The first thing I would point out about
dance posture is that it is not actually all that different from
basic good posture. You want to create alignment of the spine with
the weight centered over the arch of the foot. The posture of
Military Parade Rest is an excellent example of dance posture.
The interesting thing is that both the
leader and the follower use this same posture. It is simply a feeling
of very vertical alignment and balance. When it is right, you
actually should feel like you are not doing anything.
The thing that makes the couple look so
interesting is not so much postural, as it is a sense of FOCUS. To
start with, we don't stand toe-to-toe. Rather, we stand slightly
offset so that each person's right foot is pointed forward between
the partner's feet. This means that our centers (think
"bellybuttons") are not pointing towards each other. I
should also point out that there should be no turn-out in the feet.
They must point directly forward.
Now, to create the sense of FOCUS, you
must somehow rotate parts of your body so that your centers can point
towards each other. What this feels like is that you will bring the
right hip and the left ribcage (and back) forward without taking the
left hip and right ribcage away from each other.
While doing this, you want to create a
sense of stretch and hollowness on a diagonal from the left hip
through the right ribcage, and a sense of presentation through the
diagonal from the right hip through the left ribcage. This adjustment
of the center is very, VERY slight. But the sense of stretch should
be strong. What you want is to fit into each other: the presented
side fitting into the grooved side of the partner and vice versa.
One of my partners describes this
feeling as a sense of spiraling the body. A spiral can be viewed in
several different ways. For this feeling, we want the top of the body
working leftwards while the bottom of the body works rightwards.
Think of it as a lopsided bear hug.
Stand offset with your partner, right foot of each pointing between
partner's feet. Each of you should place your right arm low around
the partner's back, and the left arm high, over the partner's right
shoulder, and HUG. Now work the spiral by stretching the high left
side leftwards and the low right side rightwards without allowing any
gaps to develop. This is the kind of connection you want to
make with your partner to dance.
The leader and the follower are
basically doing the same thing with regard to the basic sense of
posture (very vertically aligned) and focus (center toward partner).
The differences come after that. But before I try to describe those
differences, there are more similarities.
The head weight belongs to the left
foot. Partner dancing is NOT symmetric in a single body. It is only
symmetric in two bodies, properly joined through the base and frame.
What this means is that you must learn to balance your head weight
toward (and sometimes over) the left foot, rather than over the
center of the body (which would be normal).
You must also learn to NOT allow the
head weight to transfer to center, and NEVER to the right side, which
would be in the partner's space (and makes you feel very heavy to the
partner). To feel this, you must distinguish the feel of balance when
standing on the left foot versus the right foot. When standing on the
left foot, you should feel a very long straight line up from the
floor along the outside of the left side of the body, right up
through the left side of the head.
Remember, A LONG STRAIGHT LINE ON THE
LEFT SIDE OF THE BODY.
When standing on the right foot, (with
the left foot extended to the side to make it easier to feel this)
the head weight must still be attached to the left foot. You want to
feel a long, curved line up from the floor from the left foot, along
the left side of the body, and out through the left side of the head.
Remember, A LONG CURVED LINE ON THE
LEFT SIDE OF THE BODY.
What this means is that, in general,
the person (leader or follower) standing on the left foot is feeling
a long straight line in the body, while the person standing on the
right foot is feeling a long curved line in the body.
You should also notice that when
standing on the right foot, the farther the left foot is from the
right foot, the stronger the curve of the body will be. Likewise,
when standing on the left foot, the farther the right foot is from
the left foot, the more that person needs to project the head weight
Now for the big difference
between the leader and the follower: The leader's head position must
still have a sense of being very vertical, but over the left side.
The follower will extend the head line out over the leader's right
hand. The head position. Not the back. Not the sides. Not the weight.
The head. This does NOT mean that the follower will look back over
the shoulder. The follower should be looking basically forward and
slightly to the left (as does the leader).
The idea of putting the head over the
leader's right hand implies a few things. For instance, if the
leader's right hand is too far around the follower's back, the
follower will have a very difficult time creating that look and feel
of a large open frame. If the leader's right hand gets pulled back so
that the right elbow is behind the right side instead of in front of
the right side, the follower will get pulled off balance.
One final element comes into play in
creating that beautiful, balance/counter-balanced look and feel:
STILLNESS. The really good dancers create a sense of stillness to
partner. What this means is that the connection becomes a constant in
a sea of couple movement.
You don't want the head weights
shifting inwards toward your own center.
You don't want the fronts of you
slipping around on each other.
You don't want the center focus
turning away from each other.
You want to be still with respect
to partner, and very dynamic with respect to the movement of the
Hips and Posture --
Hips have three degrees of freedom,
meaning they can move relative to three different axes. Picture three
skewers through your body:
parallel to the floor going from L
hip through to the R hip
parallel to the floor going from
front through to the back
perpendicular to the floor going
from top to bottom
All three should meet at a single point
in the logical center of your hips.
PITCH is rotation about the side
to side axis, causing hips to tip down or tuck under. This allows us
to angle our spine under or over our partner.
ROLL is rotation about the front
to back axis, causing one hip to be higher than the other. This
allows us to create sway.
YAW is rotation about the vertical
axis, causing one hip to be more in front or in back of the other.
This allows us to turn our center left or right.
Picture the hips as a 2×4 with a stick
in the middle. There are three basic natural postures in the hips:
Front down (back up) = pitched
Back down (front up) = tucked
For dancing, we want NEUTRAL, so if you
are not naturally neutral, you need to make the appropriate
adjustment and learn to maintain that within the hips. I would
personally contend that there are circumstances in which we want to
angle the entire spine, but the hips should not independently pitch
When on the flat of a foot we should be
able to control if the weight is:
over the front of the foot (as far
forward as on the toes)
over the center of the foot
over the back of the foot (as far
back as on the heel)
We want this positioning of the weight
over the foot to be accomplished by movement of the hips parallel to
the floor, rather than by pitching or tucking the hips. As the weight
moves forward or backward over the foot, in general the entire spine
moves with it, keeping the torso vertical and moving at one speed.
Back Weighted is not having the weight over the heel of the
foot, but rather having the spine pitched so that the shoulder weight
is over the heel without the hip weight being over the heel as well.
SWAY is a result having one hip higher
than the other (Roll), generally while maintaining a neutral pitch.
Wendi defined SHAPE as occurring only in the upper part of the spine.
The amount of shape you can generate is limited by your own natural
flexibility, but the appearance of shape can be enhanced by rotation
about the vertical (Yaw) and by sway (Roll). Shape is caused by
changing the angle of the upper part of the spine and generally
causes the head to be farther away from partner. This is essentially
an upper body stretch and should not affect the middle and lower
From a practical perspective, the
vertical axis is never really in the center, but is up through the
standing leg, so rotation about the vertical axis (Yaw) is really
more like one hip swinging around the other. Take a pen and lay it on
a table. Grab it in the center and rotate it on the table surface.
One end goes ‘forward’ while the other end goes ‘backward’.
Now, grab one end and rotate it. The outside end rotates around the
end you are holding (rotation about a fixed point.) At any given
moment we are either on our left foot, or on our right foot. That hip
over that foot becomes the fixed point about which our body rotates.
(This is ignoring progression.)
from an article published in the ROUNDALAB
Fall 1998 and from other writings; published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, December
Richard and read more.