How can I determine if Ballroom dancing is right for me or my child?
Ballroom dancing can be a very good activity, no matter what age or gender your child is. Boys and gentlemen are usually enjoying the competitive side of it, while girls and ladies are mesmerized by dresses, make up and performances. You can always try the group classes, that are open for both competitors and recreational dancers.
What is your group structure?
The usual age when young dancers can start competing is 6-10 years old. At this time they start attending Newcomer groups. They learn basic steps and patterns of 4 first dances: Waltz, Quickstep, Cha cha cha and Rumba, as well as prepare to learn the rest of the program. Children start attending their first competitions and performances, dancing both solo and in couples. Children start taking private lessons to help every couple or solo dancer prepare their own individual routines. 2 group classes and 1 private lesson a week is recommended.
For early development we have a special program for children 3-6 years old called Pre-Ballroom. Children learn how to operate their bodies, stretch and do physical exersises designed for their age, as well as learn dances like Polka, Samba, Disco and have their first non-competitive performances. Two classes a week are recommended.
By the age of 8-12 dancers move to the next group - Syllabus, where they keep polishing their technique and learn basic patterns for all 10 dances of International Style: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Cha cha cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive. 2 group classes, at least 2 private lessons and Competitive Rounds class are recommended, as well as regular competitions solo and with partners.
By the age of 12 dancers who have enough experience competing by that time move into Open Division. Training primarily happens individually, but dancers attend Seminars depending on Latin, Ballroom or 10-dance program preference, as well as Competitive Rounds classes. At least 3 private lessons a week per program is recommended, as well about 10 competitions per year.
But you can start competing and become a successful dancer at any age! For adult dancers that wish to try a competitive program offer individual programs based on your level as well as open seminar and rounds classes every week.
Our class meets twice-a-week or more. Can I come only once-a-week?
It works just like at school, if you regularly miss a class, you'll get behind other students and may start feeling uncomfortable in the group.
When should I start private lessons?
As soon as you decide you would like to do dancing competitively, the combination of private lessons, group classes, practice rounds, conditioning and self-practice becomes the core system of yours or your child's development as a dancer. The number of private lessons is determined by the level the competitor is dancing on. The optimal number of private lessons is 2-3 per week for each dancer or 4-6 joined lessons (in this case the price for lessons is being divided between students). And, of course, if you or your child is dancing recreationally, but has missed some classes and needs extra help, one of our team members will be happy to help.
My friend says he is a World Ballroom Dance Champion. Is this meaningful at all?
Currently in the world there are several million dancers involved in the competitive ballroom dancing. There are two major federations for our field - World Dance Sport Federation and the World Dance Council. In the United States they are represented by the USA Dance organization and the National Dance Council of America respectively. All of the major competitions are being held by these two organizations. If your friend won one of the world events held by these two organizations, it is very meaningful. But also the event could be organized by another, smaller organization. To determine the real placement of a dancer in the world the web site such as www.dancesportinfo.net can be used. It summarizes information from almost all events all over the world and gives a rating to each couple.
I hear some coaches are competing themselves as amateurs and some as professionals. Why is that?
In Ballroom dance industry we have two divisions - Amateurs and Professionals. Long time ago all dancers who considered dancing only as a recreational activity were called Amateurs and were prohibited to make money from dance activities in any form (performing shows, teaching, etc). Once they were more serious about their craft they were "turning Professionals" - passing exams, competing in professional division etc. From the late 90's dance organizations in many countries started passing rules, allowing amateur dancers to teach in order to spend more time at the studio polishing their craft and becoming better dancers, rather than looking for a side job. At the same time there are currently no rules preventing people without any dance experience from registering in professional division. So today you can find a highly qualified dancer and coach, who's couples are placing at top positions in the nation, still competing as amateur. And you can find a person, belonging to the professional division, who is not capable of teaching a resultative competitive couple. As with any sport or art activity you are choosing for your child, you should ask for more credentials, meet with other students, watch dance competitions.
What is the best age to start competing?
Most amateur competitions have 12 age groups:
Teddy Bear - 7 and younger
Pre-teen 1 - 8-9 years old
Pre-teen 2 - 10-11 years old
Junior 1 - 12-13 years old
Junior 2 - 14-15 years old
Youth - 16-18 years old
Under 21 - 16-21 years old
Adult - 18+
Senior 1 - 35+
Senior 2 - 45+
Senior 3 - 55+
Senior 4 - 62+
That means that technically kids as young as preschool age can compete. But here comes a subject of proficiency levels. In Ballroom dance we have a Newcomer, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Novice, Pre-Champ and Championship divisions. (There are also sub-divisions like Pre-Novice, Intermediate Gold etc, that mean the same proficiency groups and are basically made to give a dancer a chance to perform more dances at the competition). Newcomer through Gold divisions are considered "Closed" or "Syllabus" divisions, which means the dancer can only perform movements and routines from the syllabus book. (for ex. "The Revised Technique of Ballroom Dancing" by Alex Moore). Novice through Championship level dancers are allowed to use "open" movements in their choreography, which technically means any movement that can be used in the context of the dance. These proficiency levels are also called "Open". Most of the amateur competitions require Teddy Bear and Pre-teen dancers to use syllabus only movements in their routines. At the same time it is quite hard to find competitions for Juniors and Youth in syllabus divisions. Based on that, at NIKA Dance Academy we prepare competitive dancers age 12 and older to go through their required Syllabus levels as quickly as they can to be ready to sucessfully compete in Open divisions as soon as possible.
