So, you still want more? Now that we’ve used our new connecting skills with our simple leads and follows, let’s delve into some of the advanced dance partner tricks that will give your connection a special smoothness and fluidity. 
Continue reading “Dance Partner Tricks for Connecting”

As they say, the devil is in the details. When we lead and follow in a ballroom dance for instance, our movements combine lots of little elements to create this wonderful thing called ‘connection’. Continue reading “How to Connect With Your Partner”

So, now we know how important good posture is for your health, your confidence, and of course, your look on the dance floor. Now it’s time to tackle the secrets of achieving perfect posture. Let’s start by taking a look at what needs improving.

Checking Your Posture

To make this easier, put on something form-fitting. Not much point trying to find perfect posture if you’re sporting size 50 fishing pants on your size 35 waist.

Stand as tall as you can with a mirror showing your profile, and look for these signs of a perfect posture:

  1. Head: Is the chin parallel to the floor? Is your ear over the mid-point of your shoulder?
  2. Chest and back: Is your back straight so your shoulder blade is invisible? Are the shoulders, ribs, and hips stacked on top of each other?
  3. Pelvis and hips: Is the pelvis following the natural curve of the spine? Is it at the midpoint between tucked forward and sticking backward?
  4. Legs: Are the hips, knees, and balls of the feet stacked above each other? Can you bend your knees and still keep a neutral pelvis?
  5. Feet: Does your weight settle towards the ball of the foot, and between the second and third toes? Does your weight roll through the centre of your foot when you take a step?

Creating Perfect Posture

Developing perfect posture will feel uncomfortable at first. After all, if it felt comfortable, you wouldn’t need to change it! Eventually, it will feel easier to hold your body in this healthier way.

  1. Be a superman: Superman never had to worry about perfect posture, did he? Imagine yourself as a hero, winning a medal of honour. This will cause your body to stand tall, and puff the chest out proudly. The feeling should be of lifting the ribs, not arching the back.
  2. Weigh down the shoulders: Roll the shoulders in a semi-circle, forward-down-back, then reverse. Now, pause at the lowest point, and gently pull down further with your back muscles (click here for more on that).
  3. Flatten the stomach: Imagine pulling in and upwards with your gut, like you’re trying to make yourself look slimmer. I think of it as pulling towards the spine and upwards toward the ribs.
  4. Rock the pelvis: As with the shoulders, rocking the pelvis back and forward, then finding the midpoint in between is a great way to line it up with the spine.
  5. Sink the hips: Strap on a weighted coin belt, or just imagine it pulling down on your hips, and gently

bending the knees. At no point in ballroom dancing should the knees ever go ramrod straight, or you risk injury.

Roll with the arches:

If you can do all the above and still breathe, try walking forwards and backwards. The weight should roll through the centre of your foot. Walk facing a mirror to make sure you aren’t collapsing inward or outward with the ankles and knees.

Your spine will react to the adjusts you make, but never try to force the shape of your spine to change – adjust the coat, not the coatrack!

While working on your perfect posture, you may sometimes get pain, stiffness, or other physical challenges as your body learns a new way to move. Next week, we’ll look at some of the common posture issues and a simple fix for each. Until then!

Now that we’ve a general idea of how to get the most from your dance practice, let’s look at three common issues all dancers face and how to resolve them by asking questions and experimenting.

To improve your dancing without an instructor, you must be patient and observant of what feels comfortable, balanced, and smooth… and what does not. Continue reading “How to Improve Your Dancing Without Help, Part 2”

So now that you’ve started to build your dance repertoire, you might notice that you’re actually starting to get ‘danced out’. You watch with envy those guys and gals who seem to be able to shake it non-stop – and they’re still there when you’re packing up your shoes. How can you raise your dance stamina to keep up?

There’s two quick answers: improve your physical fitness, and improve your dance efficiency.

We are talking about dance stamina, which is very different from strength. The latter requires a very different approach.

1. Practice!

I can hear your groans from here,  But it’s true – if you want to build your endurance, practicing your steps at the intensity that tires you regularly will allow you to do it longer and longer – and naturally you’ll get better at the steps as well.

Make sure you pace yourself. The fastest way to improve is to set an intensity that stops short of pulling muscles or frustrating yourself.

2. Less is more

Most dancers start out doing everything too much: too much hips, too much arm styling, too much turning… You get the idea. All that extra energy just drains your dance stamina, and throws off your partner as well. See if you can relax your body a little more, do a little less, and still move with your partner.

3. Consider a dance fitness class

Many studios teach dance classes that focus on burning calories. For example, Zumba, Nia, and Ginga classes, which vary in their intensity. You might even try a style like capoera that can’t help but strengthen your body simply because it’s the nature of the dance.

4. Hang From the Joints

Try this: position yourself in a dance frame with an imaginary partner. Now, relax as much as you can without loosing the frame. You’ll find it a lot easier to hold the position, while spending a minimal amount of energy holding your body at the right angles. Practice dancing like this, alone and with a partner, to keep soft and save your dance stamina.

5. Fill the Music

In ballroom, movements should be spread out to fill each beat. For instance, if you begin a waltz reverse turn by rotating your body, hips and feet leftward on count 1, if will be MUCH easier to complete the turn on steps 2, 3. It’s a smoother lead too, which will score you more dance partners.

Other movements, like open breaks or contra checks, can save dance stamina if the lead is initiated a fraction of a second earlier – it’s all about being comfortable enough with your steps to anticipate the action just before it happens.

I’m not giving followers permission to back-lead here. But be ready for these subtle lead changes, and you will work with your partner – not against him.

We’ve all seen it – the elegant couple gliding across the floor, flowing up and down without a bump. It’s just one of those little details that separate the good dancers from the great ones. But here’s the thing: It’s not that difficult to start using it. 
Continue reading “Ballroom Rise and Fall Part One: 5 Essential Tips”

Welcome to one of the most overlooked elements in beginner ballroom dancing – and one of the most important. Step on your partner’s feet a lot? Feel off balance frequently? Having trouble connecting with your partner, or feeling the lead or follow? You can blame most of that on a poor ballroom frame.

The ballroom frame has many definitions, but my favourite is one quoted teacher and friend, Arpad Raymond: 
Continue reading “The Basics of Ballroom Dance Frame”

Previously, we discussed some of the assumptions leaders make that can hold back their ability to effectively connect with their partner. Now it’s time to look at the techniques that actually help you get your partner from point A to point B – and keeping her smiling on the way. 
Continue reading “Leading VS Following – Part Four”