It’s a new year! Since fresh beginnings are a good time to broaden our horizons, here are five more DanceSport myths, debunked!
If you have yet to read our first five, you can find them here.
1. You need to have a certain body type to dance
Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole of dance videos, only to find yourself anxious upon the realisation that your physique isn’t exactly like your favourite dancer’s?
Or worse, have you ever stopped yourself from trying something new because you felt like your body wasn’t strong enough, tall enough, muscular enough, or simply… enough?
Often, we get tricked into the idea that there is only one ideal body type, not just for dance, but for anything in life. Yet, a trick is exactly what that is.
Physique is dependent on a plethora of factors, such as genetics, diet, metabolism, posture and level of activity, to name a few.
Even among athletically active individuals such as dancers, a level of variation exists. This is only natural because different genres of dance require different sets of muscles, different kinds of strength, and different ranges of motion.
A ballerina may not have the same build as a break dancer, who may differ in physique from a folk dancer, who may in turn look nothing like a ballroom dancer.
However, a difference in body type does not equate to a difference in talent. Nobody is born with perfect balance and toned muscles, which means that every dancer - be they ballerinas or break dancers, started somewhere.
The first key to debunking this myth is the fact that the bodies we see on professional dancers were conditioned to be that way by nothing less than years or decades of practice.
Very few dancers start off a genre with the exact body conditioning needed for it. The vast majority of us are sculpted to look the way we do through training, both in and, sometimes, out of the studio.
In other words, if you are just beginning, it is not fair to pit your progress against someone who’s been at it far longer than you have.
The next part of solving this puzzle is distinguishing between the parts of our body image that are or aren’t within our control.
You may not be able to force yourself to grow taller, but you can take steps to improve your posture. You may not have been able to start younger when your body might have been more supple, but you can stretch consistently to increase your flexibility now.
There are surely advantages and limitations to every body type; it’s all about knowing how to take small steps to get to where you need to be in order to perform well.
Perhaps the most important myth-debunking weapon is the simple acceptance that dance is for everyone, regardless of body type.
I’ve seen petite dancers and plus-size dancers shining as bright as each other on a dance floor. I know taller dancers and shorter dancers who keep an audience equally captivated.
Some dancers have long hair, some have short hair, and some have no hair. Some are fairer, while others are more tanned. Some are known for the hours they spend at the gym, and others have never stepped in one.
I remember being pleasantly surprised when I first learnt that even wheelchair-bound dancers can learn how to groove with a partner in a ballroom.
That is just one of the reasons why I’m able to say with confidence that DanceSport is an inclusive space for any individual to learn and grow, as all dance forms should be.
Whether your body will start to resemble that of a professional dancer years down the road is uncertain, but what is certain is the fact that your current body is perfectly enough to give dancing a whirl.
2. I can only dance with my boyfriend / girlfriend / partner…
While having artistic chemistry with your dance partner is definitely beneficial, romantic chemistry is… not a prerequisite at all.
Some dancers enter the world of ballroom with an established romantic partner, as a way to grow closer to them or pick up a new hobby together.
Other people find love on the dance floor, after having danced together for a while. Many dancers, however, are simply partners on the dance floor and good friends otherwise.
In fact, dating your dance partner can be a somewhat divisive topic within the community. Some people swear against it, with the rationale that business and romance should not mix.
Indeed, it is not uncommon to witness dancers struggling to continue a partnership when their romantic relationship happens to go awry. In some cases, they might even quit dance entirely, due to the soured relationship-slash-partnership.
On the other hand, I personally know many dance partners who feel that their partnership has only strengthened their personal relationship, and vice versa. Those who are able to synergise the two dynamics in such a way tend to be able to channel their real-life compatibility into their dancing, too.
This balance seems to be reflected among well-known dancers as well. Among the professionals, there are couples who date or are married to each other, and couples who aren’t.
As long as you are able to communicate with your dance partner in an open and healthy manner, there’s a good chance you’ll both go far, whether or not you’re romantically linked.
P.S. If partnered dance is not your thing to begin with, no worries! DanceSport has loads of opportunities for solo dancers too.
3. Dance is a “girl hobby”
If you’re a ballroom dancer, you know it’s often easier for a guy to find a partner than for a girl to do the same.
Similarly, there are fewer male ballet dancers than female ballerinas. Yet, the ratio tends to be reversed in genres such as hip-hop or break dance.
It seems that often, dance styles that are characterised by more graceful, elongated movements tend to be favoured by girls, while genres that have more overtly power-driven or high-energy movements tend to attract boys.
Due to this, a lot of people may think of DanceSport as a style more suited to girls and women. This, however, couldn’t be more untrue.
The very premise of ballroom dance requires a leader and a follower, which, at face value, are roles taken up by one male and one female dancer. How can it then make sense, that the dance only favours one gender?
If anything, ballroom dance is made complete by the balance of masculine and feminine energies.
Stylistically, a dancer can choose to portray a more masculine or feminine character in a particular routine, regardless of their gender.
A female dancer can convey the strength and force that are stereotypically assigned to males, just like how a male dancer would be able to show poise and grace, attributes often used to describe females.
In either dancer, this versatility is often used as one of the markers of ability and proficiency.
Breaking the myth that boys do not belong in a ballroom is not only crucial to ensuring that more male dancers are encouraged to come on board.
It is also important in making sure that those who are already on board are not threatened by some unwritten rule that seems to frown upon them.
This sentiment seems to be shared by well-known ballroom dancer Derek Hough, who once shared in an interview that he had to endure bullies as a young boy, simply because he danced.
