June 06, 2018

Andrea Harvey: An Exclusive Insight

Being effortlessly lifted above her partner Craig Smith's head, cabaret dancer Andrea Harvey seems like she's been doing this for years and years. However, Harvey has only been involved in the ballroom world for about a year after connecting with Smith on Facebook and Instagram. He was looking for a new partner and thought Harvey would be the perfect match, "I had no idea what Cabaret was, but he sent some of his videos and I was immediately ready to jump in to be his partner. It looked so fun and exciting!" 

Prior to joining the ballroom world, Andrea was a professional ballet dancer for 9 years. Her skill set that she learned from dancing in a professional company has helped the transition, "Professional ballet dancers are obviously mainly focused on ballet, but are required to be equally advanced in all forms of modern, contemporary and adaptable to any type of choreography." This certainly came into play when getting ready for her and Smith's first competition: Blackpool Dance Festival in 2017. Due to her having to finish out a ballet contract and nursing an injury, she only had a few rehearsals with Craig before competing at Blackpool. They made the final there and placed an impressive 5th. When asked how it felt to dance and place so well at their first competition out, Harvey stated that, "I went into the Blackpool competition pretty casual… mainly because I was so naive to everything! That was probably for the best though, because it helped me with not being too nervous."

From there, they traveled to Moscow to perform at the Kremlin for Dance Legends and then at the end of the month to Millennium Dancesport Championships for another performance. Everything was extremely new to Harvey, "I had never danced on a ballroom floor, never danced a major competition, had a performance where I was being seen at all angles, been able to wear rhinestones or a spray tan during a show, and still wasn’t completely sure exactly what cabaret/theatre arts was until I saw our other competitors."



Even though their dance partnership was fruitful from the start, there were some adjustments for both Harvey and Smith. Smith, a cabaret dancer with many years of experience, adjusted to Harvey as a partner by being more balletic as opposed to partnering as another ballroom dancer. This adjustment is something that Harvey is extremely grateful for, "Thank God he did, because at that point, everything was so new to me and I had barely understood anything that was going on!" Harvey also had other challenges that came with competing and performing cabaret. One of her biggest was the exposed stage. In ballet, there is a backstage where the dancers wait in the wings until it is their turn to dance on stage. In ballroom, there is just a floor and people can see you before you come on. Harvey says that was one of the most nerve-wracking parts, "I couldn’t believe that before you went “ onstage” the audience was able to see you. I felt totally exposed not having a backstage. I was so nervous that people could see me before our performance" However, these nerves were soon lost, and Harvey and Smith have continued to dominate the cabaret scene at competitions across the United States and the globe. At this year's Blackpool Dance Festival they placed 4th!

Although both cabaret and ballet involve partnering skills, they are quite different. In ballet, the man's job is to assist the lady. Harvey explains that, "He should help keep her on her balance, give her a few extra turns than she would do on her own, and the lifts." In contrary to that, Harvey thinks that in ballroom, "the man has a lot more control over what happens in the partnership." Another big difference between ballet and ballroom? The emotional expressiveness. Ballroom dancers are extremely expressive. Everything from make-up to hair to the costumes to the facial expressions are meant to be seen from far away. Harvey says that in ballet, dancers are expressive but more likely in "story ballets such as Romeo and Juliet or Giselle. In general, I feel as though the ballet world encourages feelings and emotions on or off stage to be more subtle and suppressed." Showing emotion was something new to Harvey, "That’s something that I feel that has become such a habit for me, not being so expressive while performing." 

So what's next for Andrea? A lot more learning! Although she will always love ballet and will continue to perform at galas as a guest artist, she has completely fallen in love with the ballroom world. Andrea says, "I’d love to learn a new style, especially rhythm." As for cabaret, expect a lot more innovation and forward thinking, " I love that now I can have a little more fun with dancing.. a little more sexy, a little more danger, have more of a variety of performing, and essentially be in charge of what I do onstage." Look out ballroom world, Andrea Harvey is coming for you! 

 

We asked Andrea some questions about her being in the ballroom world, and here are the answers.

What is your dance background and how long have you been part of the Ballroom world?

I’m coming up on my one year anniversary to the ballroom world very soon. Before that I’ve been a professional ballet dancer for 9 years, and studied at some of the biggest ballet schools in the country. Even though I have studied many styles of dance, I’ve never done anything ballroom related. There have been a few times I’ve worked with a ballet choreographer who tried to make salsa or tango pieces, but now I’m seeing that what we were doing was very far away from correct salsa or tango!

Is ballet similar to dancing Cabaret?
There are some similarities between ballroom and the ballet world, but mostly in my opinion, they are very different! One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed is the partnering in ballroom vs ballet. In ballet, the man’s main job is to assist the lady. I’m learning that in ballroom, the man has a lot more control over what happens in the partnership. Another thing that I’ve noticed that is so different is how expressive ballroom dancers are. I love watching that. Especially for abstract ballets, there is really no emotion shown from the dancers at all. 
How did you team up with Craig Smith?
 Craig found me on Facebook and Instagram and told me he was looking for a new partner. I was injured at the time, and had to finish out my contract with the ballet company that I knew I’d be leaving, so we weren’t able to start working right away. We did decide that we would do the best we could with the time we had and get a routine together to go compete in Blackpool.
How much time and preparation did you both have before you started performing and competing together? 
By the time I was able to start dancing with him, we had very few rehearsals before we were going to Blackpool for my first ever competition. Right after we went to the Kremlin for Dance Legends, and then at the end the month, Millennium. 
How did you feel going into competitions so quickly?
 Everything about the performance was different to what I was used to. I couldn’t believe that before you went “ onstage” the audience was able to see you. I felt totally exposed not having a backstage. I was so nervous that people could see me before our performance. 
Do you still perform ballets? Are you planning to stay in the Ballroom scene?
I’ll always love ballet, and still continue to perform as a guest artist or in ballet galas since I’ve left the “ballet company” life, but I’ve totally fallen in love with the ballroom world. In my life as a ballet company dancer, we had danced in ballroom shoes, but obviously nothing we did was technically correct whatsoever. As much as I love putting on a tutu and pointe shoes, I love that now I can have a little more fun with dancing. 

 

 


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