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Is It Art? Sport? Science?

by Sandi & Dan Finch

The great debate over the past decade has been whether dancing is an art or a sport. It might be better to ask how much of it is science. 

A pre-schooler dabbling in water colors isn’t making art (as much as a mess) because he doesn’t have a knowledge of basic skills that go into composition, shading, and the other aspects of good art. Likewise, we all want to see ourselves as beautiful dancers (read “artful”) but before beauty there has to be a reckoning with some basic laws of physics. 

Forgetting the principle of three-dimensional space causes most of the problems we see in coaching. If either partner only dances his own body, he is thinking two dimensionally. Dancing involves rotation and for that to work, the partnership must figure out how to get both its front half (partner) and back half (leader) through the step. 

Imagine driving a car around the corner. The driver has to calculate how sharp the turn is and the size of the car. Picture one of those old Cadillac Eldorados, with the hood that seemed to go on forever. The dynamics of driving it through the turn are different than for a VW van, where the driver practically sits on top of the front bumper. 

In other words, when we dance, the length of our “vehicle” is the space from the leader’s spine to the partner’s spine. In dance position, either partner may only be thinking about the figure and what he or she does, but both partners have to coordinate to get through that figure. 

We have all seen a feather finish that ended with partners hip to hip. A closed telemark where the partner feels like she’s being strangled. A natural twist turn when the leader doesn’t time his unwind with his partner’s run-around. A maneuver where partner gets to the end before her leader. 

To fix this, you need to start with a solid frame, with elbows slightly in front of the body. Next, imagine pushing a shopping cart through the turn. You need to recognize there are insides and outsides of every turn. One partner will have to travel further than the other. What determines the amount of turn is how far the leader goes past his partner. The person going forward has the bigger step. 

We can practice this by dancing solo holding a chair in front of us or just extending our arms in front, to see the form that must be moved through space. It will then be obvious that “dancing is not about me, it’s about us.”
  

 From club newsletters prepared by an and Sandi Finch , February 2015, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, September 2016.


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If you would like to read other articles on dance position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit the article TOC.



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Past DRDC Educational Articles archived here.

Aditional articles and dance helps by
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