Sam Sodano American Rhythm lecture at the 2017 Blackpool event.


May 2017 was a momentous year for American competitors at Blackpool; a collective sweep of the podiums and a historic occasion for American Smooth and Rhythm with the inclusion of Professional and Pro/am American Style competitive events.

Sam Sodano was honored to be invited by Bryan Allen, President of the British Dance Council, to once again present a lecture at the World Congress. The title of Sam’s lecture for this year was “Rhythm vs. Latin -What makes it different?”– and the theme of the Congress, “The Past, Present, and Future.” 

The lecture opened with an exciting demonstration of all five American Rhythm dances performed by the Brooklyn Dancesport Club.  Their performance was followed by an introduction given by Bill Sparks who provided some insights to Sam’s history. For example; In 1972, Sam was one of the first wave of Americans to compete at Blackpool, that same year he was a finalist in the Rising Star International Latin, and won the cha- cha. 

Sam then took the stage with Decho Kraev and Bree Watson, 3X United States American Rhythm Champions, and shared how he developed the Hip Lift Technique. The ‘Three Delays are the DNA of the Hip Lift Technique, and Sam explained how the ‘delays’ of the foot, knee, and hip are designed to show clear shifts of weight, fuller body actions as well as maintaining the wonderful expression of percussive Cuban hip action. Sam also stressed that the main difference between Rhythm and Latin lies in the leg and hip action. In Latin, the foot and hip arrive at the same time, whereas in Rhythm, the foot placements are made, but the hip action is delayed slightly before transferring completely over the moving foot. Bree and Decho expertly demonstrated the ‘Three Delays’ of the Hip Lift Technique for the audience providing a clear distinction between Rhythm and Latin. 

The topic of authenticity in reference to American Rhythm is a commonly debated subject. No one wants to see American Rhythm revert to a form of dancing that was exhibited 30 years ago, nor do most want American Rhythm to adopt so much from International Latin that the two are indistinguishable. “If American Rhythm borrows too much from International Latin, there’s no reason to have two events,” says Sam. “This was my main objective for developing the Hip Lift Technique. I wanted to retain what was unique to Rhythm while creating a method that was competitive and applicable to all the rhythm dances. All dances need structure to progress, and I felt we needed a technique, a road map for movement, so I began with the basics.”    

“When I was a competitor, I started every practice with walks,” states Sam. “We must always go back to basics because they are the building blocks of technique and the infrastructure for every level of steps from beginner to advanced. My goal in creating the Hip Lift Technique is to pass on the information that took a lifetime to acquire, and make it take less time for the next person.”

The opportunity to lecture at Blackpool was a highlight for Sam at this year’s Blackpool Festival, and he thanks all those who made his Hip Lift Technique lecture educational and entertaining. –Bree Watson, Decho Kraev, Bill Sparks, Tony Meredith, Eugene Katsevman and the Brooklyn DanceSport Club dancers.

If you would like to view Sam’s lecture at Blackpool’s 2017 World Congress, videos will be available from (Dereck Brown Video Service. LTD)

*Streaming online videos on HLT will be available for purchase soon at 

This article was co-authored by Bill Sparks and Sharon Savoy


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