Competitive Finish

Competitive Finish

Dancesport enthusiasts have long espoused the benefits of dancing as a sport.  Anyone who has competed in any significant dance contest can attest to the perspiration, heavy breathing, cramps, aches and pains associated with the sport.  This isn’t even particularly new.  Wasn’t it in the forties and fifties when dance contests were recognized mostly as endurance events?  Marathon dance contests were certainly fashionable, and being in shape was definitely an advantage.  The mere sight of seeing all those couples hanging onto each other, trying to hold each other up, is reminiscent of runners struggling to cross the finish line in Boston, New York or elsewhere marathons are run.

It is probably that sight that prevented an entire generation of men of trying to learn to really dance.  Back in the sixties, most men’s idea of slow dancing was to get as close to the girl as possible, bring her arm around your back so that she could help hold you up, and then move as little as possible.  You should consider that the only images they had previously been exposed to was of these marathon dance contests where they started with a hundred plus couples on the floor and finished with maybe two or three couples dancing as close to the girl as possible with her arm around the back holding each other up.  This may well be first generation and group to suffer the effects of the short sound-bite.  Had the media shown the entire 24-36 hours of the dance contest, viewers may have developed an appreciation of the middle, and learned how to dance.  Instead, the couples from that generation just evolved.  They just skipped the middle with all the jumping, hopping, and swinging around, and went straight for the finish position.

The finish position should not be underestimated.  In golf, we are often given the finish position after the swing is completed.  In football, we are offered the pile-up, with a bunch of men getting as close together as possible with their arms around the back.  Maybe that isn’t a good example, but then there is the extended stretch in bowling, the position of the diver as she enters the water, and the poised hands in the air as the ball goes through the hoop.  Most Americans recognize the finish as the most important part of the game when it comes to sports.  There is the two-minute drill, the last second half-court desperation shot, the bell to end the round, the long putt on the 18th Hole for the win, and of course the finish line.  Dance competitions need a stronger finish, and I have a few possibilities on ways to incorporate the stronger finish.

The most obvious is the finish line.  Many dances are designated as moving, flight, smooth, or ballroom dances.  Top-flight coaches spend much time working with couples on strengthening ankles and legs to enable their competitors to create more movement.  Couples are taught how to get around or by other couples, to cut corners where necessary, and to use especially speedy looking steps while passing the Judges.  All of this is in the effort to show movement in some of these dances.  Would it not be easier to just install a lap counter and finish line?  We could all sit in the stands and count the number of laps as the couples go by, and the couple that travels the farthest wins.  This would be kind of like Sebring or Daytona, after the respective twelve or twenty four hours, the car that travels the farthest wins.  Judges would still be necessary (don’t worry, you still have a job).  They could be given flags for caution and disqualification.  Bad footwork, off timing, poor posture gets you a yellow caution flag.  A couple of yellow flags and you are out of here.  Cutting across the center, clipping, not smiling could get you the dreaded red flag and your disqualified immediately.  Decisions as to whether to avail the sport of the instant replay and contested call featured in other sports can be left to later.

Another option would be the clock.  Kind of like boxing, points can be deducted for various infractions or awarded for various moves and steps.  This might work well in the rhythm and Latin dances.  While the couples travel around the floor they can be displayed on the big screen.  Couples could continue to work throughout the round to improve their position.  Weaving, bobbing, sparring to gain the upper hand.  As the round comes to an end, we could all watch the final push to gain points or cause competing couples to lose some.  Think of the excitement as the clock ticks down, a quick turn in front of another couple forcing them out of the ring and out of contention, after they had been ahead for most of the round.  A true TKO, and we have a new champion.

Still another way would be to speed up the music as the round goes by.  Anybody who has been to a good Oktoberfest Party has seen the Polka Band speed up the music to a dizzying speed.  The audience is, all the while, guessing who would fall first, and who would remain standing.  The same was true of the Waltz.  Originally a folk dance, it is rumored that part of the original appeal at court was the entertainment it provided the audience and royalty as couples tried to keep pace with the ever increasing speed.  Considering the attitude of some of the officials in dancesport today, this should well be one of the favorites of the “powers that be.”

At any rate, these are just a few of the ways I currently offer for consideration to improve the competitive scene.  If you have some you would like to share, please write them on the back of grant proposal for the federal sponsorship for dance columnists and writers, or email them to the publisher of this column, and we may include them in the future.  After all it is up to all aficionados of the sport to do more than just gripe.  Constructive proposals are much preferred to complaints, or so they say.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 24

June 13, 2003

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