Whats New

February 23rd, 2017

I haven’t been here for quite some time…being busy with other things forgetting my own blog :)

My biggest baby in the past was of course my DanceArchives page…I posted that here, so no news really.

http://www.dancearchives.net/2017/02/22/how-do-elite-athletes-conquer-their-nerves/

Now also serving on Canada’s National Dance Board NDCC time is even more limited. But do not despair, I’m still around.

Brigitt Mayer


The Hockeystick By Barry Gasson

January 7th, 2015

Another fundamental figure in Cha-Cha-Cha and Rumba is the Hockey Stick

Fan and Alemana, Fan and Hockey Stick. are the two commonly known movements, but where the Alemana can be taken from other positions than Fan Position, the Hockey Stick can only be taken from Fan Position.

Aha! Gotcha!

I hear you cry. “The book gives all sorts of entries to the Hockey Stick.———– Fan, Close Hip Twist, Open Hip Twist, Spiral finished in Fan Position, Curl, Continuous Circular Hip Twist, Runaway Alemana, and Syncopated Open Hip Twist”.

Quite right, my observant young friend However, each one of the afore-mentioned movements ends in Fan Position, so, once again, the Hockey Stick can only be taken from Fan Position.

The Hockey Stick, although simplistic in construction, is a wonderful example of how the two bodies can blend together, while dancing entirely different movements. In most dance disciplines where two people dance together, the Lady dances the normal opposite to the man. In the case of the Hockey Stick the man dances two Cucuracha movements, while the lady moves progressively from his left side to a position facing the man, having moved past him,. towards his right side.

The geometry closely resembles the shape of a (field) hockey stick, a long handle and a little curvey bit on the end with which to hit the ball.

It is seldom that ones sees the correct shape of the Hockey Stick from the Lady, sometimes because the man created space and invited her to dance in the wrong direction, but more usually because their teacher had not been trained properly, if at all, and did not understand the technical requirements of the figure.

Pitfalls in the Hockey Stick

The first problem starts on the previous figure. Very often the Lady takes the last step of the Fan Position that precedes the Hockey Stick or Alemana, in a sideways direction, instead of a back step. This has the effect of turning her away from the correct alignment that of body at right angles to man.

Which can be a rather stylish shape for the Lady and was in vogue for a few years a couple of decades ago. However, many ladies performing this amount of turn often create ugly leg lines by virtue of the fact that they have stepped sideways instead of backwards. Then, they invariably omit the foot swivel to regain the right-angled position of their bodies relative to the man.

This causes them to dance the first three steps starting leftwards, then curving to the right, which makes the last three steps go to right and end up behind the man’s right shoulder. Whenever I see this I get mixed emotions. Horror and anger.

Horror at such a clumsy bastardization, and anger at the teacher who has little knowledge of the technique, geometry and aesthetic beauty of the movement when danced properly.

There are three positional rules to remember for the Lady.

  1. The Hockey Stick must start and move along a line towards the man’s left side.
  2. At the end of the third step the lady’s weight should be on her right foot, with a straight knee. And her right hip displacement will fit into the hollow created by the man’s left hip displacement. He can then effectively stop her from going rightwards, and make her take the required 1/8 of turn to the left on step 4.

At this point the hip geometry of the Lady on her right foot will, or should, suggest that her head line should be to the left, towards her next direction.

3. On step six she should be facing the man, having stepped backwards, not sideways

In a similar fashion to the Alemana, the movement is not led. Rather the man signals to the Lady by bringing her hand forward and inviting her to move in front of him. She should then take over the control of his hand and use it as a comfort of support as she performs her ‘Forward Walk Turning’, the essence of which is a turn on the straight right leg while the right hip position is maintained. Taking over the man’s hand and lowering the joined hands when SHE decides also helps the lady to keep her right armpit closed, and keeps her ‘within the confines of the man’s arms.

As discussed in the Alemana. When in Fan Position the lady’s right arm must describe a line from her right shoulder to right hand, along the path on which she will travel. Any tendency for her to extend her right elbow to the right will severely jeapardise the movement, and cause her to deviate her direction.

The Hockey Stick as Lady, commence in Fan position.

The lady is almost at arm’s length on man’s left side with her body at right angles to his. The ladies left foot will be back, supporting her full weight, with the left leg perpendicular, having completed a Backward walk, that involved 1/8 of turn to left.

STEP ONE
Right foot closes to Left foot

This closure should be performed swiftly, much in the same way that a Spanish lady will ‘snap’ her fan closed. As the moving leg has no tension, it will articulate and close without disturbing the stature of the left leg. The weight will change, after closure, to the right foot and a hip action will occur. Count 2

STEP TWO
Left Foot forward.

