Kids and Ballroom Dance – The Perfect Combination

by Patti Smith

If you go to any ballroom dance studio across the United States, one of the first things you’ll probably notice is that most or all of the students are adults over the age of 25. It’s true that the ballroom dance craze sweeping the nation has perked the interest of adults more than kids, but why is this? One of the common misconceptions about ballroom dance is that it’s an adult activity, when in fact it’s fun for the whole family!

Learning ballroom dance at a young age can be extremely beneficial to one’s growth and development into adulthood.So why should your child be learning ballroom dance?

  • Encourages good social skills

One of the great things about ballroom dance is that it’s a partnered activity. Kids will learn how to work together as a team towards a common goal (the dance). It encourages courtesy and respectful behavior.

  • Increases confidence and self-esteem

When kids learn how to move their bodies effectively to create a beautiful motion, they start to see themselves as beautiful. An understanding of one’s body creates an appreciation for one’s body.

  • Great form of exercise

Dance is a sport, just like soccer, football, swimming, or any other physical activity. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. (1, 2) And in 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. (1) Schools and other organizations have implemented dance programs as a way to combat this and promote healthy, active lifestyles.

  • Promotes creativity

We just told you dance is a sport. Guess what? It’s also an art! Kids involved in ballroom dance have a great understanding of music and the picture that they can paint with their bodies.

  • FUN to last a lifetime

Kids that learn ballroom dance take that skill and lessons they’ve learned into their adulthood and enjoy the benefits for a lifetime. Ballroom dance can be done to any music, whether it’s an old, classic standard or a fresh new pop hit. We find that most kids light up when they take their dance steps and pair them with their favorite music. We also find that dancing to the classics helps to build a new appreciation for the music that their parents and grandparents grew up wtih.

With this ballroom dance craze that’s upon us, I can only hope that it’s passed down to our future generations. Below are some links to programs through out the country and in the Albuquerque area.

1 Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(5):483-490.
2 National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.


Fancy Footwear for Fancy Footwork


by Patti Smith

Almost every physical activity has its own set of equipment, including footwear. Running has Nikes, soccer and golf have cleats, hiking has boots, and bowling has clown shoes. Ballroom dancing is no different: we have the ballroom shoe.

You may be asking yourself, “Why would I need special shoes to dance in?” After all, people go out dancing all the time in regular footwear with no thought as to why they chose those shoes other than that they look good. So what is so special about a ballroom dance shoe?

  1. It has a steel-reinforced arch for proper support while you’re gliding, spinning, and shaking your groove thang!
  2. The box of the shoe is extremely flexible, which allows you to roll though your steps and use your feet to move your body across the floor, rather than using your feet to keep your shoes on while you dance. A regular shoe has a hard-soled box and will not allow you to flex and point your foot.
  3. Suede bottom! If you’ve ever tried dancing in tennis shoes, you’ve experienced that it’s near-impossible to turn or glide because of the rubber soles, and if you’ve ever danced in an evening shoe you’ve probably feared for your life because the soles were so slippery you thought you might fall and draw unwanted attention to yourself (or worse, get injured). The bottoms of a ballroom shoe have a soft suede that allows you to grip the floor as well as glide smoothly.
  4. Dance shoes also have a variety of heel heights to match the variety of ballroom dances out there!

Depending on the style of dancing, you may want to choose a heel height anywhere between 1″ to 3½”. If you are an avid West Coast Swing or country/western dancer, you might be inclined to go with a lower heel, anywhere between 1″ to 2″. If ballroom is your thing, a 2½” heel is for you! It keeps you a little lower to the ground and allows for proper foot articulation when dancing Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, or Quickstep. The Latin dances, like Rumba, Cha-Cha, Samba, and Bolero, to name a few, will require a 2½” to 3″ heel; this gives the prettiest leg line when wearing those short Latin skirts and helps you keep a strong forward poise, which is required for your Latin dances. Argentine Tango dancers prefer the highest heel offered, with a range of 3″ to 3½” inches, which again helps keep the forward poise and create a beautiful leg line.

