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About DanceSport ... All You Wanted To Know

When Dance Became Sport

Early Days

Dance turned into genuine sport at the beginning of the twentieth century, when French entrepreneur Camille de Rhynal and a group of superb dancers added the competitive to the social, and when they converted ballrooms into the venue for their contests.

The first Tango tournament with international participation took place in Nice, France, in 1907. Ballroom championships in Paris, Berlin and London were soon to follow. France, Germany and England continued to assume the lead in fostering the emergence of a sport that seemed to fit in perfectly with the roaring twenties.

An inaugural world championship truly deserving of such title was held in Bad Nauheim, Germany, in 1936. Couples from fifteen nations and three continents were involved. Even though World War II then brought most of the competitive dancing to a halt, a new sport was born.  One that succeeded to keep in step with the rhythms of time.

DanceSport Today

Street Dance

The World DanceSport Federation coined the term "DanceSport" in the early 1980s. While the Sport in the composite aspires to be consistent with the generally accepted definitions, Dance is to remain the distinguishing artistic mark.

DanceSport takes pride in upholding some of the traditions and panache of what was previously known as competitive ballroom dancing. But it has long abandoned the latter's narrow confines. Today, the most diverse dance styles that have adopted a sports-based culture, and that have established bona fide competition structures, fall under the genus name.

DanceSport has become an all-encompassing brand for an activity that is uniquely accessible and sociable, allowing participants to improve physical fitness and mental well-being, to interact, and to obtain results at all levels. Everybody is capable of moving to music. And dance transgresses all barriers of age, gender and culture.

The Nature of Dance

While classic ballroom dances like the Foxtrot and the Waltz are at the origin of what has become a challenging sport, many other styles have been added over the past 100 years. The reasons for continued evolution lie in the nature of dance.

“Ballroom dancing is not an activity cut off from the world, but a living thing influenced by events and sensitive to what is going on all around. A change of fashion, war, an upsurge of interest in a particular foreign country, pop music, increased opportunities for travel, social upheavals, the popularity of film or television music – all these have had repercussions on the dancing scene.”

Goffredo - Goffredo, ITA

The observation dates back to 1927! It was made by Victor Silvester, an Englishman, musician, dancer, and a pioneer in giving the definite shape to what was to become programme for the match of skills and style on the parquet.

In 1929, British dance teachers defined the norms of an “English" style for the most popular ballroom dances. Maybe for the lack of alternatives, "English" soon prevailed on the continent as well and was eventually adopted as the “International Style” everywhere.

Latin dances with their vibrant energy were next to find acceptance by enthusiasts around the globe. Then it was Swing, then Rock 'n' Roll, then ... The rhythms of time, together with all the other factors Silvester had described in 1927, will certainly continue to influence dance forever.

A look at the list of dance styles in which competitions are staged today confirms that DanceSport has kept abreast of the evolution.

How dance and dance styles developed, and continue to develop, at different times and in different cultures is best traced through scholarly works on the subject.

The Performance

Belyayev – Popova, CAN © Roland

Artistry, Athleticism, Technique ... And Aesthetics!

The aesthetic appeal of a sport can make for the fascination that induces someone to participate. And it is certainly one of the qualities drawing a spectator to watch.

For those looking on, a sporting performance does not solely impress for its purpose or effectivity, it astonishes even more through the skill and the style with which it is delivered.

While this holds true for just about any sport, it seems to be heightened considerably in some: in all those labelled as artistic. DanceSport - obviously belonging the genre too - is all about balancing the artistry of dance, which makes it so captivating, with the athleticism of sport.

Athletes in DanceSport use the prescribed technique together with rhythmic interpretation to produce their performance. However, technical competence in itself does not necessarily constitute quality in DanceSport.

While all athletes are challenged to demonstrate their perfect technique, it is the privilege of champions to combine it with artistry as well as outstanding athleticism in highly aesthetic performances. In order to determine these champions, the athletes match up against each other in fair competition on the dance floor, all seeking to demonstrate the perfect synthesis between technique, artistic skills and athleticism.

In the course of a DanceSport competition athletes produce multiple performances of 90 to 120 seconds as they progress from one round to another. Typically, a couple making it to the final round performs five times five dances before the winners are declared. In Ten Dance: four times ten dances!

Team Effort

DanceSport is a team sport by definition and features total gender parity. Male and female athletes compete together on the same field of play, to the same rules, and for the same awards and titles.  As a couple, or a team of couples in Formation, they strive to go much beyond the absolute mastery of technique: they seek to develop their personal style and to transmit charisma on the floor. Always as a team!


Physical conditioning, hard work, stern discipline, mental training as well as imagination are the prerequisites for athletes to achieve excellence in DanceSport. The biographies of the top competitive couples tell the stories of inspired people in permanent search of perfection.

The performance by the 2012 World DanceSport Champions in Standard, the German couple made up of Benedetto Ferruggia and Claudia Koehler, captures the very essence of competitive DanceSport.

Years of training are required to make the most challenging steps and figures look as effortless as they do. And only the best can complement their command over technique with artistic skills to make the aesthetic qualities of DanceSport visible on the floor.







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Last modified: 10/9/2013 7:26 PM -0500