'Dancing With The Stars' vs. real-life local dancers

CINCINNATI - What is competitive dancing really about? Local competitive duos Jeremy and Desiree Manous of Arthur Murray Studio in Blue Ash and Leigh Bradshaw and Brian McNamee of Cincinnati Ball room shed some light on the escalating trend.

Jeremy and Desiree Manous dance in front of a panel of judges just like the stars most weekends, but in front of a much smaller audience. 

"The idea when you're on a competition dance floor is to do something that sparks the eye or attracts the eye to the competitor, to the spectator, to the judges… the same as the show," Jeremy said.

While the audience may be a bit smaller, the intensity is still the same.

"Last year, we started to dabble in Showdance competition," Desiree said.  "Show dance competition is pretty much anything goes.  There are lifts involved, you can any style of dance you want to do, you are the only couple out there, very similar to DWTS.  The freestyle performance at end of every season, the freestyle, is basically the exact same as Showdance. 

McNamee and Bradshaw pointed out some major differences between their dance competition and dancing in the celebrity world.

"You don't know the song they are going to play [at the competitions]," McNamee said. "You practice in advance and a song comes up and you dance to whatever it is."

Also on DWTS, celebrities and their dance partners get more time to perfect their routine than do McNamee and Bradshaw and other members of the competitive ballroom dance circuit.

"A lot of times celebrities are fortunate enough to work on one dance for one week, and they are working 10 hours a day on the dance," Bradshaw said. "That's 50 to 60 hours of rehearsal for one choreographed dance. If you're a normal person and have a job and can only get to the studio three times a week and have multiple dances, that's hard. Our students work really hard but they have a lot of fun."

McNamee said the show is a lot more theatrical than actual competitions.

"When we compete, it's just us," McNamee said. "There is no orchestra."

All of the dancers agreed that dancing is a lot of work but always proves worth it in the end.

"Dancing has changed my entire life," Bradshaw said. "Everything I have is because of dance.  I just love it."

Jeremy and Desiree who dance competitively and who opened their studio three years ago, pointed out another big difference between the competitive dancing they do on weekend and the lessons they teach in their Blue Ash Studio.

"Social dancing is not about sticking out, social dancing is about blending in, it's about having fun, it's about you and your partner only" Jeremy said.  "That's not choreography, it's lead and follow only.  Competitive dancing is more stylized.  You know the ins and the outs of every eight note and beat of music so that you can look perfect every single time you do that routine."

Bradshaw and McNamee, teachers and owners of the Cincinnati Ballroom Company, which opened in 2009 in Oakley, have traveled across the country learning different dances and developing technique.  

"For me, [dancing] is a great escape," Bradshaw said. "It's a nice escape from everything around you. Within dancing, you learn so much about your own body."

Although it may seem "starlit and glamorous," the Manouses consider their version of competitive dancing comparable to the structure of DWTS. 

"We've gotten a lot younger clientele since the show started, and we've gotten a lot more interest in unusual, not your typical social dances," Desiree says.  "In the beginning, in the first season or two, we had a big overflow of new students.  People who aren't your typical dancers will come in after a show wanting to do all the moves and wanting to learn."

Both couples see a direct correlation between the TV show and a growing excitement towards dance.

"The show gives hope to people, where they don't feel like they're that average dancer," Jeremy says.  "Social dancing didn't have that same kind of popularity before the show.  Now, It's something fun that they can do.  If they have ability, they can dance."

"We always say that DWTS was the best advertising we never had to pay for," Bradshaw said.

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