Sharing The Joy Of Dancing


The learning process for Ballroom dancing is quite unique compared to learning other physical sports. The closest sport I can think of is Pairs Ice Skating, but even there each person is balanced on their own blades. In Ballroom dancing, you have a common center of the partnership (the two-headed four-legged animal) as the focal point of movement, power, balance, control, etc.

Dancing evolves over time. There is no switch that suddenly turns it on. That is why it is so important to be on the dance floor as much as possible. I hear all of the time from students "I'll come to the dances when I know how to dance". "I don't want to practice because I might practice it wrong". Ballroom is just like any other sport, you practice what you know then build on that. You never get to a point where it is perfect. Your dancing will continue to evolve forever.

It is very important to understand where the lead comes from. It seems obvious that it comes from the frame connection, but that is a bad assumption. A lot of what we do in partnership dancing seems counter intuitive or illogical because of the two-headed four-legged animal aspect of the partnership. The lead comes from many places, the frame connection, the supporting leg, the shape of the partnership, the direction of movement, leg connection, rise and fall, momentum, centrifugal force, etc. etc. Bottom line the whole body is leading.

Learn a few patterns in a specific dance, and then learn what happens between the steps. That is where all of the feeling resides. Understand intellectually how a pattern works first (timing, geometry, dance positions, connection, etc.), and then evolve it into muscle memory.

Learn patterns from an "element" level not at the step level. An "element" (in addition to being my car) is usually a measure of music associated with steps of a pattern. For example, if I were to dance a Rumba box pattern at a step level, I would be thinking: Forward, Side-Right, Together, Backward, Side-Left, Together. This becomes too much detail over time. I need to train my body to do the "Forward, Side-Right, Together" as a single thought "front half of the box", etc. Now when I dance I think: Forward Half, Back Half. If I were to dance an "Open Break", I now need only think: Forward Half, Open Break, Underarm Turn, Fifth Position Break. I don't have to remember every single step. My body does that work for me.

Try to recognize the sequence of the "elements" when learning new patterns. This makes the learning process so much easier. For example if I were learning a "Crossover Break with an Underarm Turn", I would think of it as: Front Half, Crossover Right, Crossover Left, Crossover Right, Underarm Turn, Fifth Position. If you notice, there are three "elements" that you learned in the Open Break pattern described previously. The only thing you have to learn for this pattern is the Crossover Right and Crossover Left "elements".

The movement of the two-headed four-legged animal is from the supporting leg. The lady can't feel what is going on in the free leg. Also, you don't have to remember "left" or "right". Simply always move from the free foot. This means that you are never standing on both feet at the same time. The weight is always on one foot or the other.

The goal of the leader is to put the lady in such a position that what she is going to do is very natural. The leader may have to do things that are somewhat unnatural (it will feel natural over time) so it feels natural to the lady. The follower needs to allow her body to move naturally and not try to guess what to do. She also needs to understand the correct response to the lead. For example, as a trained dancer she knows that her feet point in the direction of movement such as in a forward lock-step, not in the direction that her hips/shoulders are pointing.

Remember also that in general, the Lady learns from the Music down and the Man learns from the Floor up, the music being the last thing to come into play for the man.

Happy dancing!!!