Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Russia and Ballroom Dancing

Russia and Ballroom Dancing  

Ballroom dancing is generally not something that is at the forefront of popular culture or though (outside of someone watching Dirty Dancing or an old Fred Astaire/Ginger Roberts movie). As a professional instructor and dancer, I have been exposed to a number of interesting and unique opportunities that go so far beyond nostalgic movie choices. Today the world of ballroom dancing is a diverse (if not stratified) community of dancers and instructors from essentially every background and social strata you can imagine. This diversity is one of the main reasons I am taking Russian language (besides it being a necessary trait for studying Central/Eastern European history). Throughout the last few years as a dance instructor and participating in competitions and events around the southeast, I have come to realize that probably 7 or 8 out of every 10 professional ballroom dancers is Russian (or some derivative thereof such as Ukrainian). I really don't know why this is, but the fact remains that I hear more instructors speaking Russian to each other than English, so learning Russian will be a great professional development tool in both careers (both academia and dancing).

I have a couple hypotheses as to why the dance community is inundated with Russians, but no evidence to back them up (yet). One is that during the time of the Soviet Union and state controlled arts, a large number of dancers were unable to participate in their profession and thereby emigrated to America. However, that seems to be questionable as getting out of the Soviet Union wasn't exactly a cake-walk. The other time-line would be after the fall of the Soviet Union, groups of dancers decided to emigrate to America, and slowly built their own contained and self-propagating culture within the dance community - people who have already emigrated and settled would help others do the same, mostly staying within the niche market of dancing. Regardless, I would imagine that this propensity of Russians to be excellent dancers links ultimately back to the Russian Ballet, although again, I have not researched this sufficiently enough to know whether this is true.  Hopefully over this semester these blogs will serve as my opportunity (and excuse) to spend time researching these questions and to comment as to the nature of the culture of the ballroom dance community.

While we're thinking about that, enjoy this bear dancing with two well-dressed people:


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