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Ballroom Dance

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

Exploring the Basics

Though this article is written for SQQ (Foxtrot, Rumba, Bolero) cadence, the concept is applicable to almost any dance cadence and style. The exploration suggestions also include an intermediate connection that beginners should consider to help them maintain position, feel the lead, and mutually assess footwork.

Assessment. Whether working individually or with a partner, regular assessment will help keep you aware of your attention to critical elements of dance. Warning! Perfectionists should approach assessment with a modicum of restraint lest they become frustrated with themselves and an unbearable irritant to their practice partner. The nonchalant should approach assessment with at least enough seriousness to insure that their partner will not become frustrated with their lack of concern. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and/or to observe with your practice partner.

Was that a step? (Was weight shifted exactly one time from one foot to the other?)
Was that step normal? (i.e. in place, forward, backward, or to the side)
Am I stepping at the appropriate time as indicated by the cadence and the music?

Are my arms in an appropriate orientation?
Are my hands in an appropriate position?
Am I going beyond the necessary and sufficient? (e.g. gripping or pinching)
Am I maintaining appropriate firmness and flexibility?

Am I feeling gentle pressure at the appropriate time and at the appropriate places?
Am I initiating/responding in an appropriate and timely manner?

Stick Frame. For the following questions, in addition to the traditional open and closed frame, beginners might find the stick frame a valuable learning tool. Use a stick of about 30 to 36 inches in length. This could be a yard stick, section of a device handle, or a length of plastic pipe. Connect with your partner via an open frame with your hands near the ends, preferably with each partner's left hand at an end. The stick helps define the interim plane between torsos, it helps beginners feel the gentle pressure associated with lead and follow, and it enables dancers to begin to feel the subtle shifts of weight and position in preparation for a change in direction. Exchanging roles using a stick frame also helps develop appreciation for skills associated with leading and following. See Staying Connected for more details about frame.

Consider each of the following questions from both open and closed position.

What are the options for our first step?
With first step taken, what are the options for the second step?
With second step taken, what are the options for the third step?
What orientations/juxtapositions might we make as we shift weight?
Which of these options seem practical and potentially comfortable?

Exploration of the above might well lead to the discovery of an entire dance syllabus of variations without ever having to learn the formal terminology. 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.