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#TuksDance: Ballroom dancing is not just about being graceful
29 November 2018

Fans of Strictly Come Dancing are continually astonished by the effortless grace the dancers are able to execute their various dance routines but what is seen on television is not the complete story.

Over the years, competitive ballroom and Latin American dancing have evolved so much in its choreography, requiring a higher level of athleticism. Many individuals that spectate or dance socially often underestimate the physical attributes and demands of ballroom dancing.

A study done in Australian has found that during a competition the heart rate of a male dancer can go up to 170 beats per minute and that of the female dancer to 179. The energy expenditure of competitive dancers favourably compares to what is happening during a basketball game or a cross-country race. 

The former Tuks dancer, Danie Pienaar, who won the South African Amateur Latin American-title in 2015 admits that when he took up dancing as a sport at first, he was in for a rude awakening. 

“While at school I was an avid athlete. I also played rugby and cricket, so I considered myself to be reasonably fit, but once I started dancing I quickly realised that I needed seriously to work on my stamina as I was suffering during the classes.”

Haley Hammond probably won’t know it, but she was the inspiration that made Pienaar decide to take up dancing. According to him her performance on Strictly Come Dancing amazed him to such an extent that he just had to take on a new challenge.

In the year Pienaar won the national title he trained six days a week for up to three hours. He admits to being never so fit before.
Nicolaus Cardoso, a Tuks dance instructor, is not surprised.

“Dancing is one of the sports in which every muscle in the body is used, from your neck down to the toes. Competitions really tend to take its toll as you got to tap deep into your energy levels to impress the judges.”

Asked what it takes to become a dance champion Cardoso said the key is discipline. 

“You got to commit meaning indeed that there can never be any half measures as in dancing you are either doing something right or wrong. There are never any grey areas. So at times, you can end up practising the same move over and over until it is a 100%.

“One of the most important things any dancer with dreams of becoming a champion should learn is to dance with the music as every dance comes from a different part of the world. So you must know its history and understand the music. For example, the jive is a very animated dance. You must be able to show that to the judges,” explained Cardoso who competed in the Supreme Dancer of the Year 2014 where he won the Ballroom Pro-am Section. He also earned his licentiate’s qualification for Latin at the end of 2015.


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt
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Last edited by Leonore JordaanEdit
Alicia du Preez & Luan de Jager. Photo Credit: REG CALDECOTT