Skip to main content

Have you ever wondered what a dance instructor thinks when watching a competition? I had the opportunity to watch two large competitions in two consecutive weekends, not to mention Delta Cup just a few weeks ago and jotted down some random thoughts during some of the events. Here’s a look into my own thought process, specifically from an International Standard Pro/Am section.

Oooh, Latin feet!

So often we see Latin, or Ballet feet in the Standard dances. In fact, this happens so often that I am working on a post to cover this issue in more detail. This is ugly and works against your ability to drive forward or backward. It’s natural for us to turn our feet out slightly, especially when trying to stabilize our bodies during strong movements. You absolutely need it for Latin and Rhythm dances. But it is so very unattractive in Standard and Smooth. Keep those feet aligned!

Hasn’t that Pro ever heard of Line of Dance?

I cringed during one Pro/Am event where the couple was dancing both sides of Slow Foxtrot on the same side of the floor. You really shouldn’t cross the center line except to avoid a collision. It’s not just professionals who are guilty of this. There seems to be a growing trend towards ignoring the line of dance, especially in Slow Foxtrot and Quickstep. It’s annoying and dangerous and getting out of control in some events.

Express confidence no matter how you feel

Even if dancers are not feeling all that confident, they should always express confidence. Otherwise you just have a practice session. Those who look confident and express the joy of dancing look like winners. The ones who are thinking are uncomfortable to watch.

Wow, every one of those ladies has an excellent, consistent stretch!

I love it when ladies understand what their stretch is and where it comes from. It completely transforms their look. Too often they confuse stretch with sticking the head back. This leads to looking like their necks are broken. If they think “up and diagonally away” with their whole upper body instead of back with their heads they will change everything about their look. Try to imagine that your arms are wings and you are draping yourself over the man’s right arm while stretching up and away from the man.

Winning is not about the body shape

We often see dancers with larger, non-typical body shape who are more confident and more beautiful than most of the others. Yet so many dancers think their body shape works against them. Believe in yourself! Confidence is sexy, no matter what kind of body shape you have. If you have confidence you’ll be a joy to watch.

Floor craft is the glory of ballroom dancing

Good floorcraft can easily make you decide between two couples, especially when a lady seamlessly follows unexpected changes in choreography. The audience loves to see couples effortlessly changing choreography to avoid trouble on the floor. It’s the highest honor for the man to protect his lady in this way and bring her to a place on the floor where she can dance freely and be seen. Yet too often couples are so focused on their pre-set choreography that they dance in a cluster of bodies where they can’t even be seen.

Let’s have more Pro Ladies!

I love watching Pro/Am lady teachers with their students on the floor. They’re such a joy to watch.

Too many toe leads

Ugh, all those ladies doing toe leads in Slow Foxtrot. Male teachers have a hard time catching that, as it is very hard to identify while dancing with your student. During lessons, try to catch this. You can use mirrors to watch your student’s footwork, or have them dance the routine by themselves to see if they are doing heel and toe leads correctly.

Stop trying so hard!

Competition has a funny effect on dancers. Aware that they are being judged, they often try too hard to be perfect. Believe me, it shows even if you think it doesn’t. When you TRY to dance instead of just dancing what you know and enjoying the moment, the dance looks heavy and forced and is uncomfortable to watch. When you’re on the competition floor, it’s too late to improve technique or to try to do everything perfectly. You have to rely on your muscle memory, trained through repetition in practice, to let your feet and body do what they need to do. Just dance to express your enjoyment of the moment. You’ve got a beautiful or sexy partner in your arms, an audience who wants to be entertained and you have much of the floor to yourself with just a handful of other couples around you. It’s the best scenario for anyone who loves to dance. Go with it!

George Pytlik

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

More posts by George Pytlik

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Bob Friesen says:

    Thanks for the great article!

  • Denis says:

    Being a beginner with just a little experience of participation, but much experience of viewing couples participating, those observations and comments are so apt and very well put.

    Keep up the good work and enjoy !


Leave a Reply