The Ballroom “Look”


I saw this video posted by a friend on Facebook this afternoon. I wanted to share both the video and my thoughts on the interview with you.

Toni Redpath, the woman interviewed in the video below, is a professional ballroom dance competitor and a ballroom dance competition judge. I’ve seen her perform at competitions in the past and her movement on the dance floor is both beautiful and breath-taking. Toni’s statements on how she judges female dancers at competitions based on their “look” instead of just their ability is a common calamity at any ballroom dance competition.

The interview starts off on a positive note. Toni explains what she’s looking for when she judges the Bronze, Silver and Gold syllabus levels. Toni also describes what she looks for when she judges the Open category, the most advanced level where you can link together syllabus steps of your choice in addition to making up your own choreography.

About 2/3rds of the way through the interview Toni reveals that she judges female dancers on their ballroom “look” rather than their dance ability. Toni clearly states that “the girl who has the better look” gets a better score when she’s judging two women with nearly the same ability.

Watch the interview below, and you’ll see what I mean.

Is presence or a “look” important? Yes. I agree with Toni that the appearance of the dancer is important because costumes, makeup and a clean hairstyle should compliment your dancing. Competitions and performances are special days to celebrate the hard work you’ve done. Celebration of hard work at ballroom dance competition is usually expressed by dressing up in a fancy costume, putting on makeup, getting your nails done and donning some sparkly accessories. Your costuming should accent your dancing. Your costuming should not be the only thing the judge notices.

To achieve the “look” that Toni refers to at a ballroom dance competition, you will need a spray tan to turn your skin orange (note–not brown) so you can be seen under the bright lights, fake finger nails, false eyelashes, heavy eye makeup up to your eyebrows and a clean hairstyle in which your hair needs to be either very long or very short and your hair color needs to be dyed either a very, dark brown or a blinding, platinum blonde. Your weight is also considered a definite factor in your “look”. I’ve had coaches in the past look at me during a coaching session and comment that losing 5 to 10 pounds would go a long way to helping my “look” on the dance floor. Comments about my weigt always crushed me. When I danced I wasn’t ever obese. I was healthy and strong but never skinny enough to meet my coaches’ expectations.

Additional requirements to achieve the “look” include the purchase of one or two dresses—either a ball gown and/or a Latin gown, depending on which style(s) of ballroom dance you’re competing in. These dresses are not cheap. If you buy a decent dress you can expect to pay upwards of $2,000.00 for a used dress or approximately $4,000.00 for a new dress. If owning a dress that will go out of style within 2 years requiring you to purchase another dress so you can keep improving your “look” is not the route you want to take, you also have the option of renting a dress for a minimum of $250.00 for one competition weekend. Either direction you choose, owning and constantly replacing your gown(s) or renting a new gown(s) each weekend you that you compete can add up fast. Tack on accessories like earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets and/or gloves, and you can expect to pay $300.00-$500.00 for that alone. Suddenly your “look” has become an expensive investment. And remember—none of your investment has gone towards your dance coaching to help improve your ability.

Think of any other sport—triathlons, marathons, 5Ks, football, basketball, baseball etc. None of these sports place any emphasis on how you “look” when you perform. Your score is determined by you and/or your team’s ability to perform well. Yes, you spend money on uniforms and gear. Sometimes the more money you spend on gear can greatly benefit your ability. However, the way you “look” isn’t a determinant in these sports to be winner. In these sports, ability always outshines the “look” when you’re when you’re fighting to win.

If you struggle with similar concerns regarding your “look” at a ballroom dance competition, my recommendation is be true to yourself, proud of the hard work you’ve done and dance the best you can. If you feel that you’re clean and professional appearance on the dance floor isn’t winning you any medals, then keep on dancing harder. Don’t go out and purchase another costume. Costumes shouldn’t be judged. Your overall ability is what should shine through to the judges.

Peace,
Sara

One thought on “The Ballroom “Look”

  1. Sara,
    I too sometimes struggle with the sheer expense of ballroom dancing. it is not a cheap sport, but then neither is golf, or tennis. I had a very classy standard dress made for a thousand dollars (I was lucky to have a friend that sews) and I cannot attend as many competitions as I’d like to because they too are expensive, But I knew those things going into it and I do what I can with what I have. I learned to do my own makeup and hair and suffered through about a thousand attempts to glue falsies on until I could do it with out ripping them back off–all because I love it and can’t live without it. Sounds like you do too. However, about the video, I have to disagree with your interpretation of Toni’s comment. She didn’t say “instead” of ability. She said if ability being equal, she will favor the dancer’s with the more “polished look” – I think she was talking primarily about grooming. I don’t think she meant -who has the most expensive dress. She mentioned not understanding why anyone would go out on the floor sloppy. And at that level, (I’ve watched high level videos and picking the winner seems impossible-they are all fantastic) sometimes it comes down to the details. Kind of like choosing a dress to buy. If the price is exactly the same and they are both very pretty, you’re going to get the one with a few more rhinestones. Good luck in your dancing -hope to see you at a competition someday.

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