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Articles of Interest » American Style & Theater Dance Arts

American Style & Theater Dance Arts

Eddie Simon ((Edward (Eddie) Simon is a former United States ballroom champion, world show dance and U.S. theatrical finalist. Since his retirement from competition, Edward has become a distinguished coach, judge, and ambassador for DanceSport.))

American Style & Theatre Arts Dance Tips

The most important thing for new and young dancers to understand is that training their basic components will decide how good their best dancing will be. Many newer dancers don't realize that advanced figures in choreography are actually made up of many basic components put together. The more they train and understand each basic component, the better their advanced dancing will be.

To a beginner, the way they understand their own progress is by chalking up a new figure, and counting that as improvement. After a while, dancers realize that they know many figures, but they still don't look like the top dancers. That's why it's important to go back and really delve into understanding the basic components even more. I can often tell, when I'm judging, how long someone steps in their bronze training by the way they are dancing their silver, gold or open figures.

Specifically, in American style ballroom or Smooth, we have three different sets of techniques that have to be developed. The first component is closed-position techniques. Although a lot of these rules are similar to the standard, they have many different holds and applications. But, the science similar to the standard must be utilized. The second component is open partnering techniques. Open partnering techniques can be the same science we learned from Latin and Rhythm dancing—how we use the weight away from each other, toward each other, rotations and the turns, etc. Although it is not the same body styling as in Latin, it is the same body-weight techniques. The third component is performing art techniques. If I do a developé, I should have an understanding of a developé from Ballet, and I should be able to do a jazz turn.

How I present my emotion in the dance comes from the acting techniques of the performing arts. The key is to meld all three of those techniques together, by seamlessly interpreting the music you're hearing, and the particular dance you're trying to interpret. American ballroom should be an extremely technical style. Of course, just like any dancer or artist, the more you learn the technique, it disappears as you hear and feel the music. Very often people get carried away with the emotion, and do not balance delivering the technical side. Also, the emotion can become hidden from the people watching because they don't have the technical base to deliver the emotion. A dancer must always balance the technical with the emotional in order to deliver the message that is trying to be shown.

In Theatre Arts, dancers depend too much on lifts, as if it's a sport, instead of itinvolving artistry and music. While I love lift work, lift work should only be there to enhance the music and the emotion that is trying to be portrayed. When they dance on the floor and all the way up into the air, they should consider it as dancing in the air, not just a lift. The couple should have a full idea, before they start choreographing, of what they want to portray in the music and routine. Then they can decide all of the dance steps, movements and lifts to enhance what they want toshow. Balanchine, the famous ballet choreographer, once said that many of his best moves were never seen in any of his pieces. He went on to explain that it was because they didn't fit the particular dance he was choreographing. Rather than putting in the kitchen sink approach—"Oh, we can do that trick, let's put that in," let's try to understand what we're trying to portray in our dances. There should be a degree of difficulty. I believe it's much more difficult to show quality, beauty, balance, and control, than just to pop someone up in the air from muscular use only.

Finally, when it comes to so-called "politics," we have to understand that it's the dancers themselves that decide to make it political. If a dancer chooses to take lessons based off of a particular judge who marked them a certain way, instead of who they think they can learn best from, they are the ones choosing to make it political. It's not the judges, or anyone else. They have the choice to know their score, and not know who scored them which way. Then, they do not get involved in the personalities, and they can concentrate on their dancing. I can promise them thats it's a very liberating way to dance and compete.