On the Ballroom Floor -- 10 Dancing Qualities
by Robin Chee, ANATD (Ballroom & Latin; HC)
To improve your Ballroom and Latin dancing there are various stages and things you need to take care of. Listed below are some things to help you in the development of your dancing.
This is about moving to the music, following the correct beat. This is a fundamental that must be achieved by all dancers. To be able to dance with good timing, one must first be able to identify the various beats in the music. For those who have difficulty, the best way to improve this aspect is to listen to more music and consciously count the beats in your mind. An important point to note is that good timing has the foot touching the ground on the beat; if you wait until you hear count 1 and then start to move your foot to its destination, you will be late.
The various heel and toe actions must be achieved. Reach out with a heel lead when you are traveling forward (heel/toe). Dancing backward, travel over your heel (toe/heel). When you are up, dance on the balls of your feet. Dance on the flat of the foot in tango. Good footwork leads to correct movement and form.
Posture is what gives the initial impression and is essential to improve the look of one’s dancing. Common problems include slouching, heads being too close together, chicken wings, and losing the right side position (for ballroom). A common fallacy for ballroom is that ladies need to bend from their waist to get the big shape look. This is not only incorrect but may lead to injuries.
For the swing ballroom dances, like waltz, good movement is about having good swing action and correct rise and fall. For the tango, it’s about moving sharply from foot to foot and having that characteristic staccato action. For Latin dances, like rumba and cha cha, it’s about getting the hip action. For samba, it’s having the bounce and pelvic action.
5. Lead and follow
Leading provides 3 elements: direction, timing, and speed. Direction means to tell the follower where to go. Timing means to tell the follower when to do the movement. Speed tells the follower how fast to do the movement (sharp or gradual action). The leader has to deliver clear indication to the follower and the follower needs to be sensitive and reactive to the indication. With this communication between partners, you will dance together.
6. Floor craft
This is about good traffic navigation. Floor craft can be achieved by changing alignment, changing steps, or checking your action. Good lead and follow is an essential prerequisite to floor craft. The leader has to be aware of the surroundings and constantly plan preemptive actions. This is a skill that takes time to master. Floor craft is probably more important in the moving dances (waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep, samba, Paso Doble) as there would be a need to avoid other couples on the floor while they are moving around. Don't collide and don't drive another couple off the floor.
Timing is about being on time to the beats. Having rhythm is about musical interpretation. This is achieved by good movement and controlled actions according to different rhythms of music. One must be able to feel the music, rather than just listening to beats in a straight manner. Certain movements may be delayed while some may be sped up.
Each of the dances in ballroom and Latin has different characteristics. It’s important to understand the differences so that each dance looks like what it is and not all look alike. Don't waltz your tango.
At the lower level, most routines are fairly similar, it’s only as you move up the ladder that choreography begin to matter more. However, it’s more important to be able to execute your choreography well than to have fantastic choreography that is not danced well. Hence, it’s only until you can achieve the above that imaginative choreography becomes important. With good fundamentals, routines can easily be picked up, but the reverse is not true.
For examination purposes, the emphasis is on technically correct dancing. For competitors (especially at the higher level), the emphasis is on performance. Facial expression is also crucial. Performance is about entertaining the crowd (which includes the judges). It’s about the chemistry between the man and lady on the floor.
from DanceThrob RpMerleon Studios, Republic of Singapore, © RpMerleon Studios; 31 May 2005. Used with permission. http://www.rpmerleon.com; reprinted in the DRDC newsletter, August 2019.
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