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Ballroom Dance

J M (Mike) Nelson
Phone: 612-810-0157

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Introduction to Partner Dancing
Articles on the fundamentals of dance, including the most efficient methods of learning to dance with a partner.

Principles of Social Dance, stripped down to the core. This is the first of three articles on the principles of social dancing with a partner. If you read just one article on this site, please read Principles of Social Dance.
Preparing to Learn to Dance with a Partner. Second in the series mentioned above, outlines the requisites for the transition from freestyle dancing to partner dancing.
Partner Dancing: The Dance Frame. Third in the series mentioned above. Discusses the importance of, and suggests strategies for, acquiring a good dance frame.
Partner Dancing: Summary Notes. Every social dancer should be aware of these critical aspects of partner dancing, and a periodic review of this brief summary will keep you confident and your partner happy. A two-page PDF version is available for printing.
New Summary for the Minimalist. 'nuf said?
Stepping Naturally. A brief and encouraging note on the dance step.
Partner Dancing. A brief review of factors associated with resurgence of partner dancing.
Overview, Suggestions, and Recommendations. A summary of services and suggestions for using them.
New Social Ballroom Dance: Requisites and Prerequisites. Our tendency to presume prerequisites and ignore requisites often leads to unnecessary problems on the dance floor as well as within dance lessons.
Basic Two-Step. A brief description of a basic two-step cadence with recommendations of learning, one your own, this fundamental building block for social ballroom dance.

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Learning to Dance. Recommendations for the beginning dance student.

Dancing is More Than Steps. Most group lessons and pre-dance lessons are about steps and style; if they were effective, we would be better social dancers. Social dancing requires a different set of skills than competition or show dancing, a set rarely addressed in dance classes. If you want to be a better dancer, you need to master the elements of social dance, most of which are above the waist. Learning steps is not enough; you cannot learn enough steps overcome deficiencies in leading and following. See Principles of Social Dance for an introduction to these fundamental elements.

Things They Don't Tell You in Dance Class. This article is to help reduce anxiety and increase learning for the beginning dance student in a traditional dance class, where most students feel inadequate, frustrated, and overwhelmed.
New Reasons for Dance Lessons. A brief overview of reasons for offering/taking dance lessons. Any fit?
Dancing With Your Brain. It is interesting how awareness of one aspect of walk seems to disengage so many other aspects of our functionality.
Where Do I Begin? There are plenty of ways to begin partner dancing, and some are better than others. Here are my recommendations.
Step. A brief review of the ways we use the word, step, in dance, the confusion our multiple meanings often evoke, and some suggestions for avoiding being misunderstood.
New Triplets That Aren't. Suggestions for dealing with 6/8 and 12/8 time signatures, particularly as used in the 1950s.
Plane Talk About Partner Dancing. Appropriate symmetry is critical to successful partner dancing. Though the drawings might be a bit elementary, the illustrations should be meaningful.
Confessions of a Social Dancer. Just a a slow-quick-quick sort of a guy doing a rough job of smooth ballroom.
Lock in those lessons! Strategies for getting the most from dance lessons and avoiding the pitfall of "overlearning."
Oops! Yet another perspective on what went wrong in the development of ballroom dance curricula.
Focusing on Dance. Dance is easier when you get your priorities in order.
New Line of Dance. These protocols for the dance floor are important for anyone who dances in public.
Value of Ballroom Basics. A brief rationale for the wisdom of learning Ballroom Basics.
How Do I Begin? There are effective and ineffective approaches to learning to dance; the wise choose an effective approach.
Important Considerations. This brief article should help you in selecting a dance class that best suits your needs, and it might not be one of mine.
Staying Connected. A review of some critical components of the dance frame that can affect both comfort and appearance.
Stick to a Good Frame. Drifting hands and arms can distort the dance frame and create frustrations for your dance partner. This article describes a neutral, unbiased method of identifying and repositioning the drifting hands.
Selecting A Dance Teacher. Some questions to consider.
Dance Lesson Economics. Tips on how to get the most from dance lessons.
Learning to Dance. Suggestions for those who rather shop around.
Learning Social Dance. An exposition of the causes of gross inefficiency in the teaching of social dance.
Exploring the Basics. Yes, you can learn a great deal about dancing on your own.
Partners in Parody. Social dance is essentially an unintended parody of the formal ballroom dancer.
The Down Side of Politeness. Politeness on the dance floor tends to preclude much experiential improvement for either the leader or the follower.
Box Step Math. Even the "math phobic" might find this little article interesting.
Checklist for Dancers. This is a pdf file of a handout used in classes and workshops.
Box Step Variations. There are many ways to categorize, taxonomize, and present variations on the basic step for any dance style. This article consolidates the simple, easy variations of the ubiquitous box step to reveal versatility, variety, and elegance for partner dancing with minimal stress and maximum insight.
Partner vs Freestyle Dancing. There is a difference, and very little should transfer from freestyle to partner dance.

