Competition Newcomers

Are you getting ready for your first ballroom dance competition? As we approach the annual Cleveland Dancesport Challenge at the end of June, many students at Starz will be competing for the first time. Here are some key points for the newbies:

1. Presentation is extremely important in competition. Treat the 1.5 minute round as a show and give it your all. Dress up, do your make up, stand up tall and smile. You are judged as soon as you step on the floor, so make your entrance just as exciting and grand as the dance.
2. Confidence is crucial on the competition floor. As they say, fake it till you make it. Even if you’ve made a mistake in your routine or tripped, make it part of your dance. Judges love to see a confident competitor! Also, remember there are many couples on the floor with you, not all eyes are on you. Chances are, no one will notice your misstep.
3. Timing is one of the first aspects you will be judged on. Stay on beat, don’t rush on the slow dances, do your best to listen to, and feel, the music.
4. Have fun! When you are having fun, everyone watching you is having fun too! Practice a natural smile where appropriate (more of it in swing and less in tango, of course, but you get the idea). Assuming that by the time you are ready to compete, you know your routines fairly well, so now it’s time to have fun with the moves.

Finally, know that you are lucky to be competing! Not many people get the chance to dance and much less to compete!

Blackpool Dance Festival

If you have been ballroom dancing for a little while, you have probably heard about Blackpool or perhaps watched videos of this competition. If you are really lucky, you may have attended this event in London. For those who don’t know much about Blackpool, put in layman terms, it is the largest ballroom competition in the world. If your goal is to become the World Ballroom Champion, this is the festival that will get you that title. It is going on right now, May 24 – June 1, 2018.

The festival actually began in 1920 in the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. It spans thirteen days and covers Ballroom and Latin styles for Adult Amateur and Professional couples, as well as Formation Teams. In 2005, two events were added – British Rising Star Amateur Ballroom and Latin Competitions.

Last year, sixty one (yes, 61!) countries were represented at this competition, with a total of 2,970 entries. Since the competition is so fierce, although anyone can enter to compete, it tends to attract only the best dancers from each country.

Follow along to see winners from this year’s competition at

The importance of a dress rehearsal!

You have practiced your dance routines time and time again and feel that you are ready to compete or perform. But have you done a dress rehearsal? And I mean a full-on dress rehearsal – dress, shoes, hair, nails (if you’re using fake), etc.?  Speaking from personal experience, don’t forego the dress rehearsal!

Anderson Sylvestre and Yuliya Frid at 2008 Mexico Open

Although many of the following points are directed at the ladies, it is very important for the gentlemen to be aware of them.

  1. When you are in full costume, it’s amazing how different it feels to dance those same routines. Especially for smooth and standard styles, for example, your movement across the floor will be impacted by the heaviness or lightness of your skirt, as well as its length. How many times have you seen a heel get stuck in a skirt? I know I have seen plenty! Are you ready to recover from this kind of situation if it were to happen to you during a performance?

2. There is a reason dance clothing cannot be bought at a regular store. Dance-wear is designed and made to help you avoid the usual mishaps: the skirt riding up, buttons getting caught or unbuttoned, zippers getting unzipped, underwear showing and many more. Nonetheless, even with the best of costumes, there is always a chance for a wardrobe malfunction. I’ll tell you the story of mine!

I was competing with Anderson in Cancun, Mexico in American Rhythm. My dress was a perfect fit, my hair was pulled back tightly into a bun and my shoes had been broken in many times, so I thought I was golden! Who knew that I was about to get stuck, literally, in an uncomfortable position?! We were dancing the Rumba, I was doing a sort of swiveling action while lowering to the floor with my back against Anderson, when I realized, painfully, I was stuck! My hair bun had somehow gotten stuck on Anderson’s shirt hook and I became immovable. I couldn’t straighten my legs to stand up, I couldn’t turn around and I didn’t want to pull away in fear of ripping my hair out and ripping my partner’s shirt. So there we were, in the middle of a fierce competition, just standing there trying to untangle my hair. I was mortified and probably red as a beet despite my heavy fake suntan. Somehow we managed to hustle off the floor and detach me from Anderson, but we never got to finish our dance and we will definitely never forget this story!

I have several other stories on wardrobe malfunction, I won’t bore you, but I do suggest to always test out your costumes!

