Why is Ballroom Excluded from Dance University Curricula?

When I went to college (1961-1963), there were dance classes in our small school. They were run by the PE department. I got to take folk dance and Texas Square Dancing (neither particular easy) for a semester each (2 whole credit hours together). There were not enough students enrolled for the ballroom classes so I took golf for the other 2 needed credits. The ballroom classes were apparently pretty good (the usual 6 dances, waltz, tango, foxtrot, swing, cha-cha, rumba). The instructor was also the line coach (there was a football staff of 2). PE majors were expected to be able to teach the six ballroom dances listed on graduation.


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Plenty of universities offer ballroom classes through the PE dept, but I assume that you're asking specifically about the program for dance majors. My former pro taught a ballroom class for dance majors at the local university, and a friend who studies ballroom with my current teacher teaches one for the university dance program where she (a former professional ballet dancer) is a professor. And of course there are the Utah schools. But still, you're right that ballroom is not a central or universal part of the curriculum for college dance majors generally. I can see a few reasons.

1) Tradition. All academic disciplines are slow to change their curricula. These programs got their start when there was less professionalization and performance in ballroom than there is now; since they didn't include it from the beginning, they need some specific motivation to change to include it now.

2) Connected to (1), the professional track for ballroom dancers is different than that for the performance-only genres, where it's basically about preparing to audition for a dance company. So ballroom doesn't fit neatly into the pre-professional programs that are already in place.

3) Male-female ratios. Of course, anyone training to be a professional dancer needs to be able to both lead and follow, and there exist same-sex competitions. But with most college dance majors being female, and ballroom still being mostly about male-female partnerships, it may not be obvious to the powers that be in college dance programs that ballroom is a good fit for them.

Not saying right or wrong, should or shouldn't; just trying to get at the "why," as asked.

Oh, and 1a) Given that most dance departments do not currently have ballroom dancers as faculty members, making ballroom a central part of the curriculum would require creating new positions. University administrations are not creating new positions right now -- it's hard enough for departments to get them to allow hiring to fill current positions vacated when a professor moves or retires. The university provost and president are going to want to see clamoring demand from students and a strong case for how a new program will benefit the students' future professional lives before they budget money for anything new. Plus there's the question of who they'd hire. Universities obsess over official qualifications, and I would bet that they don't want to hire anyone as a full-time faculty member in a dance department who doesn't have an MFA in dance. And if no one offers an MFA in ballroom dance, there's no way that a potential faculty member could have such a qualification. The university would need a really strong motivation to get around that catch-22.
I assume that you're asking specifically about the program for dance majors.
Yes. Admittedly, I didn't do a terribly exhaustive search, and just checked a few big schools in the New York area, but Ballroom seems to be excluded from the MFA programs that I've seen and heard about. Lots of Ballet, Modern, Tap, Jazz, theory, history, and the like, but Ballroom seems to be noticeably absent from matriculated dance programs.


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Also, ballroom is more of a sport in the sense that you try to compete to win, like gymnastics. I don't know of many programs (any at all actually) that offer gymnastics as a major. Rather you get recruited to a certain University to major in what ever you want and help the university win titles in the field of gymnastics.

Other styles of dance aren't competitive in the sense of trying to go to different competitions and win. They are competitive in the sense that you are trying to win an audition to perform in some sort of show to make your money.

I hope this clarification makes sense.


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nearly impossible skating is holding on by a thread and look what they had to do to stay in after the Sale Pelletier debacle
Old, old, OLD news. As long as it gets the TV ratings, it's safe. The IOC doesn't care, really, about the judging as long as it's dealt with in the ISU. Salt Lake was ten years ago and was dealt with internally.

