Dancing is a great sport for the youth

Dancing is a great sport for the youth

More dance studios need to work to develop an appreciation of dancesport within the youth of this country.  Just look at the many skills that dancesport training help develop.  Quick acceleration, proper alignment of feet and legs, lateral movement, balance, poise, strong ankles, speed and so much more become second nature to the accomplished dancer.  I remember a well-respected tennis coach, sending a ranked junior tennis player to our Studio, when we still operated one, to develop the lateral movement and speed to get to the next level in tennis.  Not only did dancing improve her tennis, she enjoyed the dancesport competitions immensely throughout her youth.  All too often, once recognized, dancesport takes the position of the main sport, not just the exercise.  Yes, you may wonder if other kids would make fun.  Only until they find out the places they travel to, the people they meet, and TV shows, etc. they are available to appear on.  A star at any age is admired in this country.  Even the press and media love to see what our youth is doing and will often promote youth sports before adult activities.

No sport exemplifies all the advantages and attributes of a true coed sport’s program than does dancesport.  It has nothing to do with any sexual connotations either.  Any partner that has seen or been close to their partner after an exhilarating practice, or workout, or several rounds of competition, realizes that all the glamorous aspects of dance are for the audience alone.  True competitors understand the give and take, the forward and back, and the lead and follow.  Spectators see only the graciousness, the ease of movement, the smiles, eye contact, and the stylish use of hands and arms.  That is the mark of an accomplished dance couple.  Ask any couple that has lasted longer than the “90 day honeymoon period”, and they can relate horror and comedic stories of the strange positions they have ended up in, and sex is rarely on their mind.  They are much too busy blaming the other person for the position they are in, and trying to extricate themselves without more pain.

The fact that dancing is considered an appearance sport is nothing to be ashamed of.  Many Olympic sports have style points.  As I understand their rules, even ski jumping has style points.  It isn’t just how far you go.  Appearance matters, and looking good and dancing well go together.  When we look at the billions of dollars spent by advertisers to develop the youth market, we should appreciate the value and consideration of appearance of our youth and to potential sponsors of sporting events.  As an aside, even if style were not a requisite, dancing would still be a good sport for the youth.  Learning how to communicate with a young lady or gentleman physically and learning to work together for a common goal are attributes of maturity and development that all should aspire to.  Learning that people do different jobs and have different functions while both work on one routine or project are also good lessons for life.  Learning that compromise and encouragement get better results than does bitching and complaining is also worth the price of admission.

Problems often occur because kids of different sexes grow at different rates.  So our common image of a taller man with a slightly shorter lady doesn’t always work with kids.  Even if you find a young couple that “fit”, it won’t be long before the girl grows faster than the boy and alas the image no longer works.  If you then look for a younger girl to find a shorter partner the communication, etc. doesn’t work as well.  Two years may not mean much at thirty, but it means a lot at seven!

Offering more classes where more of the development is individual, and shows, formations and group acts where there is a larger common activity and goal might help develop a larger pool of competitors so that not so much effort is used or needed in maintaining partnerships.  European Schools have long understood that classes provide not only different instruction, but in some instances, better instruction at the beginning level.  Group support, and group activities encourage youth to participate and develop the many different skills that ultimately create the proficient competition dancer.  Many of the skills needed to become an able dancer can easily be developed without a partner.  The work is in keeping the young involved, while the program grows until there are enough kids to make the pairs, and change the pairs to adapt to changing conditions.

The fact that so many American families feel it necessary and even comfortable to move, and uproot families, kids, and partnerships every year or so is another problem we have that does not, as yet, seem so prevalent in other countries.  Not wanting to wish the same ill on other nationalities, once we have a national awareness of the sport, hopefully enough studios and professionals will work to develop the new skills necessary to teach our youth, so that moving won’t automatically mean not finding a partner on the other end.  The AAU Jr. Olympic Program is a first step to developing a greater awareness of the sport.  Now we will see who steps up to the plate, so to speak, and develops a broad based curriculum that uses classes as a way to teach the kids to dance.  The really big money for Studios won’t be there for a while, so don’t expect anything anytime soon.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 13

March 28, 2003

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