Trapped in Time, by Fred Bijster

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 Fred Bijster april 2011

Trapped in time

Very often we can hear people say “in my days………” or words of the same meaning. Also in dancing these terms are used quite often. And rightly so. It is worthwhile to realize that the written technique is still used as the basis of what we do. It is also interesting to see how over the years the dancing changed enormously. I use the word changed on purpose and not the word developped.

The word develop suggests continuity, an evolution from one form to another, in essence with a certain logic in it. The word change leaves that open. It can be sudden and provoked.

In the earlier days of latin the shift of generations within the latin dancing was rapid. It was new, it was popular with the younger generation. Careers were very much finished at an early age and new generations were taking over immediately. When Alan & Hazel gained their 7th World title, it was generally believed that this record would never be broken. And see what happened thereafter!

In the early days the latin was changing almost by the day. At the start a lot of elements reminded strongly of ballroom-dancing. When disco dancing became popular, the latin looked like a quality-disco-show, carried by the next generation. The dresses were equally flashing, especially the men’s dresses. When Thorville and Dean were succesfull in the world, we could see half of all the latin-dancers down on the floor.

It is my strong believe that these occurrences had little to do with development and a lot with change. Mainly because of the short life of generations in dancing. Each new generation, not “burdened” with the past, took the floor and changed the looks of latin in no time. You could start late and had to finish early. It was very quick and therefore very contemporary.

Development took over and became more prominent when careers started to last longer. Good examples are Alan & Hazel Fletcher and of course Donnie and Gaynor and after that Brian and Carmen. They prolonged their dancing careers and became “carriers” of the dance. And many joined in and “stayed on the floor” for a longer time.

The next generation had to wait, sometimes even too long in their opinion, and learn.

By these great dancers the latin gained identity and became a lot less contemporary. Nowadays in dancing in general, including the latin, you must start at an early age and learn for years before, if ever, you reach the top. This phenomenen doesn’t encourage sudden and provoked changes; it requires and supports development, ripening.

Where before the latin and the dancers were very much “trapped in time”, the outcome of sudden changes in normal society, the dancing nowadays has gained identity.

Thanks to those great “carriers”, the dancers that dedicated their lifes to the competitions for so long, the dancing has developped, not just changed. Allowing new elements in, not just leaving the past behind and changing with the time.

In this light it is interesting to see the havoc that people can cause if they bring in changes without taking this all into consideration; like “dancing is a sport”.

That is a change, not a development. And it certainly isn’t helping the dancing, nor the dancers in the long career ahead.

Tomorrow, when sport is gone out of fashion (like all the other trends we’ve seen), we’ll be stuck with dancers with beautiful trained bodies, covered with tattoos and a lost identity.

Unless of course we cherish the past, our great dancers and are prepared to live a life of learning and dancing. Regardless of all the rest.

Do not allow yourself to be “trapped in time” and be out of date tomorrow!

Fred Bijster

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