Ballroom's problem is the format isn't TV-friendly and unless you kept all the preliminary rounds up to the final out as qualifiers for the Olympics themselves, there are too many athletes. The fastest-growing skating sport is Synchro, and they will NOT add it because they don't want teams of 12+ athletes. Too many judges, too many officials, too many competitors, you'd either need a new venue or figure out which one you could share without adding days-they want cost-effective sports, so they would only add dancesport if they thought the money was there to make up for a lot of additional expenses. And I don't think that the ratings would necessarily be there--DWTS and SYTYCD have altered the public view of what a ballroom competition looks like.

this shouldnt be excessively difficult im surprised it isnt required of ANY dance major BA or MFA
A lot of people have answered that--probably the biggest reason, I would guess, is most dance MFAs are PERFORMANCE-based. The goal isn't competition and teaching isn't usually the IMMEDIATE goal. It's to turn out dancers who can make a living in a company, a theatrical show, choreograph for the (though that's not universal). Even when the solo/ensemble styles DO have competitions, like what you see on "Dance Moms" (if less rigged for TV) and thinks like...is it Varna for ballet I'm thinking of? The point is to be ready for real auditions and to get your name and face in front of the people who'll be hiring you. For all Abby Lee shrieks for the cameras, she really DOES have a track record of turning out dancers who get jobs and make a living at it, which is a big deal for those styles. Ballroom is kind of an odd duck, with the social emphasis and competitive nature.[/quote][/quote]


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Eh, Ballroom scoring isn't remotely as weird as the old 6.0 system--for all people refer to it as the "skating system", they're nothing alike. You can look at a final score sheet for a ballroom final without needing to sit there doing math to figure out how something happened, and by the nature of the final (everyone competes at once and gets an ordinal placing) you can't mathematically lock someone out before they compete. In the old skating system, say you have three skaters in the final flight and this is the long program. A judge gives skater A a 5.8, 5.8, and skater B. gets a 5.7, 5.9. Skater B wins because the tiebreaker is the second mark. However, Skater C has not gone yet. But the judge is now stuck--they have to put C either ahead of both A and B, or behind both A and B. There's no room to put anyone between them (and tying them would be tricky as B would probably still win, unless it was a 5.6 and 6.0, which would be highly unlikely and mean a mediocre technician has to win on what's probably an inflated artistic mark.) There's not much flexibility. And because there's a short and long program, this can also change where A and B end up overall. Going first can be even worse--if you skate first, most of the judges would hold back their marks-what would have been a 5.9 at the end of the flight would be a 5.7 at the start, because they have to leave room to avoid those lockouts for the later skaters. That just can't happen in dancesport scoring.

Where ballroom DOES look like the old skating system, and not the new, is the judges aren't anonymous. Under the new system you may never know how a judge scored a skater or which scores the computer dropped. With the dance system, you can look at the scrutineer's sheet and immediately see who recalled whom, and who placed whom where, and how the final averaged ordinals were reached. The new judging system in skating doesn't actually prevent cheating, but it does guarantee you can't catch who did it. In ballroom, if someone is marking way off the rest of the panel, it's going to jump right out.

But anyway, most colleges aren't aiming to turn out Olympians. College dance is about getting working dancers.


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These all discuss how Latin dance uses ethnic cues in performance and costume, not that it is a 'white' activity. can you find somewhere in any of these (one of which was not an academic study but a book written by a Pro m dancer)...


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This is a personal opinion and cannot be backed up by facts...

I think it has a lot to do with how Ballroom is perceived in general. While those in the field know how rigorous it is, how demanding it is, and that those that do it are indeed athletes without an off-season, to the general public it is a hobby. A great deal of our technique goes into hiding what we do, and to an extent, it should; that's the same with almost all artistry. No one is supposed to see your work, just the results. And I think it's because of that perception Ballroom isn't offered as an academic course, or is treated with the same seriousness in academic circles as say Classical Ballet or Modern. There is a lot more tradition in Ballet, a lot more context and perception of it being as difficult, physically demanding, grueling. I would argue that the top Ballet dancer and the top Ballroom dancer are in the same level of bodily awareness. They worked just as hard to gain mastery. They just use it differently.

I'm not sure if that explanation is clear, but that's my feeling. I'm trying hard to stay on topic and not go on a rant about something else that seems related but really isn't. If enough information was available about Ballroom and people understood that it is just as demanding and rigorous, they may be less inclined to write it off like they do.

I am also inclined to agree with bia's post. It's fairly spot on, if I had to pick a second explanation. :p

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