Standing Out From the Crowd: Kimberley Mitchell

Samantha StoutJune 01, 2020Ballroom Chat: Episode #8
Ballroom Chat #8: Kimberley Mitchell
A conversation with Kimberley Mitchell. She is a two time US Professional Latin Champion, coach, judge, adjudicator, and invigilator. We talk about her start in the industry, the preparation process to get showcase ready for the 40th Anniversary of the Ohio Star Ball, her thoughts on when and how to restart competitions, and the importance of finding your own authentic style.
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Show Notes

Episode Transcript

SAMANTHA: Good morning everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Welcome to the first official episode of Ballroom Chat under our new name, renamed it so, so very excited to have you this Monday morning. I'm your host Samantha with Love Live Dance, and today I am joined by the amazing Kimberley Mitchell, who is a former UK open international, Latin and standard champion. And then she is a two time U S professional, Latin champion, current coach, adjudicator judge, and just overall wonderful person. So please give her a warm welcome.

KIMBERLEY: Thank you. Thank you.

SAMANTHA: So thanks so much for coming on this morning.

KIMBERLEY: Well, thank you for having me.

Introduction: Kimberley Mitchell

SAMANTHA: I'm excited. So for those that maybe aren't familiar with you, what does the resume look like? How did you get into dancing?

KIMBERLEY: Okay, well. My parents have a dance studio in England, and they grew up dancing together as children and as professionals. And then along I came to spoil all of their farm. I think I came out dancing. So when people ask me how long I've danced, and I say forever, it really is forever. my forever, I started ballet at the age of two. My mum thought I needed a little bit of discipline. I can't think why she thought that. I had my first dance partner at the age of five ballroom dance partner. We were British champions, international champions, and then kind of went on from there. I actually moved to the United States at 18 just turning 19 to to dance with a guy in San Francisco. We were, we were going to dance. We were dancing for England and going to spend six months in America, six months in England, and then along came Bill Sparks. Who saw me dancing at a national championships. And at that time he was looking for a dance partner.

I was still, we were dancing in the youth category and he was already a United States champion. So after some back and forth, then my mum asked what she thought I should do, and having my coaches speak to his coaches, speak to my mom. It was this big run around. I decided that, you know, I'd already done really well leading up to that point. Why not turn professional and go on from there. So I did, and six weeks later after teaming up with Bill, we danced our first Ohio Star Ball for anybody that seen that was the one way we had the dog color and I led him around the floor, which yeah, that was, that showdown. And, and the, I guess the rest is history. We became a two time national champions four time Ohio Star Ball. We traveled to England and won the British rising star. And, and then, you know, we, Bill retired and I moved back to England for awhile. Worked in my parents' studio, got to do a lot of social dancing, working with kids.

There's a lot of kids classes over in England, way more than we have here. So my, my talents and teaching skills changed a little bit, but there was something missing and America was what was missing. So. Just over 10 years ago, I moved back and, and here I am. So I did a little bit of Pro-Am, which was fun because I love to dance and I still love to show off. Let's just be honest about it. I can't help it. Who doesn't like to get all gussied up and show off a little bit? but now it's coaching and judging, traveling around and sharing my gifts and talents with others. So

SAMANTHA: That's amazing.

KIMBERLEY: That's my resume. Like, tick it all off.

Youth Ballroom Dance Programs Abroad

SAMANTHA: I think you keyed in on something that is certainly true, which is youth programs, youth dance sport is much more prevalent internationally than it is here in the US. I feel like in the US we really focus our kids' programs on ballet, tap, jazz, acro, modern, very solo dance or group choreography based, but never partner dancing. And I don't know if that's because we're uncomfortable as a culture, having kids dance with partners, or if it's just something that never really took off here.

KIMBERLEY: For me, I just feel you don't know what you don't know. Also, money is a big thing. The ballroom industry is a little bit more expensive than going to a ballet class. So I think that scares people away. And the whole 'Ballroom dancing is for old people.' That's a big deal here.

I mean, yes, that that's something that's in Europe, but because again, they know what they know. We. For me, I was teaching kids who's parents had been to the dance studio, whose grandparents had been to the dance studio. So it was kind of a generation, and then the next generation came in and the next generation came in.

So maybe if we could find a way to, to really get it into schools all over, not just in a few areas, then they would know more than we can do ballroom dancing as in and not be up close and icky.

SAMANTHA: Yes, where I'm located in Salt Lake City, we are just north of Provo, which of course is like dancing Mecca for the US. They do have more of a push for ballroom in middle and high school levels. And their youth program is much more prevalent. It's interesting. Coming from the East Coast and training with Andrew and Amanda at their studio in Pittsburgh, their business was all driven by adults. Either adults that are looking for Pro-Am competition or seniors that are just looking to get out and be mobile and be active and be social.