The bodyweight is allowed to move forward through the perpendicular thigh of the supporting right leg, until a point of unbalance is achieved. The left foot is snapped into position landing under the bosom area, with the knee straightening before the weight is taken on.

Care must be taken so that the lady moves towards mans right side and not in a semi-circle starting to her left. On the previous step the man’s body has moved forward into a checked forward walk. Ladies often try to avoid the man by moving leftwards, not realizing that he will transfer his weight backwards out of her way. The Lady should be travelling towards the man’s left side at this point on a line with her ‘folding’ right arm.

STEP THREE
Right Foot forward.

Care must be taken that the Lady does not step in front of the other foot, but rather a slight ‘skating’’ action as she moves from her left hip to her right hip. As she effects the hip action onto her straight right leg, her right hip will fill the space created by the man’s left hip which has moved back. At this point the hips should be level with the line of direction. Many Ladies take their right hip forward with the toe turned in at this point. Not a good idea!

STEP FOUR
Left Foot forward, turning 1/8 to left, taking joined hands down across body.

Many Ladies continue on the original line and merely turn the left toe out. The DIRECTION OF TRAVEL must deviate.

STEP FIVE
Right Foot forward, following curved line of step four.

I recommend a slightly delayed weight transfer, to keep the left hip action as right foot ‘snaps’ into place. Then the dramatic right hip action as the 3/8 of turn is made on right foot.

STEP SIX
Left foot back, into open position, turning an extra 1/8 to left.

 

The Hockey Stick as Man

STEP ONE
Left Foot forward, toe turned out.

The body turn to left is not detailed in technique as it is lost as the weight is transferred in place on step two, however it is desirable for the man to ‘shape’ towards the lady. This action is called a Çhecked Forward Walk’, with weight being retarded.

STEP TWO
Transfer weight to right foot, in place.

Right leg is now perpendicular, with right hip displacement effected. Left leg remains straight with no movement of the foot.

STEP THREE
Without altering right leg shaping, close Left Foot to Right Foot, with leg articulation due to left leg being of greater length. Weight is then taken on to Left Leg with consequent hip action backwards and leftwards. Care must be taken not to allow body to turn to the right, the right side to be ‘keyed’ towards the Lady. This position will shape the lady to take her 1/8 of turn to left on step four, in fact, it will actively prevent her from taking the all too common turn to the right.

STEP FOUR
Right Foot back, turning 1/8 to right.

It must be stressed that the foot has not moved so far that the right leg cannot achieve the perpendicular line. Men must continually monitor this action by lifting the left foot from the floor, without any movement of weight.

STEP FIVE
Transfer weight to Left Foot in place. When performing step four, the left leg should have remained straight, weight is then transferred forward to that straight leg, which should not have moved.

STEP SIX
Right Foot forward.

This bald statement of the Forward Walk tells us that the right foot will land and take weight onto that leg. When one considers that at the end of the fifth step, the weight is held in the left leg with hip displacement downwards and leftwards. Take into consideration that at the end of step six the weight will be downwards and rightwards. You cannot go ‘down’ from ‘down’. The feeling for step six will be ‘Up and Over’, with a feeling of coming up out of the left hip, and settling downwards into the right hip with an undulation of movement.

The man’s line at the end of the Hockey Stick will show the body parallel to Lady’s body with hip action to right, and left hand to right hand hold.

The Hockey Stick when danced in the Cha-Cha-Cha will have the same geometry and principles of movement, but after steps three and six there will be a further lock action to accommodate the five steps in the bar of music as opposed to three steps in the Rumba.

When dancing a locking action backwards the step preceding the crossing step will be placed, with a slight ronde’ action, behind, and across the line of the supporting leg. So that the crossing foot retains its’ original direction line.

When dancing a forward locking action the step preceding the crossing action does not deviate its’ direction line.

When these principles of movement are observed the common Hockey Stick, like the Alemana, will become a thing of beauty and a joy forever, and not the series of distortions that one commonly sees.


Who was Josephine Bradley MBE?

April 10th, 2013

Excerpts from Ballroom Icons    © Brigitt Mayer-Karakis

Josephine Bradley dancing with Frank Ford
Josephine Bradley dancing with Frank Ford

Josephine, “Jo” was affectiontely called the “first lady” of ballroom dancing. Those who were privileged to know her, remember her as one of the great personalities of ballroom teachers.

Josephine Bradley, Victor Silvester and Phyllis Haylor were the key players who founded and promoted the enviable English Style of ballroom dancing. They took on the task of analyzing what dancers, and in particular competitors of their time were dancing, and they started putting it down on paper.

