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Dance Hosts, Dance Teachers, Dance Music, Dancing (MERGED)


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I hear many complaints from British ladies that the Dance Hosts you're putting on board can't dance. From what I've seen, I have to agree. For example, to my personal knowledge, Quickstep used to be mandatory. Now the off-shore agencies you're using provide hosts who are incapable, yet at least one band leader plays a huge number of Quicksteps, claiming “it's a tradition”. Even if you're not paying them very much, there must be thousands of dollars in opportunity costs from their cabins, for questionable benefit.
And Cunard used to have well-qualified dance instructors. Now there's twenty-somethings from the cast, who can prance around doing choreographed routines but have no clue about social dancing that's appropriate for passengers- in fact, some of the things they “teach” are dangerous for the “artificial-hip” age group. It looks like Cunard ships no longer have any staff with knowledge of dancing, but when attendance slips from over a hundred to less than a dozen, something is wrong.
As it stands, as a dancer I can't give Cunard a glowing recommendation; as a Carnival shareholder I question whether the company gets good value. Are you happy with the present situation, or do you think improvements are needed?
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Cunard advertises dancing in the Queens Rooms, but off-tempo music is a continuing complaint by dancers. I suggest that given Cunard's British heritage, it's appropriate to use British Dance Council guidelines. The UK is full of well-qualified, highly experienced teachers who I'm sure would be happy to provide advice at a reasonable price. Do you agree that BDC is an appropriate source to use, at least in the Queens Rooms? It's no more effort for the musicians to do it right than do it wrong, and non-dancers are not going to notice. How much discretion do band leaders have to vary music?

I suggest that's it would be a good compromise to say that the recorded music between sets will be strict-tempo music to satisfy dancers. I do agree there needs to be a range of live music to appeal to different tastes. Recently the recorded music between band sets has improved greatly, but no one on the ships seems to know if this is a permanent policy change. The sound technicians playing the music do not seem to be too experienced, leading to a poor mix of music.

Whitemarsh's question relates specifically to G32, and is based on the assumption “it's supposed to be a [loud gay] nightclub”. I don't see anything in Cunard's advertising that promises that. Do you think expectations could be better managed?

I will also mention regularly updating music to suit whatever age group is your marketing target, although that's not really a dance music question.
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Dancing is something very important to us at Cunard - and we have the dance floors and big bands to make it special. Our Dance Hosts reman an important part of this - they are there to dance - especially with Ladies who love to dance. We also have a professional dance couple and there show dances are every bit as good as the quality youol would see on 'Strictly Come Dancing' or Dancing with the Stars'. We don't have any plans for Lady Dance Hosts - but we do often see Ladies dancing together which of course is fine. Peter
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To reply to Dancer Bob, I was horrified on my last Queen Victoria cruise to find that the dance hosts are not paid. They pay their own airfare and more than half their own cruise fare. In return for the small discount they get, they are on duty at singles events (so have to be up earlier than I normally get up on a sea day), at dance lessons, at evening practice time and all night long. They have to be pleasant to all comers.

I too was disappointed at the lack of skill of some of the dance hosts, but not surprised when I heard how little they get out of it and how much work they have to put in.

My recommendation would be for Cunard to look for a better quality of dancer (and make sure they use mouthwash and deodorant before dancing!) and let them cruise for free.
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  • 3 weeks later...
[quote name='Peter Shanks']We also have a professional dance couple and there show dances are every bit as good as the quality you would see on 'Strictly Come Dancing' or Dancing with the Stars'. Peter[/quote]

I did not read that [I]Dancer Bob[/I] was complaining about the professional dance couple, as far as their stage ability, but rather, their lack of ballroom dancing skills, as opposed to stage (or choreography) dancing. Their is a big difference.

In stage dancing, both people learn their parts and the two of them dance them together. In ballroom dancing, the follow takes cues from the lead, as to what is going to happen next. The lead has to signal his intentions, at the proper time, as well as pay attention to everyone on the dance floor, to avoid mishaps.

Yes, they are both dancing, but they are very different. Ballroom dancers understand this better than anyone. Yes, you also save money by not having to have a ballroom instructor on board, but rather utilize someone who is already on board. But it is not the same, and in some cases does a dis-service.

I realize now that this is an old thread, and don't expect a response.
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Yes, I clearly stated choreographed routines as opposed to social dancing, with specific reference to Quickstep. The comment about the "quality" of Strictly Come Dancing is utterly appalling. If Peter were to assign one of his corporate yes-men to read the Dancers Opinion thread and tell him what passengers are actually thinking, he would be aware of how disgusted we are at any claim those ludicrous antics resemble ballroom dancing.
This guy actually thinks his bands play good music!!!
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[SIZE=3]I have to say having just disembarking QE in L.A., that the Dance Hosts worked very hard for the 21 days that we were on the ship. There were many ladies waiting their turn to dance and the Dance hosts ensured they got their turn. These guys were at every dance lesson which were provided daily by a professional dance couple.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3][/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]My husband and I would sometimes be walking back to our stateroom late in the evening and the only ones left in the Queens Room were the Dance Hosts and ladies. These guys are not spring chickens but the next morning they would be down in the Queens Room again brushing up on their dance skills. They're a great asset to Cunard I think.

