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Ballroom Dance

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

Applied Theory

In 1956, Miller showed that short-term memory could only hold 5 to 9 items of information. The concept of limited capacity of short term memory soon became a basic element of all subsequent theories of memory. Though continued research explored nuances of Miller's findings, none refuted the principle of limited capacity of short term memory. Thus, one of the first principles of instructional design is to provide new information in manageable segments so as not to overload short term memory. The following is a hierarchical sequencing of ballroom dance requisites in portions that might challenge, but not overload, short term memory. Furthermore, when following this sequence, care is taken not to exceed these quantities lest the additional items be remembered and the critical items listed be forgotten.

Of necessity, other dance classes might exceed these theoretical guidelines because of unpredictable entry behavior and student expectations. In contrast, Ballroom Basics, by presuming only walking and cursory knowledge of western musical forms, is offered with complete confidence in its effectiveness because of it adherence to the most basic of instructional design principles. Herewith is the underlying structure, based on known characteristics of short term memory, that supports the claim that Ballroom Basics is the best place to begin to learn ballroom dance.

Lesson 1 - Progressive and non progressive box, 5 items
Requisite: walking and familiarity with western music, 3/4 and 4/4
1. Step normally: forward, backward, to the side.
2. Move counterclockwise around the room
3. One-step: step on each beat.
4. Tap is a pseudo step where the moving foot pauses, no weight shift, continues.
5. Two-Step: step on beats 1, 3, and 4; tap on beat 2.
Activity: practice basic steps as outlined in handout

Lesson 2 - Closed Frame, 5 items.
Requisite: Activities for lesson 1
1. Juxtapose slightly to left
2. Arms flexibly firm
3. Extended arm position
4. Non-extended arm position
5. Parallel planes: torsos, hands/elbows
Activity: practice basic steps in closed frame as outlined in handout

Lesson 3 - Floor navigation, 5 items
Requisite: Activities for lesson 2
1. Outside partner
2. Promenade
3. Twinkle (exactly one step in promanade)
4. Progressive mode
5. Non-progressive mode
Activity: practice steps as outlined in handout

Lesson 4 - Breaks, 4 items
Requisite: Activities for lesson 3
1. Closed
2. Outside partner
3. Open fore
4. Open aft

Lesson 5 - Underarm turns, 4 items
Requisite: Activities for lesson 4
1. Arm position
2. Pivot/socket connection
3. Push turn
4. Pull turn
Activity: practice steps as outlined in handout

Lesson 6 - Sequencing and styling, 5 items
Requisite: Activities for lesson 5
1. American style
2. Waltz style
3. Latin style.
4. Pull turn into twinkle.
5. Outside partner into push turn.

For an overview of how this relates to dance lessons, see Why Our Ballroom Dance Classes are Better. At least why I think so.

For a summary of some related learning theories, see Learning Theories

For an outline of the task analysis, see Dance Instruction Assessment

For more about the relationship between the traditional and the Nelson approach, see A Side By Side Comparison

For more about how this approach evolved, see: Teaching Ballroom Dance: A Rationale For an Alternative Approach 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.