Vita 1893 – 1985

  • 1920 dance partnership with G. Kenneth Anderson and won the World Championship in the foxtrot
  • 1924 opened her first school in Knightsbridge
  • 1924– 47 chairwomen of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

The dance detectives

November 8th, 2012

Alison Gallagher-Hughes hears from Brigitt Mayer-Karakis about the World Dance Council’s attempts to put history at our fingertips.

Brigitt Mayer and Ron Self

Click the link below, to read the full article

The_Dance_Detectives


The waltz BY © Zoë Anderson

October 19th, 2012

Print from Curt Sachs’ “World History of the Dance”

 This article first appeared in a series called Perfect 10 in Dance Today (www.dance-today.co.uk)

The waltz is one of the oldest of ballroom dances. Across its long history, this dance has been both scandalous and sweetly nostalgic, always associated with romance. The obvious characteristics of the modern waltz are its music, in ¾ time, and its flowing, graceful turns.

The waltz was always a turning dance: the word means to turn or to roll. The first recorded use of “waltz” as a dance term appears in 1748, in a ban on the Ländler, an Austro-German folk dance. Another ban, from 1760, refers to “German waltzing dances”, covering a range of turning steps.

Why were they banned? Turning dances were couple dances, with the beginnings of ballroom hold. Pairs of dancers faced and held each other, hanging on close to keep their balance as they swung through the fast turns. This was an unusual level of physical intimacy, at a time when most dances were performed side by side. The waltz was shocking – and remained so, with generations of moral panic to come.

In 1771, the German novelist Sophie von La Roche made one of her characters exclaim over the dance, now being performed by aristocrats:

He put his arm around her, pressed her to his breast, cavorted with her in the shameless, indecent whirling-dance of the Germans and engaged in a familiarity that broke all the bounds of good breeding”.

The turns and the physical closeness made the waltz a giddily exciting dance to perform. In 1774, Goethe suggested its intoxicating effects in his hugely popular novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. When the sensitive hero dances with his beloved Lotte, “I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying with her as rapidly as the wind… I vowed at that moment, that a maiden whom I loved, or for whom I felt the slightest attachment, never, never should waltz with anyone else but with me, if I went to perdition for it!”

In 1774, the waltz was still new: Werther notes that many couples weren’t sure how to dance it. By 1802, it had spread from Germany and Austria to Paris, where an anonymous British pamphleteer caught sight of it.

The dance was of so curious a nature that I must describe it… they keep turning each other round and round, till they have completed the circle of the whole platform, in the manner of the sketch here presented.”

As the sketch shows, the partnering hold of the modern waltz had yet to develop. Dancers faced and held each other in a variety of grips and poses, recorded in contemporary cartoons as the waltz caught on across Europe.

The dandy Thomas Raikes remembered: “No event ever produced so great a sensation in English society as the introduction of the German waltz in 1813… Old and young returned to school and the mornings, which had been dedicated to lounging in the park, were now absorbed at home in… whirling a chair round the room, to learn the steps and measure of the German waltz… The anti-waltzing party took alarm, cried it down, mothers forbade it, and every ball-room became a scene of feud and contention…”

Mothers were not the only protesters. The poet Lord Byron, himself notoriously “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, was ready to be shocked by the abandon of the dance. The Waltz: An Apostrophic Hymn, which he published anonymously in 1816, has lurid descriptions of the early ballroom hold:

Round all the confines of the yielded waist
The strangest hand may wander undisplaced;
The lady’s in return may grasp as much
As princely paunches offer to her touch…
 
Say – would you make those beauties quite so cheap?
Hot from the hands promiscuously applied,
Round the slight waist, or down the glowing side,
Where were the rapture then to clasp the form
From this lewd grasp and lawless contact warm?

He “princely paunch” is a jibe at the overweight Prince Regent, who in 1816 included the waltz in a royal ball. This confirmed its acceptance by the British establishment, but The Times was horrified to see this “indecent foreign dance” at court. “National morals depend on national habits: and it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies, in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females…

we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.”

Parents did expose their daughters, though they were careful about it. At Almack’s, London’s most exclusive society club, young ladies could not waltz until they were given permission by one of the club’s aristocratic patronesses. The waltz was to become a standard part of upper-class matchmaking, with parents keeping a sharp eye on who danced with whom. Queen Victoria, the embodiment of respectability, did waltz – but, as one obituarist noted, usually with visiting royals, and with her husband.

There were different styles of waltzing. The Viennese were famously speedy, dancing on the flat foot, gliding and spinning as fast as possible. In France, dancers would waltz on tiptoe. By the mid-century, pictures show dancers in what is recognisable as modern ballroom hold. Leader and follower became firmly defined gender roles.

