Quick Set of Rules for Partner Dancing - 060301

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it ~ Franklin P. Jones
Whatever you do, experience the present – don’t dilute it! ~ Debbie Mandel
Cell phones dilute the present. ~ Andrew Weitzen

When we teach partner dances, we emphasize Lead and Follow technique over choreography. We teach people how to dance with a partner. We tell people not to worry about what the feet are doing. We tell them to pay attention to their partner.

Here is a quick set of rules, in order of importance.

  1. Safety first - do not hurt yourself or anyone else.

  2. Lead and follow is a language - we do not push or pull our partner around the dance floor. Lead and follow is a language through which we ask our partner to do something. We communicate our requests through subtle body language and pressures.

  3. The man leads and the lady follows - absolutely no wrestling, no arguing, no resistance; the man leads and the lady does whatever she is lead to do; the choreography is a suggestion; the lead takes precedence. Do not go on to any rules until you thoroughly understand and are committed to this one.

  4. The lady is the picture and the man is the frame - everyone is watching the lady. See below for the each person's responsibilities.

  5. Sacrifice the choreography for our partner - our partner comes first, and we dance to the level of our partner. We sacrifice the choreography, the timing and whatever else we need to, so that the dance is comfortable for both our partner and ourselves.

  6. Man puts his hand out and the lady puts her hand in it - when standing side by side, the man puts his hand out with palm up; lady lays her hand in it. No fumbling around for hand holds. Ladies need to leave their hands out and available where the man can take them when he needs to.

  7. No grabbing - keep the thumbs back and never grab or pull your partner's hand or yank their arm. Either person should be able to release at any time.

  8. Maintain the connection through mutual pressure - by maintaining tension with each others hands, the man can signal to the lady where he wants her to go. As an exercise, hold both hands up, palm to palm with your partner, pressing the hands together without grabbing or interlocking fingers. Now the man should be able to move forward, backward, turn either way, and step side to side, while the lady, by moving her feet, maintains the pressure on the hands. In this way, the man should be able to move the lady anywhere he wants her to go.

  9. Keep a good frame - particularly in ballroom position (like when waltzing) maintain a frame, so that the man dances in his space, and the lady dances in her space. Some dances, like Tango, are danced closer together than waltz, however, you still maintain your frame, wherever it is.

  10. Pay attention to your partner - do not spend the dance watching the other couples.

  11. The faster the music the smaller the steps and the shorter the arm extension.

Man's responsibilities

  1. Make the dance as easy as possible for the woman - when changing places men go around the lady; when turning her, men support her with the other hand; help her with her movements by getting her in the correct place to do each move.

  2. Position the couple on the floor - keep proper spacing with other couples; avoid crashes; keep on the line of the circle.

  3. Keep time with the music - ladies can help with this, especially if they are better, but ultimately the man decides when to take the step.

  4. Lead the movements.

Lady's responsibilities

  1. Follow the man's lead - wait for the lead before making your movement; if the man leads you into the wrong movement, follow the lead, even if you know the choreography is something else.

  2. Get in the passenger seat - the man is driving the car that is the couple; the lady needs to stay near the man, and either in front or alongside, or wherever is appropriate; maintain the proper distance, which is short, in reach; if you separate, the lady needs to get back to wherever the man positioned the couple; ladies do not make your man chase you all over the floor.

  3. Do not lead - ladies do not worry about what the guy is supposed to do; if he does not know, do not lead him; if he is not leading you, you can do your part as if he was leading you.

  4. Dance, look pretty, look graceful, enjoy yourself - the man is relieving you of the mundane management chores of dancing, so you are free to dance as beautifully as you like.

Understand Some Basic Partner Moves

Practise these so you know what the lead feels like.

  1. Basic under arm turns

  2. Slide across

  3. Changing places: under arm, dive through, disco change, swing around

  4. Wraps and unwraps

  5. Pivots: single, double, polka, Israeli turn

  6. Rythyms: cha cha, polka, rumba, merengue, samba, swing, waltz, yeminite

Obviously it helps to have these demonstrated. However, you can teach yourself by using some common sense and sticking with the principles.

Good luck and when you step on someone's toes, step lightly.

By Andrew Weitzen 3/1/2006

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