Obi Sindora and the World of Competitive Dance


Obi Sindora dancing.


Obi Sindora and the World of Competitive Dance

By Ms. Garrison


Set your alarm for 8 minutes. Now hold your arms out stiffly, left elbow bent, right arm curved as if on a partner’s back. Now hold that position with your arms until the alarm sounds. As you hold that position, smile broadly and move around the room. Don’t let your smile waver or your arms sag. Can you do that? Probably not, because it’s really, really hard. 


But Obi Sindora can do it. Obi, a CPM 7th grader, decided to give ballroom dancing a try a couple of years ago after soccer season ended. He competes locally, nationally, and internationally, sometimes alone, and sometimes with his partner, Dana (pronounced Donna). 


Dancing is as much a sport as soccer or football, and you practice and compete all year. In fact, says Obi, dancing is harder than soccer. It involves daily workouts, year round training, and competitions every few months. In competitions you dance for 8 minutes to 5 songs, each lasting 90 seconds. You have to hold your arms in one position the full 8 minutes…no sagging! Judges can play any song, and the competitors go through the same rotation of dances.  Judges look for “big arms, sharp legs, sharp feet, pointed feet.” There are “like a million different things that they look for and it’s really hard to get them all perfect.”  It’s also important to “have a big smile and look like you’re having fun.” 


The best of the best couples practice for 5 to 6 hours a day. “In soccer you have to run a lot.  In dance each song in 1:30 and you have to…keep the same exact position for a minute and thirty seconds. If you’re doing all five of the dances, it’s like eight minutes of holding your arms up in the same position.” It’s harder than soccer, he says.


It comes down to technique. In Latin dance, “you have to be really fast with your arms and legs because that’s just the style of the dance. You’re really supposed to stretch out, be really big, but also really fast.” It’s physically taxing, says Obi. “If you’re doing it right, it’s like, how much can you go through, because it’s really hard.” Obi enjoys all the dances, but one he often chooses for competitions is the Tango. “I think it’s really fun because it’s really fast and very dramatic.” 


There are uniforms, too, and they vary depending on age. Boys wear special tailored shirts, vests, high pants, and a tie or bowtie. Their shirts are made not to come untucked or wrinkle and spoil the look. Girls wear dresses and “can lose points for it” if the judges don’t like the dress! Obi’s waiting to be old enough to wear a suit coat with tails. He’s almost to that point. “I just really like how it looks,” he says. 


Despite the hard work, the time commitment, and the pressure of competition, Obi says he’s up for it. He prepares by “practicing nonstop” because the more he practices, the more he feels like he’s ready. “Otherwise,” he says, “I would probably completely freak out.” 


“I usually get incredibly nervous before the competition as I walk on, but as soon as the music starts and I start dancing, then…I can barely remember me dancing, I just remember that I’m not nervous anymore….it’s just really fun.”


When he’s not dancing, Obi likes to draw, play with his brother, ride scooters and bikes, and has “this weird thing where I like to clean.” His friends are supportive of his dancing but haven’t had a chance to be in the ballroom to observe. Obi says you can’t really get the full experience if you’re not there and can’t see “just how tiring it is.” He gets up at 7, arrives at the ballroom by 8 a.m. competes for nearly twelve hours, and doesn’t make it home until 8 p.m.


Obi balances school and dance by sticking to a schedule and making use of the Wednesday asynchronous learning days. After dinner and walking the dog, he spends an hour or two practicing dance. Obi plans to stick with dance even into the adult level, keep winning competitions, and “hopefully to be one of the top in the world.”  He’s well on the way. A year ago, just as schools were shutting down for the pandemic, he was in Utah competing in the Nationals. He won in quickstep against 50 other couples and placed fifth in Latin dance in the elementary school division. He did well in the South African Open. He usually wins the local competitions. In Quest For the Best he competes against other couples in Washington. The hardest competition for him was one he did online for an event in Blackpool, England. His best score there was third out of fourteen in the youth-16 category. He hopes to earn best in the world in the youth-16 category in person rather than virtually in Blackpool.


Obi’s not just reaching for the stars in the dance world. He’s an astronomy geek and loves history. He wants to keep up with dance but also get into politics and inventing. “Whenever I see a homeless person, it makes me want to do something about it, and I think the best way to do that is to be in power, and then I can give money to the homeless.” 


If the world of dance sounds interesting to you, check it out! This sport is always on the lookout for new talent, especially the world of ballroom and Latin dancing, which is particularly short on boys. Wondering what the competition looks like? Here are a couple of videos of Latin and Ballroom competitions to give you an idea: