Sharing The Joy Of Dancing


This is another article describing one more of the many complexities of the two-headed four-legged animal. Understanding the concept that each half of the partnership may move at a different speed is imperative in achieving quality four-legged movement.

Men typically are not naturally aware of this four-legged phenomenon. Men usually want every thing to feel the same. As long as each side of the partnership is moving as a mirror image of each other, the men are in good shape. When the partners have to move at different speeds, the men tend to get the partnership into trouble. They continue to move as if they were still a mirror image and expect their partner to make up the difference.

If you were to ask a man, "What is the function of a "differential" in the drive train of a car?" he could probably tell you in a second. The answer is:

"The "differential" is a mechanism that allows the wheels of a car to spin at different speeds when turning. Each wheel travels a different distance through a turn, and the inside wheels travel a shorter distance than the outside wheels. The wheels that travel a shorter distance travel at a lower speed."

This is exactly the same reason that partners move at different speeds during a turn. Why then, is this concept a problem for the guys? I believe that most men just don't have the mind set that they actually are four-legged. In defense of the men, this is an advanced concept that evolves as the dancer progresses in his dance skills. The man has many things to consider as a leader and this is one of those things that take a while to even be aware of, let alone develop into his dancing. As you can see from reading my articles, there is no end to the details of the movement of the two-headed four-legged animal.

The speed difference within the partnership is under the control of the leader. The leader acts as the "differential mechanism" for the four-legged movements. The "differential mechanism" is changing and adjusting all of the time depending on the type turn the partnership is attempting. When the partnership is not turning, the "differential mechanism" is not involved. However, most of the ballroom elements involve some sort of turn or rotation as the partnership transitions from dance position to dance position (closed to promenade to outside partner, etc.)

How does the two-headed four-legged animal determine and achieve multiple speed movements? This appears, on the surface anyway, to be a very complex action. In reality, the four-legged movement can be achieved quite naturally. Following the fundamental basics of partnership dancing and being aware of the speed differences will allow the "differential mechanism" to work almost automatically.

The fundamentals I am referring to include a good connected frame, the offset partnership, head position, proper footwork, correct element geometry, and appropriate timing for the dance, etc. The correct partnership maintains the stillness of the body and allows the legs to work independently. This maintains the offset partnership at all times. The footwork and leg movement communicates the timing and direction of the movement. The leader fundamentally dances from one dance position to another. It is imperative that the leader know what dance position he is starting and which dance position he is ending for each element. The lady has some responsibility here as well. She must maintain her partnership, offset and connection so she can feel where to go. If the leader dances the element properly with correct response from the lady, he will intuitively move slower and smaller when he is on the inside of a turn. The person going backwards (man or woman) while rotating generally moves slower and is toward the center of the rotation.

A complication of four-legged movement is that the body seems to be still and the legs are moving at a different speed. This is the way it should feel. Bottom line, the two partners may be moving at different speeds and the body and legs of each partner may be moving at different speeds as well.

Don't try to figure out your part as you dance because there are just too many different parts. Try to approach this problem as a whole four-legged movement instead of a single person movement. Move and maintain the whole four-legged animal as a single entity. As long as the leader is aware of this dual speed situation it will eventually fix itself.