Book Review – What You See Is Not What You Do: A Simple Formula for Ballroom Dancing by Nick and Lena Kosovich

Back in July, one of my readers sent me What You See Is Not What You Do: A Simple Formula for Ballroom Dancing. Although he felt the book moved a little slowly, he highly recommended it for the great information it contained, which had helped him several times while trying to conquer a challenging new dance step. Four/five months later, I have finally found/made time to read the book and write up a review!

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At less than 80 pages, even if you find the book moves a little slowly for you, it won’t take long to read the entire thing. Granted, if you’re like me and get distracted by all of the other things you want/need to do, you might have to restart once or twice to remember what you already read and where it was leading you. Personally, I did not feel the book moved slowly, except maybe at the very beginning. I was eager to get to the meat of the insights of two champion ballroom dancers.

As the foreword of the book tells it, the idea to write the book came during a workshop that the authors Nick and Lena Kosovich were teaching, after which a student (the one who ghostwrote the book for them) approached them and said they really should put the ideas they discussed during the workshop down on paper. For those of you not familiar with Nick and Lena, as dance partners, they competed together for 15 years in various styles and won multiple national and world championships. Nick was also a professional dancer on two seasons of Dancing with the Stars. Together, they own LeNique, a well-known dancewear company that creates custom ballroom costumes, including for Teacher and his pro partner.

Outside of running LeNique, they continue to coach aspiring ballroom dancers and judge at competitions. Personally, I have not had the pleasure of a coaching with either of them, but I would certainly dig under the seats in my car for extra change to make it happen!

Ok, back to the book. I have to admit, I was really curious about what topics or concepts they would cover. So far, my ballroom book reviews have covered either nonfiction/memoir-style books written by amateur dancers, or fiction books with a ballroom dance setting. I hadn’t read or reviewed a how-to written by a professional yet.

Would it end up reading like a dry lecture on the mechanics of ballroom? Would I feel like it was talking over my skill level and therefore not be able to relate to it? Happily, I can say the answer to both questions was “no.”

Like my first Dance Diaries book, Learning Ballroom Dance, Nick and Lena covered aspects of ballroom dancing that went beyond the actual dance steps. They still covered the dancing, but they discussed concepts that could be applied to any dance and at any level. The writing itself had a pleasant conversational tone to it, so I did not feel like I was being lectured to or reading some ballroom textbook. Their ideas were nicely broken down into short chapters and then broken down even further within each chapter. The book instructs the reader to tackle the concepts one at a time and not to expect to understand and be able to apply everything all at once.

The book didn’t just provide practical advice for improving your dancing. It also provided encouragement and inspiration. As Nick and Lena attempted to put into words those concepts that are best felt instead of explained, they continuously told the reader to not give up when things felt challenging and just keep trying. Sound familiar?

They reminded the reader that even top-level professionals are still students and always have more to learn. I also loved some of the more philosophical statements about dance, which provided a sense of purpose and an ultimate goal for all of the time and effort put into our ballroom. This is one of my favorite passages:

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Another favorite part of mine was the commentary on partnership. Ballroom is a partner dance, and as frequently as I find myself practicing solo, ultimately, I need a partner to dance ballroom. The book emphasized that a dance partnership consisted of “you, me, and us.”

Well, I don’t have a “you” or an “us” right now, but I was encouraged by statements like “All of us should spend less time looking for the perfect partner and more time being the perfect partner.” Frankly, a statement like that can be applied to any partnership in life, whether it’s dance, work, romantic, etc. Even while I am on the opposite side of the country from Teacher, my dance partner, I can still practice to improve me, so I am a better partner for him and us when I return.

Unfortunately, the book is not available through the usual channels like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you’re interested in buying your own copy of What You See Is Not What You Do, you can do so by contacting Nick and Lena via lenique.com (sending an email or calling their shop is best, per Nick). I also recommend checking out their blog Life with Lenique while you’re there for their insights and advice when it comes to ballroom costumes (for both men and women!).

Tell them the Girl with the Tree Tattoo sent you!

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One thought on “Book Review – What You See Is Not What You Do: A Simple Formula for Ballroom Dancing by Nick and Lena Kosovich

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