emotions in ballroom dancing


Well-Known Member
I was told by a principal ballet dancer that you must stay in focus when you are doing your routine and cant be distracted by audience applause or seeing something that breaks your concentration. but I was wondering if becoming emotional or being caught up in the moment is more a distracting than a positive thing. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, everyone here is quite good at voicing their opinions. thanks in advance.

Dr Dance

Well-Known Member
When I am dancing a showcase with a partner, cheers, hoots, and hollers from the gallery encourage me and typically enhance my performance. But I do tend to "block out" distractions such as crying children, unexpected noises, or camera flashes. Maintaining the "emotion of your dance" is vital whether your number tells a love story, a tale of jealousy, or even slapstick comedy. Isn't "dance performance," whether showcase, competition, or even social dancing just an application of acting? Whether or not these feelings are innate or manufactured is up to you. Bottom line: Distractions are a two edged sword. They can either distract or enhance. Either way... yes, stay focused; but, let your emotions show. Don't bottle them up.
Whether competing or perform, you are putting on a show and emotion you are portraying is often something predecided. You might choose to express yourself differently based on a mood of a song, probably not much else. This is especially true for competition where you need to express an exaggerated emotion even if you find a song bland.

I had a partner who loved to feed off the energy of any audience or good song. This is perfectly normal, but she also was incapable of practicing or dancing well if anything about the song was uninspiring. She also danced meekly if something affected her mood. Since she had competition anxiety, this mean we often came in much lower than we could have.

As her partner, I felt like half my job was feeding her an steady stream of compliments during practice and competitions just to keep her going. Even then, a bored look from a judge or any other worry could knock her off her game.

I, on the other hand, tend to get forceful when I get emotional, do I have to make sure my energy is always directed.

Especially for show dances, I block out anything I feel so I can appear desperately infatuated with my partner for one song and be flirty and excited for another song.


Well-Known Member
"I, on the other hand, tend to get forceful when I get emotional, do I have to make sure my energy is always directed."
very interesting thought, in what do you do "redirect" energy. Is it a refocusing thing (like coming back to the here and now?) or do you channel it through another way?


Well-Known Member
While I might dance well when I'm caught up in the song and the moment, I don't always follow all that well when that happens. And when I'm too excited, I inject way too much power... and that is apparently not fun at all for the lead, 'cause it feels like I'm pushing him around. So I tend to completely block out audiences, when I have them.

Oh, and that one time that I was crying by the end of a waltz (rough day, sad and powerful song, all the overwhelming feels...) is an experience I'd prefer not to repeat - took me a good 10 minutes to put myself back together enough to get some work done.

Calm and settled produces my best. Having a little bit of fun/moderate enjoyment is also ok. Any other emotion seems to be detrimental :)


Active Member
I've often thought about this myself. Hopefully my answer isn't too confusing.

Ballet and Ballroom are fundamentally different in many ways, least of all in the idea of performance. In Ballet, this notion of blocking distractions out is one hundred percent accurate. The dancer on stage cannot be influenced by the audience; it's almost as if there is a fourth wall that must be kept up. The performance isn't with the audience, it's for them, and the audience in a Ballet show is more passive. Ballroom is not that detached from the audience; participation is encouraged, sometimes expected. It's a fine line, I suppose, but at the highest levels of performance, audience participation for Ballroom dancers is appreciated while for Ballet dancers it kind of isn't. And even when it is given (I've been to performances when people clapped as the Prima Ballerina performs beautiful pirouettes over and over) it isn't part of the show; she could be doing it in an empty room and as long as to her the technique is flawless, that's what matters. Ballet is less performative in that sense that Ballroom, if that makes sense.

I have gotten caught up in the moment in many performances, but seldom in competitions, and I think this is something that influences the differences -- in a Ballroom performance, emotions are more or less at the forefront. Often they are what drives the piece -- how the dancers feel [about] the music, how they interpret it. There is an openness of interpretation to the figures, while in Ballet I would argue there is not too much of that. It's less about the dancer's interpretation and the technique with which the move is being performed.

Again, arguably, in Ballet the doing of the action is mostly for the entire performance, as it is just one piece in a whole. In Ballroom the whole wins out over the individual piece, and that is why there is theoretically more room for emotion(s) -- they are the driving force.

Some will argue that technique is just as important in Ballroom, and I will never shout down someone who argue for technique. But I think few will say that technique is the only driving force behind Ballroom performances.

Then again, this is my interpretation of the differences between the two styles. I could be dead wrong about the whole thing, and I openly admit my ignorance come Ballet as I have only a few classes under my belt. Perhaps because I am who I am, and I have done what I have done with my life, my stance is as it is. Perhaps Ballet dancers are just as impassioned but keep it under wraps way better than us Ballroom-ers.... :p

Larinda McRaven

Site Moderator
Staff member
I also think ballet is a completely different animal. Audiences would never cheer or wootwoot. That would be so incredibly rude. And so the opportunity for a ballet dancer to be distracted is next to none.

Where as ballroom is squarely built on audience connection and interaction. The MC's even encourage the audience "Come on now, Cheer for your favorite couple!!" Being connected and distracted are two different things though. Learning to perform in ballroom is learning how to connect without being distracted.
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I disagree that ballet is passionless and that the audience is blocked by that 4th wall. Ballroom and especially latin dances do use more facial expression but ballet dancers try to convey feelings through their body language. For ballet, it really depends on which ballet is being danced. Some are tragic and the ballerina is trying to elicit tears. Some are comic and laughs are appreciated. Some ballets are moving at a deep level and the audience is awestruck until that final musical note is played. The Willis, in Giselle can be fearsome, if danced properly. Even the Balanchine “leotard” ballets have a hidden storyline involving the man and a woman. A dancer on stage does not want to be distracted by crying babies, phones ringing, etc. but they can absolutely tell when the audience is “dead” or when they are reacting to what is happening onstage. A ballet dancer is also reacting to the conductor and dealing with light, sets, sometimes props. I think when you perform, you have to keep your wits about you, but there is that 5% of wiggle room to react to the music, your partner and the audience. I think that artists of any genre are probably alike in that, after they get some comfort with it. That is what makes live performances so exciting.


Well-Known Member
Don't know enough about ballet to have an opinion. But as for ballroom... I do have a tendency, which I had to work on when we started dancing, to tune out everything except my partner and the music. When competing, I had to make an effort to notice the audience. In part, that's my roots as a social dancer showing. Even as a social dancer, for a while I had to work on paying enough attention to other couples for floorcraft purposes. But in social dancing, you're really there for your partner. In comps and exhibition, you do have to work at (or at least I have to work at it) making a connection with the audience.

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