Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The steps are the same, but the music is new

I love that the music for ballroom dancing is evolving. No more are you limited to a Frank Sinatra croon in order to foxtrot. I wonder how many times the foxtrot has been done to 'New York, New York'? Latin dances are being done to music other than Latin. I'm hearing Heart, and Madonna, Black-Eyed Peas and Pussy-Cat Dolls. And the dances look great!

What this means is that ballroom dancing is reaching into new generations, and I couldn't be more thrilled! Once thought of as 'stodgy' dances for 'old folks', (which was never really true, but many perceived it that way), ballroom dancing is popular, mainstream and hot, hot, hot!

While some of the music is indeed new, some of us are hearing familiar songs done a new and different way. The big hit that the Pussy-Cat Dolls sang for the movie 'Shall We Dance' was a great song for cha-cha...it's called 'Sway with Me', and decades ago was recorded by Dean Martin, along with a handful of others from that time.

I'm going to begin talking about music selection in the near future. Perhaps those of you who are already seasoned dancers can post your favorites so the newcomers to ballroom dancing can get a better idea of which
songs are best suited to which dances. I found it helpful when I was first starting out to listen to the radio and find the beat of the song, then decide which dance could be best done to that particular song.

I've often seen new students at their first or second studio dance hesitate to go to the floor as the music started, simply because they weren't sure what dance they should do. The interesting thing is, if they'll notice,
oftentimes different couples are doing different dances to the same song. And it's all good.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Next Ballroom Dancing Movie Features Antonio Banderas

This should be a great movie! "Take the Lead" is inspired by the true story of a high school teacher (played by Antonio Banderas) and the class of "rejects" he must teach. The students literally laugh in his face when he tells them he will be teaching ballroom dancing. It will be in theatres April 7 and I, for one, can hardly wait!
You can check out the trailer for the movie at http://www.taketheleadmovie.com

I look forward to seeing how learning to ballroom dance impacts these teenager's lives. I know firsthand the benefits that dancing offers, many of which have little to do with the physical act of dancing. The poise, grace and balance that develop naturally as a direct result of maintaining the frame while gliding across the floor, the boost of self confidence that comes from accomplishing a goal and the general feeling of euphoria that settles over you even after you leave the studio...what a natural high! I wonder what kind of difference it would make in our future society if ballroom dancing was introduced in schools across the country?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thank you, "Dancing with the Stars"!

To my fellow dance lovers: I found this article from ABC News that I thought you might find interesting. It just serves to underscore what I've been saying about ballroom dancing for a long time. I am so grateful to "Dancing with the Stars" for bringing ballroom dancing to the forefront of the nation's attention in such an exciting yet elegant way.

Feb. 2, 2006 — Ballroom dancing no longer means stepping on someone's toes at your cousin's wedding. What was once considered stodgy has become sleek, sexy — even cool.
ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," originally a summer series, became a surprise blockbuster —19 million viewers tuned in last week. All over America, people are putting on their dancing shoes and changing their lives. And the show is giving the dancers, some of them called B-list celebrities, a career jump-start.
One of last season's stars, John O'Hurley, now has a full dance card. He's on Broadway, playing the lead in "Chicago." He credits his terrific tango with his new lease on life.
"Well, it certainly has helped," he said. "And it accounts for the size of the paycheck, I'll tell you that."
Tatum O'Neal, voted off in a tearful moment early in this season's competition, didn't have to cry for long. She popped up on "Entertainment Tonight" with a new gig as an entertainment reporter.
And then there's Master P, a last-minute fill-in for his son, rapper Lil' Romeo, who was injured while playing basketball. The judges knew he couldn't dance, but viewers kept on voting him back. He is suddenly a crossover household name.

Celebrity Surrogates

Katrina Szish, an editor at Us Weekly, said that viewers can relate to these celebrities — stumbling and klutzy at the beginning, elegant and graceful at the end.
"The celebrities are the surrogates for us. They're actually the guinea pigs for us," Szish said.
Partner dancing has been sneaking up on us. The 1992 movie, "Strictly Ballroom," won a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and breathed life into a pastime many thought of as stuffy and out-of-date.
Many say the revival gained momentum two years ago with the movie "Shall We Dance?," starring Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere. In "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's steamy dance shows ballroom is definitely not for sissies. And then there is the recent documentary, "Mad Hot Ballroom," about a dance competition for inner-city, public school kids in New York City that has audiences rooting for the underdogs.
"We've seen sort of a pop cultural collision of interest in ballroom dancing," said Szish. "It works sort of like fashion trends. Somehow everybody around the world suddenly decides this is it, this is the trend."

