FOOTNOTES Articles for Dancers
FIRST STEPS YOUR FIRST DANCE
WHAT IS MEANT BY PRACTICAL USE?
THE PRIMARY DANCES DANCER'S QUIZ
PRECISION LEADING HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN TO DANCE?
A Simple Introduction to Partner Dancing
By Wanda Deagen
There are many approaches to teaching partner dancing. My personal belief is that we all have a dancer inside us, and the process of learning is simply finding that dancer and inviting him to come out. Whatever the belief, learning to dance should be approached with simplicity. We must remember that most of the move-ments we use in dancing are the same movements we use in our day-to-day lives without ever thinking about them.
While it is true that becoming proficient in our skills will take time and practice, gaining a mental understanding of how ... continue
The following dances are used to teach the primary movements and mechanics of partner
Fox Trot / Texas Two Step -- introduces students to Magic rhythm - slow, slow, quick, quick;
teaches traveling movement around the line of dance; introduces closed rotations to the right
Waltz -- introduces students to 3/4 timing -- 1-2-3; teaches sideward movements and leg
swing; introduces closed rotations to the left
Rumba -- introduces basic Latin (or Box) rhythm - slow, quick, quick; teaches stationary
movement; introduces open movements with partner
Swing -- introduces triple rhythms - 1&2, 3&4; teaches hand connection and arm positioning;
One of the most popular unanswerable questions...
How long does it take to learn to dance?
I will answer that question with several other questions: How long does it take to learn science? How long does it take to learn a language? How long does it take to get in shape? How long does it take to grow up?
All of these questions deal with individual expectancy, and one's own answer to such questions would change as one progressed along. The answers to them are relative and would differ from one person to the next.
One key thing to remember is that learning to dance not only involves gaining an understanding of how it works, but continue
YOUR FIRST DANCE
As published in San Antonio Bride magazine Fall/Winter 2004
By Wanda Deagen
Of all wedding traditions, nothing seems to say “romance” quite like that first dance. The moment he takes you into his arms for your first dance as husband and wife should be memorable and meaningful – and not because he stepped on your foot!
The bride and groom dance, commonly referred to as the first dance, is a tradition nearly everyone wants as part of their wedding celebration. However, if a couple has not been dancing together throughout their courtship, this romantic tradition... continue
What is meant by
You may often see or hear references to having "practical use" of a dance or of specific patterns or techniques. What exactly does that mean? It's a good question and important information to have when choosing your courses.
Because dancing is a physical activity, defining practical use specifically will differ from one person to the next. However, the following can serve as guidelines in determining if you are at the practical use stage of a dance:
THE DANCER’S QUIZ
Test your dancer’s knowledge with this fun quiz. Answers are at the end of this section.
1. When a partner thanks you at the end of the dance, the correct response is always
- A. You're welcome.
- B. Thank YOU.
- C. You should really take some lessons.
- D. Can I have your phone number?
2. True or False -- It's okay to hold your beer can while you dance so long as you are careful not to spill any on your partner.
3. Which of the following best describes correct dance posture?
- A. long, straight back; shoulders relaxed; head level
- B. back arched; chest forward; head up
- C. stiff upper body; stomach sucked in; shoulders back
- D. just sort of draped around one's partner
4. True or False -- When the man is moving backward and the lady is moving forward, the lady takes over the lead until they turn around again.
5. This dance was considered scandalous when first introduced into the ballrooms of Europe in the early 1800's.
- A. Tango
- B. Bolero
- C. Waltz
- D. Macarena
- E. The Chicken Dance
6. This was the original version of swing dancing.
- A. Jitterbug
- B. West Coast
- C. Lindy Hop
- D. Shag
The Arnold Syndrome. That’s what I call it. That’s what we get when we hear ladies tell us over and over again that they want a “good, strong lead.” Bottom line – ladies who need a “good strong lead” in order to follow are not going to be your most sought-after partners. In fact, they may well be the ones you hide from most of the night!
What most ladies mean when they say they want a strong lead is that they want a precise lead; that is, a lead that gives them no choice buy to do what it is you have indicated. Sure, you can pump some iron, psyche yourself up and go out to a club and “force” your partners through their steps. But you probably won’t have a very good time, and you may need chiropractic treatment the next day.
The better choice is to work on developing precision leading. Precision leading does not require an abundant amount of strength; it requires... continue reading
IT'S NOT JUST WALTZ ANYMORE continued ...
