Welcome To The Ballroom Episode 5: Good Leading Is Now A Superpower

New to our review series? Start here!

Shizuku, alone.
It’s important to consider how your partner is feeling.

And our previous episode is here.

We’re back with Welcome To The Ballroom, and we’re kicking off a new arc within the show to match. At the end of episode 4, a newcomer literally ran into Tatara in her haste to warn Shizuku. In this episode, we find out what she actually meant.

With Kiyoharu injured and not dancing, this leaves Shizuku without a practice partner. Enter the Akagi siblings: Gaku, the elder brother, and Mako, the little sister. Gaku declares that with Kiyoharu “dead”, he will become Shizuku’s new partner, leaving his sister/professional partner behind. (Hint: this is not a very nice thing to do to your partner. Do not do it!)

This is why you dance with multiple partners.
Don’t copy this hold. This is why you dance with multiple partners.

Tatara is encouraged to dance with Mako while Shizuku and Gaku practice. Tatara doesn’t have much experience dancing with anyone, but especially people who aren’t Shizuku—and it immediately shows. It’s vital for any good leader to dance with a lot of followers (and vice versa), exactly so they can get used to dancing in general, rather than dancing only with a specific kind of dancer. Mako is the more skilled and more experienced dancer between them, but she is the follower, and appears shy, no less.

After Shizuku declares that she is upset with both Kiyoharu and Sengoku, for not trusting her enough to withdraw from the competition when Kiyoharu had been injured, she accepts Gaku as her competitive partner. There is nothing wrong with changing professional partners, of course, but Sengoku likens dancing couples to married couples—it is not a commitment to take lightly.

The focus remains on Mako, however, who has been left behind by her dance partner. Sengoku suggests that she and Tatara dance together for the time being. She gladly accepts, but first Tatara must prove that he can become the leader she needs.

When choosing a new competitive partner, the beautiful sunset backdrop is optional.
When choosing a new competitive partner, the beautiful sunset backdrop is optional.

Leading and following require a fair amount of trust, not just skill or talent. You should be able to dance with anyone who can dance, but to dance competitively requires a certain kind of syncing. (Tatara compares this to being psychic, which would certainly help things. But we’ve found it’s not necessary to be psychic to be a good leader.)

It is, however, important for dancers to be able to read their partners. Tatara and Mako learn to dance with each other when Sengoku challenges him to lead her on a preset path. Tatara reads where Mako wants to go, what steps she’ll take, what directions she wants to head in—and he leads her there.

With vows of determination and a new goal in mind—to build each other up, help each other improve, and find value in each other as partners—Tatara and Mako officially become dance partners.

Continue with the next episode here!

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Hillsborough Grand Opening!

On Friday, September 8th, Team Arthur Murray Kartashov officially held the Grand Opening of their new location in Hillsborough, New Jersey. With food, drinks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and, of course, a lot of dancing, it was a grand affair as students and staff of both Cranford and Hillsborough locations came to help celebrate.

Hillsborough Township did its part to welcome Arthur Murray as well. Several prominent members of the city, including Mayor Carl Suraci and Business Advocate David Kois, joined the celebrations and helped cut the red ribbon with franchise owners Danila and Nuria Kartashov.

“A big thank you to the Hillsborough area for welcoming us here,” Danila said. “We are looking forward to changing lives through dancing.”

This is the second Arthur Murray location opened by Danila and Nuria Kartashov. Both Danila and Nuria have been dancing since childhood – Danila in Moscow, and Nuria in Madrid. They met and began their partnership in 1999, and joined Arthur Murray – and tied the knot – in 2001. They became owners of the Kenilworth location in 2010, and moved studios to Cranford in 2015. The Hillsborough studio first opened its doors at the beginning of June 2017.

“We are so blessed to get the chance to share our love of dancing with our new Arthur Murray family in Hillsborough,” Nuria said.

“It was truly a blessing to see so many faces, both old and new, come support us in our new endeavor,” said Alexis Martinez, the New Student Director of Hillsborough. “These past few months have been amazing and I cannot wait to see how many lives we can change through dancing.”

The rest of the Arthur Murray Hillsborough team boasts of varied and impressive experience as well. Alexis, also an Instructor there, has a background in multiple styles of dance, including tap, ballet, and jazz. The other two full-time instructors at the Hillsborough location, Keenan and Laura Smout, have both led lives full of dance. They are the newest members of Team AMK.

“It was great to have families of both studios come together for exciting night of celebration!” Keenan said of the event.

