Danse Latine

I am a standard dancer.  It’s been verified! I originally signed up for standard lessons and then they gave me a few free lessons for being a student and for referring a friend so now I’m pressed to use up all my lesssons before I leave! So, I decided to try some latin dances.

photo credit to Sarah, from Mid-Atlantic DanceSport Championships with Josef Kushner.


I’m going to interrupt really quickly to explain somethings in the basic sense about ballroom dancing.  There are two styles of international dancing (there are american styles as well, but those aren’t offered in France so that’s a whole different story) and they are Standard and Latin.  Standard is the classical styles of ballroom such as Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, etc.  The Latin styles are more upbeat, fast, and flirty such as ChaCha, Jive, Samba, etc. When someone start’s dancing, they’re a Newcommer.  For each dance there are about 5 different moves they’re allowed to do.  After a semester, dancers are put into the Bronze category.  In the bronze category there are about five more moves they’re allowed to do, plus the 5 from the Newcommer division.  However, to place out of bronze, dancers have to win a certain number of times and earn a certain amount of points.  Then they move to Silver with about 15 moves for each dance; and the same thing for Gold with about 20 moves for each dance.  All four of these levels are called Syllabus because there is a set list and restriction on what moves are allowed for each level.  After finishing syllabus, dancers move into the open divisions, where they can pretty much do any move in existence!! Needless to say open choreography is very different and often much harder than anything in syllabus.

In my standard lessons I’ve been confronted with some open choreography and I’ve been able to follow along and perform with no problem (and no language barrier).  Last night was my first time trying open latin choreography in a class, and well… it was an experience.

The dances were Samba and then Chacha.  The Samba class had many moves I hadn’t seen before, but they were similar to moves I’ve done in syllabus Chacha so I could get the rhythm and technique enough to fake it.  It was challenging, but I enjoyed it.  The Chacha class… was crazy.  The drills were forward locks, spirals, time-steps, and backward locks; all things I’ve done before and enjoyed practicing.  Then we went to choreography.  I’m going to explain my part of the choreo, so the names of the moves may be reversed (my back lock = a forward lock by formal terminology since male is going forward).  So It started with back locks then a spiral where the man flips your hand, and you do shadow forward locks, then he unflips hand and I turn around… no problem.  Next the guy just like throws the girl, and I’m supposed to end up behind him in shadow… I fudged my footwork through that.  Then shadow cuban breaks, no problem, followed by a pause/ball change, all is well.  Then we do a move that is sorta like a rondé into a “drunken sailor” move from jive; still this is reasonable.

Then here comes the part that was simply ridiculous!! I do a rondé (coming forward) into a spiral, into a three step turn, into a step turning, into back locks… and the guy just turns around during all of that.  To give some context, I’ve already been dancing for two hours after a 9 hour day of classes … so to say I’m exhausted would be an understatement.  Mix that with impropper shoes and well.. this part was a distaster. My balance isn’t the best with each of these moves and separate entities, so when you put them all together …. it is a recipe for disaster!

The end part of the dance was the rumba-esque swivels side to side, again the man just stands there…. followed by a cool move where the lady points her toe onto the mans foot, then he raises his foot and it throws her leg up and around into a cool dramatic pose.  I’d like to mention that this choreography was super sexist… in many moves the guy just stands there, or throws the girl somewhere, or turns around and the lady is doing all the work!!! Whew.. it was an exhausting and difficult lesson.  I much prefer my standard lessons!!!

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