Proper ballroom footwear is not just for women! Men will also find a benefit in wearing a proper dance shoe for much the same reasons listed above. When it comes to heel height for gentlemen, you pretty much get two choices: 1″ or 1½”. I recommend most men choose a 1″ heel; it’s good for every type of dancing. If you’re looking to be a competitive Latin dancer, that would be the time to choose a 1½” heel.

The wonderful thing about ballroom shoes is that they will likely be some of the most comfortable shoes you’ve worn in your life, and they come in a wide assortment of sizes, styles, shapes and colors. If you want to make your dancing instantly easier and more comfortable, the proper shoes are the way to go! Check out these companies below; they provide a sizable selection with great quality:

Showcase? What’s That?

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by Patti Smith

When you hear the phrase “studio showcase,” some of us know what that means and some of us don’t. Herein lies the question, what is a studio showcase? It can be a different experience from studio to studio. Each individual ballroom studio does their own version; things that you might see are solo routines by students and their teachers, professional performances by teachers in that studio or by out-of-town guests, mini competition, general/open dancing, and lots of rhinestones, eyelashes, and glamorous costumes! Every studio will use some or all of these components to create a worthwhile experience for their students and the general public.

So our first question is, why would you want to attend your local ballroom studio’s showcase? Events like these are loads of fun, glamorous and glitzy, and highly entertaining. The students who choose to dance in the showcase have worked for months on perfecting their routines and are proud to show them off. This is a great opportunity for you to see the performance style of each of the ballroom dances versus the social style. That being said, there should be plenty of social dancing at the event so that attendees aren’t sitting in their chairs the whole time!

Next question: as a student of a ballroom studio, why should I choose to dance in the showcase? Regardless of your reasons for taking dance lessons (e.g., learning for an upcoming wedding, being a better dancer on the social front, dance competition, or even just as something new to do), a showcase is an opportunity for everyone to improve their dancing. Having a routine in the showcase allows you to set a goal to work towards. Let’s say you want to be really good at two-step. Dancing a two-step routine will give you an accelerated rate of learning for that dance. But the biggest reason that you should choose to participate is that it’s fun, fun, FUN! And, you’ll feel a great sense of camaraderie with the other students in the showcase as well.

CSP Dance Studios had their first showcase this past Sunday, May 12th, and I have to say, it was AMAZING. I’ve been in the dance industry and participating as a professional in showcases upwards of 12 years now, and this is the best studio event I have been a part of thus far! All the students that participated did a fantastic job and worked really hard! The best thing about the students is that they cheered each other on and it felt like a real team effort. There were students who were new to dancing as well as veterans of these types of events. The overwhelming response that I heard from everyone is that they can’t wait until the next one, and they will definitely be a part of it! I think feedback from your students is extremely important, and my two favorite comments were, “We had a real breakthrough in our dancing” (from a first-timer), and, “I’ve been doing these events for many years and this is the best one I’ve been in” (from a veteran).

Patti’s Recipe for a Great Showcase
1 – Dedicated team of professionals, each with their own role
We made sure that there was someone in charge of the front desk, someone different in charge of the music, someone MCing, and someone backstage. With everyone having a specific role, all the details were taken care of. And after all, it’s the details that matter!
2 – Leave it to the experts
We hired the appropriate professionals for videography, programs and tickets, and catering and venue.  When you pay the experts, you will get the desired result.
3 – Organization
From start to finish, even dress rehearsal, everything was planned and outlined to the second. This made for a smooth flow in our program, with guests at the end of the night saying, “Wow, that went by so fast, I wish there was more!” (Our event was three hours long!)
4 – Presale of tickets
We had 150 people attend our studio showcase. I believe that we had such a large number because we promoted and presold tickets far in advance; only 9 were sold at the door. We also offered VIP seating; these were seats that were closest to the floor, which gave people an opportunity to purchase a great view ahead of time before they sold out.
5 – The best students in the world
Without amazing students, nothing we do is possible, and every student that we have at CSP is, in our eyes, the best on earth! They love and support us and each other, and are truly raving fans of the studio, and that’s why we’re truly raving fans of them! In our mission statement, we say we always strive to have our students’ best interests at heart, and when you approach everything you do with that mindset, your students will be nothing but the best.