His wife, Laura, agreed. “It was a fun-filled night seeing our awesome students and sharing a great time together with our new addition to the Kartashov AMpire!”

After their successful Grand Opening, Arthur Murray Hillsborough looks forward to sharing the Arthur Murray passion for ballroom dance with the Hillsborough community.

Welcome To The Ballroom Episode 4: A Dancer’s Passion

Kiyoharu and Shizuku on the comp floor.
Kiyoharu and Shizuku on the comp floor.

New to our review series? Start here!

And our previous episode is here.

Episode four of Welcome To The Ballroom brings the passion. It does this, of course, with the first Tango we see in the series. (What else would suffice?)

The competition continues, and Kiyoharu confronts Tatara about dancing with Shizuku in his place. Initially unbeknownst to the rest of the cast, this lights a fire within Kiyoharu, and despite his injuries, he takes the floor once more for their Tango heat.

The series then takes an interesting stance on what makes a good dance. Kiyoharu has always been portrayed as skilled and hard-working, but this is the first time we see passion from him. Everyone immediately notices. Sengoku and Tatara notice, Shizuku is floored, and the audience watches with wide eyes and open mouths. True, raw dedication to dance exposes equally true, raw emotions—and we see Kiyoharu and Shizuku receive a standing ovation in the semi-finals for it.

The animation reflects Kiyoharu’s new perspective several times, with some interesting visual metaphors. But it brings to mind something your teacher will likely tell you to strive for time and time again: he has presence on the dance floor.

Of course, this is a competition, and since they bent the rules to get Tatara onto the floor in the last episode, this comes back to bite them in the butt. With a six-month suspension, Kiyoharu is forced to take time to recuperate, and Shizuku is left without a partner (and the complicated feelings that come with all that happened).

Their movements are so sharp they fling sweat everywhere. Dance goals!
Their movements are so sharp they fling sweat everywhere. Dance goals!

Dancing while injured is nothing to take lightly, even for a competition. Sengoku is mad that Kiyoharu kept his injury to himself, and in fact tried to get him disqualified by throwing Tatara into the Waltz in his place. (This is why communication with your dance instructors, partners, and fellow students is vital! Entertaining to watch, but let’s be real, actual drama is nothing anyone wants.) Dance can help with some kinds of injuries and body issues, helping strengthen muscle, increase mobility, and even sharpen the mind, but this is something that should be talked over with a doctor (and your instructor), not sneakily hidden while hoping it goes away.

With Kiyoharu temporarily out of the picture, on crutches, suspension, and the wrong train, he tells Tatara to “take care of Shizuku” for him.

Our confused protagonist doesn’t exactly understand, at least not until we get a glimpse of future characters—one of whom swaggers into the studio and demands that Shizuku become his new professional partner.

Continue with the next episode here!

Welcome To The Ballroom Episode 3: From the Studio to the Competition Floor!

Tatara dancing the Waltz with Shizuku.
Tatara dancing the Waltz with Shizuku.

New to our review series? Start here!

And our previous episode is here.

With episode 3 of Welcome To The Ballroom, we have some time passing, and with that comes some clear dancing progress, too. Tatara’s teachers declare that his Waltz is “perfect”, and there is much rejoicing—and also many, many comparisons of his dancing to various animals. (The newborn fawn was a good one; it can definitely feel like you’re wobbling around on fawn legs after a long day of dancing!)

Of course, while Tatara is happy with his new Waltzing prowess, after heading to the next competition to watch Kiyohara and Shizuku perform, he has a startling realization: he wants to learn more dances. He isn’t content with where he is—he is driven forward by a thirst for knowledge and progress.

(Please take a moment to imagine your dance instructor’s unbridled glee at the very thought.)

This competition introduces us to some Latin dancing proper, with all of the sexiness and sensual hip movements that entails. Tatara can’t help but feel out the rhythm as he watches; he taps his foot through the entire competition. He doesn’t yet understand how to move to this newfound beat, but he knows he wants to.

Shizuku and Kiyoharu dancing and sweating (a lot).
Even dripping with sweat, they’re beautiful.

In addition to seeing the spicier side of ballroom dance, we also see the sweatier side. This has been a recurring theme already—from Tatara sweating so much through his all-nighter that Sengoku slips on the floor, or Kiyoharu splattering the door when he tossed his head—but it’s great to see that the series will not shy away from the hard work and exertion involved in dancing. Even if it isn’t always pretty. (Though, of course, the anime happens to make it rather sparkly.) By the time anyone is done with a rigorous dance session, they’re dripping sweat and gulping down air. It’s great to see that kind of accuracy portrayed here.

