In Search of Excellence – Artistry

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What is Art?

In today’s world, with all the media present, the word art is being manipulated and abused. We all know this, but still, the question remains – what is art, really?

The word art, as a translation from Latin, in the beginning meant purely the skill, the craft of being able to produce or perform a “piece”.

Later on, the meaning of the word art changed into the ability to express oneself through creativity/Imagination/fantasy. The audience would engage their aesthetic sensibilities and appreciation for the artist’s work.

Today, with all the new and provocative art forms, it seems the meaning of art has changed again, or at least “upgraded”. People are asking again: what is art?

Well, try to think of the artists that we all know:

  • Claude Monet, the founder of impressionism
    Monet impressionism
  • Pablo Picasso – the co-founder of cubism
    Picasso Cubism
  • Salvador Dali – the surrealist
    Dali Surrealist
  • What about Ballet Russes, when they came to Paris for the first time in 1909, directed by the great Sergei Diaghilev?  It was quite a shock for the audience seeing them for the first time.
    Sergei Diaghilev Ballet Russes

Now, fast forward to almost present times and to mention some artist in our dance industry, try to think of Vernon Brock when he shocked the Blackpool audience in the early 70’s with his innovative Paso Doble leap.
Vernon Brock

Or when Wolfgang and Evelyn took a lot of risks being the first male competitor to come out in a cat suit in 1970.
Wolfgang and Evelyn Opitz

They were also the first couple to really dance with hip-action in the cha-cha-cha and rumba.

Many times they were told, “If you do that, you will be disqualified.” When these two artists exhibited, the public was shocked again, to say the least! What can you gather out of these facts?

Shock is the keyword, right? But it is not about the shock. It is all about the reaction. Not all art is that shocking.
[section label=”Reaction” anchor=”reaction”]

All Art should Provoke a Reaction

People are very different in their acceptance of new ideas, creations, performances and work. Some accept new very eagerly and with appreciation, some react to it with very strong hostility. And there are all nuances in between.

But the important thing is reaction.

A real physical reaction to a work of the artist; we can feel joy, amusement, we can be left speechless, breathless, we can feel rage and anger…

Time is the Best Judge

Artist’s work is a reflection and interpretation of real life.

Life can be beautiful, tempestuous, difficult, disturbing. Sometimes people pretend these bad, negative and disturbing things don’t happen and when they see those interpretations, they can react with hostility. Time is usually the best judge whether a certain work remains, or becomes Art.

If after a period of time it still:

  • Provokes you
  • Transforms you
  • Leaves you in awe
  • Influences you
  • Makes you forget about everything around you
  • Makes you impossible to forget it
  • Is still authentic and original

Then I guess, this must be art! True art never leaves you untouched – unmoved.

By now, I guess everybody has the same question on their minds – which category does ballroom dancing fall into? Is it art, or is it “something else”. If we look at the first description of the Latin word art – the skill, the craft of being able to produce or perform, I think everybody will agree – yes, it falls neatly under this description. Now, take a look at the second definition – a more developed one – the ability to express oneself through creativity. With the audience engaging their aesthetic sensibilities and appreciation in the performance. I would say yes here as well – maybe with just a bit of hesitation…what about the third, (upgraded) version – where does ballroom dancing fit here? Just for reference – I am talking about highest level in both art and ballroom dancing)

Does it provoke you?

Does it transform you?

Does it leave you in awe?

Does it influence you?

Does it make you forget about everything around you?

Does it make it impossible to forget it?

Is it authentic and original?

Does it touch you and move you?

I would say we all know the answers to these questions, although some of them might be no. But some of the “no” answers come because we don’t even realize how “young” ballroom dancing really is. Take a look at painting, which has been around from prehistoric days. It had plenty of time to peacefully develop in human consciousness, into a truly magnificent art form.

Artistry within Choreography & Design

Being Creative and innovative.

