BALLROOM DANCING, SPORT OR ART?

Ballroom dance was officially voted NOT to be recognized as a sport in the olympics about 2 years ago. Many people are trying to still push it, but it is, at this writing, a dead issue. The main problem was/is that the Ballroom powers that be tried to change ballroom dance to make it appear to be more of a sport in hopes of attracting the desires of the Olympic powers that be. This was their downfall. I have been a Ballroom coach/adjudicator for many years. I still also continue to train many ice dancers for their short and long programs. If one were to read the figure skating manual (used in the Olympics), and then read the Ballroom dance manual that once was used for Ballroom competitions, one would find that the books were almost verbatim in their requirements. It was this stand that was the original argument for Ballroom to be recognized as a sport...that the requirements were almost equal to the letter to those of the figure skaters'. It was a sound argument, and at that point, Ballroom had a great chance.

Unfortunately, a political power struggle of nations and organizations began (i.e. who was going to be the official group to send dancers to the O.; who would represent amateurs and who would represent pros; etc.). Further, in a stupid attempt to appear to be more of a sport than an art (combined with an excuse to recognize the hundreds of younger, outstanding jazz, ballet, and theatrical dancers who had no proper Ballroom training but were coming on to the Ballroom scene in competitions, etc., DanceSport was conceived. To consider that the Olympic powers would look at Ballroom differently simply because we (and, I use that word loosely), were now calling it a Dance-Sport was ludicrous. To allow these younger dancers to "win" Ballroom Competitions with little to none and/or very bad Ballroom technique and style was a degradation to the sport and to the real champions...some of whom were still competing. To change the course of Ballroom dance from focusing on teaching the general public to training Olympians with no style was a travesty to the industry.

I am all for growth and the inevitable change that always accompanies it. I am very happy that Ballroom has integrated a more 21st century approach to dance. I am not happy at all that proper technique and a dance's particular style has been passed by and overlooked in the name of that change.

Ballroom is not yet an Olympic sport, and probably won't be unless some real positive steps are taken to keep the contemporary changes, but return to the Figure skaters' / Ballroom rule book of proper technique, style, and form.

Percell Rivere St. Thomass (dancealaska@alaska.com.

Published in Nigel Grant's Dance Teachers Online newsletter.