The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."
Whether teaching at home in Utah, on faculty with the Revive convention tour or at her annual Dance Elevated camp, Hightower leads with the music. Emphasizing the beat in ballroom, especially for novices, is crucial. "The Latin beat promotes a different kind of movement, and that feeling is what the style is all about." "That feeling," which she describes as "guttural and what makes you want to move," is part of ballroom's mass appeal.
Finding solid Latin music that's mainstream enough for non-ballroom dancers to enjoy dancing to, though, can be a challenge. "The options are far more limited for ballroom than contemporary or hip hop," says Hightower.
To keep students energized and engaged, she chooses upbeat songs that maintain a clear beat. Many dancers have never experienced ballroom before her class, so focusing on the technique is key. "The goal is not to look like a jazz dancer doing ballroom," says Hightower, "but to actually learn the foundation and try to look like a ballroom dancer doing ballroom." Teaching the intricate rhythms of ballroom technique in a one-hour class is not ideal, she admits. "I try to focus on steps or moves that get dancers into their bodies and out of their heads," she says.
Jason Derulo - "Want To Want Me" (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Artist: Jason Derulo
Song: "Want To Want Me"
Album: Everything Is 4
"I genuinely can't help but smile while listening to this song. For that reason, it's great at conventions. It's happy, upbeat, and the cha-cha beats in the chorus are clear. And when you hear it, you're going to want to dance, too."
Circle of Life (District 78 Remix) - Lion King www.youtube.com
Artist: District 78
Song: "Circle of Life" (Remix)
"This song is pure fire. It has so many different dynamic sections to it that make it exciting to just simply listen and imagine a dance to it. It has a clear samba beat, strong beginning, a strong ending and a whole lot of excitement in between."
Ofenbach - Be Mine (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Song: "Be Mine"
"I haven't choreographed yet to this song, but I'm looking forward to when I do. It has such a strong, confident, feminine feel to it, and that's pretty much everything I want to feel while I'm dancing to any Latin style of ballroom dancing."
Daddy Yankee & Snow - Con Calma (Video Oficial) www.youtube.com
Artist: Daddy Yankee (feat. Snow)
Song: "Con Calma"
"It's fun; it's upbeat; it's samba. And, trust me, it's just good."
Black Caviar - Coco ft. u.n.i www.youtube.com
Artist: Black Caviar (feat. u.n.i)
Song: "Coco Puffs"
"One of my favorites to choreograph to, this song has a mysterious and cool sound, yet at the same time is energetic and lets dancers feel very cool. It has such a distinct sound that will have you vibing all day."