“I went to six different schools in one year because I would be getting beaten up, I would get in fights. I definitely grew up feeling… thinking masculine would be the opposite of how I felt.”
Now a successful professional dancer (Dancing With The Stars, World of Dance, etc.) he went on to share how he broke the myth for himself.
"But strangely enough, when I’m dancing is when I feel the most masculine."
"I’m not thinking about this, I’m not thinking about what’s happened, I’m not thinking about what’s going to happen. I’m forced into the present. That’s when I feel the most, sort of connected to myself. And when I feel connected to
myself is when I feel the most… I guess masculine.”
His words shed light on why this may potentially be the most harmful myth in this list.
It is tragic to think about all the boys and men who would have made excellent ballroom dancers, yet were robbed of the opportunity because of unfounded societal expectations.
The next time you meet a boy who seems intrigued by the performing arts, put in a good word! That’ll be your small way of ensuring that the next generation of dancers enjoy more diversity among themselves.
4. Sports are tougher than dance
This one is a longstanding controversy.
To many people, the image of an athlete stands glistening under the sun, nostrils flared and brows furrowed against the perspiration.
Meanwhile, the image of a dancer finds itself under the flattering light of a stage, smiling in their impeccable make-up and glamorous costumes.
When you look at it that way, there doesn’t seem to be much of an overlap between the two. Admittedly, the dancer seems to be more comfortable than the hardworking athlete.
However, once you look closer, sportspeople and dancers do not stand at opposite poles, but rather, scattered across a spectrum that simply values physical mastery.
Neither the world of sports nor the world of dance can be put neatly into one box. Just as how every genre of dance demands something different, every sport grooms its athletes in a unique way.
The way a runner trains is different from the way a fencer or a weightlifter trains. Similarly, every dancer learns to interpret and convey meaning through their bodies in a different way.
Across the board, however, every sportsperson and dancer knows that physicality is crucial to their pursuit.
Between dancers and athletes, the same number of gruelling hours is spent pushing themselves, conditioning and practising. They both trade in the same amount of leisure time for extra training and sacrifice the same opportunities for other ventures. They both risk the same injuries if they ever become careless. They both do their best, be they on a court or in a concert.
Of course, they have their differences too. Sports are more objective, with clear scores, goals and records. Dance, even in a competitive realm, is largely subjective.
An athlete wins according to the rules of the game; a dancer succeeds when an audience is moved.
In the heat of the game, appearances are the least of an athlete’s worries. Meanwhile, dancers, even while running out of breath by the end of a routine, must ensure their posture and expressions conceal their fatigue.
These differences mean that sports and dance are not entirely comparable past a certain threshold.
While they are both physical endeavours that require mental resilience, no two athletes are alike, let alone an athlete and a dancer picked at random.
Yet, the determination required to be a good dancer is no less intense than that needed to succeed as an athlete.
A great example to illustrate this is between figure skaters and ice hockey players. They both certainly feel comfortable in the rink, but what is demanded of them is different, hence their training and the resulting areas of physical competence differ accordingly.
Just like figure skating, another instance when the line between sports and dance blurs is with rhythmic gymnastics. And what about synchronised swimming...or the entire industry built around dance-based fitness?
The more you dig in, the more of a blend you may see between dance and sport. Of course, that’s also part of the rationale behind the term DanceSport, where the discipline and competitiveness of sport are combined with the joy and art of dance.
Does this controversy ever get a resolution then? Well, let’s just say… sports and dance are equally tough, just in different ways.
5. DanceSport is just one kind of dance
When people hear “ballroom dance”, they may not realise that it is actually just an umbrella term to describe various styles.
As we introduced in our article What is DanceSport?, the genre is generally split into two disciplines - Latin and Standard.
Under the Latin dances, we have five dances, all of which possess their own unique characteristics.
The cheeky Cha Cha, romantic Rumba, festive Samba, majestic Paso Doble and energetic Jive are all dances that belong to a Latin dancer’s repertoire.
Similarly, a Standard dancer would be able to perform five other dances - the graceful Waltz, dramatic Tango, fun Foxtrot, elegant Viennese Waltz and exciting Quickstep. While equally mesmerising, each dance has a different accent and atmosphere.
What about Salsa and Bachata, you might be wondering.
While not officially under the title of DanceSport, which is competitive ballroom dancing, these dances are sometimes dubbed “Street Latin” or Social Dances.
Other related dances include Disco, Rock N Roll, Merengue, Kizomba and Flamenco, to name a few.
Before you get overwhelmed, let me reassure you that — you can take charge of your own learning. Most dancers tend to commit to one discipline, such as the Latin or Standard division.
Some dancers passionately pursue both and are often called “10-dancers” to reflect their ability to compete in all the Latin and Standard dances.
Others still pick up ballroom dance as a hobby and prefer to keep it that way.
They may be most interested in one type of dance, such as the Waltz or the Rumba. In that case, they can choose to attend classes for those styles specifically.
Dancers of all styles can stand to learn a lot about their most familiar genre by learning a new genre. It’s ironic, but it’s true. That is why many dancers enjoy DanceSport - it’s like a dance buffet!
As for the selective dancers who perform better when they focus on a particular style, there are many for you to choose from, too!
The next time you feel like refreshing your repertoire, try stepping into a ballroom dance class. Or, if you’re already a ballroom dancer, dip your pointed toes into another style, and you may find yourself pleasantly challenged, surprised, or both!
Just like that, you’ve completed your myth-busting quest! Congratulations - you can now dispel five more pesky misconceptions that often float around about DanceSport. Can you think of any more? Let us know!