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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

10 Rules for Making Social Dancing More Pleasant

Throughout my years of being involved in the ballroom dance community I have come to realize that social dancing is a divisive topic. Regardless of competitive level, dancers seem to have strong opinions on social dancing, with some dancers dismissing social dancing entirely, while other dancers can’t get enough. In all honesty, I very rarely social dance. When I first began my DanceSport journey I was more open to social dancing and I routinely went to local dance events. As I became a better dancer and more interested in competition and performing, my interest in social dancing waned, which lead me to only attend social events within my own studio, and ultimately I stopped social dancing entirely. Recently, however, I attended a number of social events as a means to a) distract myself from some personal bullshit and b) to convince myself that I’ve had enough exercise to avoid my daily hour on the treadmill. These recent social dancing adventures have lead me to the realization that social dancing would be a far more pleasant experience if everyone had a crash course in dance etiquette. In other words, I’ve realized that I don’t hate social dancing – I just hate assholes.


While it seems like a lot of social danced etiquette should be obvious, that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I’ve devised the Ballroom Bitch Guide On Social Dancing:

1. “Yes, Yes, Yes!” A good rule of thumb is to realize that in social dance circles it’s incredibly rude to turn down a dance when someone asks you. There are, of course, situations in which you may have a valid reason to turn someone down – if you have one of those situations then you should never dance with someone else for that dance. In other words, if you turn down a dance, you’re benched until the next round.

2. Respect the line of dance! One of my (and many others’) pet peeves is a leader who goes against the line of dance. The GENTLEMAN’S job is to lead his partner safely and respectfully through the minefield of other dancers, which means it’s vitally important that the leader respects the line of dance. In addition to avoiding collisions, following the line of dance demonstrates that you respect the other couples around you. Put simply, you’re a total asshole if you don’t respect the line of dance. If you’re unsure about the line(s) of dance, here’s a chart that explains where you should and shouldn’t dance.

3. Never insult or teach a partner! People don’t go social dancing to get feedback on their dance abilities, and frankly, you’re probably not qualified to give feedback. Social dancing is meant to be a fun opportunity to practice skills with a verity of partners, all of whom dance at different levels. Your job as a partner is to be encouraging. If you can't manage to say something encouraging don't say anything at all. In other words, shut the fuck up and leave the critiquing to the professionals.

4. Be prepared to share! If you bring a date to a social dance you need to be prepared to share. Dancing only with your date is a huge faux pas and a major insult to the other dancers at a social event. We get that you’re probably aiming to get laid at the end of the night, but that’s really not our problem. If you’re not OK dancing with someone other than your date, then a social dance isn’t the place for you.

5. Gentlemen, don’t hold a lady’s wrist/forearm in lieu of her hand! This is just insulting! Holding a lady’s hand or forearm is a teaching technique, and since you’re not a teacher and she’s not your student you’re being a dick by not respecting her enough to dance in a proper hold. If she can’t keep up with your lead, you should tone your steps down for that particular partner.

6. Don't stop mid-dance. Unless you’re injured, it’s incredibly rude to give up on your partner mid-dance. I’ve only seen this a couple of times, but giving up on someone because you don’t dance well together is hurtful and uncalled for. At max, you’re giving up 3 minutes of your life, so don’t be an asshole and quit halfway though.

7. Be aware! This sort of goes with respecting the movement of other dancers, but it applies to both ladies and gentlemen. Gentlemen, in addition to following the line of dance, be aware of where you are leading and don’t cut other couples off. Ladies, your lead can’t see everything, so try to keep an eye out and give him a subtle signal if he’s about to cause a collision.

8. Avoid crazy arms. I get that everyone wants to look like a ballroom superstar, but social dances often aren’t the place to show off your wicked arm styling. Scan the environment to see if there’s space before you whip out your sickest arm styling. If there’s room, feel free to go for it. However, social dances tend to be crowded, so the chances of you accidentally slapping someone are pretty high. If things seem crowded, save your skills for lessons, personal practice, etc.

9. Leave the floor if you don’t want to dance. This rule is especially for the gentlemen out there who opt to socialize rather than dance. Often, women far out number men at social dances, which makes it rude for guys to mill around the floor without dancing. I totally understand and respect that you might need a break or might not know a dance, but if that’s the case, you should step away from the floor until that dance is over. Simply milling around subtly sends the message that the available women aren’t good enough for you. That said, ladies should also follow this rule. If there's a dance your don't know/don't like and you want to avoid it, try step away from the floor before someone asks you to dance. 

