Get your kicks in the ball­room

Strictly Come Danc­ing is the UK’s most pop­u­lar show right now, with more than 11 mil­lion peo­ple a week tun­ing in. Ste­wart and Jane Wil­son run Ball­room Ba­sics in Pais­ley and Glas­gow, and teach classes. They told Ali Kirker the Hon­est Truth about ball­room d

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - Relax -

When and how did ball­room danc­ing orig­i­nate?

The name ball­room was de­rived from the word ball, which orig­i­nated from the Latin word ‘bal­lare’... to dance. Dance orig­i­nally had two dis­tinct forms, so­cial and folk.

So­cial was for the aris­toc­racy and folk for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. This sep­a­ra­tion be­came no­tice­able in Europe at the end of the Mid­dles Ages, when Re­nais­sance in­flu­ences, which orig­i­nated in Italy and France, started to change in 16th Cen­tury Europe.

Ball­room danc­ing as we know it, evolved from that. The in­tro­duc­tion of the min­uet in 1650 pop­u­larised the early form of ball­room danc­ing.

Have there been any scan­dals associated with ball­room danc­ing?

The in­tro­duc­tion of the waltz in the Vic­to­rian era was im­por­tant for ball­room danc­ing – but at the time it was con­sid­ered out­ra­geous.

Its ‘closed hold’ and the fact the dancers em­braced each other was con­sid­ered rev­o­lu­tion­ary and shock­ing at the same time. The dance was met with huge op­po­si­tion due to the im­pro­pri­ety associated with the hold.

It scan­dalised Vic­to­rian so­ci­ety – but the waltz is still very much with us, so the scan­dal did it no harm at all.

Tell us a bit more about ball­room’s his­tory?

In the early 1900s, the Amer­i­cans chal­lenged the European mo­nop­oly on ball­room danc­ing. Ver­non and Irene Cas­tle re­fined many of the dances, such as the fox­trot and the tango and helped to in­crease ball­room’s pop­u­lar­ity across the globe.

Then in 1919, the Ham­mer­smith Palais De Dance opened.

The First World War had not long ended and peo­ple wanted some fun! Many other dance halls opened around this time, too.

How did ball­room dance com­pe­ti­tions be­gin?

In the 1920s, the Im­pe­rial So­ci­ety formed a com­mit­tee to es­tab­lish a stan­dard of danc­ing. For the first time tem­pos, vari­a­tions and fig­ures for dances were writ­ten down.

In 1930, four stan­dard dances be­came firmly es­tab­lished as the ba­sis for the British style of dance, which ex­ists to this day – the fox­trot, tango, waltz and quick­step.

Tell us some­thing quirky about ball­room danc­ing that we don’t know.

The stretch to the left away from your part­ner is thought to orig­i­nate from a time when bathing was not so fre­quent. This was so you hope­fully wouldn’t smell your part­ner as much. Thank­fully times have changed!

Was any­one else par­tic­u­larly in­flu­en­tial in the world of ball­room danc­ing?

Vic­tor Sylvester formed his or­ches­tra in 1935 and in­vented the term “strict tempo”. He played tunes with a con­stant beat, mak­ing it eas­ier to con­trol dances. He was a huge in­flu­ence.

What are some of the ben­e­fits of danc­ing?

It’s a great way to stay in shape and help with mem­ory, too.

Var­i­ous stud­ies have shown that danc­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis can im­prove our car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem and keep our minds ac­tive. By hav­ing to learn new steps and moves, it helps with mem­ory. It can also im­prove pos­ture and bal­ance and help to keep bones and mus­cles strong.

Is there an age limit for danc­ing?

Ab­so­lutely not. Our pupils range from age six to the mid-80s and it can help you stay mo­bile and young at heart. It has no cul­tural or age bar­rier. Lots of care homes have tea dances for their res­i­dents now, too.

Is it true some peo­ple have no rhythm?

There’s no such thing as two left feet! The hard­est step is the first one, through the door to the class.

Guests get in the swing of things dur­ing a char­ity ball­room dance held aboard the RMS Beren­garia in April 1929

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