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Teaching To Children: When To Be Soft and When To Be Tough



Teaching to children – a huge responsibility

Being a teacher is not an easy job, especially when you have in front of you very young students. Not only you have the possibility to educate and grow a new generation of dancers, but if you’re teaching to children you also have in your hands their future in dancing.

The way you give them information, the way you prepare them to be competitors and how you teach them to face victory or defeat will influence them. Will they love or hate dancesport?

Every child is unique

Unfortunately (or not), there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, especially when teaching to children. There is no overall, general truth that can work in every circumstance, on every student. The teacher’s role is to analyze each case individually, adapting his approach as needed.

When you’re part of a kid’s everyday life, you understand their reactions and know how to guide them. When teaching to children you come to realize how they act under pressure, when they lose concentration, you know when to push them further and when they need to be motivated.

Put yourself in their shoes

We’re biased because we see things only from our own perspective. The same can happen when we’re teaching. We usually tend to have a selective view of what’s going on and what should be done only based on our own experience and perception. What if just for a moment we stop and think “how does my student feel right now?”.

Sometimes, even without realizing it, we create a situation of stress and anxiety in the student’s mind. Like when a kid can’t answer a question, and the more we keep asking, the more he feels blocked and trapped.

Also,  students keep mistaking a step over and over again simply because we don’t give them enough time to realize what is happening. Sometimes we should just let them solve the problem by themselves. The truth is that children don’t realize when to ask for more time to understand the information that they have just received. It’s up to the teacher to catch those signals and to adapt the speed and the pressure of the teaching process.

Predict the student’s reaction

An approach that can be useful in many different cases is to know ahead what reaction we want from our student and modify the way we teach in order to get exactly what we need.

It may sound cynic, but a good trainer always knows what’s the best path for his or her couples and what should be done in order to get to the destination in the most efficient way. So, we shouldn’t be afraid to adapt our teaching method, based on what our kids need the most in that specific moment.

If in one week they are going to compete at an important event and they need to be ready to show their best performance, we can’t work in the same way like we do when we’re just giving them technical information about a group of steps. The teacher has to fill the experience gap that differentiates a young dancer from an adult until they are able to manage every situation by themselves.

When to be soft and when to be tough

The more you teach, the more you can tell exactly what your student needs in a specific situation and you can predict their behavior. That, together with the goals you need to reach, will guide your teaching approach.

Here I will try to give some examples of methods you may want to use in different kind of situations:

  • Completely newbie children that are starting to have their first classes or private lessons: be always positive, don’t focus too much on mistakes and if sometimes they get stuck in some steps, try to keep going and work on something else.
  • Partners of different levels: if the boy is a beginner and starts dancing with a girl that is more advanced, or the other way round, be patient and be careful not to frustrate the less experienced partner. If needed, take him or her alone on private lessons so they can catch up. Motivate them and keep giving information fast enough, because being in a partnership with a more experienced dancer will make the other one improve much faster.
  • One month before an important competition, it’s needed to improve the overall performance level: be tough, don’t go over mistakes, keep them focused, shape the strong competitive mindset. Don’t worry, they will not break under pressure because they see the goal, they know it’s for a reason.
  • During stamina training: no excuses here…Be tough, don’t give them any possibility to complain about uncomfortable steps or any mistakes. Make sure they are always focused, ready to give their maximum. With children, many times you can get very good results by just bringing up their “adrenaline” level.
  • The last lesson before a competition: the main word is “positive”. Everything should be fine, there is no time now to start working on difficult movements or get them to take in difficult concepts. Do a quick check on every dance and let them be sure and confident of themselves.

After all, only through your instinct and your experience you can react as needed in any circumstance. Teaching to children, one of the best feelings that you can get is when you are able to bring a kid from zero to success. Nevertheless, teaching to children is also one of the most challenging aspects of dancesport, yet one of the most beautiful and rewarding.

If you want to find out more about what to keep in mind when starting a dance lesson you can click here.


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Cancer Saved My Life – A Ballroom Dance Story by Emilee Garfield



In our world of dancesport, we sometimes can get really caught up in our work and forget about how inspiring real-life stories are. In this article, I am sharing the story of Emilee Garfield, a cancer thriver, who discovered a real passion and love for ballroom dancing.

About Emilee Garfield

Emilee has recovered from cancer twice and it is her mission to help other cancer survivors live with hope and joy.

