Sunday, June 10, 2007

Can a Dress Help You Dance Better?

By Maria Chitul

If you are like me, you don’t pose too many requirements on a normal evening gown. The only important thing is that it has to look good on you and shouldn’t fall off while you’re walking from your car to the party and back. You’re happy as long as the dress survives past one or two special occasions. You won’t wear it more often than that, anyway.

With competition dress it’s completely different. You spend a large sum of money on the dress to start with. You will be taking it to every competition, putting it on and taking it off hastily, jumping, sweating and wiping your make up with it. And you will still expect to use it at least for one season and to look gorgeous in it whenever you get on the dance floor. Buying a ballroom dress is an important step and you don’t want to make mistakes here.

The problem finding the right ballroom dress is that not only does it have to look good on you while you are standing in front of the mirror, but it should also help you look great while you are actually dancing. It means that:

a) The dress shouldn’t impede your movements during the dance
b) it should emphasize all your good sides: your dancing technique, your beautiful figure, and, whenever possible:
c) it should conceal your bad sides, (if any) such as weak techniques or figure flaws.

Of course no dress in the world can substitute hard training. However, by knowing your technique flaws you can get a dress that will partly disguise them. As a result – you will improve the overall impression of your dancing performance. Try choosing the dress that does the opposite – and you’ll see the difference.

In this article I tried to summarize common technique flaws and my suggestions on how to conceal them with the help of a gown:

Weak hip movements
Weak hip movements is one of the usual problems among the dancers. This flaw can be easily solved by choosing an appropriate skirt. All you have to do is to say "no" to slinky skirts and choose fringe or flounce decorated skirts instead. An A-shaped skirt would create a nice waving impression around your hips/knees, improving the look of your hip movements. Another suggestion is to use some bright decorations on top, and thus drawing the audience’s attention from your bottom, however I’m not sure you can fool the judges with that!

Slouched spine
This is mostly the problem of standard dances, as you constantly have to keep your spine right. If this is your problem then try to hide your spine with chiffon scarves attached to your neck or shoulder. You may even use several of those, so that instead of frowning at your slouched spine, the judges would see nice “wings” floating behind you.

For Latin dresses simply try to avoid gowns that expose mainly your back. In this case the attention is drawn to your spine automatically and this is not what you wish to do.

Weak frame
Do you keep letting the hands and elbows down in standard? Again, the trick is the same. Try to conceal this lack of technique by getting your hands covered with layers of flimsy/floating fabric or wide sleeves.

Protruding bottom
Another flaw that happens rather often in standard dances. In the effort of balancing your upper posture, smiling at the judges, and keeping in mind the dance steps, you forget about the need to strain the bottom muscles and end up with your buttocks stuck out backwards. If you are still working on this - don’t choose the mermaid-like silhouettes, or any skirts made from one heavy layer of fabric (like satin). Such skirts will bring attention to your bottom automatically so even a small mistake gets visible. Instead opt for multi-layered floating skirts that would smooth your curves and conceal the problem.

And the last piece of advice for today: If this is your first performance and your first dress – don’t leave it in the box until the day of the competition. Even if you felt great when trying the dress on and you are now afraid to stain it – test it together with your partner. You might discover that dancing feels different now that you are wearing the dress and that some steps or movements need adjustment.

For your first time – don’t choose skirts that are too long. If you don’t have enough experience you risk stepping on the hem during the competition. My suggestion is to choose a dress with the skirt a bit above your ankles. For latin dresses – make sure you don’t wear long fringed or ripped skirts where you could get your heel entangled during the dance.

Summary: I believe that every girl can and should look her best on competition day. It’s a great experience and a huge incentive to move on. Even if you are not interested in a professional dancing career, you should take competitions seriously - you will see the results for yourself. I hope that using the above suggestions, you can make the most of your assets and do your absolute best on this important day of your dancing life.

I think Maria's article is extremely informative and very helpful in selecting the perfect ballroom dance gown and thought it might be useful for some of you. For exclusive gowns and accessories tailor-made just for you, visit her at Ballroom Sparkle

Monday, June 04, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance

I hope you've seen the TV show "So You Think You Can Dance". If you haven't, you're missing a real treat. While it doesn't focus exclusively on ballroom dancing, there's certainly enough included to entertain ballroom dancing fans, and I found a new appreciation for other styles of dancing, some I'd never even heard of before watching the show. (Anybody out there know how to 'crump'?)

It's currently in it's third season and I wouldn't be surprised to see it run for many years. The premise is much like 'Dancing With The Stars' and 'American Idol', people audition, there's a panel of three judges, and in the end, America votes for their favorite dancer.

Last season's favorite was a young man named Benji Schwimmer. He auditioned with his cousin Heidi Groskreutz and it was apparent even to the most untrained eye that these two were exceptionally talented dancers. As well they should be. Benji's dad is Buddy Schwimmer, known as the 'King of Swing', and according to Benji, everyone in his family dances.

This season, his sister Lacey is competing. Benji partnered with her for her audition. I find him to be not only an amazing dancer, but a genuinely likable young man. I expect Lacey will do well in the show. Their cousin Heidi remained in competition a long time last season, but it was Benji who won the most hearts of the voters.

I say all that to say this. The other day I was looking through some YouTube videos on a completely unrelated topic and ran across some videos of Benji that I just had to share. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, and if you haven't seen 'So You Think You Can Dance', I hope now you'll make it a point to watch.

This is the earliest video I found of Benji and Heidi. It's from 1989.
Benji was 5 and Heidi was 8.

Sixteen years later, in 2005, at the US Open Swing Championship.
Not surprisingly, they took first place.

This should serve to prove two points:
1. It's never too early to introduce someone to ballroom dancing.
2. Practice does indeed make perfect.