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5 DanceSport Myths - Debunked!

Like any specialised dance genre, competitive ballroom dance has garnered great admiration from dancers and spectators alike. Television shows like Dancing with the Stars and Strictly Come Dancing prove just how difficult it can be to resist watching in awe as dancers command the floor with a combination of passion, technique and training. However, with such captivation comes a fair share of speculation, which, over time, can develop into wildly unfounded myths. That’s why we’re taking some time today to dispel five commonly heard misconceptions about DanceSport!

1. There’s got to be lots of inappropriate body contact!

From the outside, it may be easy to get the impression that dancing with a partner means having to compromise personal comfort with regard to body contact. This may seem especially true with inherently sensual styles such as the rumba, where it’s not uncommon to see dancers entwined around each other in daring stretches or intimate poses.

To tell the truth, telling a story with a partner demands some level of physical contact, but ask any seasoned dancer, and “inappropriate” would not be on their list of descriptions.

This is because body contact, among many other things, is something that dance partners communicate openly about. A good dance partner is someone who respects your preferences for personal space and explores ways to convey the same chemistry while keeping both parties comfortable.

Besides, body contact is not there to simply “spice things up” - the very ebb and flow of partnered dance depend upon it. The mechanics of leading (and following) depend upon feeling your partner’s body weight push and pull against your own. When you step forward, your partner steps back, because the shift in your body weight is transmitted to them through a point of contact.

In other words, body contact is how the two dancers anticipate each other’s movement.

Add to that the fact that competitive routines are highly technical, and you’ll see that any funny business is far from a dancer’s mind on the floor. What dancers are more likely to be focusing on are the countless technical intricacies woven into the choreography, or making sure they don’t run out of breath, or bump into anyone else on the dance floor, or drop their partner.

Trust me, with all those demands, you’d be too busy to think about doing anything scandalous.

2. You have to start young, otherwise it’s too late!

Starting any skill at a young age is a great advantage. It is an excellent way to nurture a child’s talents and cultivate important values such as resilience and self-confidence in them.

However, to say that you’ve missed your chance once you are older is far from the truth. Many great artists, athletes, and dancers started their hobbies and careers at a much later point in life.

Sure, you may not be hailed as a prodigy, but there are distinct advantages to starting later, too. You may have more autonomy over your learning experience when you are older, making your journey a more intentional one. You may have more resources, including time and finances, to invest in your endeavours. You may be better at communicating your goals and articulating questions, forming a more synergistic relationship with your coaches.

Speaking of coaches, our Principals, Melvin and Sharon, provide a great example here. While Melvin has been dancing since he was a young child, Sharon only picked up the dance bug when she was in university!

Yet, today they are both passionately imparting the genre to the next generation of dancers and have no shortage of accolades to their name.

A quick internet search would yield dozens of results on more professionals who kickstarted what they are best known for only later in life, including Stan Lee, J.K. Rowling, Vera Wang, Henry Ford, Steve Carell… the list goes on, but the bottom line is this - you are never too old to learn something new, and DanceSport is no exception.

P.S. That’s also why we have classes for all age groups, from kids to youth to adults to the elderly!

3. It’s “just” a social dance…

Since the term ballroom suggests that the dances must have risen to popularity in social settings such as royal balls, many people do assume that partnered dances are reserved only for parties and gatherings - the modern equivalent of throwing a grand ball. Meeting a partner at a party and hitting it off on the dance floor is a common meet-cute moment in many romantic comedies.

There is a sliver of truth in it because dancing with a partner does help you connect to those around you, literally. Today, dances such as Salsa and Bachata are popular choices among people who wish to dance socially.

However, social dance is only one side of what ballroom dances offer. If keen, dancers can take their social dance hobby to the competitive realm, which is a whole new ball game (see what I did there?)

Competitive dancing has different demands, such as stamina training, longer-term partnerships and a greater emphasis on both technique and showmanship.

Oftentimes, these rigours may be outside of what social dancers are seeking in a hobby. While that means that competitive dancing may not be everyone’s cup of tea (and that’s okay!), it also reminds us that social dancing is not the only speciality on the DanceSport menu.

In other words, don’t be afraid to explore and discover exactly what you want out of your dance journey!

4. The heels are scary…

DanceSport is similar to other dances such as ballet and tap dance in our use of specialised footwear. At first glance, the high heels may look intimidating - I know I was apprehensive when I bought my first pair! Even the gentlemen around me initially felt hesitant about putting on their heeled shoes.

Thankfully though, we quickly learnt that dance footwear is vastly different from the regular heels we see in stores.

While conventional heels are made primarily with fashion and style in mind, dance shoes are designed with the intention of supporting the dancer as much as possible.

Several aspects, from the fabric to the clasp, to the structure of the heel, are fine-tuned to ensure that dancers feel secure and comfortable while executing all those kicks, spins and locks. Their function is not unlike the sports shoes that professional athletes wear; without our dance shoes, we wouldn’t be able to perform optimally either!

Granted, there is a learning curve when you first start dancing in heels, especially if you, like me, did not wear heels outside of the dance studio. Once you get the hang of it, however, the heels fit like a glove, and their support makes them feel more like an indispensable extension of your own body.

You may have to weather a few blisters and calluses along the way, but for many dancers, these simply become akin to badges of honour. Besides, they occur less frequently as you grow more seasoned.

In the meantime, though, there are several styles and heights for you to choose from, so you can rest assured that you can befriend the heels on your own terms. Before you know it, you’ll see they aren’t scary at all!

5. The costumes are way too revealing!

Costumes can be a divisive topic, even among the dance community. Some dancers have no qualms about potentially showing skin, while others consider it to be the bane of their craft.

What some spectators find eye-catching, others find distracting. There is no denying that the long, flowing gowns and the ceremonious coattails of the Standard dancers waltzing across the floor are mesmerising.

Why then, are the Latin costumes all about tassels, rhinestones and skintight numbers?

The answer lies in the characteristics of each dance.

Just as a tutu skirt complements the movements of a ballerina, a cascading costume creates a beautiful visual as it billows after a Standard dancer’s every step. As for the Latin dancer, whose repertoire is filled with dizzying spins, sharp lines and lightning-quick strikes, the most suitable attire would be the kind of fitted, embellished costumes you see on the dance floor.

Costumes with deliberate cuts intend to strategically showcase the body movements of each dancer, such as the bold line created by a fully extended leg, or the evolving contours of a dancer’s back.

Having said that, personal comfort is no insignificant matter. As with the heels, it may simply need some getting used to, or it may be something non-negotiable.

Either way, here’s the good news - the dancer who is perceived to perform better is not the one who is wearing the more revealing outfit, but rather the more accentuating one. Similarly, a dancer who is begrudgingly wearing a revealing outfit will pale in comparison to one who is game to wear what feels best on them.

Simply put, this means that if you are not comfortable baring skin, or wearing fitted costumes, you need only search for a style that suits you and your style of movement.

With the countless design choices out there, you’ll undoubtedly be able to find one that suits your persona and augments your choreography, all while fitting within your comfort zone.

Costumes are an essential part of the story that we convey with dance. Without them, every dance falls short of its full potential, but if you feel like their daring style has been holding you back from giving DanceSport a shot, then that myth can officially be debunked right here!

How about it? Did you catch yourself harbouring any of these preconceptions? Can you think of any others? Let us know how else DanceSport has surprised you, and click here for Part 2, where we shed light on five more unfounded claims about DanceSport!

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