Dancesport vs Dressage – by Katie Keenan

Katie with her dance partner Edward at the Australian Dancesport Championships (above) and below as a Dressage Champion.

Dancesport vs Dressage


DK Ballroom dancer Katie Keenan writes about the similarities between Dressage and her Ballroom, New Vogue and Latin American dancing.


"Please find below a little story of my feeling on the similarities between dressage and Ballroom dancing.

Never in a million years

Never in a million years did I think I would enjoy ballroom dancing. 

But then what else does a retired dressage rider do, I’m no good at tennis. And no one wants to go clubbing these days. 

Luckily, I’ve found that riding and dancing, have many similarities.

In dressage you flow the movement of the horses.

In Ballroom dancing, I follow the movement of my partner, he may tell you otherwise, and so might my coach but, they are not always right. 

With riding I anticipate the movement of my horse.

In dance, I anticipate the movement of my partner.

With riding I can adjust the horses tempo, length of stride, and impulsion. 

I have tried this with my dance partner, but it didn’t prove to be a popular “thing” to do. 

In riding the communication between the horse and rider is quiet, a secret, a constant conversation, invisible to the observer. I believed this to be the case in dancing, however, I hear the irritated exchanges between the ‘stoped dead in front of us couples’ saying, “your pulling me” or “correct your own steps”, as we twirl past trying to avoid a collision. 

I do understand the challenges of training with an animal that talks back (and sometimes quite a lot), and that doesn’t have a soft, velvety nose, that smells of earth and wild mushrooms (oh how I miss the silence of the horse). 

With riding, most issues are solved by pushing on, increasing the activity of the hind leg, and riding forwards. Again this proved to be less popular with my dance partner. Although he may learn to see how this solves everything. 

As a former competition rider, the opportunity to compete in dance has been very appealing, and rewarding.

The cool clam energy needed to stay aboard the fit sports horses is also a useful skill on the comp floor. And the knowledge that your partner can’t buck you off, is very pleasing. For anyone that’s been trodden on by a horse, the thought of your dance partner treading on you doesn’t even register as a problem. The fact that the ground is very close, so if you fall, it’s not that far, and if you partner lands on you, they are unlikely to cause as much damage a horse, also a bonus! 

When riding or dancing goes well, usually the training is complete, and when dancing and riding is challenging, the opportunity for learning, are at their greatest. 

And finally, there is one very important similarity I’m constantly aware off, the privilege of having a dance partner. It reminds me of one of my favours riding quotes “to ride a horse is a privilege, not a right”. It is a great privilege to have a dance partner. So thank you to all my wonderful horse dance partners, and thank you to my human dance partner, the equally wonderful Mr Ed x"