Here in Utah, I'm finding that because there's such a prevalent amateur, and there's this push for youth that then by the time you get to an adult and you're having kids of your own, you're no longer dancing, or you're no longer interested in dancing, or you're like, Oh, I did that as a kid. I don't need to do it.

As an adult, do you find the same situation happening, with your experience in the UK where because there is such this youth drive that as an adult, it's not as interesting to take on as a hobby or because it's this multigenerational push, you see people really make it a lifelong activity?

KIMBERLEY: I think a little bit of both.

We find that there, there is a, I'm a middle ground, I guess, when, when kids go off to college and then life happens. If, if it's not that, that they're chosen career chosen hobby cause of all those kind of infiltrate, then they'll probably come back to it later on. But, but there is a gap. Unless it's something that they're going to do for for a job. Cause I know for me, when I first moved here, how dance instructors are, are found and born is a lot later on in life. And it could be off of Craigslist, it could be off the street. That could have been a bartender. That's, we've got a really good personality and we teach you how to dance. And then we teach you how to teach. Whereas in Europe the dance teachers are groomed from tiny. So you do this, and then the stages, you move on and then you move on, and then you move on, and then you end up to either teaching in the school or moving and opening up your own studio. So I, I think. I guess if, if you laid it all out, it's probably the same everywhere.

It's just different ages. Right. I'd love to get, well, that's just the be all end all that I know. I'd just love to get more kids involved.

SAMANTHA: Yes. Yes. And you can learn so many life skills. I feel like, you know, we could 100% get into a dance as life life as dance metaphor about how to. Interact with people and how to, navigate uncertain circumstances and how to go with the flow and how to fake it till you make it and all, all of that fun stuff.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah. The health benefits from the coordination and the skills that you learn not just in life, but within yourself are amazing. People should know, these things.

Ohio Star Ball 40th Anniversary

SAMANTHA: Yes. You mentioned competing with Bill. You mentioned showcases or show dance performances. Has it been three years already since the 40th anniversary? Was that 2017?


SAMANTHA: Oh my gosh.

KIMBERLEY: Well, that's scary.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. Time is time is flying past. so because it was the 40th anniversary of Ohio star ball. they brought back a bunch of former champions that are now either on the judging circuit or retired, to do show dance performances. So how did all of that come together? Did Sam Sodano reach out and say, Hey, I'd love for you guys to do a performance? Or was it something they, that you guys as judges and adjudicators were like, Hey, it would be really cool if we did this?

KIMBERLEY: I think it was a little bit both, I think the core group. W w. Was invited to come and dance, and then other people got wind of it. Please invite me. So the may have been a few that invited themselves, but we won't, we won't go too much into that, but it was mainly an invitation. please is the 40th year anniversary. We would love to have you all come and dance. And it was, he gave us free reign to do whatever we wanted to do. So

SAMANTHA: that's the best.


SAMANTHA: So had you and Bill danced at all between the time where you retired from competition and then, or was that,

KIMBERLEY: That was it. We, Bill retired, I believe in 2001 and we hadn't touched each other. well, no, I take that back when I was, that was dancing pro / am. I'd taken my guys to him for some lessons. So moving around, but we hadn't performed.


KIMBERLEY: So going back into the studio, practicing sweating figuring stuff out. It felt great. It, it felt great not only to get out there and be dancing with Bill, but. To see how we'd evolved and matured and the PR as much as the pressure was on. Cause nobody wants to look silly on the dance floor. Here's a past champion. Oh my goodness. Were they a champion? Nobody wants that to be said about them. So the, there was pressure. Okay. It was competitive pressure. It wasn't, I got to do this and. Fisticuffs so it was, it was fun.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. You were, you were performing for yourself and you wanted to make sure that you set the bar high enough that you did yourself justice.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah. When those lights came on,

SAMANTHA: just right right back to the first time you hit the Ohio floor.

KIMBERLEY: It was great. I have to say when, when we were at the Star Ball and. Doing the rehearsal, so everybody was there. I have never seen a room full of champions, so nervous. Okay. You have world champions over here walking around, you have American champions over here, pacing up and down. Get somebody in the corner rocking around. It was quite funny. I mean, we will part of it as well, but all of these champions that are just amazing in their own rights, so scared to go back out on the dance floor and then when the lights hit. It was fabulous.

SAMANTHA: I think that's reassuring to those of us that are mere mortals then, because it's like, okay, everyone gets nervous when they go.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah. Behind the scenes was hilarious. Everybody's sweating and nervous, and so yes, it happens to us all. Yeah.

SAMANTHA: Obviously you've performed many times at all different levels. What is your personal preparation to push through the nerves? Do you have a ritual before you perform every time where, you know, like, I'm going to get really nervous for 15 minutes and I'm going to calm down and I'm going to get some water and then I'm going to walk around and then I'm just going to do my thing. Do you have a process?

