Sharing The Joy Of Dancing


The Ballroom Dancers' head position is critical to the balance and movement of the partnership and the individual dancer (solo movements). Many dancers believe that the head position is a function of image (looks). This is far from the truth. When the dancers' heads are in the correct position, they do present a pleasing uniform and balanced image, but this is not the primary function of the head position. The heads' position on the top of the partnership is a major physical factor in balancing the "two-headed four-legged animal".

The Ballroom partnership is a "right cheek to right cheek" relationship. The sides of the dancer's faces are always parallel to each other (except in "promenade" dance position). The man is offset to the left of the woman. (The "left" and "right" references in this article are from the leaders' point of view.) This creates a diagonal relationship between the two partners. The counter balancing between the partners is not a front to back action. It is slightly diagonal because of the partnership offset.

When dancers are in the "closed" dance position, their shoulders are parallel to each other and their heads are slightly offset (cheek-to-cheek). The same is true when they are in "outside partner" dance position. "Promenade" dance position is slightly different. The offset is the same except that the shoulders aren't parallel; they are slightly more open on the left side. The sides of the heads are slightly more open on the facing side as well.

There is a partnership "rule" for the dancers' head position (Nose and Toes). Generally speaking, the ladies "nose" points in the same direction as the ladies "right toe" and the mans' "nose" points in the same direction as the mans' "left toe". The head position following the toe will be a natural action with a little practice.

In addition to having an offset relationship to your partner, the head has a position relationship to the dancer's body as well. Smooth/Standard dancing requires a slight "Y" shape for the partnership relationship. The dancers' head in the "closed dance position" is straight above the neck and slightly toward the dancers back. Lifting the dancers' chin creates this position. The dancers' head in "promenade dance position" is straight above the neck. The left temple of the man and the right temple of the lady are slightly toward the dancers back. Rhythm/Latin dancing requires a slight "A" shape for the partnership relationship. The dancers' head in the "closed dance position" is straight above the neck (looking straight forward). , The "A" shape of the partnership is created when looking straight forward because the head is weighted in the forward direction naturally. The head position also determines the forward moving foot work. Heel steps are developed when the head weight is toward the back of the body ("Y" shape) and ball steps are developed when the head weight is slightly toward the front of the body ("A" shape).

Many instructors tell their students: "Your head should be here". Unfortunately most students take this statement literally. This results in the head being frozen in one position. There is a general position for the head based on the partnership physiology. The head of each partner adjusts to the movement and flexing of the partnership. The head is NOT frozen in one place. It is living, breathing and adjusting constantly. There is a continual head balance adjustment of the partnership.

Sometimes the head is purposely placed out of its normal position to create power. The further the heads are to the backs of the dancers (the outside of the partnership), the more centrifugal force is created during rotation of the partnership and the more power is generated. This is commonly used for rotational movements such as pivots and turning actions as in Viennese Waltz.

Remember you are trying to balance and control a "two-headed four-legged animal not just yourself. Each dancer must feel and adjust to the other dancers head position. For example, the partners' heads switch positions in relation to each other during a pivot. The pivot starts in "promenade' dance position, transitions to "closed" dance position during the rotation, then back to "promenade" dance position at the conclusion of the element. This head switching position action seems to be complicated but it is a pretty normal and natural interaction with your partner.

In American style Smooth dancing and in Latin/Rhythm dancing there are solo dance movements (no connection to your partner). The solo dancers' movement of the head is balancing a "one-headed two-legged animal", not a "two-headed four-legged animal". It is very different.

The head movement in a solo dancer is a very natural action because he/she has always been "two-legged". The head action becomes a little more complicated when he/she becomes "four-legged" and has "two heads" (a partnership). The partnership dancer must adopt the other half as his/her own. Once this is done it is not quite so complicated. Many jazz dancers and other solo type dancers have a tough time adjusting to being "two-headed and four-legged". They are used to having complete control of their movements. Now, in partnership, there is another part of the movement that has to be synchronized that is not under their complete control.

Bottom line, the head is one of the primary balancers in Ballroom partnership dancing. The more you know and understand the actions and re-actions of head in partnership movements, the more control you will have of your dancing.