RBTR – Dance Dance

Mitchell Gadd


Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of Reading Between The Ropes. It was Bret Hart who recently said on his DVD that wrestling was “a lot like dancing,” with, traditionally, two partners using sleight of foot and coordination to mesmerize spectators. The juxtaposition of comparing something that is so elegant and graceful with something that can sometimes be so brutal and barbaric may seem odd, but on closer inspection, the parallels are remarkable.

In wrestling, if you pair two excellent athletes together, then, 9 times out of 10, you’ll end up seeing a fantastic match. In dancing, if you pair two excellent dancers together, then you are more than likely to see an excellent exhibition of dancing. It goes without saying. However, the point is that both dancing in pairs and wrestling a match relies on coordination and team-work. One rarely gets by without the support of the other. In order to have a good match, you need your partner to do his job, and in order to have a good dance number, you’ll need both dancers at their excellent best.

What I love about wrestling is that, while on the surface, it looks so barbaric, and macho. It looks so tough and coarse. However, scratch beneath the surface, and appreciate what those athletes do to captivate audiences and piece together such a great spectacle, and you’ll see there is a sheer beauty about a wrestling match done correctly that can only be compared to a mesmerizing dance number.

The flow of moves and the timing of execution are so graceful when executed by the very best. To watch a match by athletes like Guerrero, Angle, Hart and Benoit is to realise the wonderful ability they have to hit everything at just the right moment, and to know exactly the right pace to dance merrily in to the hearts of the spectators.

A pacing of a wrestling match needs to be perfect. You cannot get ahead of the beat, or move too quickly too soon, or you will stumble and fall. Bret Hart, Jim Cornette and Tom Pritchard have all spoken in the past about the ability to pace a match. How to start off slow and build to a momentous finish. Hart referred to his Owen Hart tribute match with Benoit, and Pritchard referring to Benoit’s match with William Regal at the Brian Pillman Tribute Show. Both spoke about how the audience began restless – their attentions elsewhere. However, with each passing moment of the match, their attention became more fixated, and their focus began to narrow more and more intently on the dance floor as the pair began to really show their moves. Come the end of the dance number, the audience were standing, applauding loudly, and completely captivated by what they were witnessing.

“The big finish” is a phrase used by wrestlers and dancers alike. You always want your finish to be memorable. Dancers who compete in competitions never give away their best moves in the early going. They never peak too soon. They build and build momentum until their final set of moves are their very best, and they leave the judges and the audience spellbound in the closing moments. It is very similar to the ethos of the wrestling artist.

Wrestling has a number of different styles, but the same can also be said for dancing, too. The salsa is a latino dance that relies on extremely quick feet and weight transferal, as well as a certain zest in your step. Latino wrestlers and the lucha libre style is renowned for having a vigor about it that is unique, and its wrestlers are revered for having an extra speed and quickness about everything they do. Much like the salsa, there is an extra zip in every step.

The fox-trot has a certain style to it that reminds me of nimble athletes who are not afraid to use the entire dance floor to express themselves. They fly off the ropes, they nip-up, they leap-frog and they counter a counter of a counter. The combinations of slow and quick steps that are synonymous with the fox-trot also permeate in to wrestling matches.

The tango has a certain cockiness about its delivery. It is the Ric Flair strut. Those who tango have a swagger in their step. They exude confidence, and they are not afraid to back away from their partner to show they are more than capable of pulling their weight in this partnership. However, in wrestling, as in the tango, they must return to their partner to finish the number. It always comes back to the pair.

Then there is the slow dance. Technical athletes who exchange a set of moves and counter moves are masters of the slow dance. Competitors who feel each other out before being headstrong about any powerhouse moves. The test of strength is a perfect example of a set of dance partners getting to know one another slowly but surely. The hammerlock, the bear hug, the rear-chin lock; all of which have a methodical and slow pace about their execution that is paralleled by those who slow dance.

You could set music to great wrestling matches. Classical music would be my choice. A classical number that starts off quietly and slowly. The pair of dancers meet and get a feel for the rhythm and pace of the number. They glide graciously across the dancefloor, twirling and pirouetting at the sound of the violins. The octaves are raised as they begin to show a confidence that was there all along. They show a brilliance that they had inside of them from the very start, but were only teasing at before, waiting to see if the audience were ready to see it yet. As the pace of the violins and brass get more intense, louder and more intoxicating, so do the moves of our dancers. The dance moves have more purpose, and there is no wasted motion. They are accustomed to their partner. By now they know his thoughts and they know where he will be before he even does. Even if they lift their partner high in the air, they will be waiting to meet them as they come down. The audience gasps as the duo send them in to a hypnotic trance, before being awakened by the crashing symbols that summon the finish of this dance number. Both set themselves for the grand finale, as they produce one final move that will leave the audience talking about their performance for some time. As the duo stop, the applause reigns in. In actuality, wrestling plays music at the end of the match, but in essence it is what has come before it that was truly a musical masterpiece.

A dance move is a hip-toss. A wrestling move is a triple twirl. The dancers toss their partners about the dance floor in all directions, spinning them one way, then the other. They come towards them, they move away from them. The shuffle in, they shuffle out. Dance moves and wrestling moves are one in the same.

Of course, at the end of the number, while the audience applauds, and the dancers bask in the glory of their performance, they will eventually feel the pain. The stiffness and soreness sets in as the dance number takes its toll on the pair. However, they endure the pain, and they know that it is worth it for the exhilaration in the reaction of the audience.

Yes, there are some who need to be carried; those who rely on their partner and cannot match their excellence. Yes, there are instances where styles are mixed, one dancer likes to tango, while the other likes to moonwalk. However, the best dance numbers are those that have an equal partnership; a duo who will flip the dancefloor no matter what beat is played. A duo who could set their own beat and thousands will nod their head and follow it.

There is a mastery to both dancing and wrestling that, when done right, is the most elegant and beautiful thing to watch. If the pace, the rhythm and the execution are perfect, then the audience are left hypnotized. They are left spell-bound by every throw, every leap, every twist, every twirl. How can a sport which involves head-locks and elbow drops be graceful, you ask? The answer lies in the expression on every face in the audience who is captivated by those who do it best.

To every wrestler who has ever produced a number worth remembering, take a bow, for the floor is forever yours.

Until next time,

Mitchell L. Gadd

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