KIMBERLEY: I still get nervous. Even stepping onto the floor. For me, the nerves go away when the music starts. So when, when I was competing, I had my music and I took myself away and you know, just spend a moment with myself going through some actions, going through some movement, connecting with my body, connecting with the floor, making sure that. I knew my routines, maybe going over the routines in my head, just to, even though we all practice and we all know our routines, stuff comes up. So it was kind of dance meditation and I guess you could, you could say, focusing on who I want to be, what I want to put out there. now. Obviously the competitive side is, is gone.

And I do, I do, do some show dances and every once in a while, competitions have the judges do a little bit of something and, and we have fun with it and I still get nervous and I still get nervous getting onto the floor and the moment the lights and the music comes on, I turn into a beast and off I go.

SAMANTHA: I have a similar process whenever I go and compete Pro-Am with my students or do showcases at the studio. I need to find five or ten minutes before I go on, or I can just mentally go through the routine from start to finish a couple of times. Because it is, you were, you were relying on muscle memory, you're relying on adrenaline and performance, quality and all of those hours that you put in behind the scenes for your body to do what it's supposed to do. But it's also very much a mental. Okay. And like you have to be in the right head space. You want to know exactly where you're going, exactly. What counts you're holding, exactly what syncopations you need to remember that you tweaked or changed, so,

KIMBERLEY: yup. Yeah. Yeah.

SAMANTHA: Well, I think, I think a lot of, I have a feeling that a lot of dancers have similar rituals that they go through.

KIMBERLEY: You see a lot of headsets and people wandering around and taking a moment and then, yeah. Coming together and. Touchy feely with your dance partner and connecting with them and then you're off and.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely.

KIMBERLEY: I always needed the bathroom.

SAMANTHA: Yes, yes.

KIMBERLEY: And the you walk on the floor and its gone. And then you forget about it and you dance and you come off the floor and you don't need it anymore. So it's definitely a nervous thing. And I'm going to admit that I don't want to.

SAMANTHA: A hundred percent a nervous thing. I learned that, early on I did. I did the ballet tap jazz thing as a kid, and there's nothing worse than feeling like you have to go to the bathroom two minutes before the curtains pull up and you've got tights and a leotard and the overdress and the Tutu and the shoes. It's like, I can't, so we're just going to go with it. But you're right. As soon as, as soon as you step out onto the floor or you step out onto the stage and the lights hit you, you're like, Nope, I'm fine. What was, what was I worried about?


Evolution of Dance Style and Expectations

SAMANTHA: Yup. so you mentioned that, when, when you were kind of getting ready for the showpiece at Ohio, that you, you were realizing where you were working through how much you had adapted and changed your style, from the first time that you were on the floor.

I'd love to hear a little bit about how your dancing has evolved to be what you're finding the differences, whether it's just time or whether it's how the dance has evolved, how you, how your teaching style has changed based on what your body is, is wanting to do or leaning towards doing now?

KIMBERLEY: I feel the, my style of dancing has, obviously as I've matured, my dancing style has matured. But getting choreography to put on to the dance floor in 2000 end of 2017 going into 2018 you can't do the choreography that you did in 97 98 99 2000 because there are so many people in the audience that really, she slow and all of that good stuff.

So I think we, we tried to adapt. Some of the new athleticism and you know, th the speed and the spins. I know for me, I've always been, if in doubt, spin three times and stop. Yeah, kill it off with a spin.

SAMANTHA: It works with

KIMBERLEY: working, working with bill, we wanted it to be ours, but the choreography itself still needed to be up to date. Does that make sense?

SAMANTHA: Yeah, no, absolutely. when I had Rozana on, we talked a little bit about her, her opinion and feelings on athleticism versus artistry, right. And, kind of her views on how dance sport, maybe leaning more towards the sport than the. Dance. so what's your take on that or as, as a judge and as a former performer, are you seeing more of that athleticism and kind of pros and cons to moving in that direction?

KIMBERLEY: I think the things that I noticed the most, that gets me the most, there are so many people that look alike. So I think. I don't want to put the blame on YouTube, but let's face it, let's put the, let's put the blame on YouTube. There are so many avenues that people can go to now to learn. Yes, dancings evolved and I wouldn't wanted to necessarily look how it did in years gone by, but the, the charisma and the characteristics and the character of that person.

Whose dancing, I think that's what I'd like to see more of. So for, for our industry, it doesn't like, let's say skating that's evolved by, once upon a time it was, could you do one spin could leaps and jumps and spinning in the air. I don't know the term, so I'm not going to butcher it. And then it moved on to two and then it moved down to three and then it's a quadruple blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

So in their industry, that's how they moved on, and that's how they are being judged in, in the ballroom dance industry. I'm not judging you on if you can spin twenty times, I don't care. I want him to see how you move from foot to foot and how you interact with your partner. For me, the artistry, the realness, and the rawness that is out there today, I love, but I don't want to see everybody looking the same.