10. Don’t be a letch. While it is possible to meet the love of your live at a social dance, finding a mate isn’t most people’s goal when they go social dancing. While it’s perfectly fine to ask an attractive partner to grab a drink, don’t be a creep about it. Save your best come-on moves for the club or another situation. And don’t get your jollies by being inappropriate on the floor. Respect that people go to social dances to have fun and practice their skills, not to lock down a lay.

I’m sure I’ve missed some rules that could help improve social dances, but hopefully these 10 give you a good start. The main thing to keep in mind is that people go social dancing to have fun, so as a participant it’s your responsibility to respect that and be kind, welcoming, and encouraging. As long as you act like a reasonably decent person, you should be good. If you have any other rules that you think could make social dancing a more pleasant experience sound off in the comments below!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ballroom Dress on a Budget: Swarovski vs. Preciosa vs. STAR BRIGHT

If you’ve been keeping up with my recent posts, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve recently spent a lot of time talking about what you should expect to spend on a ballroom dress, where the money goes, and how to save on a top-quality dress. In this post, I want to focus on one of the most expensive components of a dancesport dress: stones!

One of the most expensive parts of a dress can be the stoning, especially if you’re having your designer stone the dress for you. When you have a designer do the stone work for you, cost adds up quickly since the designers not only charge for labor, but most designers work exclusively with Swarovski and they tend to add some mark-up to the price-per-stone/gross in addition to their labor rate. Thus, one of the best ways to get a top-quality dress on a budget is to do the stoning yourself!

Doing the stoning yourself isn’t as daunting as it may seem, and I’ve already done a post on the basic step-by-step process for adding crystals to a dance dress. Plus, if you’re willing to attach the crystals yourself, you have more options for which crystals you want to use, which means you can save more money!

Even though most designers refuse to work with any stones other than Swarovski, there are actually three brands of crystals I would whole-heartedly recommend for any ballroom dress. While Swarovski is my favorite, as it often helps achieve a higher resale value on the dress, they come with a high price tag that is not longer justified by quality. Though Swarovski’s quality used to be unparalleled in the world of flatback crystals, there are now two other brands that I think are comparable: Preciosa and STAR BRIGHT.

Undeniably, Swarovski is the gold standard for decorative crystals in DanceSport. While I do love Swarovski, and use them on most of my own dresses, the reality is that a lot of Swarovski’s high price tag is simply good marketing. Thus, if you’re trying to get a high-quality gown on a tight budget, I strongly advise looking into using either Preciosa or STAR BRIGHT. Since Swarovski patents various aspects of their crystal-making process, there are slight differences between Swarovski, Preciosa, and STAR BRIGHT, though I think considering the price difference these differences are negligible. So what are the differences and how much less expensive are Preciosa and STAR BRIGHT?

First, let’s start with the price difference:
All the prices listed are for 1 Gross (144 pack) of SS12 Crystal AB stones -
Swarovski: $3.44 to $4.89+
Preciosa: $2.63 to $3.89+
STAR BRIGHT: $2.59

The price varies some based on retailer, stone size, and color. However, Preciosa and STAR BRIGHT are always less expensive than Swarovski. While a price difference of around $1 doesn’t sound like much, when you consider that most Ballroom and Latin dresses have over 50 gross of stones, the price difference adds up quickly. This becomes especially true when you take into account that if you have a designer/seamstress stone your costume you’ll only be able to use Swarovski and you will be paying far above wholesale for each gross.

Other than price, what are the other differences?

THE CUT:
Price aside, one of the primary differences between Swarovski and competitors is the specific cut of flatback stones. Since most companies trademark the specific cutting technique, or at least patent their cutting machines, the cut varies slightly between companies. That being said, I personally don’t see a huge difference in brilliance (shine quality) between the different cuts (except maybe with jewelry). 
 
Left to Right: STAR BRIGHT, Swarovski, Preciosa
THE COLOR:
While there can be some variations in color, the colors are pretty comparable in general. While I wouldn’t recommend replacing Swarovski stones on an existing dress with Preciosa or STAR BRIGHT, as it may look inconsistent, there’s no issue with the colors in Preciosa or STAR BRIGHT. In my opinion, the colors are equally vivid and often match exactly. That being said, Swarovski has a wider range of colors and special finishes.

THE AB COATING:
In my opinion, ballroom dresses should always include some AB or Shimmer effect stones. While the AB coating often alters the original color of the stone, the coating really kicks the shimmer up a notch. However, not all AB coatings are created equally. This doesn’t necessarily mean one coating is worse than another – they’re just different. AB effect is created by putting a thin layer of a metallic coating (originally gold) over the stone to create extra shine. The variance in AB stones between brands generally has to do with how much coating is put on the stone. Swarovski tend to use a pretty thick coating, which STAR BRIGHT also does, which makes STAR BRIGHT AB stones a better dupe for Swarovski than Preciosa. Preciosa, on the other hand, use a thinner coating, so with Preciosa you tend to get an effect more similar to Swarovski’s Shimmer Effect stones rather than Swarovski’s AB stones. All this being said, I want to reiterate that the difference between AB aren’t bad, they’re just different.
 
