Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dance Etiquette: Showing Off

When you are dancing with a partner, it is important to remember, and be considerate of, your partner. In particular, consider what your partner can do, and what they show they want to do. A gentleman who tries to lead his partner into steps too advanced for her (or, dare we say it, for him), will not make the partnership look good, and will probably make his partner uncomfortable. A lady who starts to improvise extensively in a West Coast Swing while her partner just keeps time waiting for her to finish is probably not making a fan. A gentleman who goes into extended salsa shines while his partner dances a basic, waiting for him to pick her up again, shows a marked lack of awareness or consideration. Partner dancing is about two people dancing together, and in these examples, the connection is missing.

Do what you both can do as well as you can. If you and your partner are both capable of showing off, and want to do so, go for it. Otherwise, be nice, make your partner happy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Waist Flexibility for Standard

Outside Partner Position, Promenade Position, and the Contrabody Movement required for many figures demand the ability twist your spine so that your sternum is pointing in a different direction than your hips. Standard dancers can commonly be seen loosening up their spine by rotating their rib cages relative to their hips, back and forth. There is also a yoga posture that helps with this flexibility, called the Half Spine Twist, or Ardha Matsyendrasana. References for how to perform this posture may be found searching the internet. Some sources include ABC of Yoga, and

Thursday, February 3, 2011

NDCA Dance Competitions 2011 - West Coast

Full NDCA dance competition calendar is at

Here's a list for West Coast competitions:

SnowBall Classic IDSF International Open  Feb 4-6, Vancouver

Jan 28 - 30, 2011City Lights BallSan Jose CA
Feb 17 - 20, 2011California Open Dancesport ChampionshipsIrvine Marriott Hotel, John Wayne Airport, Irvine CA
Mar 31 - Apr 3, 2011San Francisco Open Dancesport Championships - 29th AnnualMarriott Hotel, San Francisco Airport, CA
Apr 27 - May 1, 2011Emerald Ball Dancesport ChampionshipsLos Angeles Airport Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles, CA
May 7 - 8, 2011Columbia Star BallRed Lion Inn, Jantzen Beach - Portland, OR
Jun 9 - 12, 2011San Diego Dancesport ChampionshipsThe Westin Horton Plaza - San Diego, CA
Jul 7 - 10, 2011Desert Classic Dancesport ChampionshipsJW Marriott Resort & Spa - Palm Desert, CA
Jul 29 - 31, 2011International Grand Ball ChampionshipsSan Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel - San Francisco, CA
Aug 5 - 7, 2011Seattle Star BallSea-Tac Hilton & Conference Center - Seattle, WA
Aug 18 - 21, 2011Nevada Star Ball ChampionshipsGreen Valley Ranch Resort Hotel and Casino - Las Vegas, NV
Sep 1 - 4, 2011Embassy Ball Dancesport Championships, IncHyatt Regency Hotel, Jamboree Road - Irvine, CA
Oct 7 - 9, 2011Golden State ChallengeWestin Hotel - Costa Mesa, CA
Dec 30, 2011Holiday BallSan Fernando Valley, CA

Cha Cha Basic Technique

More basic technique has been added to Cha Cha Technique page.

Doing figure 8 action continuously.
It's important to create time - connected actions, sudden actions.

  • 2: RF back, basic Latin back step.
    • Different from Rumba, tighten up weight transfer, body/spine more fwd, do not put all the weight on back foot, no time to get back.
    • LF is on ball of foot, proping body. there is quite a bit weight on front foot. It is ok that back heel doesn't come all the way down (to steal time).
    • Still, twist R hip at the end, it still creates big action.
  • 3: LF replace
  • 4: RF to side, slightly fwd. Chasse is very tight, directly under shoulder. Use side step Latin technique.
    • Spine moves just slightly diagonally fwd (this is simultaneous with previous step when L hip twist). Still doing figure 8 action.
    • No rib cage displacement.
  • &: LF closes to RF (sudden sharp action), on the ball of LF, not ball flat. Work L hip diagonally fwd (which increases circumference when it twists, it produces more power).
  • 1: Twisting L hip (powerful), make sure L shoulder doesn't come up (body height doesn't change), shoulder down, compress. 
    • Twist creates internal space, RF to side
    • as you transfer weight, hip comes underneath the body. Don't do step, then hip, which is disconnected. Do connected actions.
    • Also, for basic actions, there is no rib cage displacement, just move the whole spine over to RF, don't put R hip over foot, while rib cage goes to left. (Advanced dancer may explore rib cage displacement for effects.)
  • 2: LF directly go fwd, where it needs to go (steal time). Don't close LF to RF first and then out fwd. Go directly fwd.
    • LF turned out. Compression, flat foot, Pendulum action,L hip pulls knee underneath. Check happens on "&".
    • Cha Cha has quick sharp check action. (Rumba has soft check action.)
  • 3: R hip is diagonally fwd (yes, fwd, it's going to go to side step.) (Previous quick check created time, use the extra time to show the hip action.)
  • 4&1: side slightly back. Chasse action.
For sudden, sharp, quick dynamic, practice twisting upper body and switching knee separately, then combining them will create bigger action.

Make sure adding dynamic doesn't change the basic core fundamentals (like body alignment).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Great books for dancers

Here are some great books for dancers recommended by many professional instructors.

Dynamic Alignment through Imagery by Eric Franklin
It shows how to use imaging techniques to improve posture and alignment and release excess tension. Practice the techniques using the exercises in the book, it will help to improve your alignment and movement.

Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance by Eric Franklin
It provides imagery exercises designed to improve dance technique, artistic expression, and performance.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dance Camp at City Lights Ball 2011

The instructors and judges are City Lights Ball are no doubt top notch. Dance Camp started on Friday and here is a short summary of some of the talks. The format is "lecture", i.e. the instructor will talk about things and demonstrate with their assistant (generally their partner). Some teachers ask audience to get on to dance floor.  But don't expect too much dancing.

It appears some instructors (at least) thought about the lecturer ahead of time, while others just do it on the spot.

Victor Fung - Why We Dance
We need to dance with our heart (soul), mind and body. Our body is just a tool, it expresses the mind. Use your mind, give it warmth, give it feelings.

Victor and Anastasia demonstrated with some basic Foxtrot figures, danced multiple times with different feelings, all technically correct, but the feeling of the dance is quite different.

Anastasia Muravyeva - Music: Your Second PartnerLearn to be in harmony with music. Listen: rhythm, melody (mental emotions), and color of music (character). Different people can choose to hear different things.

Waltz: listen to the melody, phrasing. It has "Question" (stronger) 1 2 3, then "Answer" (soft) 1 2 3.
Quickstep: Strong on 1, 3. Soft on 2, 4.
Tango: 2 beats, there is still strong/soft.

Arunas Bizokas - Secrets of the Champion Some say in dancing, you don't have to care how it feels, as long as it looks good. Arunas thinks, eventually, it is important that the dance both feels good and looks good. Dancers have to be good at a lot of things (technical stuff, sensitive to partner, musicality, stamina), etc.

How we move, how to create distance: reaching with moving leg is wrong. Distance comes from releasing weight from standing leg. distance = speed * time. Practice forward and backward walks. A lot.

Katusha Demidova - Secrets of the ChampionNumber 1 question Katusha got asked when she teaches her students is how to create the shape. You create shape pretty using everything except for head. Use your feet, hips, shoulders. Movement comes from hip, hip should not get out of line, make sure tail bone is down. Head goes as much as spine allows.

The purpose of Man's shaping is to lead the lady. 

Lady can use a bit of head weight in some dynamic figures.

Donnie Burns
Latin American Dance with a partner. All part of this is important. You want technique + artistic + partner all go in the same direction.

Body weight is used to lead. Practice with partner, doing weight change. Close your eyes. 

Cuban rock: upper body action, hip reaction. Don't just do hips on its own.

Efficiency: An efficient way is the beautiful way. Think of what you need to pick up heavy suitcase, vs. picking up a tooth brush. You don't have to try too hard.

Focus learning the right thing, stop analyzing what's wrong with what you are doing. You will practice differently at different stage. You go from one position to another position. The quality is defined in between the beats - how you get from first position to next.

You can't learn how to dance from other instructors' videos. You can learn from your own videos!

Michael Chapman - How to Create a Masterpiece, Part 1
Michael talked about choreography - that shows creativity, fundamentals and dynamics. Arunas and Katusha are Michael's assistants. In the session, Michael went through first part of Foxtrot choreography with Arunas and Katusha. He explained how choreography fits with the music; where he would put lifts, etc.

Much of this part is open work. Arunas and Katusha appeared much relieved when finally they are put in Standard hold at end of this part 1.
Johan Eftedal - Dynamics 1
Lead: tells the lady to go, stop and change direction.
Follow: lady never stop dancing!

Lead into basic: down and forward. Forward checked walk.

Cucaracha: partial weight, don't put full weight. Can be danced slow, evenly to music; or really twist (when feet are together, like twisting wet towel) and then do very fast foot to the side.

Welcome Party - a Q&A forum with these champions
Q: What's your favorite dance?
A: Heather Smith likes them all, but Slow Foxtrot would be her favorite.
Anastasia also likes them all, Tango is her favorite.

Q: For judges, you have a few seconds to judge, what are you looking for?
A: Donnie Burn looks for how the dancers express music in beautiful and efficient ways. Approach with simplicity.

Q: How do you practice and balance what to work on?
A: Normal practice generally starts with warm up, work on what's taught in a lesson, run through your routine. The length on each part depends. Before a competition, you may want to increase the time to run through routines.

Q: For Anastasia and Victor, what do you appreciate each other?
A: Anastasia appreciates that Victor listens "The first partner who actually listens." Victor says Anastasia is very patient.

Q: For judges: what mistakes do dancers make? What annoys you most?
A: Walk to the floor with your number facing judges, please. You want to capture (good) attention.
Ladies: what annoys Heather Smith the most is when lady dancers got on the floor with most beautiful costume, then she would pull her costume down (pulling built-in panties).

Donnie Burns: C
ut those "elephant ears" (ladies shoe strap sticks out too much)

Wear  age appropriate costume. When a pre-teen girl, shakes her hips and then winks at an 70-80 year old judge, that's wrong.

Annoying things: no floor craft, dance on top of people. 
Wash your costumes. 
we see everything. 
Don't chew gum.

Q: What's your goal of dancing & goal of life?
A: Victor: Right now, for dancing, I'd like to beat that guy (pointing to Arunas) :)
For life, oh, well, a beautiful wife, a big house, ...

Anastasia: keep improving, meet someone, stay happy....

Q: Advice for dancers?
A: Look at right now, improve 1 thing now. 
Practice double time (than the competition time). Judges judge from round to round. Need to keep that energy.

Q: When do you advice dancers do when there is collision?
A: Heather: we judge student differently from pros. We don't  mark down for students in collisions. For professionals, you can show floor craft, show musicality, you don't need to run faster than others. We see anger, it shows.