust as needed, even if that means dancing feathers and threes for the entire round of Intl FT :eek:. The decisions of the invigilator and the judges' marks won't always seem "fair" to the competitor, but overall I still choose to believe that good dancing gets rewarded. I too knew several couples who were not trained in Intl Standard and faked their way into Silver finals. Whether their other training somehow overshadowed their incorrect footwork and disregard for the Grey Book, or the other couples who were in fact attempting to dance Intl style were simply inferior overall, I don't know. It is all about relative placement, after all.
  20. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I don't mean to be too harsh here, but honestly it does not sound like you "learned" ifox. You and this other couple just took two different shortcuts. It seems like the judges' choice was between a relatively good routine with a few "oopsie" American steps, vs. a cobbled-together iwaltz-adapted-to-ifox routine. And more importantly the techniques of either couple (which obviously can't be well represented here in text).

    You should also be wary of putting all the blame on one factor... you seem to be blaming poor invigilation and some sort of technique preference, when there are a myriad of other probable reasons you didn't do well (new partner, few practices, etc.) Those are much more likely to be the cause of poor results. Technique will almost always trump steps...

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