This is a little snippet I did during The Enthronement book tour. I was asked to confess a pet peeve I have and as this fit my latest series well, I vented on ballroom dancing. Enjoy!
You know what bugs me in books, movies, and TV shows? How badly they show what real social ballroom dancing looks like. I know it’s silly, but one thing not a lot of people know about me is I love ballroom dancing. So when a movie either shows what is clearly a choreographed piece or really fake ballroom dancing, it bugs me.
So how should it be done? Glad you asked! I use dancing, most of all ballroom dancing, as a tool in my Enthronement series quiet a bit. I won’t claim I was perfect, and I may have confused some readers, but I was not letting that badly done trope be that messy in my book, no sir.
What Dance Scenes Get Wrong
The first thing they get wrong, most commonly, are those spectacular dances you see. I’m looking at The Mask of Zero and Disney’s Enchanted. Now I love these scenes, I wouldn’t change them, but it does bug me that there are two extremes. These clearly rehearsed scenes or the second more grievous sin.
Doing nothing but the basic! The waltz is just a traveling box step. Though animated movies get a pass for the most part, think of Disney’s Cinderella where Cinderella and the prince just kind of hold each other and spin around. Now that can be used well, most of all for moments when you need to let the characters chat, but in real social ballroom, no dancer worth their salt would do nothing but a basic the whole time.
What Dance Scenes Get Right
There are many different kinds of social dances. The movies that get them right the most are those that come from Jane Austin movies. Though stiff, it shows one part of social ballroom dance quiet well. This is where the dance is basic so anyone could learn and dance it (unless they really are terrible dancers). They were the most common for that time.
Another great example is the sweet dance scene in The Sound of Music. Where Maria and the Count had learned the dance before and knew how to do the full piece from memory. This is what social dancing used to be like. And guess what, it is today too! If you take one lesson, by that evening you could do a dance at least as good as that one even if you have two left feet. It’s fun and not that serious.
How Should It Be Done?
If you’re going to do a big fancy dance, let us know why or where the characters learned it. Not to tout my own horn, but in The Enthronement the prince makes it clear he’s studied dance for a long time and Kascia is a professional dancer. So, it’s easy for the audience to know how they know the dances.
The other thing they miss is most social dancing is done like it is done in The Sound of Music. The dancers know it ahead of time and so know how to do it. Or you can do it like social ballrooms are done today.
Line of Dance: I have only scene one movie that shows the line of dance. That was Fox’s animated movie Anasasia. During “Once Upon a December” and the opening party, if you watch the dancers, they are using the line of dance.
What is the line of dance? It’s the circle traveling use to travel without bumping into each other. This is most common in dances like the waltz.
If you’re going to dance slower, you dance closer to the center of the ballroom and go around in a circle counterclockwise.
If you’re dancing faster, you go to the further edge of ballroom in the counterclockwise circle.
I wish more books, movies, and shows showed this as it’s what we do today when you go to a ballroom social.
I also would be delighted of they showed dances that were fun and show a lot of unique steps (just not the basic over and over!) but not so complicated it’s clearly choreographed. If you want to see what this looks like, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9Xq6gNqAas The video is not great! And of course, for a movie, I would hope they make it look a little better, but you see how you see basic and then the more advanced moves here and there.
Is it a dumb pet peeve? Probably. But does it bug me? Yes. I love ballroom in all its beautiful social aspects, and I wish it would be shown for how easy it is for anyone to do. More people could really learn to dance like this and enjoy it. That’s why it bugs me. I think anyone can learn and have fun. They may not be great, but anyone could enjoy it.
Thank you for letting me join you and rant! If you want to see how I write ballroom dancing, get your own copy of The Enthronement wherever ebooks are sold.