Dancesport enthusiasts around the country wonder why the sport does not receive the recognition and exposure they feel it deserves.  It is not because it is not held in high esteem.  You can’t watch television for one night without seeing commercials depicting dancers and dancing as the equivalent of “a good time”, a “satisfactory personal relationship”, or even intimacy within a relationship.  Maybe it is time we look at ways to better structure the events to appeal to the interests of the average television viewer, the normal sport’s commentator, and the usual newspaper sport’s writer.


There is no reason a dance championship should be as hard to follow as a chess game.  At least in chess, there is a definite winner in each class, or an agreed upon and defined draw by the players.  Previous generations will remember dance competition events as dance marathons.  Everybody understood how the winner would be decided, and only the duration of the event, the stamina, strength and perseverance of the partners mattered.  Now, that is a simple sport to most people, and dance marathons were quite popular in their day.


It certainly seems to be a conscious effort to format televised dancesport competitions to be like ice-skating championships.  The advantages seem clear.  One couple on the floor at a time has to be easier for the audience to follow.  It certainly is easier for the production crew and announcer, not that it should matter.  Then they can appreciate the beauty and skill inherent in good dancing.  The problem is most people who watch sporting events are concerned more with which team is winning, than the actual skills involved in each part.  Yes, once they get involved in the game, they will learn and even appreciate the skills possessed by the players, but first they must be brought in.  To that end, we need old-fashioned head to head competition, hometown heroes, and an easy way to keep score.


A spectator looking at a dancesport competition in the States today would have to be confused.  In the course of one event, they could see two couples win while dancing to the same, “Sabor A Mi” or similar music.  After all dancing is moving to music, right?  If they were to watch several events they would never know whom the couples were, or who won previous events, because divulging the information in the program is considered taboo.  The numbers change at each event, and all too often the costumes and look change as well.  True dance aficionados will be able to extol the virtues of the linear movements and shapes of International “Latin” or the authenticity of the square box and style of the American “Rhythm”.  Joe and Mary Average will watch, hear the same style of music and wonder why the couples dancing to the same music are not dancing against each other.  After all, the playing field is the same and includes:  same floor, teams of two, same music, costumes, shapes, and movement, and the best is supposed to win.


It is time to look at ways to keep it simple.  In fact, this desire to keep everything separate and apart will continue to keep dancesport competitions out of the mainstream.  Spectators want to understand the results.  We watch, we enjoy, and we want to know who won.  We want to know our stars.  Maybe, it is time to look at assigning the numbers at the start of the season, and letting the audience get used to, and comfortable, and yes, even excited when they see the number.  The same team, the same number, hometown favorite, maybe even the same colors and sponsors, at least on the numbers.  I don’t know.  It is starting to sound like a sport to me.  Include bios or hometown information of competing pros in the program, so people know whom to root for.  In a short time, spectators will know their favorites, and then maybe even follow them.  Even if they do not agree with the judges, it is OK.  They will know the players, the parameters, and learn and understand the game.  Just imagine, you call your friend across the country.  “Hey Joe, wait till you see # 55.  Are they good or what?  Yes, they are from my state.  So what, they are still better than that couple from your town.  Your couple is so slow they couldn’t do a Cha-Cha to a Foxtrot.”  Then we can see if dancesport can rise to the occasion and keep the interest of the American audience.  Right now they barely have a chance.



Michael S. Reichenbach



Published in:


Dance Week Magazine


2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534


May 3, 2002

May 17, 2002

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