Spectators Guide to: Latin American

Originating from South America, with a few Spanish and American influences thrown in, the Latin American style is a thrilling and passionate ride that will always leave you wanting more. Like the ballroom, Latin American (or simply Latin) competitions, feature five dances, being the Samba, Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, and the Jive.

Moving away from the more regimented hold of the Ballroom style, Latin dancers are free to express themselves through a variety of connections, whether it be a tight embrace or a longing look accross the dance floor. And its not just the hold that becomes more relaxed, with Latin costumes being a kelidiscope of colours and styles. Even the guys get to have some varity, usually wearing a costume that matches that of their partner.

Another aspect that makes this style unique is the way couples move around the floor. The Rumba, Cha Cha and Jive all are more or less danced on the spot, although more advanced choreography can traverse the floor in any direction, while the Paso and Samba travel around the floor, much as the ballroom dances do. So, with all that in mind, let’s see what we should focus on when watching this exciting style.


1.Technique: Still the most important part of any dance, here we are looking for things like accurate foot placements, and correct timing. Bad technique hampers everything the dancer is trying to achieve.

2.Leg Action: This is all about how you move your legs to create style and movement. Cha and Rumba feature straight legs, for example, while the jive is all about flexing knees and kick groups. 

3. Hips Hips Hips!: A defining feature of Latin is the hip action that characterises each dance. From the tic of Samba to the sensual roll of the Rumba, its all in the hips.

4. Lead and Follow The flashy nature of Latin lends itself to some showboating, and this is all good, but in the end, it’s still about two people moving together. A good partner is always aware of what the other requires to create the perfect moment.

5. Connectedness: More than just lead and follow, This can refer both to the physical connection between the two dancers, often needed to help perform some of the figures, and also the emotional connection that brings those figures to life.

The Dances

Cha Cha Cha: From Cuba, the Cha Cha Cha is a flirtatious and sassy dance. The characteristic 2-3 cha-cha-cha rhythm and figure-8 hip action is a defining feature of this dance, which also requires a sharp and straight leg action.

Samba: Taken from the brazillian samba and heavily modified for European dancefloors, the samba is fast and furious. It features a specific “ticking” hip action and a samba bounce.

Rumba: The dance of love, Rumba features the same basic action as the cha cha, only without the cha-cha-cha rhythm. Instead, it makes use of a sensual settling of the hips to create a languid and seductive dance.

Paso Doble: Definitely the most dramatic of the Latin dances, the Paso Doble tells the story of the bullfight, with the man as the Matador and his partner as the cape, or the bull. Paso is danced to a very specific piece of music, and builds up to certain highlights in the music that corresponds to dramatic lines and shapes from the dancers.

Jive: After the drama of the Paso, its time to party. The high energy jive comes from the days of rock n roll, and features fast, high leg actions and sharp kick groups. This one gets everyone fired up, so get ready for a good time.

The 7 Age groups of Australian Dancesport

Once you’ve sorted out the grading system, you have another set of terms to decode – The age groups. What’s the difference between an Adult and a Masters II competitor? It can be a little confusing, so lets shed some light on the situation. As with many sports, Australian dancesport breaks competitors up into age groups. These age groups have been defined as follows:

Sub-Juvenile: The youngest category, sub-juvenile competitors are aged 9 years and under.

Juvenile: Juvenile competitors are aged 12 and under. Competitors in this age group, as well as the sub-juvenile division, are subject to costume restrictions, so they can focus on skills and take care of their feet.

Junior: Both partners in this category must be younger than 16, and at least one partner must be older than 13. At this point, some dress restrictions are lifted, however, the males still cannot wear tails.

Under 21: As the name implies, both dancers in this category must be younger than 21. Additionally, the oldest must be at least 16 and the youngest not younger than 11. At this point, the dress restrictions are lifted.

Adult:. competitors are eligible to enter the adult field once they turn 16. Unlike the other categories, there is no upper age limit, and so if they so choose, dancers can compete in this level for as long as they feel they can. Winning the Adult Open events is one of the most prestigious milestones a dancer can achieve, so these events are usually fiercely contested. However, that’s not to say that any of the other categories are any less coveted. Which leads us to…

Masters 1. A dancer is eligible for the Masters 1 bracket in the year they turn 35. The younger partner may be as young as 30, as long as one of the partnership has reached 35. As the name implies, competitors in this category may have been competing their whole lives and have mastered many of the technical and artistic skills.


Masters 2. This division begins at 50, with the younger partner eligible at 45 years of age.