Rules and Romance

Arthur Murray, one of the oldest chains of dance instruction studios, said enrollment is up 30 percent, on top of a 15 percent rise the year before.
"It is something that is softer and gentler than everything else that we're exposed to these days," Szish said. "And I think the fact that there is some level of comfort in it, there is some sort of a retro comfort in it, is what makes all of us gravitate toward it."
Even college kids are figuring out the appeal of dancing with a partner — both the rules and the romance.
Shira, a member of the ballroom dance team at Columbia University in New York, said, "You're actually in contact with another human being. There's something really satisfying about that."
Yev and Rachel, also members of the team, became a couple on and off the dance floor.
"I think it's a great way to meet, you know, meet a girl," Yev said. "It's really nice."
Marilyn Agrelo, the director of "Mad Hot Ballroom," said maybe it's time for people to touch again on the dance floor.
"I think we're living in really challenging times, there's a lot of political dissent in the country and political division," she said. "Ballroom dancing… makes people feel secure. I think it brings people to a place that makes them feel safe and …civilized."

And this writer and dancer could not agree more. I hope you feel the urge to go out dancing this weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Getting started is easy!

I've heard so many people make the statement "I'd like to learn how to ballroom dance, but I've got two left feet...I just can't dance". I want to encourage anyone who has ever had the slightest desire to dance to pursue it! If you can walk, you can learn to dance.

Ballroom dancing is, put simply, merely steps. Some forward steps, some back steps, some side steps. When combined in a series, and with music as the background, you're dancing. No one comes into this world knowing how to walk, read a book or drive a car. These are all learned skills, and so is ballroom dancing. Granted, for some it may come easier, (it helps to have an innate sense of rhythm), but every skill needed to become proficient on the dance floor can be acquired.

Television shows like 'Ballroom Bootcamp' and 'Dancing with the Stars' have proven that people with no former knowledge of dancing can become quite talented on the dance floor. It takes proper instruction and yes, it does require practice. But what skill doesn't? It takes practice to learn anything new. Knowledge of dancing is something that, once learned, will bring a lifetime of enjoyment.

Getting started couldn't be easier. Look in your local phone book, find a studio, call them and
sign up for a beginner's group class. Don't worry about looking silly, everyone there will be just like you, a beginner! The instructors see beginners every single day. You don't need a partner, but if you have one, it's a wonderful experience to share. Group classes are usually very reasonably priced and meet about once a week for an hour for 6 to 8 weeks. They're a lot of fun, you'll meet lots of really nice people (ballroom dancers as a whole are some the nicest people you'll ever know) and you'll be amazed at how good it makes you feel!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ballroom dancing sweeps the Pops

A decade ago, only die-hard dance aficionados turned out for ballroom dance.
Today, it's everywhere. In movies. In clubs. And, most prominently, on television, where ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" is the darling of the moment.

Next weekend, it will also be on the Music Hall stage, where the Cincinnati Pops will present "Shall We Dance," featuring champion ballroom dancers along with an ensemble from the Cincinnati Ballet.

It's anyone's guess why we've reconnected with ballroom dancing. Maybe we're looking for something to rescue us from uncertain economic and political news. Or perhaps it's the next step up the evolutionary ladder from swing dance. Possibly it's just because it looks like so much fun.
Whatever the reason, it's television that has led us to ballroom's doorstep.
"The TV exposure has gotten many more people interested," says Michael Mead, a four-time U.S. Ballroom Champion who will be performing at Music Hall with his partner, Toni Redpath.
"In the past, you actually had to go to a competition to see ballroom dancing," says Mead. "But now ... it's everywhere."

Mead and Redpath taught Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon how to dance for the 2004 film "Shall We Dance." The movie was only modestly successful at the box office. But in its wake, ballroom dance classes around the country experienced a bump in attendance.

Here in Cincinnati, Mead and Redpath will have to share the stage with an orchestra. And that means giving up the prime real estate at the center of the stage.
Their dance floor will be more like a runway - a space 15 feet wide by 60 feet long.
"It's not ideal, but we've done it before," says Mead. "It doesn't frighten us, but ... well, when there's a drop-off, you do have to avoid the edges. But it makes is a little more exciting."
E-mail davidlyman@gmail.com

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ballroom Dancing is enjoying a comeback

The popularity of ballroom dancing is climbing with ever-increasing speed. Dance studios are reporting record numbers of new enrollments. "Dancing with the Stars" is commanding a huge audience whose numbers rise weekly and Primetime recently devoted an hour-long episode to ballroom dancing. Some say the renewed popularity was sparked by the movie "Shall We Dance", in which Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez aptly demonstrated the allure of ballroom dancing.

When was the last time you went dancing?
A week? A month? Longer? NEVER?? Perhaps you've forgotten (or maybe you've never known) how ballroom dancing makes you feel....confident, graceful, sensual, even seductive. Gliding around the floor, feeling lighter than air, savoring that satisfaction that comes from knowing others are watching....many with envy. If you've never experienced the euphoria that dancing can bring, you've cheated yourself on a decadent pleasure. The world loves a dancer!