Sharing The Joy Of Dancing


It never ceases to amaze me, as an instructor, the power of a single word. My instructor once told me, "Choose your words very carefully when you teach because words have an immense affect how your students respond". The word "ALLOW" is one of those powerful words.

Instructors are in the habit of telling their students: "Place your head here", "Hold your frame like this", etc. The typical response from the student is to try to physically hold their head, arms, etc. in these positions. Then when the students dance, they look like robots out on the dance floor and they are exhausted from trying to maintain these physical positions. I'm sure you have seen ladies dancing that look like they have a kink in their neck and their head is stuck in one position. I have had enormous luck using the word "allow" with students. The following are some examples of how the word "allow" works.

Men, when using the Smooth Frame, "Hold your arms so your elbows are slightly ahead of your body and slightly below your shoulders". If you observe the men when this is stated, you can see the muscles in the men's neck, shoulders, arms and some times even their hands tighten to place their arms in the correct frame position. This is an uncomfortable feeling, restricts your dancing and can even be painful. The key is to "allow" your arms to be in this position, not hold them in that position. When you hold your frame with muscles, it becomes hard and uncomfortable for you and your partner. I like to compare the frame to your rib cage. The rib cage maintains its shape but is flexible, breaths and you are not holding it in place. It is just there. Think of your frame as being a large rib that runs from your left hand across your shoulders and down to your right hand. Now "allow" this huge rib to lie across your shoulders. Don't hold it there; "allow" it to be there. This allows the elbows to be soft and flexible and still maintain the shape of the frame. Your muscles are then used to fine tune the position and connection of the partnership not just coarsely hold your arms in place. The word "allow" some how changes the perspective of how the frame is achieved and how the frame feels.

Ladies, "Hold you head to the left in the Smooth frame". If you observe the ladies when this is stated, you can see the muscles in the ladies necks crank their heads to the left and lock it there. This is where it looks like the ladies head is stuck to the left side of her body. I like to think of the partnership as always dancing cheek to cheek. The ladies head is on the right side of the partnership and the man's on the left side (from the leader's point of view). This is possible because of the offset of the partners in the dance frame. Because the head is on top of the body, it has a huge affect on the balance of the partnership. It is important then, that the head be flexible and constantly reacting to the movement of the partnership. Ladies, "allow" your head to be in the proper position. Don't merely hold it there. The ladies head is sort of like a "bobble head" that you might see on the dash of an automobile. As the car turns and moves, the bobble head adjusts and compensates. Of course, the ladies head is not as loose as the bobble head, but it is flexible and does react and adjust. Ladies "allow" your head to be in the correct position and "allow" it to be soft, natural and responsive.

There is another side to this "word" thing. I have had students that each react differently to the same word or phrase. It is not only important to use the correct word but it is just as important that you observe the action as a result of using a specific word. I keep trying different words until I see the correct body response in the student.

Dancers, try hard to allow things to just be there not holding them there. A lot of effort has been put into the design of this two-headed four-legged animal to allow it to move as natural as possible.