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

Who's Framing Whom?

This is an opinion article, yet I think an objective assessment would validate its thesis. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a way to collect appropriate data. I will offer my perception here and see if anyone agrees with either the thesis or the proposed response. The testable hypothesis: a major inhibitor to enjoyable social dancing is the lack of attention to the dance frame on the part of both leaders and followers.

This thesis has been confirmed through experience in dance venues in several geographic regions, and almost all dancers with whom I have discussed the aforementioned hypothesis have agreed. Dance instructors have given a wide range of excuses for lack of emphasis on frame. The typical club response has been that patrons of the pre-dance lesson rather learn steps. Though most dance organization leaders agree with me, none have considered addressing the issue seriously.

Thus my curiosity as to how this issue might be addressed nationally, from both the leadership perspective and the dance club or chapter perspective. First, the leadership; if you are reading this anywhere other than my web site, at least a few leaders, minimally an editor of a publication, agrees. Now, on to the clubs and chapters, those who have acted, and those who have not.

With so many others agreeing with my assessment, perhaps some local leaders have made similar observations and taken action. If so, please publish your story, or, as an alternate, send your comments to me and I will try to include them in a follow up article on this topic. I would be particularly interested in your reasoning, your planning, your actions, and the consequence. Data from surveys, opinion polls, or committee meetings would be insightful. Those clubs or chapters who generally agree yet have not acted, please consider the following recommendations, and, please, if you try any of them in any form, submit an article or let me know so that I can include your findings in a follow up article.

Recommendations. Assuming that patrons rather learn "steps" in the pre-dance lesson, and that many in the pre-dance lesson already have satisfactory lead/follow abilities, perhaps the pre-dance lesson is not the best place for addressing such a presumed deficiency. Furthermore, many who lack a good frame might well not arrive until the dance has begun anyway. This issue might best be addressed in a manner other than the pre-dance lesson, especially since many groups charge extra for the lesson, which most expect to be style/step specific. Thus the response needs to be during the dance, whether direct or indirect.

Indirect Response. If there is an area available, provide a volunteer coach, and let it be known that any couple desiring coaching need only to ask to receive a bit of free coaching. Experienced dancers will soon learn that, having a problem with a partner, they could suggest that they visit the "coaching room" to see if they can ascertain why their attempt at a particular variation failed. With their willingness to accept criticism, it would be difficult for their partner to decline. It would also be a safe way to gain some improvement in the dance for an otherwise desirable partner who we rather not risk insulting by attempting to address their problem directly. And, it might not always be "their" problem. If the "coaching room" also served as a semiprivate practice area, so much the better.

Direct Response. During the dance, perhaps just prior to a mixer, announce openly that their will be a brief review of some of the fundamentals, as a reminder for the experienced and perhaps a mini-lesson for the inexperienced. Then review the closed and open frame, its role in lead and follow, and even provide a few examples of the consequences of breaking frame. A technique I have suggested is to briefly explain what each should feel, have couples dance few seconds, then stop and discuss their connection. Change partners, and repeat. After each dancer has experienced three or four mini-assessments, suggest that if someone heard the same complement or criticism more than twice, they might consider taking it seriously. That would also be a good time to identify some volunteers available for a bit of coaching for those who had questions. This could be done in the space of only one song, so it would not severely impinge on either the mixer or the evening of dancing, and it might significantly improve the quality of dancing for all concerned. The mixer is also a good time to remind the dancers of Line of Dance Protocols, or "rules of the road." Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

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