Sharing The Joy Of Dancing


Communication is a key element in Ballroom Dancing. I'm referring to the communications between the instructor and the student as well as the communication between the dance partners. Communication can be verbal, visual or physical or a combination of any or all. Visual and physical communications are pretty straight forward, but verbal communication is a different challenge. Words have different meanings to different people. Words are the source of intellectual communication that influences physical actions. Words can be very powerful tools in both the intellectual and physical learning process.

I had a student that I could not communicate how to do a specific action. I tried every combination of words I could think of. Finally, I told the student something that was completely wrong but the student got the correct physical response. Once the student had developed a little muscle memory doing it correctly, I told the student the correct words associated with the action. Don't make the assumption that the other person has the same interpretation of your communication as you do. Observing the physical response is a good indication whether you both are on the same page or not.

The word "ALLOW" is a very powerful term in Ballroom Dancing. An example would be dancing a simple Slow Waltz "Box Step". The foot work for the front half element of the box (from the leader's point of view) is basically: forward, side-right, together. The beginner dancer would dance it: step, step, step. The more advanced dancer "allows" the three steps to be a single movement. Initiate power on the first step and glide through the next two steps (power and glide). "Allow" the movement to flow into a single action. The back half of the box would be danced in the same manner. The "Box Step" pattern now has two flowing movements instead of six individual steps.

Now let's look at leading a "Progressive" pattern from the "Box" pattern. The dancer is dancing a "Box Step" but now wants to initiate a "Progressive" pattern forward to start moving around the floor. The front half of a "Box" pattern is danced, then instead of moving backwards on the back half of the box he wants to move forward into a "Progressive" pattern. How does the lady know to move forward into the "Progressive" instead of backwards in the back half of the "Box"? The Leader must make the decision to move forward into the "Progressive" as he starts the front half of the "Box Step". If the Leader makes the decision to move forward this soon, his body will have a slight natural forward lean at the start of the "Progressive" pattern. This is what the lady feels and she will know what direction to move. The problem is that once the Leader knows about the lean, the leader ties to physically lean at the beginning of the "Progressive" (this is too late). If the Leader "Allows" the body to lean naturally instead of specifically physically leaning, it will work effortlessly. The key is to make the decision early and "ALLOW" the body to adjust naturally instead of physically making it happen.

There is a concept in Ballroom Dancing called "Continuation of Movement". Once the ladies body is in motion, it stays in motion until the Leader stops it. Many ballroom movements are based on this concept. The goal for the lady is to "Allow" the momentum of movement to continue endlessly instead of moving to a specific spot. The movement isn't really endless but is terminated by the Leader instead of the lady. An example would be a "Backward Hover" element in Waltz. The standardized "Back Hover" element ends facing diagonal center to the floor. However, the element can end center or down line of dance or anything in between. If the lady dances to a spot (diagonal center), it is not possible to end it down line of dance. As long as the lady "Allows" her movement to continue (theoretically forever), the Leader has the option of ending it in any direction.

The goal is to turn words into feelings and actions. By describing a movement in several different ways, one of the descriptions may resonate and create the desired feeling and action. I often say: "It feels like to me etc., etc. ". If I describe what it feels like to me, many times that will communicate the action we are trying to achieve. As a student, it is advantageous to ask "Why" to everything (know the reason for doing everything). Also ask: "What does it feel like"? The better the communication is at all levels, the better your results will be in Ballroom Dancing.