KIMBERLEY: So I would love more personality. And I think going back to the whole YouTube, there was, we went through a stage where everybody learnt off of the greats at that time, but what they didn't do, they didn't do it smart and take the special flare. They took everything. They took the wink, they took the point, they took the nod, they took the flick, they took, what was that person and just copied it.

They didn't even take it and make it their own. So you just have stamps of Slavik and stamps of Karina instead of, Karina does this really well. How can I make that mine. How can I make that even better than Karina? How can I make it even yummier then Slavik yeah. Instead of, well, I'm just going to copy what Slavik does cause it works for him.

Well, yes it does, but now you gotta find something different. So that to me, I would, and I'm going to say this, I would rather watch Smooth. Cause is it so different and everybody's so different then a Latin competition where for me as a judge, I stand there, okay, yes, I have my opinions and I know who's going to win.

I know who I want to win and I know why, but I stand there for a minute and go, Oh my goodness, everybody looks the same and you're all good. It's not that they're a low level, they're all at a really high level. But now then as a judge, I'm now waiting for something bad to happen. I'm judging based on something I really don't like rather than something I like.

So it's the the least offensive that normally wins,

SAMANTHA: Yeah, I don't know how I feel about that, but I know it's true because I hear it time and time again from judges that I speak to. It's like I want to see someone stand out, even if it's very bad or very weird or very out there. I'd rather see a train wreck.

KIMBERLEY: I don't have speech bubbles above my head. That's probably a good thing.

SAMANTHA: Oh my gosh. Can you imagine if, if suddenly every single judge just had the speech bubble pop up?

I look at Instagram, and YouTube, and the videos that are getting posted. I'm like, I've seen that routine. Or, I saw that particular move on Denys and Antonia during their world of dance showcase, and now I'm seeing it on a completely different couple. They're trying to do it the same way, and it's like, eh, that doesn't work for your body, you know? One of the things that I found very early on is because I'm 5'10" pushing 5'11" without heels, I have to dance my jive very differently because my 5'11" frame does not support the jive that a 5'2" person can do. I also feel like, and maybe this is just coming from some of the frustrations that I've found now that I'm teaching more, is students really want to mirror what they see from other people. I feel like it's a good learning technique, but then you also have to figure out at what stage in the process do I say, okay, I love that you've absorbed all this information from all of your different coaches and all your different instructors. There is no right way. Show me the right way for you.

KIMBERLEY: There's no right and wrong. It's what works and what doesn't work.


KIMBERLEY: And then so to me, going in and coaching, I use that phrase a lot because I, it's ballroom dancing. It's my body working how my body works and exactly how you said five 10 I'm five four. It's going to be completely different. And for me, when I was dancing, dancing at a time when I'm curvy. I have shoulders, I have hips, and I go right in the middle. And, and how what looks good on me doesn't necessarily look good on somebody else, but it's not wrong. And yes, I can give it a go, but at the end of the day, in order for, if we're being honest, if you're going to be a competitor, when we say, I'm just doing it for the fun of it, nobody really wants to compete and lose.


KIMBERLEY: So, yeah, do all the things that don't have a trophy at the end of it, they don't have a first, second, or third. But if you are going to go into that competitive realm, then find out what works for you and what makes you special and what makes you special is what's on the inside. So bring that to the outside rather than bringing to the outside whats special.on person number two on Instagram.

SAMANTHA: Okay. Yeah. No, I, I, I think that's absolutely, absolutely 100% the direction that I love to see students and instructors and everybody move in. you are the owner or co-owner, I should say, or co-organizer of two competitions.

KIMBERLEY: I was, this, this world is changing and we find ourselves moving on, Andrew Pueschel, and I had a same sex dance competition. I am so in love with that world, because I've, I believe everybody can dance and everybody should have the chance to dance competitively. Yes. We've kind of opened up the same sex world, the independent mainstream, but at that time, Andrew and I were running it. same-sex wasn't allowed,

SAMANTHA: and I, I wanted to get your opinion on that for just a second.


The Glitz and Glam Ball, LGBTQ+ Ballroom Couples, and NDCA Rule Changes

SAMANTHA: Obviously your competition, the glitz and glam ball, came out of kind of a need to showcase and highlight, the LGBTQ+ community and give the opportunity for same sex couples to perform in dance, with the NDCA moving towards non-gendered partnerships. Do you. And I'm going to try and phrase this politically correct, and you can 100% choose to not answer this if you don't want to. do you think that the NDCA change came about because it's 2019 and we should be there already? Or do you think it came about because if you open up to have more people in more diverse roles, then you have more entries at competitions? Or do you think it's a little bit of both?

