Mastering the Art of an Elegant (and Respectful) Dance Frame

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This can be an awkward area of discussion, literally. How often have you been in a dance class, or on the dance floor, and your partner's dance frame is all but motivating?

Ladies, here are common woes of being the victim of an uncomfortable dance hold:

1. The gentleman's arm jerks your arm around as you are dancing.

2. The gentleman entangles his fingers in yours as he turns you and almost cracks your knuckles.

3. The gentleman shoves you around and under his arm as he turns you.

4. The gentleman's hand continues to creep lower and lower on your back/waistline or around your ribs.

Gentlemen, you have your own woes. Here are some common complaints:

1. The lady puts all of her weight on your arms so that, regardless of her frame or weight, she is putting fifty pounds of weight onto your shoulders so you are carrying her around.

2. The lady dances extremely far away from you so that it is difficult to navigate her around the floor.

3. The lady does not give you connection so that when you try to lead her, she does not follow the steps.

4. The lady has learned her part independently of you and chooses not to follow you – rather, she performs the stops as if she were dancing independently of you.

There are more potential complaints, but the first thing to recognize in many of these situations, is that some dancers are new to dancing with a partner. It is important to have dance etiquette and not insult your partner - so how can you work with some of these uncomfortable situations? You do have the right to request a person not put their hands on you in a way that makes you uncomfortable. But, if the issue is more related to inexperience on the part of your partner, first take a breath. Realize you were once a newbie too. It’s typically not the best idea to correct your dance partner on the floor and to leave that to the domain of the instructors. That said, here are tips on how to keep your own frame to help you (and your partner) have a better dancing experience.

Gentlemen:

You provide a strong frame that allows you to help lead the lady (no spaghetti arms!). Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you have to be excessively hard or stiff in your arms (you don’t want to dig nails into the lady’s back. You just want tone. Your left hand will be holding the lady’s right hand – point your fingers to the left. The lady will put her fingers over the area between your thumb and index finger. Then you lightly wrap your fingers around the top of her hand. When you turn her, there is a release of the fingers so as not to crack the lady’s knuckles. Your right hand provides the other half of the frame and is in contact with the lady’s shoulder blade. The right elbow is slightly lifted.

Ladies:

Maintain your own posture and weight – while you do rest your left arm on the gentleman’s right arm, you are still essentially supporting the weight of your arm. Your right arm will be bent and your hand will go into the gentleman’s left hand. Place your fingers over the area between the gentleman’s thumb and index finger and he will wrap his fingers over yours. Again, make sure you are holding your own weight with this arm, but also giving him some connection – keep some tone in your arms.

On improving the dance frame:

Private lessons are truly the way to go in terms of developing your dance frame and connection. While the technique of the dance hold can be explained in a group class, nothing compares to one-on-one instruction with a professional in this area. Most successful dancers and professionals were, at one time, molded individually by another professional and that is how connection is learned. It is best learned by being felt and practiced with an experienced teacher who can evaluate your connection. DanceSport professionals are uniquely qualified to provide this instruction, which can be instrumental in your social dance life. A good connection can help you to dance almost any step without actually “learning” it, by just having the ability to lead and follow. Call the front desk at 212-307-1111 to schedule a lesson for connection technique.