Competitive Dancing

Basic dance vs. competitive technique in Ballroom, Latin, Smooth and Rhythm

basic and competitive dance technique blog article marcin raczynski

Pretty much every dancer aims to achieve “perfect” technique. Me and You! But do you practice the right things for your level of dancing?

When you start dancing, your journey always begins with basic steps. So for months and years you learn about footwork, amount of turn, swing, sway and directions in each figure. Gradually it becomes more and more subconscious and no longer do you need to remind yourself whether you take a step from the heel or toe for example. All the basic figures you learn are well described and analysed in technique books. I like to think of the dance technique books as foreign language dictionaries. When you learn a new language you should definitely own the book. Have you got yours? If not, perhaps it could be a great Xmas present idea, right?

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To be honest, when I started studying the dance technique books, I could not be anymore confused. I thought that I could implement all the information into my competitive choreographies, but it proved difficult. Then I realized that dance technique cannot be seen as black or white- it’s a very “fluid” concept in fact. So when you start digging deeper, you learn that dance technique books were actually written for teachers to teach ABSOLUTE beginners who never danced before. So it’s a step by step manual of how to “build” your dance from scratch by following the rules. Many teachers refer to it as “strong fundamentals”.

Open choreographies

The better you become and more familiar you are with these “rules”, perhaps it’s time to start bending them a little bit. That’s when the exciting part of dancing really starts- the “open choreographies”. So suddenly you start dancing steps which are not as easily described, with various timings, additional body actions and complex turns. This definitely sounds exciting and more “sexy” than the regular basic step which your teacher has been torturing you with for years.

It all sounds lovely in theory, but in practice, you very often see dancers “rushing” to dance open choreos without really understanding the basics. It’s a little bit like expecting a primary school student to play with quantum physics.

You can read my post titled Open Choreography – silent killer of a dance HERE and see what comes out of not knowing your basics.

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Competitive dance technique contains more complex elements that will only work if used correctly TOGETHER with your “basic dance technique”. Top dancers keep practicing their basic steps even though their choreographies will not contain the exact figures and so should you.


If you want to impress your teacher, go to your next lesson and ask them to ALWAYS start your lesson with 15 minutes of basic. This is perhaps the least used request by students 🙂 but trust me, not only will it shock your teacher, but also in the long run will make you a much better dancer! Oh yeah and it’s not about doing rumba walk or a feather step every time. Your teacher can give you short combinations of 3-4 basic figures each time to keep things interesting. 

In summary, basic dance technique is different from competitive technique, but without being really good at the former, you can forget about the latter (until your teacher says so) 🙂 So with a hand on your heart, do you begin each practice with a little bit of basic technique?

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Photo Credits: Elena Anashina

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