KIMBERLEY: I would say it's a little bit of both. it's an industry, people earn money, so opening the doors and welcoming more people in brings more interest in them. More money. But it's 20, 19, 20, 20. This is the world we're living in and everybody, let's have some equality here. I think what you will find, there won't be an awful lot of same sex couples that come to the NDCA world because it is so expensive. Whereas their world, they can go and dance and pay an amount to get in and dance all day. Whereas there. Our world is you pay per dance or per competition. I think what the biggest bonus that I saw that I, myself, feeling cause I can female instructors can now go into the NDC world and dance with their students.


KIMBERLEY: So let's face it, taken away or making it. The man must lead and the lady must follow that. Shut down. Any chance you and I had take our students, that would pay onto the competition floor, and there are males out there, that are only comfortable dancing with their instructor, which would is a male. Let's put it out there. I think for me, I know of more females that has, it's opened up the business for us. I think you'll see more on the pro/am side rather than the, am/am. Pro pro side. I think that's what you'll see more of.

SAMANTHA: Excellent. Sorry. Sorry to interrupt you. When you were talking about

KIMBERLEY: we get to dance, ladies get to, well,

SAMANTHA: yes, I got a text message. As soon as the announcement had been made, that was just like, go get that top teacher trophy girl. Like go.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah, I can dance with my guys and I can also dance events with my ladies, so, yeah.

SAMANTHA: Yes, yes. but you were, you were going to talk about, the other competition that you were a co-owner, co owner of

KIMBERLEY: the, a one day competition and life happens. Andrew, is now a professor in Ohio, so he's kind of gone. Outside of the dancing business and into the professional world, and Andrew and I still really, really good friends. So he left it with me and you know, it just, it just wasn't the right time for me to do something with it. I took on another partner and ended up selling my my half to my new partner in the competition. I think it's. An amazing thing to have to be an organizer. But at the end of the weekend, it's like, yay, I've earned this much money and I've made all of these people happy. But it isn't just for the weekend. It takes all year to set up that one weekend, which have, you look at it as a weekend challenge and. You know, celebration, it's fine, but you got to see the dark side of it as well. And for me, my life was changing. I got married last year, closed my studio, moved to Being part of a Fred Astaire studio, my dance director, Fred Astaire studio here in Columbus. We were going to move to Indiana. We didn't move.

So all of these life changing things are just going to call them. Things happened, that kind of thing that kept me out of that. So I was happy to, to pass the Baton on to somebody else, for them to run the competition. And you know, maybe down the line I'll get involved with another competition. Just at the moment I'm doing me.

SAMANTHA: and I think that's a good point for. Especially competitors to understand is that it is a year round process to put on a competition, regardless of what size. And certainly as you're adding, you know, two to three, four or five days on to the competition, it just becomes that much more of a process to really, put together. So, I know one of the things that's, that's come up because of obviously, the pandemic is that a lot of organizers are having to. Choose what is in their best interest as a business, but also what's in the public's best interest for the sake of the competition. here, BYU nationals, it was quite the controversy because they decided to start before the pandemic really hit, and then midway through everything had to come to a grinding halt because new information was released. We learned and it just, it wasn't safe anymore. North coast is intending to continue their competition this June, but they've decided to not have the professional competition, just Pro-Am and am am, if, obviously you're not, in this position, but if you were still looking at.

Ballroom Competitiions Recovering from Covid-19

SAMANTHA: Being in the organizer seat for a competition, what, what would your kind of pro and con list be to continuing a competition?

What, what would, what would, what conversations would you be having with either your judges or your volunteer staff or, you know, hotels and whatnot?

KIMBERLEY: I think if, if my competition had been now. And let's say June, June, July, it, it would be on, on my mind that maybe next year would be the best time to run it. I think for one half of half of the country is still not sure whether they should come out of their house yet and the other half is like, whew, let me out. Let me help, let me do whatever. So The S the safety, we still don't know. Yeah. All we say we not safe. I don't know. Is this silly? Is it am I? Am I wearing a mask.

Am I not wearing a mask? What am I doing? But then, for me on the dancing side of things as a business. We've been dance studios have been shut down for so long, and yes, we've had online classes and private lessons, but there's nothing like real touch. So I know it's going to take and to get our students back in the door, to get them back to regular lessons, to get them back dance ready. Then competition ready, and then let's go and as if nothing happened. So is this as a competition organizer? Knowing that it'll take two to three months to get everybody back and running. I would be a little apprehensive and a little bit, Hmm. Not so sure about running my competition because so much money goes into it.

Wait, the competitions have to look the best. They have to be all bells and whistles and sparkly, and because that's what we've come to love and require from our competitions. and everything costs money. So was it as a competition owner, I know I would. I would probably have canceled it and waited till next year.

SAMANTHA: So on the flip side then, as, a judge or as a coach that has students that are interested in competing, What are your decision making factors, whether or not to agree to be a judge or whether or not to take your students to a competition at this point?

