Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Ballroom Dance

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

The Down Side of Politeness

Politeness on the dance floor tends to preclude much experiential improvement for either the leader or the follower. Women, especially, often feel obligated to apologize for perceived errors, and, in the process, take responsibility for leader, as well as follower, errors, the former often not even recognized by the errant leader. Contemporaneously, leaders often presume that the error was in the follower rather than their lead. Both members of the partnership tend to assume that the error is associated with not knowing the "step" or having learned different versions of the "step."

These perceptions seem to be a logical consequence of the emphasis on "steps" in dance teaching/learning. Learners in a group class or pre-dance lesson, the dominant forms of dance instruction in our culture, come to depend on common experiences, rather than lead and follow techniques, in order to implement a "step." Thus there is a perceived need by most dancers for learning more "steps." This attitude is good for the teachers, who seem to teach the same group of "steps" to a continuous string of subsets of the community of dancers, for it keeps the clientele coming back, relearning, and subsequently "reforgetting."

Neither seem to realize, or, if they do, acknowledge, that the problem is not with the "step." Step in dance, especially social dance, can be taught with two words, a verb and an adverb, namely, "step normally." More often the problem with "step" on the dance floor is that the dancer somehow seems to think that they need to change the way that they step when dancing. Perhaps they do, but that change seems best to come well into one's dance career, not at the beginning, where there are much more important elements to learn. Observations of the best instruction on the mechanics of dance footwork reveal that, in essence, they describe the way we step in our normal activities. Watch people walk, work, and shop, describe the way that they step, and you will be very close to the descriptions provided in the best of footwork instruction. Furthermore, if you describe the body motions, you will also include much of that aspect of formal dance instruction as well, and certainly those aspects important to the social dancer.

Learn as many "steps" as you want, but note that no amount of steps can compensate for the lack of frame and the associated lead/follow potential that a good dance frame creates. If you eschew frame, then perhaps you best join the Round Dance community. Social dancers step normally, allow the music and cadence to determine when to step, and depend on their connection, dance frame, to enable them to move comfortably, cooperatively, symmetrically, and enjoyably along the line of dance or within their circle or slot.

If you can step to the music, and know the cadence of the dance style in question, ineptness on the dance floor is almost invariably attributable to neglect of frame.

This realization might well alter the manner of exchanges on the dance floor. To wit, when verbally communicating following a missed lead, followers might quit apologizing and simply ask: what did you do, that I apparently missed, that kept me from doing what you expected me to do?

Related Readings:

Social Ballroom Dance. A summary document. See section on the dance frame.
Partner Dancing: The Dance Frame. The problem with freestyle dancing is that there is no connection with your dance partner;
all too often, social ballroom dancing exhibits the same problem.

© 2008, J M Nelson 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.