Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—
Upper Body Dance Frame
(how to dance as "one")
Have you ever noticed a couple that dances as if they were a single unit, moving "as one" even through turns and pivots? Have you noticed that most round dancers do not do this and instead seem to bump and adjust as they move? The secret to dancing "as one" begins with having a good upper body dance frame.
A good upper body frame is formed by the arms and shoulders but includes the upper body and the heads. One key is to hold the arms in such a way that your elbows are the same distance from the floor and the same distance out from your body while still being in front of your body. This is true for both man and lady. The man’s left hand and lady’s right hand (lead hands) are joined and held out about “eye high”. The arms are slightly bent at the elbows. The man’s right hand should just be able to be placed on the lady’s left shoulder blade with his right wrist touching just under the lady’s left arm. The lady’s left elbow should extend slightly past the man’s right elbow which allows the lady to place her right hand on the man’s right upper arm. The man’s head is slightly turned to look over the lady’s right shoulder. The lady’s head looks well to her left – as if laying her left ear back onto a pillow.
Achieving frame is one thing, but you must be able to hold it while you move. There should be firmness in the frame such that if the man rotates the frame left or right, the lady can immediately feel it and move with it. The same is true going forward and back – the lady should be able to immediately feel the frame move and then move with it – as if “filling the frame” with her body, keeping the upper body relationship with partner the same while moving.
Note that if you dance close enough to your partner while in closed position that the man’s right waist and the lady’s right waist can touch making a third contact (the lead hands and trail hands make two contacts). With three contacts you will not only be able to hold the frame easier, but the lady will be able to feel any movement just a little bit faster.
Here’s another tip: After you have what you think is a good upper body frame – Take a Deep Breath. Note how your chest expands, your frame expands and your head raises up even a little. Try dancing with this “expanded top” all the time even after you exhale.
Most round dance teachers do teach a proper Closed Position, but many do not go further to explain how to hold it when moving. The feet, of course, are moving, but the body from the hips up through shoulders and the arms should generally remain the same as you move. Do not wave the arms; always keep your elbows in front of you – do not let them go behind you. Do not separate from your partner. Do not let your partner move to your side, and definitely not behind you (remember we are trying to move while retaining in closed position). Try it with a Left Turning Box or with Two Turning Twos. Do not turn the heads, and stay in closed position with a good upper body frame that does not change the entire time. If you achieve this – you will have danced "as one."
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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