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Chelsie Hightower's Music for Ballroom Keeps Students Energized

Photo courtesy of Hightower

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.



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