She was first diagnosed at age 4 with a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. After two years of grueling radiation and chemotherapy, she survived.

In 2015, she was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer.

Recovering and exercising

At the time of her recovery from ovarian cancer, Emilee was a single mom with three children. She had no choice but to return to work as a Yoga/Pilates instructor as soon as possible, with her ileostomy. There were no exercise resources available to help her safely rebuild her core muscles, but she knew movement was medicine and that she would heal faster by gently moving her body.

Creating resources

While recovering, Emilee wrote her book Reclaim Your Strength and Hope: Exercises for Cancer Core Recovery. She researched and taught herself how to rebuild her strength and flexibility. Emilee created a volume of over 200 gentle movement exercises and stretches to help cancer survivors feel better in their bodies during a time when everything seems like it’s falling apart.

In 2016, Emilee founded The Cancer Core Recovery® Project, a non-profit foundation that provides educational exercise programs, workout videos, and instructional training manuals to help survivors of ovarian cancer enjoy a better quality of life.

Emilee has been teaching Yoga and Pilates for the past 18 years at her studio, The Loft, in Santa Barbara, California. She is a certified New Life Story® coach and her passion is teaching people of all shapes and sizes how to love and honor their bodies, no matter what.

Let’s discover more about how ballroom dancing helped Emilee Garfield recover from ovarian cancer.

Cancer Saved My Life - A Ballroom Dance Story by Emilee Garfield

Bianca: When did you start dancing and why? What do you love most about ballroom dancing?

Emilee Garfield: One day I walked by a new dance studio in my town and it was a ballroom studio. I had never danced ballroom before and I had always wanted to dance like those beautiful women on Dancing With The Stars. My body was weak and my hair was just growing back in. I was only four months post-chemotherapy. I told my daughter that I am going to start dance lessons and one day maybe compete on the show, Dancing With The Stars. She told me I would embarrass myself and that I was too old. HA! I was forty years old. It became a dare and I wanted to show my kids that it doesn’t matter if you are a dancer or not, not if you put your time and effort into anything, you will succeed. I was not a trained ballroom dancer. I had danced in high school and college, but I was just average. I was never the star of the show. I was very shy and insecure about my body. I was struggling with depression and memory loss from chemotherapy. And to be honest, I needed to feel ALIVE again.

Bianca: How did ballroom dancing help you in your recovery? What is the most valuable lesson that ballroom dancing has taught you?

Emilee Garfield: I was just beginning to rebuild my life. My motto became GO BIG or GO HOME! So, I started to train with a private instructor named Vasily Goslin. He was from Russia. The first lesson I learned was the cha-cha. It was so fun and I wanted more. I was addicted from the first class. My body had to be trained in this new style. My body was really stiff and I was recovering by having an Ileostomy, colon bag on my tummy. I had a lot of scar tissue in my core and if you do ballroom, you know it’s all about your core.

Before I knew it, I was training for my first ballroom competition at Emerald Ball. I couldn’t believe it. It was like everything I had been dreaming of was coming true. Karina Smirnoff was in my studio and I had a few private lessons with her. She taught me one thing that I took away from dance and it is what helped me win five 1st place prizes in my first competition! She told me to smile. Have fun. That is what people notice. Maybe I am not the best ballroom dancer, but I can guarantee you that when I am on the dance floor I am one of the happiest and most grateful people out there.

I remember my first time on the floor I was so nervous. I couldn’t afford a new fancy dress or wear high heels. I was in a friend’s used orange dress with my flat beginner shoes on. It didn’t matter. I danced my heart out.

It wasn’t about ever winning for me, it was challenging myself that I can do anything I put my mind too. I put myself in the most uncomfortable situation, learning how to dance with a partner. What it taught me was trust. I created a life-long friendship with my teacher. He helped me through a very difficult time in my life, cancer and a divorce. He gave me back the confidence I had been lacking. Danced helped me believe in myself again. It was my medicine. I never took any drugs for my depression. I just danced.

Learning to dance ballroom was and still is a challenge and that is why I love it. It pushes me out of my comfort zone. It teaches me how to overcome obstacles. Some days I get mad at my teacher and frustrated because I want it to be perfect. What I’ve learned is that life is not perfect and that is ok. Make the best of your life every day! Dancing helps me remember this.

The most valuable lesson that dance has taught me is that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. It just takes determination and literally taking that first step. It has taught me to not let fear hold me back. You will never know what you are capable of unless you just go for it. And I did.