3. When it comes to jewelry, ladies, choose lighter pieces that fasten well and don’t fly off at the first spin – have seen too many of those! Bracelets, rings, all types of accessories need to be tested out during practice. Don’t leave it until the show or competition only to find out it’s not as comfortable or practical as you had hoped.

4. Test out your hairdo. Does hair get in your eyes when you’re turning? Does the pony tail come undone when you’re doing flips and tricks? Does your hair get caught on your partner’s buttons/hooks (as happened to me)?

In this same category, let’s include nails. Ladies, if you’re going for sexy long nails, make sure you get a few practices with them on too! I have a personal little horror story to tell about this but won’t go into too much detail. In short, one of my nails almost got ripped off my finger while holding on to my partner’s hand during multiples fast turns. Ouch!

5. And finally, break in your shoes well in advance! Your feet need to get used the shoes you will be performing in, so give them several weeks of wear.

Dancers, there is nothing better than to be ready for any and all dance events. So take those dress rehearsals seriously!

By Yuliya Frid

The importance of good dance shoes

New students often ask what to wear when they come for their dance lessons. We suggest something comfortable, but no rubber soles. Rubber tends to stick to the wooden floor and make turning, and even stepping correctly, more difficult. After a few lessons, when students have decided to pursue ballroom as a hobby, we help them choose their dance shoes.

Although it is possible to dance in street shoes, once you have danced in ballroom shoes, you will never go back. The beauty of the ballroom shoe is its lightness, its flexibility and the comfort that the fine materials provide for the foot. The suede bottom of the shoe grants just enough smoothness so you can freely zoom across the floor, while also providing grip to prevent you from slipping. The sole is thin enough to feel the floor but padded enough to make hours of dancing enjoyable and pain-free. You may have heard professional dancers talking about gripping and feeling the floor. This is true. When you advance to a higher level of ballroom technique, you will understand what it means to become connected to the floor. This connection cannot be achieved without proper shoes.

Latin and rhythm shoes are very distinct from standard and smooth shoes. Most students choose to learn two styles of dance, such as rhythm and smooth, and therefore, should obtain two pairs of shoes – one pair for each style. For example, a rhythm shoe for a woman will be open-toed and have a higher heel. Men’s rhythm shoes also have a higher heel. The higher heel is designed to help the dancer keep his or her weight forward and utilize the ball of the foot, which is essential for both rhythm and latin styles. Smooth shoes, on the other hand, are close-toed and normally have a much shorter heel for both ladies and gentlemen. This allows the dancer to use more the heel of the foot and maintain the weight slightly back.

When purchasing a pair of shoes, make sure they fit snugly, take a few practices or lessons to break them in and take care of them by storing them in a bag and using them only inside on a ballroom floor. You can also extend the life of ballroom shoes by brushing the soles with a special metal brush to get the dust and dirt out of the suede. A good pair of shoes should easily last students a year, but most likely much longer.

If you are in search of ballroom shoes, stop by Starz Ballroom Twinsburg or Starz Ballroom Westlake to try on shoes and look through our extensive catalogues. We can order the perfect shoes for you!

Student spotlights

Why ballroom studios encourage student spotlights.

First off, spotlights are a great way to get comfortable dancing in front of people. Since these are short demonstrations of what the student has been working on, and occur in studio, there is not as much pressure on the dancer as there would be at a showcase or competition. Plus the student is surrounded by familiar faces and support. These occasional spotlights are small wins that a student can put under his or her belt. After doing a few spotlights, students are sure to feel ready for a bigger challenge such as a showcase.

Secondly, it is always important to set constant achievable goals in order to progress and see results in one’s dancing. Having a clear goal in mind is essential for both students and teachers alike, and working towards that goal is what guarantees improvement and success. As the cliche goes, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. When you are working with a deadline, you are less likely to miss practice and more likely to put in extra effort. Also, when you are preparing for a demonstration, it is similar to studying for a test, in which case you memorize the steps and put the technique to practice at a much higher rate.

Finally, if the student performs and competes, spotlights are a must because these are great opportunities to practice and test drive the routine before an upcoming show or competition.

In addition, engaging in monthly spotlights creates a fun atmosphere at the studio and encourages other students to participate. This type of events is what creates a friendly dance community. Come to Starz Ballroom Cleveland to experience our monthly student spotlights!