Children Dancing For ParentsCompetitive Dancing

Open choreography- silent killer of dance!

Open vs closed choreography ballroom latin smooth blog article by marcin raczynski

“Basic steps are boring and I saw this move on YouTube that a pro couple did. Can we put it in our choreography?”

This is a very common request I hear and I’m sure it crossed your mind too 😉 So when should you dance “open” choreography to make you look good actually?

We know there are two main levels to dance:

a. closed choreography (restricted syllabus steps)

b. open choreography (non-restricted steps)

When you start dancing, you learn the basics and over time progress through levels (bronze, silver, gold etc). The idea is to learn principles of dancing so the better you become, you’re able to apply the same rules to more advanced figures. But does it actually happen? Well…

Open vs closed choreography ballroom latin smooth blog article by marcin raczynski

I have just come back from an international pro-am competition. I always like to watch other students with their teachers. One thing immediately struck me and that was the choreography of most of the dancers. What was wrong with it? Well, the dancers’ driving ability was at a “fiat” level, trying to drive a “formula 1”. You can just imagine the consequences.

In an over 60 open latin category, a lady fell on her back in a cha cha cha. Looked dangerous! Who’s fault was it? Well- I blame the teacher! Because how can you give a dancer of modest proficiency, steps that a pro would perform. You know, you will end up with a mediocre performance (at best) and the student will not dance but just try to “survive”. It’s painful to watch and if someone says it’s good, they’re probably just being nice.

Open vs closed choreography ballroom latin smooth blog article by marcin raczynski

Ok- I am sure you get the message. So what can you do about it as a student?

  1. YouTube is there to inspire you to become better by watching other dancers performing. But if you try to learn from it, you will need a solid background first and a good teacher to adjust it to your ability.
  2. Open choreographies have levels too. So if you’re a gold level student and dying to start open, your teacher can use the steps you already know and elevate them to the open level (even changing the timing makes it open). This way you will still dance within your level of ability rather than dive from a basic step to a “split and a cart wheel”. Do you get my point?
  3. If you know your samba whisks are amazing or oversway in smooth has so much control, why get rid off it for the sake of some fancy figure? Your teacher should always put your best points in the choreography. So do you want to deliver a strong performance with good balance or look like Bambi on ice?
  4. Even though you may have an open choreography, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna win a competition. In fact, many dancers look weaker in open choreography than closed. Why? Because they rely on tricks and lines which actually are not judged. It’s the basic steps, flow of movement, connection and posture that will give you marks at a competition. Think about it and read more “The Important Skill of Every Dancer”.
  5. Quality is in the basic steps! Recently in Los Angeles an open level pro-am smooth couple danced a full circle around the dance floor using only Natural Turns in Viennese Waltz- no tricks, no breaks, just flow and connection. And yes, they won. Thoughts?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to work with a teacher that will guide you through your individual dancing so you actually develop a skill and become a dancer. Not every great dancer is a great teacher and creating a choreography is a skill to show off the best assets of a dancer, rather than just putting random steps together, simply because “it’s time to do open choreography”…

So enjoy the journey and invest time in your basics!

Open vs closed choreography ballroom latin smooth blog article by marcin raczynski

Recently, I also wrote an article about American Smooth in Europe and the syllabus steps. You can find it HERE.

Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

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Photo credits: Maggiore Fotografico

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