Bianca: How did you move pass difficult moments as a dancer?

Emilee Garfield: There were many times when I would get frustrated and want to give up. I would tell myself, “I suck,” and tell my teacher that I can’t do this. My teacher always told me that I could do it because he truly believed in me. He told me that I had a natural talent, and the gift of dance, and to please not give up. I owe it to my teacher.

On the days when I would cry and feel bad that I couldn’t get a dance step, I would have to take a little break, talk to myself and use mantras like, “You can do this”, “Get back up”. I looked back at my life and reminded myself of the huge obstacles that I just overcame: battling cancer and recovering from major surgery. I knew if I could survive cancer and fight back, that I could learn the cha-cha. I would train my brain to tell myself that I was unstoppable and that I would go the distance and do what it took to make it to my first ballroom competition. Basically, it was all a mindset for me.

Bianca: What advice would you give to dancers in terms of body positivity?

Emilee Garfield: This is so important. I have had body shame all of my life. I have scars all over my body that nobody can see. I have been the worst critic of my own life and body. What I have learned from almost dying of cancer is that we are all beautiful in our own way. We are not supposed to be like others because God made us different. We all have scars. Maybe they are not physical, but we all have something inside of us that tells us that we are not good enough.

I am working on this myself and would love to see all women embrace their bodies with respect. It doesn’t matter what color we are, what shape we are, we are all beautiful. Learning to let go of my own body shame has opened me up to so much more happiness. When I catch myself, that inner negative voice, telling me, “You are not pretty,” or “You are not good enough,” I have to remind myself that these are just lies. We all do it, so let’s begin to change the story of body positivity. You are what you think. Think positively about yourself!

Cancer Saved My Life - A Ballroom Dance Story by Emilee Garfield

Bianca: What is the most important thing you learned by fighting cancer?

Emilee Garfield: The most important thing that I learned fighting cancer is that life is short. DO NOT waste your time on negativity. That means negative people too. Find people that lift you up and stick close to them. Chase your dreams and never give up because anything is possible. Trust me, if I did it so can anybody else. Create a plan and take action steps to get to where you want to go. That is my advice. Life is what you make of it, so make it a good one. That is a choice only you can make.

You can learn more about how to work with Emilee on her website:

To donate to her foundation or to learn more about her mission to help cancer survivors in recovery, visit:

Connect with Emilee on Facebook and Instagram.

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Becoming a Dance Teacher – When Dancesport Becomes Your Job



There comes a moment in the life of a ballroom dancer when they must decide if they want to start teaching.. Your consistent training took you up to the point where you realize this is your life now and it can be your everyday job. Or perhaps it’s not you who chooses to become a teacher and is just a mere result of your hard work. Being a good dancer and having great results will automatically make people want to have lessons with you.

In one way or the other, that moment is significantly going to change your relationship with dancesport. Not only will you take lessons to be a better dancer but to become a better teacher. You’ll start to see competitions with a different eye: you’ll look around and watch the other couples from a different perspective. Somehow you’ll see things in a more mature and clear way.

Understanding when is the right moment to start teaching

Clearly, there are a lot of different possible situations when the idea of becoming a teacher really takes hold. Nevertheless, you will feel that you need something more in your dancer’s life.

All the other reasons that might pop into your mind could be too personal and too specific. Some do it for the money, some because they have been asked and others do it for fun or as a second job.In any of these cases, the common reason is that being just a dancer is not enough anymore.

I can safely say that being a teacher completes you as a dancer. It teaches you things you didn’t know about right until you started giving lessons.

Thinking you are not ready for becoming a dance teacher

At any level or age, you can be a good teacher or the contrary, an ungifted one. It’s just a matter of relation between you and your student: you should always be much more experienced than the one you’re teaching.

If you are young and not highly skilled yet, you should better start with a beginner group, maybe a children class in a school. In their eyes, express authority, even though you’re not an adult.

As an adult but not very experienced yet, you should start teaching some social-dance groups. There, people attending your class will trust you because of the big difference in knowledge between you and them.

If you are an experienced young dancer, you may fear that teaching to older dancers will not work well. I am encouraging you not to be afraid at all. Just make sure that they know how good you are and the results will speak for themselves.

Going all in or thinking of other alternatives as well

There’s no guarantee that you will become successful at being a teacher. Maybe if you start teaching in your coach’s studio where there is already a good amount of students that trust you and know who you are, you can be more free minded.