It could be the song that was playing on their first date or perhaps just something they feel is touching. Some couples tend to stick with traditional slow songs, such as Etta James’ “At Last” or Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love.” Others have been a little" more adventurous with their songs and have decided on melodies like Bread’s “Chosen One” or Barry White’s“My Everything.”
Once a couple has decided on the song, we teach them a basic step -- whether it’s a society step or a swing. From there, we proceed to build their personalized dance. We understand that a first dance should not be “one size fits all”, so we make sure to take each couple’s desires and needs into consideration when creating their dance.
When picking out a song to use for your first dance, I recommend something that speaks to you. After all, you will remember your wedding day – and your first dance – for the rest of your life! No matter which song you decide to use, we will make it work for you.
If you just can’t narrow it down to one song, create a medley. You could always start off with a Two Step and finish with a Salsa! (We’ve done it before!)
A SIMPLE INTRODUCTION TO PARTNER DANCING continued ...
can – and should be! – quite easy. In fact, I write this article with the intent of providing you that mental understanding. (Wow! Now if that doesn’t make you want to read further, I don’t know what could!!!)
Learning to dance can be compared to learning a language. We begin with an alphabet, then words, then sentences… To begin to speak the language, we must learn how to group together sentences, carry on a dialogue, etc. Then if we really want to speak the language well, we work on our accent and pronunciation. Well, in dancing our basic movement elements are like the alphabet, basic steps are like words, patterns are like sentences, lead/follow is like conversing, styling is like accent, etc. TOP
So what does the “dance alphabet” consist of?
The elements of dance – what we can compare to the alphabet in a language -- are the basic directional movements that will transport the dancers from one point to another. They are as follows:
• Walking steps – forward, back, and across locomotion for the unit
• Side steps – sideward locomotion for the unit
• Rock steps – transition in locomotion for the unit How does partner dancing work?
In partner dancing, both dancers connect to each other to form a “dance unit” or “couple”. Each partner, then, has a specific role: the man’s role is to lead and the lady’s role is to follow. By lead, we mean that the man indicates, initiates, guides, inspires, and encourages. The man is the driver. By follow, we mean that the lady responds, follows through, reacts, and enhances. The lady is the vehicle.
The basic concept of lead & follow is really quite simple:
1. The man creates and maintains a frame.
2. The lady attaches herself into the frame.
3. The man and lady form a partnership that moves as a single unit.
It really is as simple as that.
Now this brings us to the area so many folks are concerned with: RHYTHM.. I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get from people who have “no sense of rhythm”. (This imaginary affliction comes in second only to the dreaded “Two Left Feet” disease) First of all, know that rhythm is an inborn sense. Now I’m not saying there aren’t some folks who keep their sense of rhythm well-hidden, :) I’m just saying most people simply need to learn what they are looking for.
In dancing, movements are executed in a rhythm so that the feet and legs of each partner can match each other’s more easily. In partner dancing, we most commonly describe rhythms in SLOW’s and QUICK’s. A SLOW is a weight change over which 2 beats of music occur. A QUICK is a weight change completed in 1 beat of music.Every dance has a primary RHYTHM PATTERN which is a recurring combination of Slow and Quick counts or syncopated beats.
The primary rhythm patterns are as follows:
Magic Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick [6 beats]
Box or Latin Slow, Quick, Quick [4 beats]
Syncopated 1&2, 3&4 [4 beats]
March 1-2-3-4 [4 beats]
Waltz or ¾ 1-2-3, 1-2-3 [3 beats]
OK, now onto the subject of TIMING. In dancing, we work with 2 different types of timing: movement timing and musical timing. Movement timing is the controlling of our weight changes, leg swings, and overall speed of locomotion to be in accord with a desired rhythm. Movement timing creates rhythmic movements. Musical timing is synchronizing our rhythmic movements to the beats of the music being danced to.
Can someone dance in rhythm and still be off time to the music? Yes, and in fact, this is what most people are doing when they are dancing “off time”. They are not sure why they are considered “off time” when they feel as if they are in rhythm. This is because they are in rhythm, but their movement rhythm is not in sync with the timing of the music.
Let us use this example to help us understand better. We all know how to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. We know the words and we know the melody. Now let’s pretend that someone is going to play the song on the piano for us to sing to. We would need to match our singing – the words and melody and the pace – to the music as it is being played. It would not work so well (or sound so great) if we just started singing any ol’ part at any ol’ time. Or at a different speed.
