Be a Good Standard Dancer?

I just saw the video type of the 1998 Yankee Classic Pro Standard Open Comp. Chris and Hazel have become pro for only one year at that time, and they won the comp. I noticed that Chris and Hazel started dancing at age 17, and 16, which is not that early.

I started dancing at the age of 19, and I have been dancing for a few months. I really want to become a really good standard dancer. (I know I am thinking about this really early.....) My instructor often tells me that he does see potential in my dancing. But what I am wondering is that do I really have a future as a ballroom dancer? or am I done already since I started so late and I don't have an amature partner? I take 2 hrs private standard lessons everyweek, and practice 4 hrs a week (this is just for standard, excluding things I do for latin). Any idea?

What should I do in order to make it possible to become a really good dancer later (or let's say be good at whichever level I am at right now)? I have a good instructor, best in my area. Anyone knows anything abuot how champion were trained when they first started?


Well-Known Member
Most important, you need to develop strong fundamentals. You need to make sure that the teacher you have, is someone you can entirely trust with your dancing. Also, 4 hours doesn't strike me as that much time per week for practice if it is something that you take seriously.

Additionally, I think that latin adds a lot to your standard, but if you begin dancing at such a late age, focus is very important. If you want to make it in one specific style, you have to go for it 100%.

Can't quite say if my advice sets the right path for someone who started your age. (I was 20 when I started). I will let you know if I make it :wink: For now this seems like the best idea to me...

Also, finding an amateur partner migth help you with your practices, but not necessarily.
I would have to agree with KatherineH. I am 20 years old and I have only danced for like a year and a half. For people like us who started dancing this late, focusing on a certain style will quickly improve your dancing in a pretty short amount of time (about 3 to 4 months on my case). It is fun to learn a variety of dances, but if you are planning on competing and being impressive, you should definitely focus on one style.

Fundamentals are also very important. For people who start late, once you get into a bad habit, it's very hard to get rid of it. So start out with the correct techniques and materials are extremely crucial. When I first started, I didn't get coaching for my techniques, and now I have to spend double the amount of time fixing my feet :x . If you are really self-conscious about how you look when you dance, video tape yourself and anaylyze your own movements. That should help a whole lot.

Other than that, keep watching lots of competition and performance videos. If you can, go spectate professional competitions personally as much as you can. You will certainly get something out of it every single time.

Hope this helps :)
Are you sure Chris and Hazel started in their late teens? Maybe they started dancing *together* at that time, but i'm pretty sure both have been dancing since childhood.

I personally think that you need either an amateur partner, or a lot of money. Practice on your own just isn't the same as practicing with a partner. Of course, if you can afford to pay for 6-10 hours private lessons for practice in a week, that might be just as good (or better) as having an amateur partner, but I unfortunately do not have anywhere near that much money!

I think getting exposed to as much dancing as possible helps. Whether it's competing, watching high level competitions, or seeing shows/videos/... but really, if you are a dance-fanatic, you'll want to do that anyway sooner or later, if it's just one hobby of many, it's still very enjoyable, but you won't be able to compete with people who practice several hours a day....

As for teaching, i think it's important to always come back to fundamentals. Personally, I think it's ok to do some fancy steps fairly early on, as it shows you what you need the basics for. I've only really become interested in technical matters since I'm doing choreography that is impossible without it ;). But it all depends on your individual style of learning. I like being thrown in at the deep end and have as much information as possible, while others prefer a more methodical approach...


Staff member
robin said:
Are you sure Chris and Hazel started in their late teens? Maybe they started dancing *together* at that time, but i'm pretty sure both have been dancing since childhood.
Have to agree with robin on this one... :wink:


Active Member
I felt an urge to :google: -- so I did :lol:. And found this:

Christopher first danced at the age of 9, and Hazel at the age of 6. Although Hazel started dancing at an earlier age than Christopher, she did not compete in Ballroom and Latin until she was an Amateur. Christopher, on the other hand, started competing on the Open Circuit at the age of 11½ years. He only competed for 6 months in the Under-12, or Juvenile, age group. During that time, he achieved 4th place in the International (Ballroom) Championship. As a Junior (12 - 16 years), he and two successive partners danced as the British Number One Ballroom Couple. He also achieved 2nd place in the Open British and the International Championships.'s%20Story
So Robin and SD are right -- they started dancing a lot earlier than 17 and 16, Chiwenl. They started dancing together in 1992.
From my point of view, the date that is important isn't the date on which you started dancing, but the date on which you started working towards building solid skills in the fundamentally important areas. People who first take up ballroom in their late teens or in adulthood can bring a more mature perspective to the challenge of investing in long term skills without getting sidetracked by short term goals. Given that most people squander a year or several just exploring the idea of dancing, I think a 19-year old who quickly locked onto a workable track could easily catch up with those who started several years before, but with less focus.

The key to that of course is finding coaches who will help you build the really important skills, and listening to them. If you want to be jealous of Chris and Hazel, don't do it for the ages they started at, do it because who ever they worked with then, and especially those they worked with recently, were pointing them in the right direction. But don't be jealous - start asking around about opportunitites, and set up some lessons. You don't even have to go to London, as some of the same coaches they studied with make occasional visits to the US, Japan, and elswhere. (Not technically the midwest, but Chris & Hazel spent a weekend teaching in State College, PA last spring). In between those visits, there are various first- and second- generation students of these sorts of coaches to be found teaching related ideas in various corners of the US, and probably other countries as well.
Thanks Chris. I agree with what you said. I just attended a 3-day workshop taught by Stephen and Jeniffer Hillier from England this week. I wasn't able to book a private with them however, since it was a short notice. The guy I take standard lesson with is fairly technical. He is still competing professionally. (top 80 something at Blackpool this year) I guess this is my question, I don't really know what to practice when I am alone for standard. In Latin, I have NO problem practicing by myself. But in standard, there just aren't that many thing that I do by my self. I do work on steps by myself, but they are different when I do it with a partner. Is there any specific exercises/rotinues, etc that I can do for standard by myself?
chiwenl said:
Thanks Chris. I agree with what you said. I just attended a 3-day workshop taught by Stephen and Jeniffer Hillier from England this week. I wasn't able to book a private with them however, since it was a short notice.
I almost mentioned that they were in the country right now, but left it off since I figured it was too late for you to make any arrangments. But good that you got to hear them! Call up the host and make sure to get on the notification list so you can book a lesson next time. (Which as a guess will hopefully be sometime in early spring).

So what kinds of things did they cover in the workshop? Anything interesting from that you can practice?

I think the big solo things to work on would be walking actions, posture, and the foot alignments and usage in basic figures. That's not to say that getting a free swing where all the phases of a figure happen at the right time isn't important, just that I for one find it hard to meaningfully practice that for more than a couple of days without the checkup of trying it with a partner.


New Member
Both Heather Smith and Ann Gleave (Lewis? Wood?) have tapes that have exercises for ladies on them. You can get Heather's tape at DanceVision, and I ordered Ann's tape from someplace in England.

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