Do You Shape?
& Dan Finch
many times have you been told to shape? And how many times has the
explanation gone something like this: Rotate your upper body and
shape away from partner . . . ? The specific instructions might be
different but usually the word “shape” sneaks into the
definition. It seems necessary to use the word to define itself.
Webster’s definition of shape is not helpful. You will find in the
dictionary: “to develop a satisfactory form.” Roundalab (RAL)
tried at this year’s convention to go beyond the dictionary with a
dance definition of shape. Don’t expect anything simple. It goes
“Shape is a general term used to describe the use of sway, stretch
and on occasion slight rotation to move one side of the body away
from the partner, or to angle the body core towards or away from the
partner. The specific usage of shape differs depending on position,
figure and/or choreography. Shape is used to enhance the appearance
of a figure or to facilitate the transition to another figure. If the
shaping is unknown to the dancer and/or is not accomplished, it would
not prevent execution of the action, movement or figure that
points to take away from this explanation: 1) failing to shape should
not prevent you from doing what comes next, and 2) the choreographer
needs to define what shape is wanted.
heart of the definition is a change in the upper body through sway,
stretch, or a small rotation. Do it always in picture figures for the
appearance of the line. There are places in standard figures when
good technique requires the body to turn more or less than the feet,
in which case, some form of “shaping” is needed, as in the last
step of Lady’s foxtrot reverse turn (1/8th turn between step 5 &
6, body turns less, according to the ballroom masters). In either
case, if you don’t shape, you can still dance through to the next
figure, even if not with the style or balance you would prefer.
cannot remember seeing a ballroom instruction that used the word
shape. The ISTD, Guy Howard, DVIDA, and Alex Moore books don’t use
the word but tell you how to create a “shape” through poise,
sway, rotation, rise & fall. If they want sway, they define if it
is to be left or right. Poise is the position of the body in relation
to the feet (forward over the ball or back toward the heel). The
charts for specific figures describe the amounts of turn, if the body
turns more or less than the feet, if CBMP is needed, where to add
sway. Nothing about shape.
if you are told to shape, don’t be embarrassed to ask “how” if
it isn’t intuitive to you. Just remember, you might get more of an
explanation that you bargained for.
From a club
newsletter prepared by Dan
and Sandi Finch , August
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, November 2015.
If you would like to read other articles on dance
position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit
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Past DRDC Educational Articles archived here.
Aditional articles and dance helps by
Sandi & Dan Finch
& Susie Rotscheid
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