It’s the same with dancing. In order to dance on time to the music, we must be in rhythm with our movements and control that rhythmic movement so that it synchronizes with the beats of the music. Dancing is like singing with your body.
If it really is simple, why does it take time?
Simple and easy are two different things. Learning to dance is like learning to play a sport. Golf? Ok, you hold this stick kind of thing and try to knock a little ball into a hole. Pretty simple concept, huh? But we all know it takes a whole lot more than knowing what to do. It's the HOW that takes time.To learn partner dancing, we need accurate and consistent instruction, a commitment to practicing on a regular basis, and time for it to become natural to our bodies.
Stay tuned for a follow-up article in FIRST STEPS in which we will discuss the basic mechanics of partner dancing.
Your dance-related questions are always welcome. We will try to cover them in future articles.
Email us today.
© 2005 by Wanda Deagen. No parts of this article may be used or reprinted without permission.
YOUR FIRST DANCE continued...
can become a task that many couples are not sure how to tackle.
After all, you want everything to be perfect, right? What bride would not want her first dance to be just like Cinderella at the ball? Well, there are some simple steps you and your Prince Charming can take to make sure your first dance is just as special.
Unless you and your fiancé already dance together and are satisfied with your skills, you should consider getting professional instruction. This can be done at a dance studio or with an independent instructor, through private lessons or group class instruction. Because you will be preparing for a very specific event – your first dance – private instruction is much better suited to your needs since you and your fiancé would be working one-on-one with your instructor. If you do choose group classes, know that your learning will be more general and your progress will not be as fast.
This brings us to the next important point: allow yourselves plenty of time. I cannot tell you how often I get a call at the beginning of the week from a bride who is getting married “this weekend” and thinks she and her fiancé can cram for their wedding dance like they would cram for a final exam. It’s just not practical. Dancing, like any other sport or physical activity, must be learned through repetition in order for it to become natural to your body, and this takes time.
I recommend couples allow from 3 to 6 months preparing depending on how elaborate they want their dancing to be. Will you be having general dancing at your reception? If so, you will want to prepare for that as well. You also need time just to practice.
Next, you want to select the special song you and your husband-to-be will be dancing to. For many years, a waltz was the traditional first dance; now couples choose a song that has meaning for them and dance what fits the song. Fox trot, night club, two step, rumba, tango – even swing! – are just some of the dances many couples are now choosing. If you do not have a song picked out your instructor can help you choose one.
When selecting an instructor, be sure you ask about his or her experience with wedding couples. An instructor experienced with wedding events will think of things that might not occur to you -- bustling your gown, practicing in your formal shoes, talking to your bandleader or deejay about your music, preparing dad for father-of-the-bride dance, the dollar dance, and a whole list of other things specific to brides and grooms. TOP
Make some phone calls and take time to visit with an instructor over the phone before scheduling a lesson. It is of utmost importance that you and your fiancé feel comfortable with the instructor you choose. As you might guess, sometimes guys are a little reluctant to take dance lessons to begin with, so be sure you find an instructor who makes learning for him fun and easy.
You prepare for all the other aspects of your wedding, don’t leave your first dance in the hands of a fairy godmother… get professional instruction!
Good luck, Cinderella.
WHAT IS MEANT BY PRACTICAL USE? continued...
- You have had actual experience on the dance floor. (This means you have danced outside of your kitchen!)
- You know the etiquette for social dancing and you know the etiquette for our studio’s classes.
- You are able to maintain your basic mechanics (posture, position, and center) with basic consistency.
- You are able to adapt to a variety of partners.
- You are able to recognize what to dance to what music and keep in time to the music.
- You are able to dance and talk at the same time.
- You have an understanding of HOW dancing works and HOW to learn.
- You are familiar with the terms and pattern names that are used in class.
- You practice on your own. TOP
ANSWERS TO THE DANCER'S QUIZZ
1. B – When a partner thanks you at the end of the dance the correct response is always to say "thank you" in return. We assume the dance was mutually enjoyable.
2. False. It is never appropriate to dance with your beer in your hand. It is also not quite proper to quickly "chug-a-lug" the rest of your beer down while walking the lady to the floor.