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Dancing. Social, health, and economic issues associated with partner dancing.

But, Can You Cook? A comparison between cooking, recipes, and social dance.
Dance Lessons as Entertainment. It appears that most involved in the pre-dance lesson are there primarily for entertainment.
Jazz and Dance. A commentary on the relationship between improvisational jazz and social dance.
Venues and Lessons. The top two concerns for selecting dance venues and dance instruction.
Snake Oil. Almost all dance studios peddle "snake oil," but I know of only one that openly admits it.
Finding Good Dance Partners. The path to enjoyable dancing might not be as difficult as you think.
Little Red Wagons and Social Dancing. Yes there is a connection.
For Women Only. A few suggestions about being a better follower.
For Men Only. A few suggestions about being a better leader.
Clothing and Hygiene . Suggestions worth considering.
Health and Dance. Observations about how dance can affect health.
Ear Plugs. Though they shouldn't be necessary, sometimes they are a better option than staying at home.
Health and Economic Concerns. There are a few dangers to ballroom dance. Here are some suggestion as to how to avoid them.
New Profession. Though general in nature, this brief assessment of the meaning of professional goes directly to social and economic issues related to dance, especially dance instruction, a profession replete with more profiteering and tradition than credible practice and knowledge advancement.

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Dance Management. Ideas and guidelines for clubs and studios.

Improving the Dance Lesson. Three suggestions for the volunteer dance teacher.
Table Top Tips.
My collection of Table Top Tips for dances is now available as PDF files. Enjoy. Feedback appreciated.
Conversation about Dance. An open "letter" to all dance clubs and organizations.
Instructional Design for Dance Teachers. An opportunity for a studio or independent group of teachers to apply the principles of systematic instructional design to their dance curriculum.
Who's Framing Whom? Some suggestions for dance organizations on improving the overall quality of dance.
The Pre-Dance Lesson: So, you think you'll learn something? A little insight into the economics of the "free" lesson.
The Pre- Dance Lesson: Functional or Futile? The pre-dance lesson is often an exercise in futility; there is little hope that the content will be retained.
The Pre-Dance Lesson: Intentionally Efficacious. It is not difficult to plan a pre-dance lesson that will achieve a purpose beyond transient entertainment.
Sound Sound Guidelines. At a dance, there are two, predominant sound categories, music and conversation. The interaction of these is critical to our comfort.
The Dance Band. Dance bands should conform to limitations shunned by many other musical groups.
Music Ethics. Though most venues ignore the facts of nature regarding hearing and sound levels, nature does not, and clientele suffer the consequences.
Healthy Sound. Brief, to the point, easily understood, and irrefutable guideline for insuring a healthy sound environment.
Things We Don't Know About Dance. Lack of assessment within dance organizations makes the sport less than it could be.
Tempos. Details for some quick and easy methods of determining tempos of dance music.
SQQ and the Variety Dance Mix. Selecting music for a dance, or establishing music policies for ballroom dance clubs is not a simple task. Even so, any solution to this dilemma has a common implication for the beginner.
Selection Policy. Overtly or covertly, every venue has a "Selection Policy." Unfortunately, many venue managers either won't acknowledge it or don't recognize it.
Music Policies. An argument that the music policy statement is the defining component of any dance club or organization.
The "Line of Dance" mixer minimizes congestion and increases efficiency. The descriptive graphic should be sufficient to make the case, but if you really think that the "waterfall" mixer is worthwhile, see Dance Mixer Comparison.
Pedagogy: the antithesis of dance instruction. A scholarly critique of the design of most studio dances classes.
Necessary and Sufficient. An argument for literate, informative memos even when directed to a familiar audience. If you ever send, or even forward, email of announcements for special events, this article is worth your consideration.

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Resources. Venues, organizations, and vendors.

