The Ballroom Dance world in comparison with many other dance styles out there, seems to have a different mentality about its social side. If you look at Salsa, Swing/Lindy Hop, Argentine Tango, Ceroc, and many other dance styles that are out there, you will quickly see a big difference in generally accepted practices, and personally, I sometimes feel that is to the detriment of the Ballroom and Latin community.
One of the biggest differences between those other styles that I mentioned and Ballroom is the lack of social dancing associated with classes. In the Ballroom world, it seems to be the norm that classes are taught and then people go home; if they want to dance socially, they go to a specific event or gathering that is primarily for that purpose. However, in almost every other social dance genre, classes are interwoven into full evenings in which dancing and practising what you have just learned is not only possible, but easy to do and highly encouraged! This facilitates people actually digesting and retaining what they have learned and propagates actual dancing -not just copying the steps you are learning in class.
I know that there is a larger overhead, most often, for Ballroom events as the space needed has to be of a certain size and without many obstacles to make it truly viable, and therefore it is either necessary to charge more or get more people through the door - sometimes both. And I think this is one of the main reasons that more classes aren't able to hold social dance practice sessions afterwards - the floor fee is simply too high to make it possible. For many other styles, space is not as much of an issue: any of the more stationary dances can easily be done in rooms that are oddly shaped or which have pillars or obstacles as well as it being possible to have more people on the dance floor at any one time - therefore more patrons able to enter in the first place.
There is also a bit of a stigma over the head of the Ballroom community. I will not hesitate to admit that shows like Strictly come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars have done a tremendous amount to bring Ballroom dancing back into the public consciousness. And I think that the movements created by these shows are doing a lot to keep Ballroom dancing alive and growing. But here in the UK at least, there is still a strong bias against it (often in the male part of the general public) and as much as these shows have opened a lot of doors, they have also propagated the stereotypes of sequins and fake tan which make Ballroom seem inaccessible and foppish to the average person.
As someone who has trained professionally in a number of styles of dance, but who came to Ballroom out of an interest to learn and to continue developing my dancing personally, I have focussed my whole experience within it as a social dancer - not a competitor. Too often I feel that the Ballroom world gets so hung up on the competition side of things, that it forgets that it can be equally as satisfying, enjoyable, and worthwhile for the social dancer as it may be for the competitor. Its focus on the glitz and glamour of it all, as well as the tendency for some to simply learn routines - and not build from basics - in order to compete, creates a divide between the competitive and social dance scenes which no other dance genre seems to have as strongly. This creates two main issues as far as I see it. Firstly, it means that when social events Do occur, they are populated partly with people that only know how to dance with their one partner, and only do the routine they have been taught - regardless of the music or the people around them. The other issue is that people who don't feel comfortable with competitive styling are often scared off by the showiness; when in reality they enjoy the dancing and should be allowed to do it in a way that expresses them - not one that is all about extravagant arm flourishes and tidal wave hips.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against the competitive side of the Ballroom world - many people I know and love are entrenched in it - but I do have a problem with social dancing that is no longer given an opportunity to be social. When a couple uses competitive routines and styling on a social floor (and ends up doing the same routine to every song that is a Cha Cha, for example) I have to wonder where their enjoyment is coming from - this is a social floor, not your practice time... especially after the competitions are finished! Personally, I love when you get your dancing to a level that you feel comfortable playing with the music as you hear it, you react and adapt to what your partner is giving you in your connection, and the whole dance becomes more than just the steps - and this doesn't just apply to more advanced dancers. I think it is very important for developing dancers to be given the chance and the opportunity to mix up the moves they are being taught... dance them in their own patterns and follow the music as they hear it. It is that sort of experience which strengthens lead/follow capabilities as well as musicality, and it makes the dance yours; which is why we all want to dance in the first place, isn't it? So what is it that stops Ballroom and Latin dancing from encouraging that? When and where did this massive divide between the people who love these dances occur?
In relation to all the other social dances, Ballroom has simply seemed to lose its social nature. And though shows such a Strictly have helped restart the ballroom community, I also feel like it is creating a voyeuristic aspect to Ballroom which precludes a person's own enjoyment of the dance. Because these dances that we love originated on the social floor.... what is keeping them from it now?