If you have ever entertained the notion of participating in your local studio showcase, or perhaps have never heard of a showcase and now your interest has been piqued, simply ask your teacher. When our students show an interest in any of the events at our studio, it’s music to our ears. Even if you’re just asking about the details, I guarantee your teacher will be ecstatic and overjoyed at your inquiry!

“Can I See Your Credentials?”

by Patti Smith

Being a ballroom dance teacher is a fun, rewarding career. What most people don’t know is, how did we get there? How did we become ballroom teachers? What does the road look like from average Joe to top ballroom professional?

One of the comments that I hear from time to time from new students is, “So Patti, what’s your real job?” They all seem to be shocked and surprised when I tell them that being a dance teacher is my full-time career and not a hobby. What many people don’t understand is that this is a serious profession, like being a personal trainer, or any other job that requires serious education, credentials, skill, and knowledge. Also, ballroom dance has a governing body known as the National Dance Council of America. This is an organization that sets the standard and quality of dancing and instruction within our industry, and any instructor worth their salt will follow the guidelines of the NDCA for dancing and teaching. Which brings me to those people calling themselves “professional dance teachers,” like the one in the video below:

Yeesh, that was painful. I imagine those readers who know what Bolero should look like are probably shaking their heads and wondering what they just watched. Thankfully, this is pretty far on the end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, there are people who have been dancing for many years, and because they are good to great dancers, they believe themselves qualified to teach. A true professional has been trained not only to dance well, but also to teach well. These skills are measured through certification exams. The NDCA recognizes 9 syllabi that an instructor may be certified in. Those syllabi are:

  •  Arthur Murray International (AMI)
  •  Dance Teachers Club of Boston (DTCB)
  •  Dance Vision International Dancers Assoc. (DVIDA)
  •  Fred Astaire Dance of North America (FADS)
  •  National Dance Teachers Assoc. (NADTA)
  •  North American Dance Teachers Assoc., Inc. (NADTA)
  •  Pan American Teachers of Dancing (PAN AM)
  •  U.S. Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (USISTD)
  •  U.S. Terpsichore Assoc., Inc. (USTA)

You may ask yourself, “Well, if someone knows how to dance, why would they need to be certified in order to teach someone?” There are many reasons for this. It’s not enough to just be able to dance! In order to teach someone how to dance, qualified, certified instructors have to know ALL aspects of the dance and human movement. For example, the box step. The box is a simple pattern that is used in several dances, the foot positions being forward-side-together, back-side-together, and counting 1-2-3 or slow-quick-quick. But is this really all I need to know to teach someone how to properly dance a box? A professional teacher will need to know aspects of these movements like dance position, amount of turn, alignment, CBM, sway, rise and fall, and footwork! Not only will your teacher need to understand these intricacies, but also understand the technique and movement of each dance; the character of each dance; and how we portray it through our bodies. So you could say dance is as much science as it is art!

The next thing your qualified instructor is well-trained in is the art of instructing. (Go figure!) This is also measured by their certification exams. When we take exams, we have teaching questions such as how we would structure a group class, what to teach and when, and how to teach certain techniques like Cuban motion and rise and fall. It’s one thing to know how to do these; it is another thing entirely to know how to teach them!

I want to let people know that there are many levels of certification, and one of the qualities of a great dance instructor is that they are always continuing their own education. The first level of certification is known as Junior Associate, and the last level is known as Full Gold, with many levels in between. Should your instructor be Full Gold certified for you to consider them a good teacher, or to spend your time taking instruction from them? Absolutely not. Some of the best teachers I know only have their Junior Associate certification. This exam gives an instructor the best foundation possible to be a great dance teacher. This doesn’t mean, however, that a teacher should stop at Junior Associate! Like I said before, the best teachers are always continuing their education and striving to achieve higher levels.

