It's a bit unfair for me to be reviewing this. I have done some ballroom dance and argentine tango for about the last year. This book presumes a goodIt's a bit unfair for me to be reviewing this. I have done some ballroom dance and argentine tango for about the last year. This book presumes a good deal of familiarity with technique from ballet, Jazz and modern dance. I took one semester of ballet classes way back in college and it would be charitable to say that I sucked. So, from the outset, this book was way over my head.
There are lots of exercises here for relaxation and to increase various ranges of motion. Before I say anything about them, I should really give them a chance. There's also a conditioning workout at the end of the book that looks really good, but I haven't tried it yet. Maybe I will go back at some point and try more that's in the book. But for a novice who dabbles in another kind of dance, this was the wrong choice. It just seems like there aren't many alternatives....more
I've been doing workouts from the first book in this series (The New Rules of Lifting), and they''ve helped enormously. This book has updated materialI've been doing workouts from the first book in this series (The New Rules of Lifting), and they''ve helped enormously. This book has updated materials, and its workouts are designed for functional movements, and not just for building size and strength. The variations that Cosgrove gives all target the core and supporting muscles at least as much, or more, than the main muscle groups that you would ordinarily associate with an exercise.
For example, with a traditional squat, you load up a barbell with a ton of weight. You pick it up with the barbell behind your neck and resting on your shoulders. Then, keeping your back neutral, you bend your knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor and come back up. With this exercise, I could crank out the three sets of 12 reps with a load of 180+ pounds.
The first squat variation here does something different. Instead of balancing the barbell behind the neck, you hold it straight overhead with your arms extended. This makes the exercise much more a question of dynamic balance and shoulder flexibility, and much less a workout for the legs. I did it this way for the first time this week, and instead of using 180 pounds, I was reduced to two sets with 20 pounds and one set of 30 pounds.
And the surprising thing is that the workout was even harder than before. In fact it was way too hard for me. The next day, I felt good sore throughout the midsection, but it was an odd sort of soreness. When you do lots of ab work, ordinarily, you get sore on the outsde layers of muscle. Here, I was sore on the inside, almost like the way you feel in the early stages of food poisoning. And then the next day, the real soreness kicked in. I basically cramped and spasmed the entire day throughout my whole midsection, and ended up completely immobile. Now, I just feel like my midsection got severely beaten, but I'm getting slowly back to normal.
That doesn't sound like a recommendation for the book. I didn't think I had overdone it, but its obvious that my basic core muscles are even weaker than I thought. So I'm looking forward to going back to this program, but starting from scratch and using basically no weight at all to begin with. It's abundantly clear that this program really targets the muscles it says it does, and this little episode has made it even clearer that I need this kind of conditioning.
(As an aside, when I go to the gym, I see about 90% of the guys working with bicep curls and bench presses. Then some will do some lat pulldowns. Very few do any leg work at all. And core work is almost unheard of, and at best comes as an afterthought. For health and really good functional strength, I'm convinced that this is exactly backwards. Core work is probably the most important thing to do, followed by legs. Upper body work is mostly a question of vanity. I never thought I would start lifting weights again, but its helped me alot with some nagging injuries (especially my knees), and I think I will be OK so long as I focus more on being long and lean, and not worry at all about size.)...more
Competitive Latin dancers use tanning products before they compete. What are we to make of this? The simple explanation is that they want to look bettCompetitive Latin dancers use tanning products before they compete. What are we to make of this? The simple explanation is that they want to look better. If you go deeper, you could argue that being tan is a symbol of wealth in the west, because a tan is evidence of leisure time, evidence that one does not have to spend all of their time at work indoors. By contrast, in Asia, its typical for people to prize paleness, for precisely the same reason. A pale person is one who does not have to work in the fields, and has the wealth and leisure to stay indoors. McMains sees another, more sinister, reason behind tanning for Latin dances. She insists that its a sign of "brownface" an analogue to the "blackface" that was put on by white minstrel entertainers in vaudeville. Thus, for her, tanning reveals the racist roots underlying Ballroom latin. Never mind that there are tanning salons all over the country, used by people who have never thought of competing in Latin dancing. Never mind that the competitors in the Standard dances also use tanning products, for exactly the same reasons. And never mind that Latino is not even a race. McMains is so hung up on the politics of gender and race that she needs to show that Ballroom Latin dancing is racist, and she devotes nearly a third of the book to the task.
How about Ballroom Dancing and gender? Basically, she complains about every aspect here. In Standard (waltz, tango, foxtrot, etc...), she complains that the woman has no freedom and is totally subservient to the man. In Latin (rumba, cha cha, samba, etc...), her complaint is that the woman has freedom, and thus shows herself off as a sex object. Thus, when the woman is constrained in her movements, its sexist. And when she's not constrained in her movements, its also sexist. I have no idea what she would endorse as a form of dance that would meet her desire for something gender neutral, and still retain the character of Ballroom dance, which at a minimum I think, needs to have some partnering of some sort.
As for the Ballroom Dance industry in America, she portrays it as evil from top to bottom. And the surprising thing is that everyone involved in it is a victim. The overriding evil is stated in the book's title. The idea is that people get addicted to the notion that improving in Ballroom dance can make them glamorous. Dancers who start get hooked into paying tons of money in pursuit of glamour. The teachers are typically from a lower class than their students and become a sort of indentured servant. Even the judges and champions, according to McMains, are also victims of glamour, though I still am not sure I understand why.
Since she sees evil everywhere, she must ignore or at best mention in passing, any positive aspects. As a result, the book feels terribly unbalanced. McMains was a professional dancer and teacher, and its hard not to conclude that the book is an exercise in bitterness at not having done better. Many of her criticisms are valid, and some what she has to say is insightful, especially when talking about the effect of the structure of a dance competition on its participants. I also liked her summaries of the history of the dances, and their development and codification into their present forms in England and America. Even here, I don't agree with her conclusions that the transformation of the dances for the general American public is both racist and evil, but her descriptions of how the transformations occurred are interesting.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I don't regret having read it, though I certainly could do without ever reading another sentence like: "Gender on ballroom stages is always already raced, or at least marked by a category that invokes a raced discourse." Fortunately, this terrible writing only appears when she is pounding on the drum of gender and race politics. When she writes concretely, the book is actually a pleasure to read. And, I suspect that the bibliography for this book may prove useful to me. I've had a hard time finding good books that have any serious discussion about Ballroom dance....more