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Coach's Corner

Wendy Johnson

Coach's Corner by Wendy Johnson
Remember that it is a man-woman relationship. Think about what the dance is. Understand why you're doing the step. Most of the steps have a reason, they're not just steps. Look at how you're dressed. Do you look good? If you look good then I will look at you; I'm going to think you know what you're doing. If you're untidy I'll think you don't know what you're doing. Cover all your bases, silly little technique errors at the pro/am level, like doing heel leads on the third step of a twinkle. They're easy for us to find. Stay in time to the music. You don't get points for staying out of time. If you're out of time, stop and start again. We'll be happy that you had an awareness of the music. If something feels terribly uncomfortable doing it, then there's a fairly good chance it looks uncomfortable, so do something else. Stay true to yourself.
Timing - is the single most important part of dancing. Timing should never be confused with Rhythm. It is the ability to move through a variety of step patterns to various types of dance music and stay in time with the music as is plays! Being able to dance to the correct tempo of the music, regardless of its speed, is what truly makes the movements "feel good."
Balance - good balance is a most important asset to good dancing. Like walking, you dance on only one foot at a time. Good dancing can only be achieved by the development of good balance and is done with a more erect bearing. The proper placement of the hands & arms are equally important. They should remain up with the elbows lower than the shoulders on a slightly downward angle. This "upper body line" needs to be retained at all times whether you are in closed or open position to your partner.
Posture - good dancing requires that both partners should have good posture at all times. This requires keeping the head and chest lifted, the spine straight and the weight center forward over the balls of the feet. Nothing can wreck the appearance of a dance couple faster than poor posture.
Poise - is the confidence you gain from dancing in time to the music, with a big smile on your face, good posture & an understanding of Partner Relationship.
Partner Relationship - every time you are on the dance floor you become a "performing artist." You are creating a "show" for everyone sitting around the sidelines watching. You and your partner are now a "team" and each must understand their own respective "role." You must know how to properly "relate" to one another as you move around the floor.
Footwork - do not "dance" like you "walk." Understanding the correct footwork is an equally important phase of learning. When moving forward, always lead with the heel of the foot, transferring the weight to the ball of that foot. When moving backwards, always lead with the toe extended from the ankle, reaching from the top of the thigh not the waist or hips.
Leading - one of the most often misunderstood terms. A man should "indicate" through the top part of his body, occasionally through his arms & hands, where he wishes his partner to dance. The gentleman should never push, pull, shove, jerk or intimidate the lady. To correctly & properly lead, it is far more important to know when to lead. If led too quickly or too late, the lady will have difficulty following and she will look (and feel) bad on the floor. If you want to be a popular, sought-after dance partner, develop the correct lead for every pattern you learn! You will quickly learn that no two lady partners are ever the same. Even though you go through your "routine" of patterns virtually the same way with each lady, it will "feel" different every time you change partners
Following - every time a lady is on the dance floor with a new partner she is expected to follow, regardless of how good or poor his execution of dance patterns, lead, timing, etc. Unfortunately, every time a lady changes partners, so does the routine of patterns she must follow. You can dance with ten different male partners; all doing the exact same series of patterns & it will feel different with every change of partner. A good female partner needs to know enough of her own part in order to be able to follow. The best lady dancers learn the same movements & techniques as the men. She is light on her feet, has developed good balance & timing & understands partner relationship. She is able to take long reaching strides in all four directions in the slow, smooth dances so as not to be stepped upon. She is able to turn quickly, maintaining balance in both the smooth and the faster rhythm dances
Styling - the "icing on the cake." Each dance has its own particular styling. Those of you taking private lessons are taught the individualistic styling of all the dances. This is to prevent everything from looking the same as you move from dance to dance. Latin dances like the Rumba, Bolero & ChaChaCha utilize a distinct hip rolling action referred to as Cuban motion. The more advanced dancers in the East & West Coast Swings, Shag & Latin Hustle also use this styling. Most American dances are danced "above the floor" with a smooth, yet "bouncy" action. Latin American dances are danced more "down into the floor" with unique staccato footwork.
Smoothness - good dancers never bounce around the floor like drunken kangaroos. Smoothness is a learned process whereby the major muscle groups are performing the various movements. The knees and ankles are slightly flexed in order to absorb any shock during contact with the floor. While both partners learn to offer a certain amount of "resistance" to one another in order to lead or follow a wide variety of patterns, no dance movement is done rigidly or stiff-legged.
Pattern Amalgamations - this is the man's ability to combine a variety of step-patterns within any given dance that follows a logical, natural, and relatively easy sequence.

5 Basic Foot Positions
1. Closed: Feet together, weight on either (but not both) feet.
2. Side step: Either to the left or to the right.
3. Instep to heel: Either right instep to left heel or opposite
4. Forward or Backward: Leading either way with either foot/leg
5. Toe to heel: Often referred to as a "Rock" or "Back" step.

5 Basic Body Positions
1. Closed: Facing partner with five points of contact:
A. Man's right hand on or just below lady's shoulder blade
B. Lady's left elbow rests lightly on man's right arm
C. Lady's left hand on top of man's right arm at shoulder
D. Man's left hand cupped around lady's right hand
E. (Occasionally) light contact through diaphragm area
Note: Both partners should keep fingers together.
In Closed Position, both partners should look over each other's right shoulder.
Think of it as a "window" you're looking through to see where you're going.
2. Promenade: V-shaped position where man and woman move forward in same direction.
3. Parallel: This is facing your partner but to either side and can be danced traveling either direction.
4. Half open: Partners are apart but maintaining a handhold with one or both hands.
5. Full open: No physical contact between partners during the execution of a pattern such as "free spins" by one or both partners. Both partners should keep the arms up and curved slightly inward to maintain good "lines" or appearance. This is sometimes referred to as a "barrel" position.