Jenell Maranto Professional Ballroom Dance Champion
Jenell Maranto chronicles her experience of learning to ballroom dance as an adult from absolute beginner to National professional ballroom champion. She shares the challenges, ups and downs and the struggle to overcome bad habits. Jenell and her partner Jim took countless lessons from multiple ballroom dance masters and gives the reader a window into the world of ballroom dancing. As a teacher she shares her own development and deep insights of the technique of natural movement as a couple.
“Fast forward ten years and many trophies later with my dance partner Jim. I was taking a lessons from Peter Eggleton, perhaps the world’s greatest ballroom dancer, and he calls out to me, “WHAT IS THAT HORRIBLE NOISE AND WHY ARE YOU MAKNG IT?” That noise my dear reader, was the pulling of my heels across the ﬂoor on every backward step which I had perfected ten years prior and been doing consistently with great zeal every day, every hour, every backward step for the last decade. Probably a hundred million times or so.”
Being successful and competitive in any sport especially ballroom dance, will require a deep understanding of every part of the performance. It is not a simple and straight forward process. For me it involved starting over from scratch, relearning and perfecting every aspect of the art over and over again. The issue one is faced with is, are you willing to mentally go back and start over time and time again or will you just give up? I never wanted to give up. My partner and I were constantly faced with this reality. Discouragement and disappointed are a regular part of striving to be the best. Taking coaching can sometimes feel like criticism and it takes a strong will to just shut up, listen, and keep trying. Your ego must stay out of your way.
“A week later home in our own studio we were getting lessons with our other favorite coach, Ray Rivers. We always started our lesson with the foxtrot and hoped he would see the tremendous improvement we were making, but the ﬁrst thing out of his mouth was “There is no turn in the turn” Understand that we had just spent a fortune learning HOW to TURN. Obviously Ray was not impressed with what we thought was our best attempt at a beautiful feather step and reverse turn.”
Sophisticated body actions are not easy to explain. The words teachers choose to describe theory, technique and style can sometimes have diﬀerent meanings to diﬀerent people. Communication of a physical art is challenging and Ballroom dance has its own language. Learning to decipher what each coach is trying to explain is very important. Understanding how two bodies can move together seamlessly takes time and patience.
“Suddenly he (My teacher) became very adamant. He said, — “I DON’T CARE IF YOU HAVE TO CHANGE EVERYTHING, I WANT YOUR HAND HERE!” As he said this, he was waving his hands up and down at my whole body indicating that I would have to change the way I held my legs, arms, head, the way I stood, my poise and most important my brain. “I want your hand here!” He picked up my left hand and put it in front of Jim’s shoulder once again. He put it where it belonged as if it was the last time, he would ever do it. I was biting my tongue trying not to cry.”
Sometimes we can feel we are being criticized but if we are taking a lesson from a master a critique is a gift. Peter was not trying to just talk about the hand but my entire connection to my partner. The way the hand is held is a key to the entire structure and natural way of moving ﬂuidly as a couple. Every individual part of the body is in actual fact part of the entire whole. The way we stand and hold each other is what sets up the possibility of movement in complete harmony.
I didn’t have aspirations to be a great author but I wanted to be a great teacher. I wrote the stories of my own learning process down on paper so I could pass them on. The things I learned from my teacher, who is a genius and by the way learned form the original founders of the art, are so important and are often not fully grasped. The art of natural movement in ballroom dancing could easily be lost. I thought it was worthwhile to keep my memories alive so that I could pass this knowledge on to my own students.
This is a book of the stories I use when I teach. My goal is to help my students understand what natural movement is and the wonderful world of ballroom dancing. My aspirations after I stopped dancing and competing myself was to be one of the the best teachers in the world. Writing my stories down gave me the chance to focus on ways of communicating, to my students complicated concepts and the process of dancing very close to another person while being fully connected.