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Ballroom Dance

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


Principles of Partner Dancing
for the Minimalist

How to Step. Stand up straight and step smoothly and normally, as in walking.

When to Step. The music and cadence (dance style) determine when we step. Stay in cadence.

Where to Step. The partnership determines where to step. Cooperate in lead/follow as conveyed through the dance frame, Line of Dance as a social convention, adjustments to floor traffic, and principles of symmetry and position. Followers are to lead as necessary.

Dance Frame. The dance frame provides the physical connection for the partnership. Keep clasped hands together and slightly relaxed. Elbows slightly forward of torso, never backward of torso, extended arms flexibly firm and in place, torsos parallel when in closed position and shifted slightly to the left so that right feet track between partner's feet and left feet track outside partner. Do not grip, squeeze or hold any portion of your partner between your thumb and fingers! You cannot learn enough "steps" to compensate for a poor dance frame.

Closed Frame - clasp hands of extended arms near nose height of shorter partner, leader's right hand against follower's left shoulder blade with wrist at back of follower's arm pit; keep fingers together. Follower's left arm along leader's right arm, with hand resting comfortably at its natural position along leader's arm.

Open Frame - upper arms near vertical, elbows near side or slightly forward of torso, lower arms parallel to floor or slightly downward, hands gently clasped, leader's fingers parallel to floor, follower's fingers pointing downward. Do not fully extend arm!

Symmetry. Cooperate in maintaining symmetry, or returning to symmetry, whenever you are out of position. Closed Position: the line of symmetry is the imaginary line through the clasped hands and the overlapped elbows. Open Position: the line of symmetry is the imaginary line through the clasped hands.

Leading. Maintain partner's frame whenever possible. Use pressure points to indicate direction. Begin a directional lead in time for partner to react. Adjust to partner's ability. Cooperate in maintaining symmetry and position.

Following. Maintain frame whenever possible. Be amenable to following the direction of pressure. Adjust to partner's ability. Cooperate in maintaining symmetry and position.

Hygiene. Come to a dance clean in body, mind, and clothing. Avoid cologne and perfume, especially on places that touch your partner.

Do not sway hips, shoulders, or torso from side to side. Do not wave arms up and down like a conductor. Do not bounce head, torso, or any other bodily parts up and down. Do not allow arms to drift behind torso plane. Do not confuse your partner with an improvised cadence. (In most partner dancing, it is disrespectful to disregard established dance cadences. If you wish to make up your own cadence, then forgo partner dancing and dance freestyle.)

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