Flashbacks: On Ballroom

Watching Dancing with the Stars got us into ballroom dancing. It’s been fun and challenging. Below are some past posts that you may not know about ballroom. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On Waltz

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Did you hear the 1-2-3 pattern in the beat?

The waltz is a fun, elegant dance, but the truth be known, it is not easy

Waltz music is in 3/4 time (three beats per measure), whereas most dances are in 4/4 time

Waltz music should provide an easy to hear 1-2-3, 1-2-3 pattern, with the first beat heavier (more pronounced than the others)

In many steps, dancers elongate the second beat

Today, waltz is associated with flowing gowns, tails, and sophistication, but its roots are as a dance of 16th century peasants in eastern Europe

Here’s a chance to learn the basic step

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The word waltz is from the old German word walzen, meaning to roll, to turn, or to glide

Waltz became fashionable in Vienna in the 1780s

As the dance spread across Europe, religious leaders vehemently opposed the dance, thus proclaimed it as vulgar and sinful

Acceptance in England was even slower, but opposition waned because Queen Victoria was a good dancer and enjoyed waltz

Waltz received a big boost when Austrian composer Johann Strauss wrote numerous waltzes

Waltz first came to America in the early 1800s, yet it also received religious opposition – but to no avail as society accepted waltz by the 1850s

Here’s one of our favorite waltz songs, Come Away With Me by Norah Jones with Jonathan and Anna on DWTS (listen for the 1-2-3 beat)

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In dancehall settings, waltz moves counter-clockwise around the floor with a rise on the second beat

Waltz looks best with long, controlled strides to move the floor

Social dancing is not choreographed – it’s lead and follow … yep, the male leads and the female follows …. Ladies, would any of you have a problem with that?

Today there are two prominent styles: International Standard Waltz and American Style Waltz

Major difference is that in international style, the dancers always stay in closed position (in hold), while American style breaks hold for spins, turns, and other steps (This was very evident to me on my trip to Italy early this year)

Viennese waltz (shown later) is also in 3/4 time, but at a much faster tempo with a lot of turning (thus I don’t do Viennese because of motion sickness)

Other styles include Scandinavian, Peruvian, Mexican, Cajun, Tango vals, Venezuelan, Contra/Freeform, Valse Musette, and Cross-Step

The next set of videos are to some of my favorite waltz music – Enjoy!

Still Me (American style)

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Theme from Cider House Rules (International style)

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She Dances by Josh Grobin with Tony and Julianne on DWTS

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Nocturne by Secret Garden

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Here’s a beautiful Viennese Waltz, which is much faster, but the 1-2-3 beat is still prevalent

On Cha Cha (Cha)


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Known as cha-cha-cha, or simply cha-cha

Dance of Cuban origin

Derived from Mambo

Energetic, fast, sharp dance with a steady beat

Music is in 4/4 time, thus providing a rhythm to split the fourth beat

Some count one, two, three, cha-cha-cha, two, three, cha-cha-cha

Others count one, two, three, cha-cha, one, two, three, cha-cha

In the basic pattern, the cha-cha-cha steps are side-together side, while the one to three are forward, back, together (or back, forward, together)

Here’s a chance to learn the basic step

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Styles of differ from place to place

In competitive ballroom, there are American style and International style (which have more similarities than differences)

Introduced to the US in 1954, and it was the dance craze by 1959

Hip action called Cuban motion

Cuban motion is a result of bending and straightening the legs, plus shifting the weight

Enjoy this slow competitive Cha-Cha

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One of the most dominant pop rhythms in the past 50 years

Listen to the music the basic pattern of the feet

Enjoy the group routine to Ola Chica (one of my favorites)

On Tango

Time to learn something about tango. After all, it takes two. Besides the info, see the artistry in the slideshow and the videos. Any favorites? By the way, in the video, the basic rhythm of the steps goes T-A-NGO.

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“The Tango is the easiest dance. If you make a mistake and get tangled up, you just Tango on.” (Al Pacino in The Scent of a Woman.)
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Tango’s origination is debatable, including to African slaves in Argentina

I associate tango as the dance of the smelly gaucho with the local lady who turns away from him because of his odor

At times in history, those condemning tango included the upper class, many Christian churches (including Roman Catholics)

Popularized from South America through Europe (especially Paris and London) and eventually to North America in the early 1900s


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Tango music is phrased in multiples of 8 (as 16 and 32)

There are different types of tango: Argentine, Ballroom, Camacupense, Canyengue, Finnish, Liso, Milonguero, Nuevo, Orillero, Salon, Show, and Uruguayan. (Some of these are earlier forms that may not be danced today)

Ballroom tango has different styles as International, European, and American (the last being the more social version)

The head snaps by dancers are most associated with American Ballroom style

Movies that featured Tango dancing include (but not limited to) The Scent of a Woman, Evita, Moulin Rouge, True Lies, and Shall We Dance.