3. A -- The basics in dance posture are the key ingredients for good posture in general. One should stand with the back in a long, straight back -- feeling lifted through the crown of the head and ground through the tailbone. The shoulder area should be tension-free and one's head should be held in a way that creates the most distance between the tops of the shoulders and the ear lobs. Arching the back will cause everything else to align incorrectly. One should keep in mind that holding your head up (as opposed to level) or pushing one's chest forward will cause the back to arch. Also, if your knees are straight you will force arch into your back.
4. False. The man is always in charge on the dance floor. When the lady is moving forward she must move forward with her own volition so as not to force the man to have to pull her (pulling will always cause you to be off balance), but he is still in charge.
5. C -- When the waltz was first introduced into the ballrooms of Europe in the early 1800's it was met with outrage. Why? It was the first dance that ever required the man to touch the lady in an intimate place. Where would that be? Why, her waist, of course! But within the next 20 years, it became socially acceptable to "hold" the lady while dancing, and our modern version of dance position was born.
6. C -- The original version of swing dancing was really a stew pot of improvised moves stemming from the animal dances of the late 1800's, Vaudeville show dances such as the Cakewalk, and the Charleston of the 1920's. It eventually became known as Lindy Hop when a newspaper reporter, having interviewed swing dancers at a club the night before, wrote that one of the dancers had called it that. It was later explained by that dancer that he didn't know what to call it, but when put on the spot to give it a name, he happened to glance at a newspaper that was lying nearby and saw the headline "Lindy Hops the Atlantic!"
PRECISION LEADING continued...
... just what you would guess: precision.
As a teacher, I am in a position everyday of leading ladies through a variety of patterns. Do I exert myself? No. Even with a beginner student the amount of muscle I use is minimal. Do I have a secret? Not really. How am I able to do this? Through skill – which anyone can learn – and through empathy for my partner.
Aha! Empathy for my partner. That sounds just like something a woman would come up with! What the heck does that mean in dance terms? Well, it’s really pretty simple. It means that if you want to lead your partner to do a particular thing, you should have a complete understanding of what you are expecting her do to.
If you want to develop precision leading skills, begin to take a more detailed interest in the lady’s part. If you take private lessons, ask your instructor to lead you through the lady’s part from time to time. You will be amazed at how much more complete your understanding of a pattern will become. If you take group classes, pay close attention when the instructor teaches the lady’s part. If it isn’t too complicated for you, go ahead and learn her foot patterns as well.
Here are some basic guidelines for precision leading:
- Make your directional movements exact. If you are taking a walking step forward, step directly forward.
- Use your room alignments the same way. If the pattern is intended to move towards diagonal wall, move it directly towards diagonal wall.
- Use your arms as an extension of your body. Remember, the lady must ultimately follow where your BODY is indicating. Keep your arms in agreement with your body.
- Use common sense regarding resistance and force. Use as much force – and only as much – as is required for the amount of resistance being given. The power of your leads should vary from partner to partner.
- Use common sense in your selection of variations. If your partner misses the lead the first time, try again. If she misses it a second time, move on to something else.
- Put yourself in your partner’s place. Leading non-stop spins down the floor may be fun for you, but is that really a good time for her?
Becoming a precision leader may sound like a lot of work, but ultimately it will make your dancing easier. You will enjoy not having to work so hard, and your partners will enjoy how easy you are to follow. The results will be well worth the effort.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN continued...
...it also requires your physical body to develop in being able to perform the movements. We call this muscle memory and there are no shortcuts around it. Learning to dance takes time.
If someone had never played tennis before and went out and spent an hour learning the game, would you say he now knew how to play? That's a "yes and no" answer. He would probably now have the idea of how the game works and a basic idea of what is involved, but would you refer to him as a tennis player already?
Also, you realize that someone who is already very athletic and experienced in taking instruction will pick up the game faster. These same things are true in dancing. TOP
Of course, one final thing to remember is this: There must be consistency in your learning. Back to the guy learning to play tennis -- if after that first hour he spent learning the game he didn't play again for several weeks, how do you think he would progress? Whereas, if he was out on the courts the next morning playing again... Well, I think you get the point.
Everyone learns differently and at his own pace. You must be patient with yourself and your partners. Just remember -- anyone can learn given proper instruction and practice.
We're glad to take care of the first part -- the rest is up to YOU!
© Wanda Deagen * No portions of these articles may be used or reproduced without expressed written consent.