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."
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.
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!