Left: STAR BRIGHT
Right: Swarovski
At the end of the day, if you’re trying to save money on your dress, I’d use either START BRIGHT or Preciosa stones. Realistically, I think the biggest thing you’re paying for with Swarovski is the name. I’ve got dresses with both Swarovski and Preciosa (STAR BRIGHT wasn’t released at the time) and not a single person was able to tell that the stones weren’t Swarovski. Likewise, people who argue that Preciosa and STAR BRIGHT don’t stick to the fabric as well as Swarovski are, frankly, full of shit. If you use the proper glue and proper gluing technique, the stones stick just fine! When it comes to deciding if you want to use Preciosa or STAR BRIGHT, I’d order color cards for both, so you can see in person which colors you prefer – especially if you’re looking at using AB stones. And if you’re happy with the colors from both companies, I’d go with whichever brand is less expensive.


Another thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to save money on a dress is it’s important to shop around for stone prices. Always buy from a certified reseller, as you want to make sure you’re getting authentic stones at a good price. STAR BRIGHT Austrian crystals are sold exclusively through Har-Man Importing Corp., so you can rest assured that you’re getting authentic STAR BRIGHT stones at the best price through them. While they typically don’t sell to the public, if you’re interested in buying STAR BRIGHT crystals, you can drop a line to Alisa, the company’s owner here, and if you mention that Ballroom Bitch sent you, she’ll be more than happy to help you out. Preciosa can be purchased through a number of online retailers, including Har-Man, so as long as you ensure your retailer is a recognized Preciosa reseller, you're good to go. Regardless of which brand you choose, never buy your stones from Amazon, eBay, or similar retailers, as they are not certified distributers, so there’s a good chance you’ll be paying a premium for fake stones.


*I have not been compensated for for this review/post. Har-Man Importing Corp. did provide sample stones for the purpose of review. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Getting a Bangin' Ballroom Dress on a Budget

About a month ago I talked about what type of dress you can expect to get at each price point. For many of you, I’m sure those prices came as a bit of a shock. I know that when I first dipped my toes into ballroom, it was a huge surprise for me to see how much money I was going to have to spend to have costumes that were even just passable. Of course, as I’ve become better acquainted with the sport and more invested in my performance, I’ve become more accepting of the price of costumes and somehow rationalized the “investments.” That being said, I know that for many dancers they either can’t or aren’t willing to spend over $1000 on a costume, and it’s important to know that you don’t have to.

The prices I discussed in my last post were for brand-new, custom-made, competition-ready dresses. There are, however, ways to get a top-quality dress and a bargain price, but it takes a bit more effort and flexibility. If you’re willing to either put in some elbow grease and/or accept that you’re not going to get a custom-made-just-for-you dress, you can certainly score a good dress at a decent price. This post will delve into how to do just that, but before I jump in too far, I want to clarify what I mean by a “decent price.” Realistically, you’re unlikely to score an epic dress for under $500, but if you’re willing to be flexible you can easily find something fantastic for under $100. So how do you do that? Here are some options:

Buy Used:
Used dresses are an excellent option for someone looking to score a high-quality dress on a budget. Of course, it’s important to buy from the right places, to ensure you’re actually getting a deal. Typically, it’s best to buy used dresses straight from the dancers. While rental services will often sell their used dresses, the dresses are typically in rotten condition and the price is still extremely high. For example, I had a friend pay $2800 for a dress that had surely been worn 50+ times. Similarly, I recommend avoiding purchasing used from the designers, as they typically add a fairly large markup since the dresses are consigned and they want to make money, too. Buying straight from the dancers usually gives you the best bang for your buck, because the majority of dresses have only been worn 5-10 times, and you can often come in under $800 for a latin dress and under $1300 for a world-class (i.e. Blackpool quality) standard gown. If you're willing to slightly sacrifice quality, you can often score a standard gown for under $1000 and latin dresses for under $600. It is important to keep in mind that if you buy used, you’re responsible for shipping and customs charges. However, even with those additional fees, you’re still going to get a huge bang for your buck. One drawback to buying used is most of the dresses are coming from Europe, which means you may have a harder time finding something that fits the traditional American-style look, especially for Smooth. However, I still think it's worth taking a look, because American and International costume styles have become increasingly similar over the past several years. My favorite resources for used costumes are Dream Gown and Dance Plaza - they both offer a huge variety of dresses at great prices, and I've had friends purchase happily from both sites on multiple occasions.