But if you’re starting from zero, better to do it little by little. For example, if you are still a student, keep going to university but also start giving some lessons to gain more experience. Or if you already have a job and you want to switch to becoming a dance teacher, try to do this transition gradually. Quit your job only when you already have a considerable number of students and your yearly schedule is pretty stable.

If you don’t have a choice and you must go all in, then invest all your skills to grow both the number of students and your reputation in the dancesport world in the shortest and healthiest way possible. Every decision you make today will affect your future in this industry.

If you want to find out more about what it means to be a teacher, especially for children, make sure to check my other article. 

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10 Common Mistakes You Can Make When Choosing a Tail Suit



Why do we dance in a tail suit?

The tail suit is so connected to ballroom dancing that became, together with the lady’s dress, an icon of the style itself. If you need to explain what Standard dance is to a person that’s not familiar with this discipline is enough to say “a man in a tail suit and a girl in a long beautiful dress, dancing together.”

Since the 18th century, the tail suit (or tailcoat) is the most formal men’s wear. It is especially worn when the required dress code is the so-called “white tie”. Therefore, ballroom dancing has been from the very beginning associated with this iconic style and continues to be a distinctive sign of class and elegance.

The tail suit nowadays

Nevertheless, the tailcoat suffered quite a lot of changes over the years, as dancesport has evolved as well. Notably, during the last 20 years, we can see that dancers prefer lighter materials instead of the wool used before. Furthermore, the overall fitting is slimmer in order to enhance the lines of the body during the movements.

Common mistakes you should avoid

1. The shoulder is too long

10 Common Mistakes You Can Make When Choosing a Tail Suit

It is very important that the length between the neck and the end of the shoulder to be shorter than the actual distance between the neck and the end of the collar bone. If this part is too long, it will be uncomfortable and in some cases even painful to hold your arms in the right position.

2. The armscye is too wide

Check the fitting carefully around the shoulder, around the underarm and the shoulder blade. The armhole should be much smaller than a normal suit, almost too small when you rest with your arm down, but perfectly in contact with the body when you hold your arms up.

3. Wrinkles on the upper sleeve

10 Common Mistakes You Can Make When Choosing a Tail Suit

One of the most difficult aspects to get right. If you find the correct proportions, you can have a sleeve that is visually flattering, not too slim and at the same time without wrinkles that will give you a bad top line.

In order to reduce wrinkles, many masters nowadays, twist the connection line between upper and lower sleeve, so that the sleeve will follow better the “unnatural” position of the arms when you dance.

4. The sleeves are too long

10 Common Mistakes You Can Make When Choosing a Tail Suit

This will not affect your dancing but is simply unpleasant to the eye. Check that the sleeve ends a couple of centimeters before the shirt cuff. The shirt cuff as well should be long up to the wrist, without covering part of the palm.

5. The waist is too low

The rise of the trousers should be at about 10 cm higher from the belly button. If they are too low, the waistcoat will be too low as well and will be visible when stretching the sides of the trunk.

6. Missing waistcoat

10 Common Mistakes You Can Make When Choosing a Tail Suit

If your suit is open in the front, you should wear a waistcoat too.

7. The sides are too long or too short

If the waistcoat is visible when stretching one side of your body, it means that the sides of your jacket are too short or the waistcoat is too low.

If when bending the trunk on the side you can see many wrinkles, that means that the jacket is too long on the sides.

8. The proper length of the tails

Nowadays, everybody agrees that the tails should reach the point where the circumference of the calf is the greatest.

9. Too much space between your spine and the back of the jacket

The jacket should follow your movement. Therefore if there is a big gap in the back area, you will see many wrinkles when twisting the trunk.

10. The trousers are too tight

If in Latin American dance we can see different styles, in standard wide end trousers are the go-to choice. To give you an example, for a 180-185 cm height, the width at the very end of the trousers should be around 28-30 cm.

Having a close eye

When buying a tail suit or getting it custom made, always ask someone to check how it fits you, maybe your teacher or an expert dancer. You should control carefully that all the points listed above are suited for your body. Also, check the conditions of the fabric especially on the right side where most of the brushing against the girl’s dress happens.

Of course, a good dancer can show his best in any condition, but for the judge’s eye how you look, your style and the attention to the details is very important. In some cases, it can become the reason why he prefers you to others if the level is too similar. Always keep your tail suit looking its best!


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