When you are searching for a dance teacher, you should ask them what certifications they hold, and even what certifications they are striving to achieve. Those of us that are qualified, certified instructors are very proud of the work we put in to earn our certifications and are happy to share that information with you. In case you’re still wondering, “Do I REALLY need a certified teacher?” Watch that video again, and you’ll have your answer.

What A Ballroom Dance Student Looks Like


by Patti Smith

If somebody told you, “I’m taking ballroom dance lessons,” what would you imagine that person to look like? What would their everyday life be like? What occupation would they pursue? Would they be single, married, young, old? When you watch shows like Dancing with the Stars on TV, you see celebrities learning how to dance, but is this an accurate portrayal of the kind of people that take dance lessons in real life? The truth is, the title “ballroom dancer” can apply to anyone and everyone. Let’s break down some of the common misconceptions that accompany the phrase.

Dance lessons are for children – Many of us remember being age 3-5 and putting on the tutu and pink tights to go to dance class. Guys too if you had a mean sister! What most adults don’t realize is that learning to dance does not have to happen when we are age 3-5 and does not require those pink tights or a tutu. The reality is more adults are learning how to dance despite their experience (or lack thereof). Learning to dance as an adult has many benefits for your heart and your mind and is a great social outlet, a way to meet other people. It also can help you become more connected with your spouse.

Dance lessons are for people who already know how to dance – Almost every student that takes dance lessons walked through the front door of the studio having never danced before. The comment I hear most from people who I invite to one of my classes is, “But I don’t know how to dance.” To which I reply, “That’s the point!” The reality is, qualified dance instructors specialize in teaching beginners. My favorite kind of student is someone who has never danced before but wants to make it a part of their life. I love to show someone in fifteen minutes that they can indeed do something that they never thought they could before; it’s the highlight of my day! Often I will hear first-time students say to me, “You must get so bored teaching the basics over and over again.” Honestly, it’s very exciting to teach the basic step to a non-dancer and see them move to the music and have fun. That moment of discovery really makes it worthwhile.

Dancing is for skinny, fit people – The American Heart Association recognizes ballroom dance as the number one exercise for heart health. And since heart disease is the leading cause of death of men and women (1), I guess everyone should be dancing! If you walked into the average studio you would see students of all shapes and sizes. The bottom line is , if you can walk, you can dance, and you don’t need to be skinny to walk. However, after six months of dancing, you’ll probably be one of these “skinny, fit people,” which is not a bad side effect!

Dancing is only for coordinated people – I can tell you from personal experience that when I’m on the dance floor, people say “Wow, you’re so graceful!” Then the song ends, I walk off the dance floor, and into a wall. One of the many benefits of learning to dance is that you will increase your coordination skills. I can’t guarantee that you’ll stop walking into walls or tripping over your own feet, but I can guarantee it won’t happen on the floor!

Dance lessons are for couples – Often I will hear a prospective student say to me “I’d love to come to class, but I don’t have a partner!” And then I say, “that’s what your teacher is for!” When taking private lessons, your instructor serves as your partner. Group classes, on the other hand, are a different situation altogether. Most group classes that you’d attend will have an odd number of men and women; this is NORMAL. A great instructor (like the ones at CSP!) will be able to organize the class in such a way that you are engaged the whole time, and are able to dance with many other students. One of the most common complaints I hear from students that have experienced classes from other studios is, “I stood around the whole time, I didn’t have a partner so I didn’t get to dance.” I also hear “There weren’t enough men, and they made me learn the man’s part” or “There weren’t enough women and I didn’t get to dance at all!” This should NEVER happen at a group class! That being said, learning to do your part by yourself without a partner standing in front of you is very good for your dancing and makes it a lot easier when you DO dance with someone! When I have a class of odd numbers, I use a technique called “flying solo,” where if you don’t currently have a partner, you’re still dancing your part with the rest of the class and will have a partner in the next rotation. It’s important that at no time during a group class you are standing off to the side or not participating with the class.

So if you’ve ever thought, “I want to be a ballroom dancer, but…,” remember that the only definition that applies to the term “ballroom dancer” is someone who wants to dance.