But as with all competitions, with Latin also comes Standard.

And, due to rivalries, injuries, and a terrible accident (or was it…?), Shizuku is left waiting by herself.

With Kiyoharu missing and the Waltz heat coming up, Sengoku pushes their team into a drastic decision: Tatara is going to go out onto the floor and dance with Shizuku.

Tatara stepping onto the floor for the first time.
Tatara stepping onto the floor for the first time.

So Tatara, in full competition wear for the first time in his life, is thrown out onto the dance floor with a partner he hasn’t danced with. And he does what anyone in that situation would do: he freezes.

Dancing in that kind of situation for the first time can be understandably nerve-wracking. It’s a big step to take, and he hadn’t had any real prep, emotionally or physically. But even with Sengoku and the other teachers silently cheering on the sidelines, even with Shizuku whispering encouragement (and her own panic), Tatara ultimately has to rely on himself to get moving.

This means he relies on muscle memory. This is vital to learning how to dance, and it’s wonderful to see it pointed out like this. Tatara may still be panicking, but he can move, and he can still lead Shizuku. He still gets to dance on the competition floor with her.

Of course, a good series is nothing without drama and emotional investment, so the episode ends with a cliffhanger: Kiyoharu, returned after his accident on the stairs, angrily confronts Tatara over him stealing Shizuku.

Continue with the next episode here!

Welcome To The Ballroom Episode 2: Dancer See, Dancer Do!

New to our review series? Start here!

Latin dip with a leg thrown over the leader's.
Latin competitors showing off some flashy moves.

With the second episode of Welcome to the Ballroom, we meet more characters, learn about different styles of teaching and learning, and get to see our first competition. It’s a lot to take in, but it does a wonderful job of highlighting not only the thrill of ballroom dancing, but also the hard work that it demands.

Hard work seems like it’s going to be a big feature of this series. (As well it should be, considering its subject matter!) After spending the first episode practicing the Waltz box until his feet were blistered, this episode finds Tatara with new teachers, new inspiration, and new moves—or so he hopes.

What continues to drive Tatara forward is his hope of becoming a competitive dancer. Sengoku invites him to a competition, to see Shizuku and Kiyoharu in action. Shizuku is a classmate of Tatara’s, but Kiyoharu is a new face—and an intimidating one. (Sengoku points out that he could be a potential future rival, but of course also points out that Tatara has a long way to catch up with him, but that only excites him further about dancing.)

Tatara slips while trying out some fancy footwork.
This is why it’s important to have properly hemmed pants.

Tatara continues to grow his dance wardrobe—this time with a pair of pants that he is incredibly excited and grateful to receive. He has borrowed dance shoes, and while these pants come used (an old pair of Kiyoharu’s that he outgrew), Tatara is happy that he’s finally feeling a little more properly outfitted for his dance journey. …After hemming the pants.

We’ve talked about the importance of team teaching before, and while we’re very happy to see differences in teaching styles, this episode uses them as a narrative hurdle to overcome. Tatara can’t seem to pick anything new up, no matter how much hard work or desire there is. That can be incredibly frustrating, whether as a beginner student like him or even a professional. “It’s amazing how everyone can think about so much while dancing,” he says, sheepishly, trying to explain why he isn’t grasping the lesson at hand.

Tatara sheepishly comparing himself to Kiyoharu's skill level.
Tatara sheepishly comparing himself to Kiyoharu’s skill level.

And so we learn that there are differences in learning styles, too. You hear things like “oh, I’m a visual learner!”, but here we see it in action: Tatara, who can’t keep his eyes off of Shizuku and Kiyoharu, is definitely a visual learner. He ultimately learns by copying Kiyoharu, and that works better than any approach the other teachers took. It’s vital for any student, no matter their experience level, to figure out a learning style that works for them.

The episode closes on Tatara’s realization that, again, dancing is hard work. After he and Shizuku stop by Kiyoharu’s place, Tatara catches Kiyoharu practicing by himself. Despite Kiyoharu’s aloof demeanor, he is fully dedicated to dancing. He may seem like a genius who hardly has to try, but that’s not true; no one is good at dancing without trying, and Tatara gains a new respect both for his future rival, and competitive dancing.

Continue with the next episode here!

Welcome To The Ballroom Episode 1: He Spent HOW LONG Doing the Waltz Box?

Cover of volume 1 of the manga.
Cover of volume 1 of the manga.

