All-Around Competitions: 3 Keys to Owning the Floor

  1. Overall Presence

When dance shows begin, the first thing the judges do is scan the room to get a feel for the overall field of dancers. What initially stands out is overall presence – how do you carry yourself? What is your posture like?  What sort of tone and energy does your body language give off?

You might be thinking face?  Yes, I said it – what does your face say when you are dancing?  Does your face say “I’m so nervous I just messed up” or does it say “I’m killing it, I own this!”  Your face on the dance floor is a direct reflection of your confidence level, and you need to demonstrate your confidence to the judges off the bat.

Recently, one of my students turned to me during my All Around workshop and said “I was taught as a child to not show emotions. I can’t fake a smile.”  Managing your facial expressions while dancing is no easy task, but floor presence is what begins to separate good dancers from great ones.  Obviously, expression is one of the tougher things to master as you have to remember so many steps, cues, and movements.  In the long run, mastering your facial expressions, eye contact, and body language is like learning a new technique – you have to practice it all the time when you dance.

  1. Develop Arm Styling

In ballroom dancing, we’re always looking at and critical of lines.  The ideal dance physique always starts with a toned frame, but the magic comes in with proper arm styling in the open position. When it comes to arms I always tell my students “when it doubt, stick it out.”

As you separate and reconvene in the open position with your partner, you want to utilize your arms.  Your arms are an extension of your body’s lines – they never drop to your side and always extend out and up without dropping an elbow.  When arm styling isn’t properly addressed, certain weak points stand out to judges as they know you’re not using your entire body.

Clean arm styling separates amateurs from seasoned veterans.  When you see a dancer using their arms for transitions without letting them drop, the movements and steps flow together properly.  This little piece will help you own the floor, while giving you another avenue of artistic expression in your dancing.  Gentlemen, use your arms to connote strength and power in your movements, leading your partner with firm grace.

  1. Master the Technique of the Dance

This is quite a broad subject – in ballroom dance, like anything else…quality beats quantity any day.  However, quality takes time, practice, and dedication to learning, even when you don’t want to work on the little things.  Technique mastery isn’t always what people want to focus on, but once you spend time on the details, your dancing will approve as a whole.

The dance steps cease to be procedure and you now have the ability to express yourself through footwork – that’s where the fun begins.  Master broad techniques like Cuban motion, the rise and fall, swing and sway, frame, and footwork and your dancing will start to develop exponentially.  Remember when you step out on the floor at competition, you are rewarded for quality of movement, not necessarily complex patterns.  If you do make it to the final, there will be less people on the floor, and judges will look at your details with an eye for refinement.  At the end of the day, detailed footwork and polished dance positions score well – they show you are in control of your own moment and body.  If you do this right, the judges will notice.

Live, Love, Dance, and Enjoy!


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