A long time ago, Erma Bombeck wrote an article about why women should not dance backwards, and wasn’t it Ginger who said, “I do everything Fred does, but backwards and in high heels”, or some such thing.  It may be the general population’s lack of understanding as to just how difficult these tasks are that keeps many from appreciating the true athletic abilities of the current Dancesport athletes.


Recognition of dancing as a sport has long been impeded by its history as a social event.  Dancers can’t be athletes.  After all, can’t you smoke at a dance party?  And yes, some Neanderthals still smoke on the dance floor, trying to look cool and casual.  Worse yet, you can do this while drinking.  Not well maybe, but if you are on a crowded floor the other people will help hold you up.  After all, bottled confidence is better than none at all – Right.  Add to that:  Who likes the show-off dancers at a club anyway?  You have all seen them, and maybe even know some.  If the sport is the extreme of the social activity, then this guy must be the star or expert, and nobody wants to see more of him.  It is this mix of the social and athletic scenes that many do not understand, and what dance competitions, events, shows and even participants should hope to clarify.


The true test of a sport might just be how many muscle groups are actually needed or strained to accomplish a task or to be successful.  After all, when we look at other sports, we hear, “Look how fast they are off the line”, or “See how they cut across …” or “The smoothness of his swing is …”, or even “Drive for show, putt for ….”  Well you get the idea.  Sports are not necessarily just about brute strength, or speed, but a combination of skills that produce the winning result.  Tennis spectators recognize the players that are strong on the baseline, as opposed to at the net, and golfers are recognized for their skill around the greens, fairways hit, or their phenomenal driving distance.  The athletes, who best combine those skills, are the ones who become the stars, and it is only the stars we all really want to see.


As a mixed-team sport, dancing should have no equal.  Each partner uses different muscle groups and needs varying skills to accomplish “different” tasks that enable their team to perform better than the other teams.  This is unlike other sports where both sexes try to play the same exact game, only differently.  Maybe the style of play is different, although that seems to be less the case today.  Maybe the overall length, or field is different (but still equal?).  This leads to the inevitable conflict or competition between the sexes, as to who is more fun to watch, or who can play the game better, or can people be equal and still be different.  Dancesport, maybe more than most sports, requires cooperation and synergy by and between the sexes to make the team successful.  Forget all the lead and follow sexist talk.  Advanced dancers learned long ago, that it really takes “Two to Tango”, and that the “Leader” is less like a captain, than he is the steering wheel on a car.  Needed, yes, but not necessarily the one in control.


The degree to which all of the dance-team can perform their individual tasks, ultimately determines the winner.  Judges often speak of how one partner is much stronger than the other, or how this one would place higher if they found a new partner.  (One of the advantages of English is that the many pronouns and nouns are gender neutral so no bias can be determined by the reader.)  Just as often, it is the man or lady who is the “weakest link”.  Dance judges, of both sexes, are quick to berate whomever they can.  No partiality here.  These people can be ruthless.  Judges look for errors to be able to eliminate couples.  This is a testament to the ever-improving quality of teams at competitions.  If it is getting harder to find exactly who should be in the Finals, it is the mistakes that should keep a partnership out.  Mistakes have cost many a golfer or football team a championship as well.  So don’t feel sorry for them.  Look at how the successful teams have developed and yes, even evolved.  Successful dance teams will be those that extend the limits of team members to increase speed, distance, strength, coordination, agility, poise and so much more; not to the exclusion of either partner, but rather to their inclusion.  What better example of a 21st century team sport.


Michael S. Reichenbach


Published in:


Dance Week Magazine


2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534


Vol. XXVII No. 36

September 6, 2002

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