Everyone needs the basics. If you are beginner, knowing and perfecting the basics will make everything else you do easier and look better. If you are advanced, the minute you forget or gloss over the basics, is the same minute you will start to slide back.
The most basic of the basics is to connect to your partner, then move. That’s what we will focus on here in Connect and Move: 12 Tips For These Critical Ballroom Basics.
In Standard and in closed positions in Smooth, lack of good posture and frame will impact everything in your dancing and set an impression even before you start.
- The elbows of both partners should be in line with their own shoulders. Not dropped, not elevated and never having one out of line with the other. Height differences between partners are addressed through bending of knees, not dropping of elbows. Shape is also through the bending of knees, while maintaining alignment with the body. Just remember that the position of the arms does not change.
- The leader’s left palm should be perfectly flat and forward facing to invite a connection to the follower’s right palm. The leader then places his wrist on the edge of the follower’s underarm and his hand under her shoulder blade.
- The follower’s thumb and wrist should be perfectly in line with the leader’s arm as she places her hand on his arm. The follower’s hand and upper arm should be placed lightly so it does not create weight on the leader’s arm.
- In Tango the left forearm of the leader and the right forearm of the follower are positioned slightly lower (or flatter to the floor) than in the other dances. This matches the feel of the lowered body position that is created by more lowering of the knees in Tango than in swing dances. This more compact position makes Tango’s sharp movement easier, and gives the dance a more grounded and aggressive look.
- For both partners, the neck should be pulled back to ensure that it is in line with the spine. The belly should be pulled in. The chest should be flat and down. And the butt should be tucked in. This is all to prevent a sway in the spine and broken lines.
- Body contact is made on the right forward facing side of each partner’s body. The follower is invited to make contact and is the one who is responsible for establishing it. The contact extends from the follower’s upper thigh to mid torso. This contact then sets the base for a comfortable stretch.
Once connected properly, you now are ready to move.
The other key basic, is quality of movement. When people refer to quality of movement it largely means movement that is clear, has well executed technique and looks purposeful.
- It is best if you think of movements or actions rather than steps, even if you mean steps. The word step makes people think of foot placements. This is important, but movement is more likely to have you think of your whole body, which is much more appropriate for what is needed in good dancing.
- First and foremost, your movement must never disrupt your partner. The contact for closed, promenade and outside partner positions are simply variations on how each body is oriented to the other. It is important to remember that within each of these orientations, the body position of each partner is maintained in a static way. You can stretch. You may shape. You might even bend, but no wiggles or shakes.
- Movement across the floor is initiated with a lowering of the knees-down and forward. The lowering allows you to push off the standing leg to move with greater power and reach. In swing dances it is also important to keep both feet on the ground and move by sliding your feet.
- Each movement is actually the result of a weight shift. Being very aware of the need for the weight shift will add clarity and a look of purposefulness to each move. Movement is much more balanced and elegant when the weight shift from one foot to another is clear, and ends with your body in perfect alignment over one foot.
- In general, your feet are always parallel to each other. As well, when turning, the foot that you turn on is placed straight forward, before you swivel on the ball. This supports balance, length in your strides, and the clarity of movement that was mentioned before.
- Never wrinkle your sides. It is tempting when moving, turning or swaying to inadvertently drop one side or another. This can happen even if you are vigilant about maintaining the position of your elbows, and may look particularly broken if arms are up while you drop a side. Think about keeping the line of each side perfectly smooth, without wrinkles or creases, and you will maintain a position that can then be beautifully finished with properly positioned arms.
For more, take a look at the The Super 7 Tips on Ballroom