For anyone who watches anime, you’ve probably already heard of Ballroom e Youkoso (Welcome to the Ballroom) getting an anime adaptation. That’s a fairly niche audience, however, even counting those who grew up in the Pokemon heyday of the 90s.

And what is “anime”, for those outside that niche audience? Anime is Japanese animated shows or movies. Movies such as Akira or My Neighbor Totoro are anime, as are television shows like Sailor Moon, Gundam, or yes, even Pokemon. Anime isn’t a genre, but a medium, so it means many different kinds of stories can be told—including Welcome to the Ballroom, which we’ll be covering.

So what, exactly, is this blog post about in layman’s terms?

There is going to be an anime series about ballroom dancing airing this summer. In this series of blog posts, we’ll be running reviews of it, covering everything from storyline, characters, and, of course, exactly how accurate a Japanese cartoon can be about ballroom dancing.

 

The first episode opens with a boy named Fujita Tatara who seems set to drift aimlessly through life. He doesn’t think much of himself, he has no plans for his future, and he gets bullied—until a mysterious, confident man on a motorcycle chases off his bullies. And, in true anime narrative fashion, he literally drags our young hero straight into the plot.

In this case, that means a ballroom dance studio. (For a free first class, no less!)

The series appears to be setting up a storyline of growth and self-realization. Already in episode one, we can see how excited Tatara is about this new world he has found himself in, and how eager he is to not only improve himself and his self-confidence, but to delve into the world of competitive ballroom dancing.

Sengoku dipping Tamaki as a demonstration.
Sengoku dipping Tamaki as a demonstration.

The mentor character (confident motorcycle man, of course; Sengoku Kaname) is specifically mentioned to be a Latin and Ten Dance champion. We get to see the glitz and glamor of a competition and see professionals in motion. (There was a fantastic line from Sengoku about the main character not understanding how much work it takes to be good at dancing, too.)

But there are also the little nuances, too, that ring true for ballroom dancing. The hard work involved, the confidence that dancing can bring, and of course, little gags such as losing track of time practicing, the bid for attention on a dance floor, a follower having to prop up a tired leader, and yes, even how boring it can feel to practice the box over and over and over again. (But Tatara gets good at them for all that practice, keep in mind. And he isn’t the one to complain, for how excited he is to get to learn at all.)

The dance moves in the show are, so far, quite accurate. They break down a few of the movements—such as likening the swing of someone’s hips to the swing of a pendulum—and they treat ballroom dancing as something both fun and as a commitment to bettering one’s self.

It’s a first episode to set up a future arc, but it’s a solid step, and we’re very interested in seeing what’s to come.

Continue with the next episode here!

Dancing For The New Year

It’s a new year, which means a bright new feel to everything. It’s an excellent time to think about what you want in the new future of your life, both short term and long term. Of course, that leads to one of the most popular New Year’s traditions: New Year’s resolutions. There is no wrong time to start with a life change, but sometimes an outside influence is best to spur someone onward, and January especially can feel like a fresh new leaf everyone is eager to turn over.

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford

Learning a new skill for a new year is always an admirable undertaking, especially when you consider what an investment it can be in your health and happiness. Taking a dance studio class—be it for social situations, exercise, an upcoming event, or simply for fun—is an investment for the rest of your life, and beneficial in a lot more ways than you might initially expect.

Dance studio lessons offer great exercise, both for the body and mind. It is easier on the joints than running, and it may not even seem like a workout. But dance can lead to weight loss, increased flexibility and mobility, better posture, better coordination, and better endurance. It is an exercise for the mind, too; dance involves learning different steps and styles, and requires active thinking as you move with a partner.

Dancing has always been a social go-to for people around the world, whether it is for weddings, at clubs, or just for a fun Saturday night out. Dancing has been proven to reduce stress, increase self-confidence, and help people overcome shyness. People feel more at ease in social situations, and the growth in confidence extends outside the dance studio as well! You won’t have to ever say “no” to a dance invitation again.

Dance studio classes are an excellent way to make new friends and have more to do in your free time, and they can be a hobby shared with friends and loved ones. It’s a way to build goals and opportunities to succeed, not to mention the sense of accomplishment when you achieve new skills! It is the stress relief of choice of many people across the globe.

This new year, give the gift of dance! Whether it’s a gift to yourself or someone you know, Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford is a place where you can Walk In, and Dance Out—with a new skill for life!

About The Dance of Passion: The Tango!

Arthur Murray Dance Center of CranfordRegardless of how much dance knowledge or expertise someone has, almost everyone has heard of the Tango. The very name evokes an image of sensuality and passion no matter how much someone may know about it.