It is recommended that the lady, when waltzing, leave herself to the direction of her partner, trusting entirely to him, without in any case seeking to follow her own impulse,” advised Hillgrove’s Ball Room Guide in 1864.

A lady is reputed so much the better dancer or waltzer as she obeys with confidence and freedom the evolutions directed by the gentleman who conducts her.”

While the waltz dominated Victorian ballrooms, it remained a demanding dance, its whirling steps requiring floor craft and musicality. There was also a real danger of dizziness. In the modern waltz, dancers alternate between “natural” turns (to the right) and “reverse” turns (to the left), with a change step in between. Victorian waltzers tended to spin in one direction, clockwise, as they went around the ballroom.

In Victorian Britain, “reversing” was a controversial issue, partly because the man had to grip his partner tightly to change direction. The move was variously seen as daring, unaristocratic and difficult; it was even forbidden at court balls. Overseas, and further down the Victorian social scale, the technique was happily accepted.

If the British upper classes were reluctant to reverse, they were open to variant steps. The original valse à trois temps faced competition from the modified valse à deux temps. Instead of taking three steps, to match the one-two-three of the music, the dancer would take a long step on the first two beats, then step together on the third. More accomplished à trois temps waltzers looked down on this simpler version; in the US, it was even nicknamed the “Ignoramus” waltz.

Though some moralists still worried about its close contact between dancers, the waltz was now praised for its refinement. In 1884, the etiquette manual Manners and Social Usages called it “the most fashionable, as it will always be the most beautiful, of dances. Some of the critics of all countries have said that only Germans, Russians and Americans can dance it. The Germans dance it very quickly, with a great deal of motion, but render it elegant by slacking the pace every now and then. The Russians waltz so quietly, on the contrary, that they can go round the room holding a brimming glass of champagne without spilling a drop.”

At the start of the 20th century, the waltz was overshadowed by new American rhythms.

Even when music was in time, dancers didn’t stick to traditional waltz steps. The Boston, danced to waltz music, had a smooth walking motion, rather than the rotating steps of the Victorian waltz. During World War I, the “Hesitation” waltz became popular, adding a syncopated pause.

The Dancing Times suggested that the waltz had been neglected because it was difficult. During the war, “young men, few of whom had had dancing lessons, found the foxtrot so much easier to pick up in the short space of their 14 days’ leave… For some time after the Armistice the majority of dancers used foxtrot steps whenever a valse was played”.

In peacetime, with a dance boom, the waltz enjoyed a revival, pushed by British publications. In 1921, the Dancing Times called a conference of dance teachers; one of the issues discussed was the decline of the waltz, and the lack of a standard technique. The conference helped to establish the modern standard – sometimes called English – waltz.

In a competition held by the Daily Sketch in 1922, waltz and foxtrot categories were firmly separated. “The good that that competition did cannot be over-estimated,” argued the Dancing Times.

It formulated the axiom that the valse and the foxtrot should be interpreted by different steps, and the dancing public began to take the valse seriously and to discover how much more enjoyable it could be made if danced properly.”

As the modern waltz was defined and standardised, it could be firmly contrasted with the Viennese waltz. The major difference is speed. The standard waltz is now a slow dance, with 30 bars per minute, where the whirling Viennese has 60.

Whether it flows slowly or quickly, the waltz is now an elegant and romantic dance. In competition, dancers can aim for both the smooth grace admired in the 19th century, and the ardour that Werther felt when he span with Lotte in his arms.

© Zoë Anderson


And all of a sudden its Christmas!

October 4th, 2012

There might be a dance-nut in an area near you. Ballroom Icons limited, numbered collectors edition is a perfect gift for your teacher, student or a family member.

Your Ballroom Icons team


The History of Dance — A lecture by Brigitt Mayer, as presented at the Blackpool Congress

September 1st, 2012

Report by Philip Nicholas for Dance Beat (USA)

Over the years there have been many interesting lectures at Blackpool. But over all the years I have been there I do not remember one about the history of our dances. History has always been very interesting to me, so when my dear friend Brigitt Mayer-Karakis told me she was doing a lecture on the history of dance I was very interested to see it. I feel this is something that has always been missing in our world because without the history we have nothing to compare the present with.

I have been in dancing for 52 years, so I have seen a lot of dancing over the years and I remember many things. So to see this lecture for me was a “Special moment in time.”

The amount of time and work Brigitt had put into the preparation of her lecture was enormous, she had gone right back to the middle ages, to find where and when all the different music and dances were formed and traced them to our dances of today.

