If you've ever watched "Dancing with the Stars" or "So You Think You Can Dance," you may have noticed a few common characteristics found in the dresses used for the Latin dances. DanceSport is clearly a spectator sport. Competitors utilise both their skill and appearance to get an edge, from a well-practised technique to a seductive glance. Latin fashions have the objective of capturing both your attention and the judge's attention. From feathers to rhinestones, Latin dresses are in a fashion league of their own.
- Skill level:
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Find out if there are existing wardrobe rules for your competition. Competing in syllabus at a collegiate competition through USA Dance has different standards than an Open Amateur or World Class competition. Be prepared by reading the dress code in order to avoid disqualification.
Get ideas or creative inspiration from already existing pieces. Visit dance competitions, go onto ballroom fashion websites, visit ballroom dance boutiques, watch dance TV shows, talk to seasoned competitors, or even visit a tailor with specific skills in ballroom costumes for advice. However, keep your budget in mind. It can be discouraging to find the perfect costume, inquire about the cost, and realise that it is thousands of dollars outside of your price range. There are dressmakers of low, medium and high cost. There is also a range of quality that exists between dressmakers. Consider renting a dress. If you are confident in your tailoring skills, make your dress.
Know the key characteristics of a Latin dance costume. The basic anatomy of a Latin dance dress begins with a leotard or bodysuit that is typically made out of Lycra or Stretch Mesh. The body suit provides a built-in bra and built-in underwear. Fringe, lace, and rhinestones are all icing on the cake
Show off your legs. A key aspect in Latin dance is leg action. It's important to consider what kind of skirt you would like on your costume. Figure out if you would prefer a free flowing skirt or a short, form fitting skirt.
Show off your hips. Hip action is another important characteristic in Latin dance. If you want to widen your hip action, wear a free flowing skirt which will provide an illusion of swooping movements.
Show off your back. Many Latin dance dresses have low backs which the judges use as an indicator for body action. Of course, a low back is optional.
Choose a flattering, yet attention grabbing, colour. Latin dance colours range from neon to neutral. Many competitors choose bright colours because of their ability to instantly capture attention. Select colours that look best on your specific hair and skin tone.
Add a few special touches. You have various options when fashioning your dress: rhinestones, fringe, lace, feathers, and/or beads. Consider your objective when choosing design options. Fringe can have the ability to provide the illusion of movement, whereas shiny rhinestones can attract eyes.
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Choose your accessories. Women often get cuffs, arm bands, hair accessories, gloves and earrings. Often times, jewellery is covered in rhinestones.
Get the tan. You may have not been born as the "Girl from Ipanema," but you can still fake it. With bright lights, the dance floor is a lot like a stage. It can also reveal certain flaws. A tan can provide contour and disguise any unevenness. Get into Latin character by applying a performance tanner.
Apply fake nails. Visit a nail technician or purchase false nails at the local store. False nails can make a difference in Latin arm styling.
Apply stage make-up and use false lashes. During your make-up regimen, false lashes are important in adding a little glamour and drama to your look. They also have the ability to widen the eye.
Decide what type of Latin shoe is best for you. Most importantly, get a shoe that is specifically tailored for Latin dancers. If you plan on being a serious competitor, you may want a high performance Latin brand that sponsors world class competitors. If you want to compete for fun and care about comfort, choose a shoe that is geared more towards support.
Find your fit. Most shoes need to be broken-in. Some brands claim to be "dance floor ready." Get a shoe that has a snug fit. Every foot is different, so what may fit one person may not fit another. Visit a speciality ballroom dance shoe store to try on shoes and ask questions in order to gain perspective on different brands.
Get a shoe that is supportive, but also allows for flexibility. When choosing a shoe, understand that support is hugely important in preventing injury. Most Latin dance shoes are designed for support. A flexible sole is also needed for Latin techniques.
Decide on heel height. Many high performance DanceSport athletes opt for 3-inch heels, give or take a 1/2-inch. There are a range of heel heights to consider. Consider a substantially lower heel for skill level, age or disabilities.
Choose a colour. Tan is the conventional competition colour. It's advantageous because it provides the illusion of a longer leg line.
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Tips and warnings
- If you're doing a syllabus event for a USA Dance competition, you may have to review the guidelines. These events often have modesty, fabric and adornment limitations. Since the dress code rulebook is revised on a yearly basis, check their website to see what the requirements are for your upcoming syllabus competition (see Resources below).
- Competitors in USA Dance syllabus events often wear practice wear or dresses that can be found at your typical department store
- Ballroom competitions at Brigham Young University also have wardrobe limitations. Please review the dress code rulebook in order to see what their Dancesport competitions' specific wardrobe guidelines are.
- Although many competitors get specially made accessories for every costume, it's savvy to get jewellery that matches most of your costumes. If you're thinking of investing in rhinestone covered jewellery, purchase jewellery covered in Crystal AB, the most universal rhinestone.
- Disqualification may occur if rulebook guidelines are overlooked.
- If price is an issue, stay away from massive amounts of rhinestones. Additional rhinestones are often more expensive than the actual dress itself.
- Shoes get worn out. Depending on how much you practice, chances are your shoes will wear out in a few months. Some people choose to purchase shoes that they only wear during competition. Dance shoes can cost a pretty penny, so figure out what your needs are.
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