Arts & Entertainment

How to do ballroom dancing

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Donald Driver and Peta won the most recent Dancing With The Stars competition
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Knowing how to do ballroom dancing requires professional instruction

If your objective is how to do ballroom dancing, you are going to require a professional instructor to teach you the ropes.

The TV show Dancing with the Stars has certainly put this type of dancing back on the map. Middle class America has seen first hand how enjoyable it is to do this as well as how demanding it is.

Ballroom dancing is not for the weak of heart. It takes stamina, balance, endurance. In the past, this form of dancing was relegated to the rich and elite, while the lower echelons engaged in folk dancing, but no longer. The young and old, rich and poor are all interested in learning this art form.

When a couple engages in this kind of dance form they move together, often in a closed hold. The term ballroom dancing comes from the Latin word ballare which means "to dance." Some of the types of ballroom dancing include the fox trot, waltz, swing, jive, tango, two step, salsa, cha cha, lindy hop and rumba.

When you are learning, you will be instructed in poise, hold or frame, musicality, posture, expression, body alignment and shape, timing, foot and leg action, presentation and floor craft.  That is a lot to learn and to concentrate on. Even beginning ballroom dancers must wear the correct ballroom dance shoes, as well as clothing that is easy to move in and that accentuates the movements of the body.

Accomplished hoofers look and are elegant. They perform on the balls of their feet instead of flat-footed and their posture is exact. If competing, points are deducted if a couple doesn’t abide by the exact rules of the competition.

This is a social sport because you stand very closely to another person. It is also considered an art form because it is beautiful to observe and a joy to participate in, albeit hard work. The participants push their bodies to the limit at times. It is quite a work out.

If, for example, you are learning how to do the waltz, which is one of five types in the standard category of International Style Ballroom dances, you will learn that it is done slowly and the music is in ¾ time. Even though it is performed slowly, it is lively.

Generally there is one step per beat although those with more experience may do four to six steps per measure rather than three. There are lots of turns in the waltz.

Advanced hoofers know how to create contrast or what is called “light and shade” when doing the waltz. They do this by assuming elegant poses along with the slow steps.

The main characteristic of the waltz is the pendulum swing action that the couple makes with their bodies. Other traits include swaying, contra body movement, foot parallelism and rising and falling. Contra body movement or CBM refers to precise coordination of the movement of a body when preparing to do or doing a step which entails rotation.

An example of CBM is the turning of the ride side of the body toward the left moving leg or, the reverse, turning the left side of the body toward a right moving leg. The leg and body move simultaneously.

Another example of CBM is when the dancers are stepping to the back or to the front. As the right side of the body moves forward and the torso is rotating to the left, the left leg moves forward. As the left leg moves to the back, the right side of the body also moves to the back as the torso rotates to the right.

The outcome of, and purpose of, CBM, is to achieve an effortless transition from linear to rotational movement. After the contra body move a sway generally occurs.

Track down a studio and instructor and take lessons. This is a great form of exercise. It works the body and the mind.  It is challenging but tremendously enjoyable. And, remember, it’s a social event. It is possible that the perfect man or woman is also in the class, cha-cha’ing away.

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