Unlike the two dances covered so far in the Arthur Murray Cranford blogs, the Foxtrot and the Cha Cha, the Tango can trace its roots back to the nineteenth century, and the dance originated much farther south on the globe. It sprung up in the last 1800s along the border of Argentina and Uruguay, evolved from several other dances, such as the Milonga and Waltz. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the Tango spread to the rest of the world, however, although it soon created quite the craze in Europe and the United States by 1913.

Today, the Tango has many different, distinct forms in the professional dancing world. The two most popular and well-known are the American Tango (seen as the “normal” or default Tango in the States) and the Argentine Tango, both favorite choices taught here at the Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford.

The American style of Tango is characterized by strong, decisive movements and staccato footwork. It is the dance of passion incarnate. In contrast, the Argentine Tango is far slower with smoother, more sensual movements. If the American Tango is the fiery, feisty dance, then the Argentine Tango is the sexier one.

Either (or both!) of these styles of dance can add some romance and spice to any dance resume! We can teach anyone who’d like to learn these dances, so Walk In & Dance Out today! You can schedule your first complimentary lesson with us either online or by calling our Cranford studio.

About The Cha Cha Cha!

Arthur Murray's Music for Dancing - Cha ChaThe Cha Cha is one of the most popular dances in the United States and around the world, and likely the most popular of the social Latin dances. Its energetic, infectious rhythm makes it a playful sort of dance, one that encourages everyone to cut loose and hit the dance floor. It is one of the core dances here at the Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford.

Developed in Cuba in the late 1940s by a man named Enrique Jorrín, the Cha Cha actually began as a derivative of the Mambo and Rumba. Jorrín, a violinist and composer, had noticed that some crowds had difficulties with the irregular rhythm of the Triple Mambo (the Danzon-Mambo). So to try to help and appeal to more dancers, he began composing songs where the melody was marked strongly on the first downbeat and the rhythm was less syncopated. The new rhythm was nearly an immediate hit and was named for the cha-cha-cha sound the dancers’ feet would make during their triple-step.

In 1953, the orchestra Jorrín worked with released the first two Cha Chas to be recorded, “La Engañadora” and “Silver Star”. By 1955, the songs and new style had hit Mexico, the United States, and most of Europe, resulting in a Cha Cha craze that mirrored the Mambo fever that had swept the dancing world just a few years prior.

Today, there are two types of the Cha Cha taught by Arthur Murray Dance Studios around the world: the International style and the Rhythm style. The more common of the two is Rhythm style. It’s fast-paced and fun, but with an earthy feeling to it, and is very popular with dance students even today. Rhythm Cha Cha is characterized by bent knees, whereas International style features straight leg actions; the difference between the two in competitive levels is nearly imperceptible.

You too could learn this fun dance style and weigh in on the debate between the two! Sign up for your complimentary first lesson today with us here at Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford to learn the Cha Cha and many more dances.

A Bit About The Foxtrot…

The Foxtrot is unquestionably America’s favorite dance. Other dances come and go, but the Foxtrot grows ever more popular. The overwhelming majority of all songs written today are with the Foxtrot rhythm, and it is one of the core dances we teach here at the Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford.

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford

Unlike most other dances, the Foxtrot is distinctly and entirely American, which may account for its permanent popularity in this country. It is a dance characterized by flowing movements and freedom of styling—the same kind of dynamic informality which characterizes the American way of life.

The name of the dance supposedly comes from a vaudeville performer named Harry Fox, who introduced it in 1913. During his act he used to select a variety of chorus girls and “trot” with them around the stage. The dance he did came to be known as the “Fox Trot”, nowadays one word: simply the Foxtrot.

The dance as we know it today is far different from the fast, simple trotting step that Mr. Fox introduced, but the name has persisted. As with the Lindy Hop, the origin of the name has been largely forgotten, but the dance remains the favorite of all dancers, young and old alike.

The origin of the Foxtrot itself goes back beyond Harry Fox to the introduction and growth in popularity of ragtime music. This distinctively American form of music, with its different and exciting rhythms, swept the country. With it arose new dances to express the rhythmic urges which sprang up wherever ragtime music was played. The Cake Walk, the Two Step, the Bunny Hug—these and many others were forerunners of the Foxtrot. With the introduction of the Foxtrot and its instantaneous rise to popularity, the other dances were forgotten and the Foxtrot became America’s favorite dance—a position it still holds today and the Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford teaches with pride. Feel free to schedule your first lesson with us and learn firsthand the appeal of the Foxtrot!