So, you still want more? Now that we’ve used our new connecting skills with our simple leads and follows, let’s delve into some of the advanced dance partner tricks that will give your connection a special smoothness and fluidity.
A phone line of arms
Say you’ve two pieces of rope of different lengths, each attached to a separate weight. If you yank on both ropes simultaneously, which weight moves first? The shorter one will, because it’s on a tighter leash. Likewise, our responsiveness to our partner increases with more ‘tightness’ or tension in our frame - specifically our arms and shoulders. Too much tension can cause jerky dancing however, so keep just enough softness in the frame to smooth out the movement.
Pressure: give as good as you get
I sometimes think of the leader as a swimmer, and the follower as the water around the leader.
Like water, the follower gives way for the leader, but she doesn’t let him push through her without resistance. This kind of lead might be called directional pressure, because both are moving in the same direction.
Another kind, oppositional pressure, causes leader and follower to move away or towards each other. In either case, the follower still resists the pressure initially, like a coiled spring that compresses and releases.
Do the robot!
This dance partner trick borrows from the robot dance, so-called because it involves freezing parts of your body, so they move together in a stiff, robotic kind of way.
We also must freeze parts of our body to move together - for instance, no underarm turn would feel comfortable if our upper body turned first, dragging the legs and feet behind it. In most cases, tightening the core helps upper and lower body to move together (although there is twisting in Cuban motion). Direction changes are fed to the body through the frame, which is also locked up by tightening the shoulder muscles to reduce sideways movement (but not up-down movement). The frame way sometimes widen or narrow, only but only for styling purposes - staying connected is more important.
Goldfish vs Selfish
If the hardest dance partner trick for followers is to become an unthinking goldfish, the hardest trick for the leader is to be selfish. Example: leaders often try to ‘help’ followers do open breaks by extending their arms to push them back. This over-extends their frame, and actually feels uncomfortable for the follower, who probably feels like she’s being shoved around.
If instead, the leader pushes himself backwards, using the follower’s frame as leverage, she’ll feel the lead more softly, and they will both extend their arms slightly, but not enough to break the frame. The bottom line is neither couple should sacrifice their frame for the other person.
What tricks do YOU use to stay connected with your partner?
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for almost 20 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches ballroom at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.