Men have a tendency to learn one step at a time and dance one step at a time. Unfortunately, they often continue to think and dance in this manner even as experienced dancers. The man needs to think ahead to have an effective lead but the lady still dances each individual step that she feels. The man will always have a very mechanical movement if he thinks and dances one step at a time. The man has to dance "elements" instead of individual steps. An "element" is usually a measure of music.
American Style Rumba has a Box Step Pattern (forward-slow, side right-quick, together-quick; backward-slow, side left-quick, together-quick). This pattern contains two "elements" (two measures of music). The Forward Box Element and the Backward Box Element. When the man thinks "Forward Box Element" his body has to be trained to dance "forward, side right, together" automatically without any further thought. This is accomplished by sheer repetition of the element. While the man's body is dancing the "element", his mind is now free to plan the next element. Planning ahead becomes easier and the movement from step to step will become smoother.
Dance patterns are just various "elements" arranged in a specific order or sequence. Let's analyze the Rumba Crossover Break Pattern from an "element" standpoint.
The Crossover Break Pattern broken down by elements is:
Return to the box
This pattern can be varied by changing the 5 - Underarm Turn Element, to a Walk Around Turn Element or an Arch Turn Element. The more advanced dancer can change the 1 - Forward Box Element to an Inside Turn Element and change the 6 - Fifth Position Break Element to a Second Position Break Element (Cucaracha). These single "element" changes create very different feeling variations of the original pattern.
The man has to think about only 6 "elements" to dance this pattern. However, he would have to think about 18 individual steps if he were to dance the pattern one step at a time. New patterns become much easier to learn because you will be using mostly "elements" that you already know and adding new ones one or two at a time. Some new patterns will be a simple re-arranging the sequence of elements that you already know.
The lady must understand the correct response to the lead. Sometimes the correct response seems illogical and feels strange but it is based on the movement of the infamous two-headed four-legged animal. After a while the movement will feel normal. She has to resist learning "elements" and dance only one step at a time. Many elements start the same but end up differently and guessing doesn't work very well. You must trust the feeling of the lead one step at a time. If your brain says do one thing and your body says do another, trust your body and ignore your brain.
Earlier I said that an "element" is usually a measure of music. The key word here is usually. East Coast Swing for example has a two beat "element".
Musically the Triple Step Basic Pattern is: 1,&,2; 3,&,4; 5,6 ( It is also taught: 1,2; 3,&,4; 5,&,6).
Triple Step Basic Pattern broken down by elements is:
Using the same analogy, the man has to remember only 3 "elements" not 8 individual steps.
Waltz has a three beat "element"; Foxtrot (box timing), Tango (8 beat phrasing), Rumba and Cha Cha are four beat "elements". As previously discussed, E.C. Swing has a two beat "element".
To make it complete, I drive a Honda "Element". It all fits together in the master plan. Scary huh!!