KIMBERLEY: I mean, for me, I have a pro/am guy. Well, I have two, one is definitely going to start again. His goal is for August. The other one, actually has his first lesson today. As a judge, we stand around the floor, social distancing, but they're on the competitions. So for us as a judge, I'm, I'm, I'm booked at the end of the year, so I don't feel so bad. I guess that's kind of able to stay at home and recoup. As, as a a dance teacher taking my guy, it's good to have a goal instead of it just, we're coming back into the studio and there's no sign of a competition. We're hoping the August will be. Clear and safe, say first to go. So that that's going to be my goal and it's going to take me a couple of months before I believe that he's ready and we are ready, cause let's face it, ballroom dancing together, sport that I'm, if I'm good, woo, but it's not.

It's not what we're doing here. So I don't know. Did that answer that question?

SAMANTHA: Absolutely.

KIMBERLEY: And I know a studio point with, with the Fred Astaire that w we're involved in, people are slow to come back. You got your die-hards and the ones that have been on the zoom calls and have had their lessons. It's still with, with staggering people coming in. People that are diehards want their lessons first thing in the morning, so they're not going to be around anybody. So it's going to be a slow-go I think.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I think, franchised or not franchised, I feel like a lot of studios right now are experiencing the same thing. I know with my students I have exactly the same situation. I have some diehards that, you know, we're doing the zoom calls and then as soon as I said, okay, the numbers look good, we're in phase two, we're moving towards phase three. We can come back to the studio. They were like, yep, great, let's do this. And then I have other students that are like, I don't know if I trust it yet or I don't want to dance with a mask on, so let me know when things are completely back to normal.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah, that sweaty.

SAMANTHA: Yes. Well, and we've got, we, we do not have the altitude that Denver has, but we are farther above sea level than Ohio and Pittsburgh. And, yeah, it's suddenly altitude training. When you put that mask on, it doesn't matter how good cardio shape you're in.

KIMBERLEY: So fit when we get back on the competition floor.


KIMBERLEY: That's how to look at it. Not oh my goodness, there's a mask. We use it for training purposes.

SAMANTHA: Yes. Yes. I, I was joking with one of my students last week that I have one of the cloth masks, and I was joking with him that suddenly I was much more aware of when I was breathing in through my mouth rather than through my nose when I was dancing, because every time I would take like a gasp in, I would have cloth in the mouth and it's like, Oh, okay.

KIMBERLEY: Yep. I think it's good. Good for me. Cause I'm, I'm hiding the faces that I pull at my students. So it's maybe it's kind of making me a little bit more aware of, Oh my goodness, I just pulled that face. Maybe I shouldn't do that. So, yeah. Yep. You can't tell underneath.

SAMANTHA: Yes, and learning that when I make a silly, goofy, sarcastic comment to just kind of lighten the mood, how to smile with my eyes because you can't see the sarcastic grin underneath the mask. I've got to emote through my eyes.

KIMBERLEY: Why are you so surprised? I'm not, I'm smiling. Yes.

SAMANTHA: Precisely.

Current Competitive Dance Trends From the Perspective of a Judge

SAMANTHA: So we talked a little bit about, Kind of the fact that you would like to see more individuality and personality on the dance floor. what other trends are you seeing as a judge that you either are really glad to see in a certain dance style or you would prefer if folks moved away from it?

KIMBERLEY: I think every now and then the overly sexed moves. Can we say that?

SAMANTHA: You can say that.

KIMBERLEY: A nice way of saying it. I don't know if that's just me being very English, but I don't want it. Theres other ways around portraying love and pleasure.

I love when couples dance to the judges. Just don't do it for a long period of time because you make me feel uncomfortable, and then I tend to do the whole, "yeah, I'm making it obvious that I'm now not looking at you and I would like to look at somebody else." Everybody's trying their best and they're even couples that, taking from YouTube. Everybody's trying the best. So you know, well, why now? And the nice thing is a competition. I'm not the only judge. So what I like, somebody else might not like what they like. I may not so. Nine times out of 10 the result is fair.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. There's there, there are enough differing opinions to have it balanced out to a nice medium. Yeah.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah. Latin's the one that I'm not so much in love with, as as that's, that's my thing. That's what I won with, that's who I am. I, I've kind of now, like I said, I love watching Smooth, so this is my favorite because everybody is so different. Okay. I found something, the tragic face in Viennese Waltz. Oh yeah. All of that. I'm not sure I'm in love with that.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. Yes, yes. We get the Viennese Waltz is a sad dance, but we don't want to think that you're in pain as you're dancing it.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah. I don't want to have to run on with a bandaid or you know, to, cause I think you've heard it yourself.

SAMANTHA: Yes, yes. Yeah. on, on the, thought of Rumba being a little bit too steamy at times. I don't want to ever watch a competition and feel uncomfortable. Or like I'm seeing something that I shouldn't be seeing. You can hint at things. You can, you can give the emotional quality of things, but tone it down just,

KIMBERLEY: yeah. I remember Shirley Ballas having a lesson with Shirley Ballas when I was like 16 because I was, we were already in youth. I danced with a guy that was older than me, so I was already dancing in to dance and against. Ladies that had got world experience. Well, Shirley Ballas taught me how to be feminine and how to put hands on myself. That wasn't putting hands on myself.