Masters 3. The final age bracket, the Masters 3 category is open to anyone aged 60 or above. As with the other Master’s divisions, the younger partner can be 55 or older.

A spectator’s guide to: International Standard

Ballroom, International Standard, Modern, call it what you will, these are the dances that most people think of when it comes to ballroom dancing. Consisting of 5 dances, being the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, and the Quickstep, Ballroom has been around, in some form, from as far back as the 16th century, although its current form has roots in the early 20th century. It has continued to develop since then, to create the exciting and dynamic movements you will see at the championships.
While all of the dances are performed in close “ballroom” hold, each dance has its own very distinct character that makes it unique. Owing to its origins in the early 20th century, the costumes worn by the dancers are tail suits for the men, without exception, and ballroom dresses for the ladies, creating that classic ballroom silhouette. Since the men are all wearing black, or in some cases blue, tails, it’s up to the sequined dresses of the ladies bring the colour to the floor. Ballroom dresses can run into the thousands of dollars when custom made for a dancer, and tails aren’t much cheaper.

When comparing the couples and choosing a favourite to cheer for, there are a few things to look for in the ballroom dances, including:

1.Technique: The correct use of footwork, rise and fall, and accurately danced figures that make up each dance

2.Posture: A good ballroom dancer displays excellent posture and poise, to maintain balance and create swing and shape.

3.Top line: The top line refers to anything above the arm line of the couple. It creates the frame of the couple, and so a strong top line doesn’t move around or distort. A good top line also assists the dancers when making turns

4. Floorcraft: Floorcraft is the skill of navigating the partnership around the floor without running into other couples. Everyone has different routines, and it takes experience and skill to be able to alter choreography on the fly, and then communicate it to your partner without breaking the flow or saying a word!

5. Grooming: In some cases, it comes down to the little things, like good presentation and grooming, to get you over the line. Attention to detail here can go a long way. A well-presented costume, neatly arranged hair and other such things all count in this sport.

The Five Ballroom Dances

International Standard features five dances, each with its own unique character and style. While we could spend all day discussing the various complexities, here is a very quick overview of what to look for from each dance.

Modern Waltz: Like a feather on the breeze, the couples dancing the waltz drifts across the floor, slow and dreamlike one moment, then suddenly executing dynamic spins and then diving into a dramatic lunge or line. Rise and fall is a feature of this dance, helping to give it that floating appearance.
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Tango: The most dramatic dance, Tango is the fire that rages across the floor. Using no rise and fall at all, the Tango is characterised by sharp staccato actions, head flicks, and a closer hold than that of the other dances.

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Viennese Waltz: From the dance halls of Austria, the Viennese waltz is a fast and lively dance, consisting of clockwise and counterclockwise turns that travel around the floor. More advanced dancers may also add a fleckerl, a series of turns on the spot. This dance is a real test of stamina for the couples.

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Slow Foxtrot: The foxtrot is all about smooth, gliding movements across the floor. Possibly the hardest dance to master in this style due to the extensive use of heel turns, as well as the effort required to maintain the smooth appearance consistently throughout the dance.

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Quickstep: Originally part of the foxtrot, the quickstep (or trickster as some call it), is fast, high energy entertainment. Runs, jumps, kicks, all while maintaining a body connection with your partner make this dance an exciting but challenging way to finish off this style.

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Spectators Guide to: Divisions and Grades

When you open up the program for the Australians, you will notice that the day is packed full of events. These events are first broken down by style, then age group, and finally division and Grade. In Australia, there are several different divisions for competitors to work their way through But what do the grades actually mean?
Professional: At the top of the tree, the professional division represents the pinnacle of dancesport. Dancers who choose the professional division dedicate their lives to dance, competing, teaching, and often owning studios or performing in shows around the world.Professional Latin 9396.png

Open: The open division is the premier event for non-professional, or Amateur, competitive dancers. Any dancer in the graded division may enter to test themselves against some of the best dancers in the country, and indeed the world. To make an open final is a huge achievement in itself, and to win the title is something that all dancers dream of. Masters 1 Open Standard 7885.png

Amateur Graded: The majority of dancers will find themselves in this category, which is further divided into A, B and C grades. C grade dancers are usually just beginning their journey, while A grade dancers can, in some cases, spend almost as much time and effort as the professionals and usually feature in the Open events as well. The A Grade event is a closed event, open only to Australian couples, who must complete 5 dances in their chosen style. B division dancers perform 4 dances, and the C grade division performs just 3. Dancers elevate through the system by achieving places and gathering points.

