I’ve never made a secret of my concern about some of the ways quality is being lost when it comes to Ballroom and Latin dance. It’s not just the excess emphasis on athleticism. There’s an overall shift in our culture toward looking for results without putting in the work.
The impact this shift has had on dancing quality became staggeringly apparent last week during a lesson. I was talking with a student about technical details in Slow Foxtrot, and trying to communicate the common problem in which the body arrives over the foot too early, limiting body flight and the visual look of the dance.
I thought it would be helpful to pull up some video of the world’s top pros dancing Slow Foxtrot to illustrate. But I wasn’t prepared for the personal culture shock I would personally experience in doing this.
First I pulled up a Professional Blackpool video from 2012, thinking that would be far enough back to show good footwork. The quality of dancing is evident. These are the very best couples in the world at that time. I continue to be a huge fan of some of these dancers. You can see slow, gliding movement rich with musical light and shade, along with beautiful body flight.
But then I remembered an even older video, from the Professional Ballroom event at Blackpool in 1993. So immediately after watching the 2012 event, I pulled we took a look back to 1993. I was, frankly, shocked at the difference. I thought 2012 had been good. The quality of musicality and movement in this older competition was an order of magnitude better!
The experience reminded me of a blog post I saw years ago complaining how competitive skating and ice dancing have deteriorated since the glory days of the 1980s. The post, which seems to be no longer available, compared videos side-by-side between then and now. The difference between them was stunning.
I love some of the evolution ballroom dancing has experienced. There is more volume, more dynamic energy, more understanding of 3D presence and shaping. These have contributed to making it better in some ways, and more appealing to young people. But so much has also been lost. It is my hope that we can, if not able to return to the quality of 1993 musicality and movement, at least stop the decline.
Below are the two videos we looked at. View them yourself in the order shown and see if you can appreciate the differences.
2012 Blackpool Professional Ballroom final
1993 Blackpool Professional Ballroom final
Curious if this decline in quality has continued? I thought you might be. Here’s a look at a 2019 WDC event for comparison. The choreography of the first couple shown is quite similar to that of Augusto & Caterina from 1993. I believe the shaping, 3D styling, posture and other aspects have dramatically improved, but the quality of movement timing (body weight distribution in relation to music) is not as good.