If you are reading this, chances are you know a thing or two about the importance of partner connection in ballroom dancing. Indeed, without connection, what’s the point of dancing together at all? This article is here to provide you with a quick reference sheet you can refer back to if you ever run into trouble with your connection.
The more we understand a skill like partner connection, the more we ‘unpackage it’, to reveal smaller skills that aren’t as difficult, but we must combine them to create an awesome experience.
Here’s how one might unpackage the connection skill:
Level 1: What is connection?
Connection is simply the means by which you move together in partnership on the dance floor. If you were to call your friend in Africa, the phone service that keeps you from looking like a crazy person is your connection to that person. Partner dancing is also a conversation, but one told through our body (which, after all, is a lot more versatile than a tongue and a set of vocal cords).
Level 2: What makes connection work?
On the second level, we divide connection into the three primary skills that make it ‘go’.
Frame is the placement of our arms and body, to create room for our partner. Most frames involve some form of physical contact, like closed position or promenade position. A few connections have no contact and are visual only.
Movement is how we travel with our partner, and how we guide and respond to them. To use the phone analogy, our frame is the phone itself, while movement is the electric signals your phone sends and receives to keep the conversation going.
Pressure is the force we apply to our partner to know what they are going to do next. It’s like the antenna (or the phone cord, if you’re old enough to remember those) that connects your calls and makes a conversation possible. Through the magic of compression (pushing) and leverage (pulling), you know exactly what your partner is planning to do, before they take a step.
Level 3: The details
These smaller details are like background pedestrians in a film: you won’t notice them, unless they go missing!
Hands in centre keeps you from collapsing your frame or invading your partner’s space. Picture you and your partner as two positively charged magnets, each repelling your clasped hands toward the middle.
Hand placement is the way your palms connect to your partner to ensure they don’t slide off but ‘stick’ during a dance. For instance, we usually ‘hook’ our hand holds together with palm and four fingers, so we can apply both compression and leverage without losing grip.
Lock-in the joints maintains muscle tension in the wrists, elbows and shoulders, enough that your frame will bend with resistance, and snap back into place when released.
Move from the centre requires you to initiate every action, from the centre of your solar plexus (just under the ribcage). Moving from the centre helps your connection look more natural, and less like a sumo wrestling match.
Weight on balls refers to shifting your weight forward to the balls of your feet. Your frame must move forward with your body, so it doesn’t collapse inwards. If you feel like you will fall if your partner removes their arms, pull back slightly.
Energy forward means applying pressure on your partner’s frame. Think about pushing from your back muscles, and continue ‘extending’ that pressure through the arms and out the palms of your hands. This pressure can switch to the fingers to create a pulling action when needed.