SAMANTHA: Yes, yes, absolutely.

KIMBERLEY: So it's like across the throat and down the side, and if you have to do something down, like on yourself, so down the middle, it's not all like. Yes,

SAMANTHA: and okay, I will get myself in trouble in this one.

KIMBERLEY: yeah, we haven't got in trouble yet. Let's do it.

SAMANTHA: I guess I'll, I'll put the disclaimer. Not all male instructors, but I can tell immediately with lady's arm style, if it is taught. By a man or by a woman, because I think most female instructors, if they're doing like the neck down the side, they're going to have you brush the hand away from your body and then like give the hint of it, of it brushing something. Whereas most male instructors that I see styling their ladies arms, it's like put the hand exactly where I want the eyes to go and it's like, please, no. Hint at it.

KIMBERLEY: That's the best way. When you travel around coaching, again, a guy gave you this choreography. did they, yes, they did. How do you know? And we love you men. Yes, but

SAMANTHA: yes, we, we, we would be far worse off if we did not have our male instructors. But

KIMBERLEY: I know I have my thing when I'm trying to, dance the guy's part. I tend to sound and I make noises. I sound like a pirates. I'm not really sure why. I think that.

SAMANTHA: So, okay. So I want to ask this question actually because, because that leads perfectly into it.

Thoughts on verbalizing your breath while you're dancing on a competition floor? I'm a big believer in verbalizing your breath on a practice floor, but I don't want it to sound like a tennis match when I'm actually dancing the Chacha in front of a judge.

KIMBERLEY: Yeah. I think there's a time and a place. I use techniques when coaching so that my students get used to that drops weight that they can, right. Let it out and let it out with the noise if you need to, because then everything's going to go. The hard part then is if I'm training it constantly in the competition in the studio, am I going to bring it to the competition floor and Paso Doble how many times do I have to stomp my feet really loud and go "Ha" like it does make me look at you? I think that you get a second look from me, so maybe that's a good thing, but it's a judgmental look. No, I'm getting paid to judge, but like, why would you yell like that? So yeah, I think that there's a time and a place and sometimes if you feel it, you can't help it.

But again, that goes to the, my well-rehearsed is my wink, my point in the same spot every single time. And I've started my routine in front of this judge round after round, after round, and I'm still winking and points in it, the judge in the same spot. Every time. I know. I know. There's no spontaneity. You're not listening to the music. You're not going with what you feel at that time. How you portray in the whole situation. You just well-rehearsed on pointing and looking, so then it's not real. Oh, I think that goes with the voice and Ooh.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I 100% agree. If, if you were, if you're going to rely on it being rehearsed, at least move your starting point so you aren't giving the same judge the same look through multiple rounds of competition. But if you can find a level of authenticity and a find a level of improv and react in the moment and react to your partner and react to the music, then that's going to make you a more rounded, more interesting, better dancer. Yeah. you mentioned that you in particular like watching smooth at the moment. obviously the NDCA as far as Pro-Am competitions and closed syllabus versus open syllabus made a whole bunch of changes, at the end of 2019 to just kind of restrict and give more focus, I think to, instructors that are moving their students through. Rozana and I talked about. About it a little bit on her podcast, but I wanted to see from a judging perspective and from an adjudicator and an invigilator, perspective, what, when it comes to you can only be apart for four bars or the first four bars have to be closed.

Then you have to have 12 over the course of a minute. Then you can only be a part for X number of counts or X number of measures. how has a judge, are you keeping track of that and how. How frequently do you see people not adhering to the new guidelines on that, on the floor?

KIMBERLEY: I actually think the guidelines are great. I think if you're going to enter a student into closed bronze, closed silver, then you need to play by the rules, and these are the rules. I think starting with four bars of closed choreography isn't that much. If we've got 12 bars overall, it gives the newer teachers guidelines. It gives them a structure. It gives them something to run with.

As a judge, I see four bars. I'm watching everybody. I'm scanning the room. Do I continue to watch to make sure that you've got 12 bars of closed choreography? That's not my job. So a lot of the competitions now are hiring and we shift out invigilators it's their job. I don't have time to watch everybody to make sure, but if I did, then I'm singling one person out. For good or for bad. So as, as as a judge, I don't have, I don't have the time to single that one to single one couple out. I have a job to do to make sure that I've got everybody in order how I want them to be. As an invigilator, that's when I get to single somebody out. Yeah. A lot of times I'm only really single in that 1% if they've done something stupid, right?

SAMANTHA: If it's very obvious that you've broken?