Dance is a type of art, which generally involves movement of the body, often rhythmic and to music. It is performed in many cultures as a form of emotional expression, or exercise, in a spiritual or performance setting, and is sometimes used to express ideas or tell a story. Dance may also be regarded as a form of nonverbal communication. Definitions of what constitutes dance can depend on social and cultural norms and aesthetic, artistic and moral sensibilities. (Wikipedia).

To be artistic within choreography depends a great deal on fantasy and imagination. Here we have the opportunity to create and sculpture a dance with our own imaginative mind. However we need to keep certain aspect in mind when we choreograph a dance.

  • The character of the dance
  • Presentation/dimensions
  • Authenticity and originality
  • Being innovative

What is a Good Design?

dieter rams
Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams, a very famous Industrial Designer says that users (spectators) always react positively when things are understandable.

According to him:

  • Good design is innovative
  • Good design should make a product useful
  • Good design is aesthetic design
  • Good design is honest
  • Good design is unobtrusive
  • Good design is long-lived
  • Good design is consistent in every detail
  • Good design is environmentally friendly
  • Last, but not least: good design is as little design as possible”

Design & Choreography in Ballroom Dancing

The product we need to “sell” is a dancer and his/her quality of dancing (not steps, or a routine).

Good Design/ Choreography in ballroom dancing needs to be:

  • Understandable and readable
    (Spectator must immediately “understand” the concept of the presentation)
  •  Innovative and artistic
    (It needs to follow and adapt to the dancer’s character and style of dancing, even hint to new directions, search new and different ways and techniques to help bring out the best features of the dancers skills and talents and possibly hide the weak parts)
  • Aesthetic
    (It needs to take care of proportions, body types, floor craft, presentation and ratio)
  • Honest and authentic
    (It needs to work with the character of the dance and search for even deeper personal characteristics of the dancer)
  • Unobtrusive
    (The design/Choreography should not “scream” into spectator’s face and it should not appear as though you see only a step, a figure, a dress on the floor instead of a dancer)
  • Long-lived
    (Good design/Choreography/figures stays in your memory long after the event is over – sometimes even for years)
  • Consistent in every detail
    (No explanation needed here)
  • As little design as possible
    (It must incorporate a sense of hierarchy – what is important and what is not).

Artistry within Music

Maintain the original purpose of the art

The key here is to keep it “natural and real”. As ballroom dancing originates from social dancing it is important to maintain the authentic purpose of the art. Ballroom dancing has always been based on the idea that the two bodies should form a perfect harmony with the music. The dancer must be able to transform sound into movement. In other words the spectator should be able to see the music. Also here we depend a great deal on fantasy and imagination, but at the same time we must respond to what we hear with certain spontaneity as well. Through the dancers spontaneity and imagination we can witness a great deal of artistry.

The importance of spontaneity

For the dancer / artist it is vital to be an explorer! He will explore the chosen dance form, as well as many other styles of dancing, the music, his own identity and the way that his body responds to different stimuli either from the music, from the partner, or even from other dancers, audience, venue. He will experiment with various ideas to be able to bring something fresh, exciting and surprising into his every performance. He will have to spend hours, days, months and years to come up with as many options as possible, so when the actual performance starts, he will be ready to impress by expressing whatever he chooses to.

Partnering as an Art Form



“Dance partnering is dancing performed by a pair of dancers, typically a male and a female, in which the pair strives to achieve a harmony of coordinated movements so that the audience remains unaware of the mechanics. It relies on the application of partnering dance techniques that facilitate coordinated movements by a pair of dancers. In particular, it usually involves one dancer providing guidance, support, or both, for the other dancer. Dance partnering technique appears in various forms in many types of dance and is an essential part of all partner dances.” (Wikipedia)

Genuine & sincere

As an artist’s work is a reflection and interpretation of real life we must approach partnering with certain sincerity in order to obtain artistry within partnering. It simply must be real. Although we have a set program we must rely on being genuine and real on communication to the partner. Whether this means to add spontaneity into the program or simply make the programmed moment/communication real and heartfelt. Only then will we be able to move and touch the audience through the artistry of true partnering. Only then will we be authentic and original in our communication.

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