Dance Venues and Organizations. Places to go to dance.
Dance Shoes. Opinions, explanations, and recommendations.

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References. Courses, class materials, notes, and activities.

Ballroom Basics, a highly recommended foundation class for beginning ballroom dance and a good choice for the experienced dancer who knows more about "steps" than they do about "dancing."
Why Ballroom Basics? The rationale for a course not found in the traditional dance curriculum.
Curriculum. Course list with brief descriptions.
Peer Assessment. We usually know when we are comfortable. Sharing our comfort and discomfort among friends can lead to collective improvement of dance.
Ballroom Dance Patterns. A little bit about everything.
Cadence. This article links to four, PDF files on dance cadences. Though similar to the article, Ballroom Dance Patterns, the PDF format enables better alignment of cadence symbols with musical beats.
Taxonomy. For students of Ballroom Basics, here are some terms to go with the linear variations we discovered and discussed in class. I think you will find them easily understood, meaningful, and perhaps helpful.

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Pedagogy and the relationship of psychology and learning theories to the teaching of dance.

Teachers of social ballroom dance canít agree on a methodology,
thus their whole enterprise is fraudulent,
because agreement on the fundamentals of method
is the first essential requirement for any community of experts
to be considered an objective profession.

"America’s social dance curriculum could hardly be designed better to restrict retention and limit the quality of social dance." J M Nelson, 2009

New An Answer to Critics. A defense of my criticism of dance pedagogy as currently practiced, and a challenge to those who presume to reject to my arguments. It is not from a dislike of the teaching of partner dance that these criticisms are offered; rather, it is a genuine enthusiasm for partner dance and the desire to see it effectively and efficiently taught as a healthy, enjoyable, and rewarding activity.
Principles of Learning and the Teaching of Social Ballroom Dance, an article in three parts. The first part reviews briefly those aspects of the psychology of learning most relevant to the teaching of ballroom dance. Included are principles of behaviorism, cognitive learning, and sensory-motor learning. The second article describes some of the implications of those principles for the dance lesson. The third deals with the application of Instructional Systems Design (ISD) to the dance curriculum.
Teaching for Competence, Confidence, and Comfort. It is way past time for our knowledge of human learning to be applied the dance lesson.
Ways to Minimize Learning in a Partner Dance Lesson. A positive spin on the negative aspects of the traditional dance lesson.
Why It Fails, How to Fix It. "It" is the beginning ballroom dance lesson. This short article explains why it is doomed from the onset and offers some changes that will assure greater success.
Teaching. The essence of teaching summarized in one page.
Theory. Everyone seems to have one, valid or not.
Dance Instruction and the Psychology of Learning.
This article will summarize a few principles of learning that seem particularly applicable to social dance instruction and offer a few, common examples of the consequences of their being ignored.
Learning Theory and the Social Ballroom Dance Curriculum
a summary of what went wrong in the development of the dance curriculum.
Pedagogy and the Dance Lesson.
A brief perspective on the influence, or lack thereof, of principles of learning on the dance lesson.
Reflections on Teaching. A short essay on the role of teaching in our culture.
Curricula. If we were to consider the typical ballroom dance curriculum in relation to our public school curriculum, we would easily conclude that even elementary aspects of curriculum design are lacking in the typical ballroom lesson.
The Dance Student: Idiot or Genius? Dance studios often treat their students as both idiots and geniuses, rarely as normal.
Pedagogy: the antithesis of dance instruction. An essay on the reasons why dance instruction is so inefficient, ineffective, and frustrating.
Critical Comparisons . A succinct chart contrasting Ballroom Basics with traditional methods.
Why My Ballroom Dance Classes are Better. At least why I think so.
Teaching Ballroom Dance. The story behind the evolution of an alternative approach.
Applied Theory. How facts about short term memory influenced the scope and sequence of the contents of Ballroom Basics.
Learning Theories. Notes on the application of research to teaching.
Ballroom Dance Task Assessment. Things you need to know and do to be able to dance.
A Side By Side Comparison of the traditional and the Nelson Studio approaches to ballroom dance.
Credentials. Ok, so who is J M Nelson, and why does he think he can teach ballroom dance?
How NOT to Teach. Two accounts of lessons that were horrible almost beyond description, but I tried describing them anyway.
Instructional Systems Design Links. A list of online resources.

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Copyright (c) 2006, J. M. Nelson. All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited without prior permission from the author.