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Many consider Carlos Gardel to be the first great champion of the Argentine Tango.

In 2009, UNESCO declared Tango as part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage”

Today, a variety of music is acceptable tango music – thus tango’s revival continues

Tango can be hot!

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Which was your favorite video and favorite piece of art?

On a Special St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is the one day that many non-Irish wear green, drink green beer, attend St. Patrick’s Day parties, and maybe attend parade dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint. For those planning to celebrate, enjoy the event, and be safe.

FYI: A popular Cincinnati institution is serving green spaghetti today!

Although I imagine green will work into our day, our heritages of Italian and Swedish-German will temper the day. On the other hand, today we celebrate a birthday of the woman I love – my beautiful and wonderful wife.

When she was growing up, I’m sure she received more than her share of green birthday cards. Since those early days, she’s received non-green birthday cards, e-cards, and birthday greetings via Facebook; but today, she receives her first-ever blog post dedicated to her on her actual birthday … and hopefully greetings from bloggers.

Regular readers realize my wife and I enjoy ballroom dancing. Although others say we dance well and encourage us to compete and participate in shows, we stick to social dancing. Because waltz is one of favorite dances, here’s a video I know she will enjoy – a waltz from the Blackpool Professional Ballroom Championships (2010).

Happy Birthday to my long-time friend and love …the other angle, my supplementary and complementary angle. How about green spaghetti for lunch?

On Benefits from the Ballroom

My wife and I started ballroom dance lessons about four years ago, so it is a good time to reflect at the experience. Since dance studios proclaim the benefits as part of their marketing, this post is a personal evaluation of those. The bold is the proclaimed statement, thus my thoughts follow.

#1: Improves Posture
Check. No question that my walking movements are different today than when we started – although I need to work on being more upright.

#2: Sharpens the Mind
Check. Ballroom dance is more difficult that one thinks in terms of brain activity alone. Besides the obvious learning, dancers (especially the lead) have to plan, react, and adjust. Ballroom is a challenge requiring mental discipline. The female must also increase her awareness in order to react to subtle and/or unexpected signals. Since most ballroom is lead and follow (as opposed to choreograph), the bottom line is that dance involves a lot of brain activity.

#3: Improves Self-Confidence
Check. Of course that is assuming that one is achieving what they want to achieve from the experience.

#4: Exercises the Body
Check. The aerobic extent of ballroom dancing correlates to the type of dance. Obviously, a faster song is more aerobic than a slower dance. There is no doubt that this activity also improves muscle tone and endurance while lowering blood pressure, exercising the heart, and improving breathing.

#5: Relieves Stress
Check. Although ballroom dance tests our patience, we have grown to become more patient. Besides, the enjoyment of dance takes one away from the rat-race nature of today’s world.

#6: Fosters New Friendships
Check. Since we have been at the same studio during our time, we have met many people and have become very good friends with some, thus have been to each other’s home for dinner and socializing. Since we dance outside of our studio, our circle of friends expands even more.

#7: Improves Relationships
Check. Ballroom dance is something we do together. Sure, times can be testy, but it takes two people working together to be successful.

#8: It is Fun
Check. For me, the combination of music, friends, and spouse adds up to fun. Through the music of the past and present, dance allows everyone the opportunity to rediscover a child-like spirit within us.

A Few Cautions

  • Quality ballroom dance lessons are not cheap because a studio is a business, not a recreation center.
  • Like anything else, some instructors are more professional and knowledgeable than others.
  • Having a musical background is helpful, but not required.
  • Practice is important.
  • Some participate in ballroom dance to compete, yet others do it be social dancers.

Bottom line is that we enjoy the activity and have experienced its proclaimed benefits.

Meanwhile, enjoy this Bolero – a slow, Latin dance that is one of our favorites.

Opening Image from Fred Astaire Dance Studios

On a Dancer from the Past

With tonight being the start of Dancing with the Stars – Season 10 (and that we watch the show that got us started with ballroom dance), today is a perfect opportunity to look back at two dance legends: Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell.

They seem so effortless in this 1940 tap-dancing clip. Enjoy a look at the past and have a good week.