KIMBERLEY: If I'm watching and I see you dance side by side for way too long, I'm going to watch you in the next dance to see if you do it again. If, if you don't. Stop. If you can't count, full bars have closed choreography and you come out of it. I know for sure that there's not going to be 12 so I'm probably going to watch you the whole way round. So for me, I think the guidelines are great if, if you're going to enter in closed competition, play by the rules.

If not, then there's the open category for a reason as a judge. I know there are times when I watching and I'm thinking, Oh my goodness, did the invigilator see that? Do you know what you're doing? Why are you doing? But at the end of the day, that's not my, my, my job is to decide whether I love you or I love you.

Who am I going to put where it's somebody else's job to decide,

SAMANTHA: Fair enough.

KIMBERLEY: That's how I, yeah.

SAMANTHA: Well, I think it's very easy, as you said, if everyone has to stay in four bars in closed for four bars at the beginning of the music, it makes it very obvious who pops out of it first. As a newer instructor myself, although I really need to stop saying that because it's now been a while, I really enjoy the guidelines because I enjoy the ability as an instructor when I go to competitions with my students and they're like "Why can't we do that?" I can just very simply say they're not supposed to be doing that. We aren't going to win by playing that game. We're going to win by listening to the feedback from the judges, listening to the feedback from the NDCA and following the rules.

KIMBERLEY: Tweaking the routines to be out of category doesn't get you marks. 17 spins. Lovely. Yay. Good for you. Can you dance the rest of your chacha after those spins? I invigilated a top professional dancing Latin. Latin is not his thing, but everything he did was out of category, even though his student was in category. So when I had gone up to him and like, Hey, here's your form. Unfortunately you're out to category. So well, my students doing it correctly, isn't she? Well, yes, but what you're dancing, remember this is partnership dancing. You've now made it open choreography, not closed choreography. So you too.

I have to stick to the guidelines. Just because you're a student is doing the crossover correctly and you're doing something weird. Yeah. So I think, I'm really good at, you know, sit on that fence and bend the rules, bounce it, and bend the rules a little bit, but completely out of category then no, and you're not going to win,

SAMANTHA: And I think that shows a lack of understanding of our awareness of the point of Pro-Am. The point of Pro-Am as a pro is not to look amazing and show your ability as a professional. It's to highlight the ability of your student and make your student...

KIMBERLEY: Can we put that out there? Hello people! This is not Blackpool. This is pro/am in Cleveland.

SAMANTHA: When I was still an amateur, that was the reason why I loved dancing with Andrew as much as I did. I enjoyed dancing with Dmitry for the short time that I got to dance with Dmitry. With both of them. I felt like they were very aware of what my ability was at the time. They were pushing me to get better, but they knew where my strengths weren't yet and where I was still learning and would choreograph routines to play to my strengths, and I never felt like when I was dancing with them that I was this lowly amateur and that they were this godly professional. I felt like they danced to the level that they wanted me to dance at, and that pushed me to get better and that showed a lot of my ability at the time. I feel like that's the way that pros should be. Make your students look as best as you possibly can. It's not about your ego.

KIMBERLEY: Change the subject quick.


SAMANTHA: Okay. Well, so, so we're almost out of time. was there anything that you wanted to talk about? Any tips or tricks that you wish more people knew about? Anything coming up in your world that you want people to be aware of?

KIMBERLEY: No, I think, I think the, the world is the world at the moment. For me. I. I think dancing is so important and again, the the health benefits and just the, the, the support with day to day movement due to dancing. If, if the world, if the world knew or just took a moment to try, I think it would be a whole different ball game. My, my world is, has changed a lot with, with the pandemic and, and, and getting back into traveling and traveling to coach and traveling to judge and yeah, things are slowed down.

So for me, it's now about my online coaching and what I'm doing coaching wise with my husband. Together and the things that we're putting out there. So, you know, if anybody's got any extra questions for me and, I'm always more than happy to answer everybody's questions. Send me your questions.

SAMANTHA: Excellent. Well, if you do have any followup questions or you want to find out about coaching opportunities or training opportunities with KIMBERLEY, you can find her at Stand Up, Have Fun on Facebook. Or you can find her at, Kimberly. Dot Mitchell. Dot. Three one nine. That's her personal Facebook, so you can get ahold of her that way. and that information is on screen right below her photo. it'll also be in the dobledo everywhere that this is posted. So, yes, support her well, thank you guys so much for tuning in.

I'm Samantha with You can find this in podcast form at either or you can go to There is a Facebook group and Instagram page specifically for this podcast. Now you can find it at ballroom chat on both platforms. So please follow and engage further in the conversation on those two platforms.

I'm very excited for my guest next week. I will be announcing who he is later in the week, so keep an eye out for that. And I just want to take a second to thank Kimberly again for coming on.

KIMBERLEY: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

SAMANTHA: so have a wonderful rest of your day. love each other. Be kind, stay safe, and we will see you next week.