Our Week at DVIDA Dance Camp


by Patti Smith

Camp isn’t just for kids anymore! Many of us who have a great love for ballroom dancing have the opportunity to take a week out of the year and immerse ourselves in workshops, social dancing, performing, and connecting with others from around the country and the world with the same love: dancing!

There are many dance camps offered throughout the united states.  Some of the most popular are DVIDA, BYU, and DanceWorld, among others. This year, the staff at CSP Dance Studios trekked many miles from Albuquerque to Las Vegas to take part in the very popular DVIDA Dance Camp. (Well we flew, but you get the idea.) And here’s our experience:

Upon arrival, we checked into our rooms. As a part of the dance camp, we had the choice of staying in the Paris Hotel or Bally’s. Since the camp was hosted in the convention center connecting the two, we chose Bally’s. And wow, were we pleasantly surprised! Our rooms were amazing (with a couple of staff mentioning that the room might have been bigger than their apartment!), and even though we wouldn’t be spending very much time in them, it was nice to end the long exciting days with a beautiful room to enjoy. That evening we attended the welcome banquet, where we were introduced to the master professionals who would be teaching the workshops at the camp. For us teachers, the great thing about a camp like this is that there are classes designed for professionals and classes designed for students. As pros, we have the choice to attend any of the classes that we like.

Day 1
We started that morning early at 9am in the pro classes. This is a great experience to meet so many other teachers from different parts of the globe that were there to better themselves and their teaching. The class was filled with all kinds of teachers: new ones who have taught for less than a year, and seasoned pros who had taught for over ten years. We took class until noon, at which time I decided to join the advanced rumba choreography class. These choreography classes are one of the neat opportunities offered to students and teachers. The camp will choose two dances (this year, rumba and waltz) and will teach four routines: basic, intermediate I, intermediate II, and advanced. All these routines are performed at the finale banquet, which was a real treat for me not just to go to classes, but also to perform! 1025610_549247078455513_397287413_oFelipe and Carolina Telona were in charge of the advanced rumba routine, and they choreographed it to my favorite rumba song, Cry To Me! Not to mention the choreography was stunningly beautiful! After our first hour of learning the routine, it was time for lunch! We got a whole hour and a half for lunch, but man, it went by fast! Back to class. From 2:30 to 5:30 I continued taking the pro classes, and at 5:30 I was off to discover the advanced waltz choreography. This year Toni Redpath and Michael Mead took care of the waltz class. This was my first time being taught by them. I’ve always looked up to those world smooth champions, and Toni has become my new hero in ballroom dancing! (Michael is pretty neat too.) Six-thirty pm, and the first day has come to a close. Oh no, not yet! Because now we can get together in the practice room with other dancers to go over things we’ve learned! I ended the day at 9pm exhausted and excited!

Day 2
Day 2 starts at 8am this time with an hour of Latin technique, then it’s off to the teacher classes once again for international style ballroom with Jim and Jenell Maranto, two of my favorite professionals. At 11 I was off to continue the rumba choreography, this time joined by Chris, one of my instructors, and while he missed the first day, he picked up what we had of the routine pretty quick. Then at noon we teachers had a lesson in how to breathe while dancing (which you wouldn’t think is that difficult) and become more emotional and expressive through simple movements. A big thank you to Carolina Telona for taking all of us to the next level! Lunch again, which went by faster than the day before! At 2:30 I was off to ballroom technique with Jenell971458_550397828340438_70859153_n Maranto. I’ve taken coachings with her for many years, and have great respect for teaching ability and knowledge, so it was a wonderful pleasure to work with her again at camp!  After that, it was West Coast swing and nightclub with the other pros, taught by Toby and Harmony Munroe. These are two fabulous country-western champions that live close to us in Denver, Colorado, and who also visit our studio on a regular basis for coachings. Finishing out my day of classes was the advanced waltz choreography; many more people had joined the class the second day, just like we saw in the rumba. I think word was getting around camp about how awesome and fun these routines were! What amazed me the most was how organized and productive both Felipe & Carolina and Toni & Michael were with us students. We seemed to learn an amazing amount of choreography in a very short time, and on top of that, they made it easy and fun for us! One of the best things I took away from participating in these routines was learning from the masters how to organize, how to teach, and how to make it fun. Still, the day was not yet over! Day 2, I met more people at the camp and was able to have more practice partners in the evening. Bedtime was once again about 9pm.

Day 3
A little tired but still doing great, starting my day again at 9am. I’m having so much fun, I wish every week could be like this one! First class is with the pros again, once more with (yay!) Toni and Michael. Every teacher here is so amazing, but these two are slowly becoming my favorites. At noon I hop back over to the student side and take an all-levels paso doble class taught by international Latin geniuses Izabella and Tomasz Lewandowski, and they did not disappoint! I think Tomasz has the biggest personality of anyone I’ve ever met, and Izabella was delicate, strong, and graceful all at the same time. I learned a lot about paso doble, and also a lot about how to teach it. Lunchtime! Aaaand it’s over. I spent the rest of the day in the pro classes and continuing the waltz choreography. Jerika, Chris, and I had plans to go out on the strip that night, but I was so jazzed about everything I was learning that I spent the next several hours practicing, making sure we had our routines down. I joined up with them later that night at the Stratosphere. Being immersed in dance for a week and working hard at everything is great, but it’s also important to let loose and relax a bit. My bedtime was a bit later this time (around 1am).

Day 4
Nooooo! Nine o’ clock already? I wanted to sleep in, but couldn’t help myself, because I was on my way to dancing jive with Latin champion Kasia Kozak and Marcin Tomaszewski. It’s early in the morning, but this girl has more spunk and energy than I’ve ever seen! Not only did I learn a lot in her class, but she definitely woke me up for the rest of the day! At 11, we had the final rumba routine class before our performance that evening, and wow, it really came together! Everyone was pumped and excited and confident for this evening after getting some details ironed out. I take an early break to figure out what I’m going to wear, how to do my hair, and try to get everything together for the evening’s performances. Two-thirty rolls around and I’m back in class with the wonderful Felipe and Carolina. I can’t believe this week is almost over…. we did so much but it went by so fast. Last thing before the banquet? An hour and a half of rehearsal for the waltz. Michael organized us well and made us confident for the big night! A couple of hours of rest, and it’s time for the show! We got to watch all levels of students perform and I have to say, I was amazed by everyone’s hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm. Most exciting of all was the opportunity to work with these amazing professionals, learning their choreography, and now getting to dance it for them. After the performances, we had the great honor and pleasure of Wayne Eng, founder of DanceVision, the Emerald Ball, and DVIDA Dance Camp, joining us at our table! We had great fun and conversation with him, as well as with everyone else at our table. Sadly, bedtime was coming up soon, since we had to leave for the airport at 4am.

I can’t believe that it’s over. This is my first experience at a dance camp, even though I’ve been teaching dance for over ten years. I’ve been to competitions, showcases, and many other dance events, but never taken part in an actual week-long dance camp. I think these camps are important for students because it’s fun and inspiring. They’re also important for pros because as professionals, we continue our education by coaching with the best in our industry. We usually do this by bringing coaches to our studio every three to six months, if we’re lucky. Dance camp is like a year’s worth of coachings rolled into one fantastic week, with the great opportunity to have many coaches all in one place, and each of them brings a unique perspective to the aspects of dancing and teaching. A huge thanks to Wayne Eng for making this possible!





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:

“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.