Because the Olympics is on at the moment, I have been reminded of when I heard someone tell me that there is a desire to make dance-sport an Olympics event. I have my own thoughts about whether or not dance should be in the Olympics. However, I think discussion the question helps us to better understand the nature of partner dancing. Not only that, but I recently received an email from a subscriber of my email list asking for advice on how to prepare for competition after spending time social dancing. So a comparison between dance-sport and social dancing can be informative for people in the same situation.
While the ancient Olympics games did eventually include artistic competitions, it did originally consist of athletic events that were easy to judge objectively. Not only that, but it was the introduction of more subjective events such as poetry recitals that led to the corruption of the games, which were initially meant to display what the body was capable of. Therefore, while there is no reason why subjectively assessed competitions could be a part of the Olympics, I personally feel that they are less suited than events like the athletics ones.
The nature of dance
Dance is definitely a physical activity and displays what the body is capable of. However, it has many social aspects to it as well. I personally think it is hard to have one without the other. I recall a comment by Mari Johnson in her blog on Tim Ferris and his winning of a tango record. You can see the blog here. Basically, her argument is that Tango (and dance in partner dance in general) is not about simple mastery, but the experience of dancing with another. I am very sympathetic to this, but I realise that we all like to compete; partner dance competitions have been going on for more than 100 years.
Dance for competition
I feel that partner dancing should not be an Olympic event, but at the very least we need to realise that people have turned it into something that is a competition. This is a little different, and being good at dance sport is a bit different from being a good social dancer. Being aware of these differences will help you focus your efforts at improvement, and let you get more of what you want from dance.
Remember the following:
- You still need to basics – even though competition is more about the way you look and you can practice for this, you will find that good musicality and awareness for better connection with you partner will make this easier to achieve.
- Focus more on physicality – Competitions will be very much about how you look. This really requires good physicality. You will want to increase your efforts in this area when compared to other areas that you will work on.
- Confidence if needed – dancing with another person (who might be a stranger) might be more confronting than dancing in front of others with a person you know. However, this might be the opposite for you. If you need to, then look at applying confidence building techniques to improve your ability to dance in competitions.
- Realise that you’re dancing for a different reason – I recall a blues dance teacher I once learnt from being described as “the best man in Melbourne to dance with”. He gained this reputation by focusing on the nature of dance in its entirety. You will not be doing this when focusing on competition, just be aware of this difference.