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What is DanceSport? (And why it rules!)

Okay, confession time. Although I have been dancing for years now (and remain completely in love with the genre), there was a time when I had no idea what DanceSport was. To be completely honest, at first, I thought it was some form of new and trendy aerobics class!

Thankfully, DanceSport is so much better - and so much more than just a great cardio workout.

To put it simply, DanceSport refers to competitive ballroom dancing. If the term ballroom dance immediately makes you envision Cinderella dancing with her Prince Charming, you’re probably thinking about the Standard dances, which form one of two branches that fall under DanceSport.

It consists of five breathtakingly elegant dances - Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz. Couples who dance Standard truly look like they belong in a fairy tale, as the men (or leaders) adorn tailcoats and the women (or, you guessed it, followers) seem to glide effortlessly down the line of dance in elaborate and voluminous gowns. I have caught myself sighing longingly watching them grace the dance floor thinking, "There must surely be some fairy godmother magic or pixie dust behind those enchanting dresses?"

That is, of course, because I am not a Standard dancer, but rather one trained in the second discipline of Dancesport, comprising the Latin dances. Just like its sister, the Latin category boasts five enthralling dances - Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Jive and Paso Doble. Cinderella could not possibly have danced these in a glass slipper though, as they are often characterised as more fiery and bold than the sophisticated Standard dances.

Showcasing the costumes of Latin DanceSport athletes in the ballroom

Consequently, Latin couples strut their stuff in more embellished (tassels, rhinestones, feathers, you name it!) and form-fitting costumes, which seek to accentuate sharp movements. Although the Standard and Latin genres display these overt differences, all ten dances are equally beautiful to behold - and equally challenging to perform.

At this point, you may be wondering why it isn’t just called Ballroom Dancing. That would be so much clearer than the ambiguous Dancesport! While I agree with you, there is actually a really good reason why the -sport suffix was adopted.

*Hint: it has to do with that little word that appears before ballroom dancing: competitive!

As the decades have gone by, many ballroom dancers have evolved their style of performance to be more athletic, taking the art form beyond its genesis as a social event and adding an edge that kept audiences as thrilled as spectators at a football game.

As techniques got increasingly refined and each dance became more distinguished, dance enthusiasts started holding competitions to encourage the practice and performance of ballroom dancing at higher levels. Over time, it became apparent that ballroom dancers would exert just as much energy as typical sports athletes, no matter how effortless they could make it look.

Although dance may seem to stick out as an odd event to some in the midst of swimming and running and all the other conventional sports, it isn’t completely out of place, in my opinion. In fact, I’d consider Dancesport a dear cousin of other performative Olympic sports, such as rhythmic gymnastics or figure skating.

If you came here considering to dabble in the fine art of ballroom dance and are now gulping in apprehension at the rigorous and demanding nature of competitive performance, fret not!

Ballroom dance can still very much be practised socially, without the pressures of technique and accomplishment weighing down on you. Whether you are looking for a fun way to unwind at the end of the week or seeking to meet new people who love dance as much as you, reaching out to a dance studio and letting them know of your laid back interest will set you up for a chill and enjoyable hobby.

You may even choose to explore partnered dances that are crowd-favourites in social gatherings, such as Rock N’ Roll, Mambo or Disco.

There is no need to be shy! The teachers can cater to your preferences and abilities; making ballroom dance an adventure that anybody (children, elderly or wheelchair-bound persons) can embark on.

TDA's Principal, Sharon, refines a student's posture by guiding her movement

Now I don’t want to sound biased, but Dancesport really is unlike anything else you’ll encounter as a dancer and as such, I highly recommend giving it a whirl (pun intended).

There is just something about dancing with a partner that is inexplicably joyful, whether you’re laughing over a mistaken step, bonding over lighthearted intimacy, or even howling over an accidentally stubbed toe. Nurturing this very connection is actually my favourite part.

Archana and her partner performing during a Latin DanceSport competition

The way energy continually flows back and forth both within and between you and your partner when you dance is something rarely found outside the ballroom. As for the more ambitious souls who crave diversity - the wide array of ballroom dances, each with its unique character and style, seeks to hone versatility and range.

For instance, living harmoniously within a Latin dancer is the romanticism of Rumba, the majesty of Paso Doble, the playfulness of Cha Cha, the exuberance of Jive, and the festivity of Samba.

Similarly, a Standard dancer commands the drama of Tango, suavity of Foxtrot, lightness of Quickstep and grace of the Waltzes effortlessly. It takes practice, commitment and grit, but ask any ballroom dancer and they will tell you it is oh so worth it!

Now that you know a thing or two about Dancesport, what are you waiting for? Grab a partner, get your dancing shoes on and put your best foot forward (then back, then side-close-side). You’ll have a ball - literally!

Written by Archana

Archana is a member of TDA ever since 2015 when she joined NPDS. She has been dancing contemporary and ballroom dancing for the last five years. In 2019, she choreographed her own solo scene during NP's Art Fiesta. Archana currently works in education, and the next time you see her on the dancefloor is when her feet beckons her forth to follow her heart.

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