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Find Your Frame

by Irv & Betty Easterday

How to Master This Round Dancer Essential!

“ Dance Newbies” aren’t the only ones who have trouble grasping the “Dance Frame”. Even highly trained dancers find it challenging to master the arm positioning and stance. Most dancers learn visually, so teachers will try to display proper body position always.

So what is frame, exactly? “Frame” is the word used to describe a dancer’s body position in terms of how the partners stand, hold their arms, and physically connect with their partner. Traditional rules of frame apply more to waltz, foxtrot, and two step (as used in Phases 1, 2, & 3 of Round Dancing). Frame is so important in standard styles. Having the correct frame can also improve your dancing, while not having it can seriously hinder you. Without a frame, dancers’ bodies aren’t able to connect. A lopsided, sloppy frame means you’re not able to move together as one. Plus, you can really throw off your center of balance.

Understand the basics. Correct frame begins with 4 points of connection: Guy’s left hand to girl’s right hand, guy’s right hand to girl’s left upper back, girl’s left forearm to guy’s right elbow, and girl’s left hand to guy’s right bicep. For a stable frame, you should picture a long, strong line stretching between your elbows. It is also important to keep your shoulders back and down.

Perfect your posture. Upright posture is a major part of proper frame. Stand with your back against the wall pressing your feet, calves, buttocks, shoulders, and head against it, then walk away and try to maintain that position—now you are in perfect position! The stretch in your abs should feel like an elastic band, pulling both up and down from the waist. Beginning dancers should do this exercise several times a day.

Resistance is key. To avoid “spaghetti arms”! They are a major don’t in Closed Position. To avoid noodle limbs, add a touch of resistance to your frame. Typically the male partner sets the tone by applying slight pressure in the connected palm, and the female partner follows his lead by giving the same amount back. The female must be very precise, so that she is not overly resistant. If you over-resist, you can’t be led. If you under-resist, you can’t be led. It has to be the perfect flow of energy, like electricity traveling from one person into the other.

Let it bloom. Use the visual of a flower blossoming. Think of the rose opening up in full blossom. That should bring to mind a very narrow stem and a big flower. From the diaphragm down is the stem; from the diaphragm up forms the flower.

Basically the man’s right leg should go between the woman’s legs, and they should stay intertwined through the dance. Partners should stay close from the kneecap to the chest (like a stem) and then blossom outward with their upper bodies. One of the difficulties of learning to do ballroom well is figuring out how to dance while keeping that connection. The frame holds it all together—it’s the glue!

Now that we have established the frame, what pictures, what works of art, can we insert in that frame? Some examples: Right Lunge, Promenade Sway, Contra Check, Change of Sway, Whisk, Same Foot Lunge, Opposition Point, and Throwaway Oversway.


From clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2016, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, February 2017.


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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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Past DRDC Educational Articles archived here.

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