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Recreational division: This is the first point of entry for anyone wishing to compete in dancesport. Dancers are restricted to routines that only contain syllabus steps, to allow them to focus on developing the basic technique of each dance. They are also only permitted to wear practice or streetwear, mainly as a way to lower the cost of entry into the sport.Recreational Adult U21 Latin 6809.png

Pro-Am. Separate from the other categories, pro-am features professional division dancers partnering their students through the event. In Pro-Am events, the partnership is marked as a whole, with both the professional and partner being judged as a couple.

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Teacher-Student. Slightly different to the Pro-Am, Teacher-student events allow teachers, regardless of if they are professional or amateur,  to dance with their students. Unlike the pro-am division, only the student is being marked in these events.

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Spectator’s Guide to: New Vogue Dancing

The Australian Dancesport Championships are right around the corner, and with it comes many people who may not have ever seen a dance comp before! It can be a little overwhelming at first, so here’s the first in a series of guides on what to look for in the different styles that aims to give a basic introduction on each of the styles and what to look for when you’re in the stands cheering on your favourite couple. This is by no means a definitive or in-depth discussion, and many people have their own opinions, but it’s a place to start

What is New Vogue?

Unique to Australia and New Zealand, New Vogue is a style of dance that takes the ballroom rhythms such as Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango, and transforms them into dances with set choreography, or sequences. All couples dance the same routines at the same time, with the dance usually commencing after 4 bars of music. Unlike their Ballroom cousins, however, New Vogue dances are characterised by a number of different holds, positions, and the use of arm lines to create shape and character. There are 15 championship dances performed at the Australians, listed at the end of this article, each with their own style and flavour. But with everyone doing the same thing, how do you pick a winner? Well, here are five areas that judges may look at to determine who will take home the trophy.

1.      Technique

The most basic, and arguably the most important, criteria, correct technique is the foundation of everything the dancer is trying to accomplish. It’s the set of rules that cover such things as footwork, position, and timing. For example, the correct use of footwork allows the dancers to create the correct movement and character for each dance, So be on the lookout for clear footwork, neat closes, and controlled steps as examples of good technique.

2.      Posture

Posture refers to how the dancers position their body and limbs, to create and maintain their balance and poise. Good dancers have a strong, erect spine, so no slouching. Not only is it important to have good posture for balance and appearance, it is also essential to avoid injury.

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Jaxon Putland and Nicola Foxwell

3.      Musicality

This is a tough one to define. A combination of many things, musicality is the dancer’s ability to subtly adapt their actions to the music that is being played. It’s how they use the timing, technique, movement, and arm lines to interpret the music and convey meaning to the audience. If it makes you feel something and looks like it matches the music, then they’re probably doing it right.

4.      Shapes and lines

One of the defining features of New Vogue is the use of arm lines to create shape and expression. Because the dancers can often not be holding on to one another, they can use their arms to great effect, and this is where much of the variety comes in. Look for strong, controlled movements from each partner that match or complement the other, and combine to tell a story.

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Crawford Hill and Monique Savill – Adult New Vogue Champions

5.      Connection

All dance styles need the dancers to be connected, both to each other and to the audience. While the most obvious type of connection is the physical, whether it be a hand or body connection, New Vogue dancers spend a lot of time separated. To maintain a connection when apart, dancers can look at each other, use their arm lines to compliment each other, and use other subtle cues to show that even though they are apart, they are still together.

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Stefano Olivieri & Jessica Prince – Professional New Vogue Champions

 

So there are just a few things to look for when watching the New Vogue at this year’s Australian Dancesport Championships.

 

The 15 Championship dances

 

Foxtrot Rhythms

Characterised by smooth, strong, swinging movement, foxtrot rhythm dances can be sweet or sexy. The dances in this rhythm are:

  • Merrilyn
  • Carousel
  • Barclay Blues
  • Excelsior Schottische
  • Charmaine

Waltz Rhythms

Based on the Viennese waltz, these dances are quite fast and use lots of rise and fall.

  • Twilight Waltz
  • Lucille Waltz
  • Tracie Leigh Waltz
  • Swing Waltz
  • Parma Waltz

Tango Rhythms

Fiery and dramatic, these dances are characterised by sharp staccato actions and loads of arrogance.

  • Tango Terrific
  • La Bomba
  • Tangoette

March Rhythms

Unique to New Vogue, these are danced to 4/4 music and use a marching action.

  • Evening Three Step
  • Gypsy Tap