Get Crafty:
Another excellent way to save big and still get a top-quality costume is to stone the dress yourself. Rhinestones contribute significantly to the overall cost of a dress, as most designers apply a bit of markup to the stones themselves and also charge for the time it takes to apply them. Further, most top-quality designers only want to use Swarovski, which while they are the industry standard, are also the most expensive. Decorating the dress yourself gives you more options when choosing which stones to use, which can help save money. If you choose to stick with Swarovksi, you can purchase the stones wholesale from sites like Harman Imports or Rhinestone Guy, which can save you a lot of money as far as markup and labor costs. If that's still too pricy for you, stoning the dress yourself gives you the option of going with less-popular, but still good quality, stones like Preciosa and STAR BRIGHT, which most designers won't use. 

Customized Chrisanne Practice Wear:
A little known service that Chrisanne-Clover offer is the ability to customize their practice wear. For an extra fee, which I’ll discuss in a later post, Chrisanne-Clover will fully customize their practice wear, which creates a good-quality costume at a more affordable price point. Unlike Chrisanne-Clover Couture, the design won’t be made just for you, so you’ll certainly see the style on other people. However, they will make the costume in any color you want and apply any decorations you want, for an extra fee. This means you’re getting a top-quality, semi-custom costume at an affordable price.


While I hope this post provided you a bit of insight on how to get a bangin’ dress on a budget, I’m sure it also left you with a lot of unanswered questions specific to each of the above-discussed options. Worry not! I’ll dive deeper into each of these options in upcoming posts. In the mean time, just hold tight knowing that it is possible get an epic dress on a budget!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Price of Ballroom Dresses and What You Get for the Money

If you’re in the market for your first Ballroom or Latin dress, chances are you’re experiencing a bit of sticker shock. If you’re anything like me, your first reaction was something along the lines of “how the f**k am I supposed to afford lessons, entry fees, AND dresses?” Considering what often turns up when you do a quick Google search for ballroom/DanceSport dresses, this reaction is totally fair. And while options have expanded a bit since I first got into the sport, Google often turns up some fairly pricy options on the first few result pages (*cough* paid ads *cough cough*). In addition to these wildly-priced options there are a handful of budget-friendly choices, which while undeniably helpful, can also add to your confusion regarding how much a ballroom/Latin dress should cost. In other words, you may be wondering why that dress costs $7500, but this dress only costs $150? Or even more confusing: why does this bitch make me inquire for pricing? To be perfectly honest, if you’re new to the sport it’s damn difficult to figure out how much you should pay for a dress! While I’ll get into how much you should pay in an upcoming post, I want to first delve into what you should expect at various price ranges.

Since I assume all of my readers are clever and bright women (and men!), I hope you’ve at least figured out that the price variances are due, at least in part, to differences in quality. In fact, quality is one of the two biggest factors in determining the price of the dress (we’ll talk about #2 later). While there are some (very) limited exceptions, it’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to ballroom dresses, you generally get what you pay for. This means that you can’t reasonably buy a dress for $150-$300 and expect it to be just a nice as a dress that costs $3000. If you really expect that to be the case, we’re going to have to have a private “come back to reality” chat.

So what can you expect at each price range? Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty and take a look at what makes one dress cost $150 and another cost $7000:

Please keep in mind that the below expectations are based on price of a NEW ballroom/Latin dress.

$150-$500:
As you might expect, dresses in this price range are generally exceptionally low quality. And while you may expect there to be significant quality variances between a $150 dress and a $500 dress, there aren’t; the price differences primarily come down to where you buy the dress. So what makes the dresses in this price bracket such low quality? Pretty much everything.
First and foremost, it’s important to know that in this price range the dresses are mass-produced, which means both the design quality and the craftsmanship are poor. Though most vendors in this price range advertise custom-made dresses, the reality is that you select a pre-designed dress, which is then tailored to your color and size specifications. In a sense, it is custom in that they’re making a dress to your exact measurements (though I’ve yet to see one that arrived and fit perfectly) and your color choices, but the dress is not designed just for you. In all honesty, despite differences in color most of these lower-end Asian-made dresses look exactly the same on the dance floor. This means that you’re almost 100% certain to see YOUR dress on someone else at the competition, especially if you don’t customize your color selections.

