Competitive ballroom dancing, as distinct from the leisure activity, has recently been renamed throughout the world as "dancesport" (the sport of competition dancing).
Dancesport has a highly organised international competition structure and is conducted at the highest competitive level.
Dancesport is categorised in a complex way.
There are four styles:
Modern (or "Standard", as it is now known internationally), incorporating the waltz, tango, slow foxtrot, quickstep and Viennese waltz;
Latin American, incorporating the cha cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive;
New Vogue, sequence dances of Australian origin set to various rhythms involving the quick waltz, foxtrot, tango and march time. There are currently 16 New Vogue Championship dances.
Old Time Dancing, covers sequence dances mostly of English origin, some of which use foot positions based on ballet. Not all the Old Time Dances are necessarily old at all, but the style of dancing is based in the old time tradition, rather than in the modern style.
Competitions are divided into amateur and professional categories. Amateur dancers are divided up as Juvenile (under 13 years), Junior (13 and under 16), Adult (16 year and over) and Masters (over 35 & over 50ís). Eligibility is determined generally by the age of the older partner, and it is not uncommon to have further special age divisions such as under 11, for the tiny tots, and youth categories of 16 to 19 years.
Within each of these age divisions, there are five recognised levels or grades ranging from Level 5 (top grade) to Level 1 (Lowest grade) in each dance style. When an event is termed "open", it is open to all competitors within the age group, irrespective of their grading. Competitors can improve their grades in each style, e.g.: be a Level 3 grade in Modern and a Level 4 grade in Latin American.
A separate section caters for competitors in the professional category, who must be at least 16 years of age. Professional events generally are "open" only. Occasionally a fifth competition style, Exhibition/Cabaret, incorporating lifts, is made available to professional and amateur dancers.
Adjudication is handled by panels of appropriately qualified judges, whose marks are assessed collectively by a process known as the "Skating System", a formula based on majority opinion. Whilst costuming and good grooming are essential to draw the attention of the judges, couples or teams are primarily assessed on the execution of standard technique combined with the complexity of movement and correctness of the interpretation of the dance style's rhythm.
In earlier times, ballroom dancing was considered in many circles to be primarily an art. The modern notion of competitive dancing is of an "artistic sport", based upon the premise that it requires all of the following:
Physical Strength: similar to the strength needed in ice dancing (many ice dancing sequences are derived from dancesport), Agility and Co-ordination: to manoeuvre and maintain shapes and lines. These skills are similar to those required by a multitude of sports as diverse as diving, sailing, surfing, basketball or even football, but most closely to gymnastics.
Musical interpretation: all competition dancers are required to demonstrate an appreciation of music and different rhythms in exactly the same way and for the same reasons gymnasts are required to demonstrate musical interpretation in their floor exercises.
Stamina: dancesport competitors proceed through heats to semi-finals and finals. In each championship section, competitors must perform five two minute dances a round. From an athletic viewpoint, a 1986 study conducted by the University of Freiburg, Germany, demonstrated that the muscle exertion (measured by the production of lactic acid) and breathing-rates of competitors performing one competition dance of about two minutes were equal to those of cyclists, swimmers and an Olympic 800 metre runner over the same period of time.
A dancesport competitor repeats this performance five times in each round and a finalist in a World Ten Dance Championship will have repeated this performance 30 times.
Discipline and teamwork: competition dancing is essentially a team sport. The team may be a single couple, or may comprise up to 16 members in a "formation team". The discipline of 16 competitors performing up to 13 changes of dance tempi while constantly co-ordinating their floor positions with other team members far exceeds that of many other team sports.
Grace and style: In common with ice dancing and gymnastics, fluid movements and attractive grooming are essential to success. In one sense it doesn't matter how competition dancing is viewed. Ballroom dancing also falls within the definition of recreational sport - through dance classes and social dance nights at ballroom studios and clubs. The image of ballroom dancing in general has been that of an older person's activity, an image assisted by the continuing popularity of the old dance movies. While this image is far removed from contemporary dancesport, it has in the past been a substantial inhibitor to broader participation in both competitive and social dance, particularly amongst the younger generation.
Source: Based on nzdances.co.nz
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