All the different people who were willing to give their time to prepare their dances for this lecture was such a great thing to see for the success of this adventure. There were people of many years ago, and people from a short time ago and from today. They were all so happy to be doing this, to give us all a look into the history of a dance form that we all love.

The Charleston was danced by Bryan Watson and Carmen and they really gave us the style of this dance from the 20s. Wendy Johnson and Igor Suvorov did a very exiting Argentine Tango. Allan Tornsberg and Vibeke Toft danced the Maxixe. They really gave us the feel of the times when this dance was popular.

Jukka Happalainen and Sirpa Suutari danced the Son and the Mambo and they made it a real fun dance. Then we had Evelyn Hädrich-Hörmann (former Opitz) and Bernd Hörmann dance a beautiful square Rumba brought back memories when I started dancing as I did learn the Square Rumba. Peter Eggleton and Loraine Barry did the slow Foxtrot from the 40s and it was wonderful to see Peter out there. Rudi Trautz and his daughter Nina danced his Cha-Cha-Cha from 1968 and he looked so happy to be able to show it to us. Kenny and Marion Welsh doing the 80s Tango brought back memories.

And the only Lorraine with Neil Jones as Wally and he did a really great job. They did the Cha-Cha-Cha from the 60s. It was so wonderful to see Lorraine dancing again. I remember her from when I arrived in England.

They all produced the dancing of the times they were representing and the crowd loved it. I feel so lucky to have been there to hear and see this very special lecture about where our dancing came from and where it has gone until today. And I hope that we have more of this in the near future.


International Congress 2012 ‘Let Your Body Talk’…part three by Jack Reavely

August 19th, 2012

 

Day One: Brigitt Mayer  History of Dance: One of my own favorite subjects is the History of Dance and Brigitt must have spent so many hours studying and then arranging this lecture which covered such a spectrum of dance, over so many years that the only way it could be utterly appreciated is to see it yourself.

Within the lecture historical facts were pouring as if golden coins had been melted and the molten 22 carat result was pouring into your intellect and leaving you marveling at the great dancing of the past which had created what we try to do today.

At this year’s Beijing Motor Show in China a new concept car was on show which will be manufactured by Mercedes and will be named the CSA…it is a four door coupe, which is a result of evolutionary thought process. Therefore it incorporates great ideas from yesteryear, coupled with to the innovation of today…wonderfully so. It has already incited worldwide interest and it is exactly the same in my mind, as I watch this lecture unfold before my eyes and ears.

The cast was mindboggling. It started with a gaggle of couples, the men wearing white wigs showing historical dances…elegant and devoid of body contact of course…As if we were within a Royal Court…seeing the acquisition of dances suitable for the aristocracy. Slides and film were shown on a large screen in the Spanish Hall and brought gleams of ferocious fervor to everyone present.   Much of yesteryear still finds its way to today, especially at society events. Fiery Polkas and Mazurkas became fabulously popular, and the Waltz was the first dance to incorporate the hold we see today.

I can only recommend that you too see this and hear the information as it was given, courtesy of Derek Brown’s DVD’s…Many surprises were inserted beautifully through Brigitt’s thought process of such excellence.


First ballroom dance history lecture in Blackpool

May 30th, 2012

We have maybe heard about it from our coaches or we have put our own efforts in and researched the history of our ballroom dances and how they came about, but this year Brigitt Mayer, author of Ballroom Icons has pulled it all together into one entertaining and informative history “show”

It was conducted in the Spanish Hall of the Winter Gardens in Blackpool as part of the BDF congress during this years British Dance Festival.  Spontaneous standing ovations were received throughout the presentation and spectators said they had “tears in their eyes”. Part of the huge success was a well structured power-point presentation but in particular the dance numbers presented by an all star cast of over 10 world champions going as far back as 1962.

Dances of historical significance were presented, some video clips shown, but the highlights were the original choreography’s from the first superstars of Ballroom dancing.

We all certainly learned one thing: history does not have to be dry!

 


DanceArchives up and running!

April 14th, 2012

The Historical Committee and Educational Department are happy to announce:

The DanceArchives website is up and running!
This is an ongoing project and does not claim completeness (- ever:)).
We concentrated on organizing the facebook articles and structuring the page, so the public can find things easily.
In the near future, besides continuing with this, we will work on the results section, influential people of the past, historical events, national histories… Lots of pictures need to be gathered, uploaded and described and the same with video material. In that we rely on lovers of this art form who have maybe gathered pictures, lecture notes film material etc. and send them to us for filing. Feel free to contact me.
So come and check it out and spread the word!
Brigitt Mayer, George Pytlik and Ruud Vermeij

http://www.dancearchives.net/