In addition to the fact that most dresses in this price bracket are pretty cookie-cutter and look the same, there are major issues with fabric and stone quality. To keep costs down, designers in this price range use the lowest-quality fabric available. I have a couple dresses from this price range (they were gifted to me, I did not buy them) and the fabric is often a different weight than what you get with higher-end dresses. In many cases, the fabric is thinner, which means it rips more easily, it’s often sheer, and it doesn’t provide any support. In contrast, I’ve also got one dress in this price range where the spandex is thick AF! While it certainly isn’t sheer and it does suck you in, the dress doesn’t breathe at all, which is a huge problem when you’re dancing. Perhaps most importantly, the lyrcra/spandex used on these dresses often pills, because it’s a looser weave, which means your dress ages more quickly. Likewise, these ‘designers’ often use synthetic fabrics rather than silks to create flowing pieces, which makes the designs too stiff. Further, the elastics that keep the dress attached to your body are often weak and start to denigrate after a couple of wears. Similarly, the fringe is low quality and often starting to fray from the moment it arrives. And feather decorations are made from chicken feathers rather than ostrich, and they typically aren’t attached well, which means they shed horrifically. 

Finally, the stones on these dresses aren’t crystal rhinestones at all! They’re plastic! Called ‘Korean stones’ these stones are poured glass or plastic (depending on the dressmaker) and they just don’t shine like real crystals (i.e. Preciosa, STAR BRIGHT, or Swarovski). Since the stones are arguably the most important part of your dress, this is a huge problem, since you just won’t shine as bright.

$500-$1100
This price range is tougher to describe, because there are only 1-2 dressmakers that fit this category. Likewise, there’s a pretty significant amount of variance between what you get for $500 and what you get for $900+. In general, dresses closer to $500 you can expect to be similar to the above-discussed dresses from the lower price range. However, the craftsman ship from these dressmakers is typically superior to those described above. Further, you tend to get more unique designs in this price range. As you move into the $700+ range, you start getting into higher-end fabrics like those produced by Chrisanne-Clover and DSI. Of course, it’s important to double-check with the dressmaker to confirm exactly which fabrics they intend to use. As far as stones, dressmakers in this price bracket still tend to use Korean stones as their go-to for decorating, however, they’ll often use Preciosa for an upcharge, which pushes you into the $900-$1100 range. In general, I steer clear of dresses in this range, because it’s easy to be over-charged for poor quality.

$1100+:
In general, once you cross over the $1100ish threshold, you start getting into the top-quality designer dresses. And while I know it sounds like a lot of money, these dresses are well worth your investment! In all cases, dresses from the top designers (Doré, Elle, Designs to Shine, Chrisanne-Clover, DSI, MALY, VESA, etc.) are going to be made with high-end fabrics from the likes of Chrisanne-Clover and DSI. Likewise, top-end dresses are decorated exclusively with Swarovski crystals, which are the undisputed best stones in the industry. When you start getting into the price differences between a $1400 dress, a $3000 dress, and a $7000 dress, the differences are primarily based on where your designer is located and the decorations. In general, dress designers in the US tend to be more expensive than European designers, despite the quality remaining largely the same. That said, there are big price differences even between dresses from the same designer. For example, Doré Designs (US-based) has dresses ranging from $2500 to over $7000. The price differences between these designs are based on the amount of fabric, the number of stones, and the specific decorations (fringe, feathers, lace, etc.). That said, once you start working with a high-end DanceSport designer, the quality remains the same regardless of the price tag.


Hopefully this post has helped you sort out what type of dress you can expect to get at each price point. In my opinion, it’s worth saving up for a high-end dress, because the more budget-friendly options don’t tend to hold up and you’re likely to be disappointed by the quality and fit. That being said, you don’t have to pay top-dollar for a high-end dress, as there are numerous ways to get a top-quality dress while working with a budget. Keep a look out over the next couple of weeks for a few posts on budget-friendly costume options!

Monday, January 2, 2017

DanceSport Makeup With An Edge

As we’ve discussed in many past posts, ballroom makeup is a unique beast. It’s edgy compared to what you might wear on a daily basis, but it tends to keep a fairly feminine feel overall. Rarely do I see something that ventures beyond smoky eyes and a dramatic lip, so when I see something particularly unique it really grabs my attention. I’ve often found that DanceSport makeup doesn’t suit a lot of edgier women, as not everyone feels themself sporting a bright red or pink lip. That’s why when I saw this video from NikkieTutorials I knew I had to share it with you!



While Nikkie’s eye makeup is far too subtle for DanceSport, I would love to see this lip look on the dance floor! Maybe try pairing it with a black smoky eye and popping a bit of MAC Reflects Transparent Teal glitter on the center of the lid. If you try it out, tag us on Instagram @ballroombitch!