Do they receive any Gratuities for this?[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3][/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]Jilly:)[/SIZE]
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GCC, you're missing some crucial information.
Could any of the hosts dance International style, as expected by British passengers? (Quickstep isn't part of any American bronze-level syllabus and QRO's play endless amounts of it, so it's an easy way to check.) Did you look whether any of the hosts had dance shoes? Even though Cunard requires them to have all sorts of costumes, dance shoes are not required! Another quick way of separating the dancers from the gigolos. They're required to be on duty, it's not a choice. Hosts are not supposed to accept gratuities. They do get a cabin for $30/day, but it's shared- and some of them are heavy drinkers. They also can go on tours as Cunard representative, but it's not guaranteed and I've heard horror stories about some of their experiences.
How much music did the orchestras play at proper tempos? Except for rumba, there really isn't much diffference between American and International tempo. Was there a good mix of music?
Was the professional couple only professional as in "not eligible to compete as amateurs" or were they actual teachers? Could they teach pre-bronze material in an appropriate way (remember this is the "artificial-hip" age group) or were they just stage performers prancing around?
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On my last cruise the professional couple certainly knew their stuff according to International rules. I queried them about one step that I was doing in a different way (learnt in Australia 30 years ago) and they could tell me that I was not doing it correctly. I also noticed how strict they were about orientation, heels and toes, etc. However, as an educator I felt that they could dance the steps brilliantly but had not yet learnt how to teach beginners. (Years ago in Australia I did ballroom dancing to Academy level, though I haven't danced for 24 years. I had trouble working out what the steps were meant to be as they taught us.)
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Fantasy, I think we mostly agree. I use the syllabus (ISTD is common here) for two reasons because I don't have a regular partner.
Firstly, to not re-invent the wheel. Even where it's clearly been written by a committee, I know that it has ideas that will work, like "toe pointing...". (Once you know about it, it becomes glaringly obvious if you have to drag your partner around a quarter turn in Quickstep.) Professionals who don't dance socially often miss points like that.
Secondly, a common language, like "quarter turn". Or in rumba I can ask "are you familiar with fan?" and see what answer I get.
I didn't invent the "artificial-hip" comment, it was a woman who loved chacha but had an artificial hip. She said the hosts were such terrible leaders, I was the only person she felt safe dancing with. And I've seen several times a woman who said she had physical limitations, sit down puffing and wheezing after dancing with a host who didn't adjust. Footwork, rasing and lowering on heels and toes, needs strength in ankles and legs, which many don't have. Something else twenty-something performers don't consider. And orientation, socially, involves floorcraft, which requires over- and underturning as well.
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  • 4 weeks later...
I am just back from 18 days on the Queen Victoria. We had 6 dance hosts. Two of them were excellent, one was very good and the other three were to be tolerated. I felt I learnt a lot from two of them, and definitely enjoyed all of my dances.

However, as Dancer Bob says, none of them danced 'International style'. (I had not even heard it referred to in that way until all the dancers kept saying 'Oh, that's international style. We don't do that', or talking about the fact that the daily lessons were international style - which meant they didn't ever use the steps in the evening dancing.)

I think, though, that the important thing for me was that they were mainly very good at leading. I was prepared to adjust to the American style (except the boring foxtrot with its interminable box step) as long as I could be led in interesting steps.

One highlight of my cruise was a bit of improvisation at the Victoriana night when, in one medley, the music kept changing from paso doble to viennese waltz to general marching. My partner led me into an incredible range of steps, and even traded partners with the other excellent host without skipping a beat. It was fun.
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Fantasy, I'm missing something here. You're British, but don't do International? That's exactly the bitter complaints I hear from British ladies about the the hosts Cunard provides. Cunard's hype-meisters boast how British they are but use agencies who provide American-style dancers. It's my understanding American-style is almost unknown in the UK, foxy says latin isn't too common. I often hear "You do mambo and merengue? Great! Nobody does it here."
The hosts you rated as excellent- did they use DVIDA or USISTD style figures? What figures did they actually know? If they're good, there is some overlap, especially USISTD. How bad were the barely tolerable ones (3 of 6!)? Knowing the names of the figures and being able to estimate beginner, pre-bronze, etc makes it much easier if you change partners regularly. One really telling question to ask is "Do you have proper dance shoes?" Cunard makes them buy all these ridiculous costumes, but not dance shoes!
If all they did was prance around waving their arms and telling you what a wonderful dancer you are- that's way beyond dance host into gigolo territory.
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Just to clarify, most of the women who ask me about cruises are pre-bronze/bronze so thats the level I look at. They usually have long-term insructors, so one-off classes aren't important, although it would be nice to know if the inability of the hosts to learn the material is the hosts or the teachers.
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Hi Dancer Bob, to clarify: I am British but grew up in Australia and learnt to dance there in what I now understand must have been International style. In Modern Ballroom I went to the top level in medals; in the other disciplines I went about halfway. It has been about 24 years since I danced and I have forgotten the steps and the names of the steps. What I call a good dancer is someone who can lead me into the steps I have forgotten, and even into steps that I did not ever learn but only saw other people dance, and three of our hosts could do that with style. They knew a range of dances (but not the slow foxtrot), including many that I had never tried but that they could lead me into. They tended to stick to the same steps night after night, not using the ones we had learnt in the midday dance classes (i.e. stuck to their comfort level) but this would have been appropriate for most of the dancers. They displayed a different approach to beginners, coaxing them on, so that a friend I took along showed real promise as a dancer by the end, because they had led her into it so gradually.