When will I or my child go to the next competitive level?
Usually dancers are competing at their proficiency level and one level above. Successful competition experience is the key to start competing at the next level.
Is it necessary to have a partner to compete?
Originally Ballroom dancing was designed to be performed in couples. But nowadays it has developed into several forms of possible competition. Together with the regular partnerships you can do Pro/Am (when amateur is partnered by a professional coach at the competition), Mixed Am/Am (same as Pro/Am, but your coach is an amateur), Singles (when you compete by yourself). All of those divisions are official and have official World Championships.
Is there a homework to do?
Of course. Every time you come to the lesson or class, they get a homework. In most cases, they have to simply repeat whatever was on the lesson every day till their next session. Usually it won't take more than 10-15 minutes.
Ballroom dance is a quiet form of activity, that does not take much energy. Is that true?
If you think so, you either saw only a recreational class or a very good dancer performing, as making an illusion of ease of movement is what we are trained to do. It is an activity, that takes as much calories per hour as playing hard sports like hockey. When dancers compete, they suppose to actively fight for their place at the competition, at the same time making it look nice, easy and graceful.
Is taking some group classes enough for a dance success as a competitor?
Competitive ballroom dancing program of a successful dancer consists of:
Why do you ask friends and family to leave the ballroom during lessons and classes?
All our teachers are current or past dancers. We all went through thousands of hours of training. We all know how hard it might be for a dancer to focus on their material. From time to time we all feel embarrassed learning and trying new stuff, things we have never done before. When we have our family or friends, anyone, but fellow dancers, who are in the same boat, in the room during technical lessons and classes, we feel extra responsible, shy, and are not able to focus on the new material. That is why it is important that family and friends are present only during competitions, pre-competitive rounds and shows. In those moments we are already prepared with our material, but we really need to feel the emotional support of our friends and families, as we need this energy to perform well.
What to wear for the lessons and classes?
Please keep the word "neat", preparing for the lesson or class, in mind. For little girls a leotard, a soft skirt and leggings, together with socks and ballet shoes would be the best option. Hair must be pulled up into a bun. For boys tight shirts and khakis or not oversized sweat pants can be an option. Please give preference to black, grey, white colors (also nude or baby blue and baby pink for girls). Please avoid skirts made out of hard net. While looking cute, they might be very uncomfortable for little princesses. Older kids, youth and adults can choose any comfortable clothes. Please make sure that it is always fresh and clean. Teenagers and older dancers have to use shower at least every day, have clean pair of socks and clean shirt. Please teach your child to use deodorant after each shower, but avoid strong perfumes. Make up for young ladies is allowed, as we understand they have to experiment before the performance.
How about dance shoes?
This is very important to have correct and well made shoes. For little kids before they start competing please choose ballet shoes. For Teddy bear and Pre-teen competitors a pair of low-heel ballroom shoes should be purchased. For Juniors and older dancers heel can be up to 2 inch for boys and up to 3.5 inch for girls. Please do not buy any shoes without prior consultation with your coach. It is very important that the shoes would provide correct support to the young dancer's foot.
Dance competition attire. Any rules?
Yes. Costumes for Teddy Bears and Pre-teens are being regulated by the rules of the organization that runs the competition. Technically, those rules are similar for all organizations with some mild exception. But it is definitely possible to make or buy one dress or costume, that will last you a season or so. For Juniors and older dancers, competing in open divisions, the requirements are also open, but the costume needs to look good on the floor. Please consult your coach regarding your child's costume and look overall. The impression they make on the floor is making a huge impact on their results.
My child's partner is sick or cannot come to dance for any other reason. Should we still come?
Of course. Such activities as ballroom dancing teach your child not only the direct professional skills, but also a discipline and life standards. Your child should feel, that his craft is the priority for you as a parent, and his plans will not be interrupted. Besides, there is always something, that your child can work on by themselves. And we will give all needed support to the child who missed a class or a lesson for any reason, so no one feels falling behind.
What should I do to stay in the loop of current events?
Join our Facebook group. And regularly contact your coaches with any questions you may have.
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