One of our hosts teaches part-time at a dance school in the USA. A Canadian host was so passionate about the Argentine tango that he spent his vacation in Argentinia to learn it properly (but did not attempt to dance it with us as that would not have been appropriate). Another host spent some of his spare time watching dance DVDs (and told us how he was trying hard to puzzle out one step - and then realised the DVD was at fault as it showed one thing in the slow teaching part and another when the couple danced at speed). A fourth had taken quickstep lessons before going away, and valiantly tried to put his steps into practice, though it was obvious he was not yet comfortable with the steps.

All in all, we had keen dancers, not just people who were there to get a 'free' cruise.
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You're probably thinking of the Dancers Opinions thread. I suspect it was deleted due to intemperate remarks regarding a couple who, if it's who I think it is, I've met them and they're very nice people.
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  • 2 months later...
I know this thread has been inactive for awhile, but I actually appreciate the information. I'm doing half of the World Voyage on QE next year, and as a hardcore pro-am competitor (currently ranked in the top 25 of the DanceSport series), being able to arrange lessons with an actual teacher is highly important and one of my motivators in choosing Cunard, aside from the formality.

Particularly, because my teacher does not dance Standard, and I want to learn to improve my frame for Smooth. As I dance silver in Smooth, the foxtrot is not nearly as painful. Rhythm (my strongest style) and Latin I still currently compete at bronze level.

The questions you have brought up, Dancer Bob, give me a bit of pause, because sidelining myself for 54 days is absolutely not something I care to do. By the time I get back, I will only have a handful of weeks with my teacher to get my conditioning back for Wisconsin State and Emerald. I do hope the professional couple will be up to snuff for private instruction.
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Sorry, I predict 54 days of sidelining.
At one time, dance hosts had to pass an actual examination, with Quickstep mandatory. The company providing hosts to QE is Compass Speakers in Ft Lauderdale. Check out their website for what they're accepting as "dancers". (The company for QM2 is Sixth Star- all they want is an audition video. I'm sure I could make myself look Gold Star, as well as cute, cuddly and good-looking, on a video.) You might try giving Tracy a call to discuss what level of dancing they actually test to, especially DanceSport- but I think I know the answer you'll get.
I'm not even sure they check to make sure the person tested is actually the person on the ship.
Dance instruction is probably good news/bad news. They're using dancers from the cast who are at least physically fit, but they seem mostly to be eastern European, good basic training but with no clue about teaching, social dance, or Smooth/Rhythm Pro-Am. Nobody I'd want to gamble 54 days at Cunard's prices.
I've mentioned earlier that Cunard has this long list of costumes the hosts have to buy, but dance shoes are glaringly absent. I can't envision you being satisfied with a host who doesn't own a pair- I think very few do.
A couple of years ago, I did a QM2/QE/QV B2B2B trifecta. I had some friends on QV, but I was quite disappointed with the dance environment on QM2 and QE.
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Thank you for the information, DancerBob.

I had no illusions that I'd be able to get any type of training in American style while aboard. That's fine for me, because there's nothing preventing me from working on my basics and routines on my own during the day when the dance floors aren't in use. That was already part of the plan. I'm easily quite independent enough to be able to do so. As long as I can pick up some training in Latin and Standard, that would help out quite a bit.
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Strictly, I don't know how much longer this thread will exist, but I'd very much like to read your impressions. QV/QE are my two favourite ships, and I look for excuses to justify Cunard's prices.
At one time there would always be at least one partner of your calibre, but in the last few years, I'm sorry to say the quality has declined badly. As a competitor, I'm sure you're used to evaluating performance, and I'd value your opinion as to partners at the bronze level, something most posters don't mention. Particularly if you see some glaring beginner-level mistakes in frame. And of course the quality of the music.
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I'll definitely be more than happy to let you know my impressions once things get underway next year! I've noticed one complaint seems to be that some of the hosts dance American style? In my case, that wouldn't be a complaint, because obviously I'd have no problem enjoying a waltz, tango, foxtrot, cha cha, etc. using American figures and patterns. Of this thread no longer exists by then, I'm certain we could start a new one in the Cunard folder!

I am definitely interested in how the music will pan out, considering your mentions of various tempo problems. I think that would be the most disconcerting to me, if the tempo within a song lacked consistency!
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