If You Want Dancing To Be More Fun,
Show Your Happy Face
& Dan Finch
To get that smooth flow in your dancing, especially in foxtrot, you are
told you need swing and sway. OMG, more technical stuff. Most of us
don’t study dance through a textbook, so hearing the terms may cause
eyes to cross. And that’s OK. You can get it if you remember that you
have a happy face through your hips and another happy face through your
ribcage, as well as the one on your face. You just have to swing them.
“Happy face” is a slang used by Marzena Stachura, four times world
champion American smooth professional, to get across the idea of
creating shape. She said it came to her while coaching at BYU where use
of anatomical terms could be frowned on.
If you were at our spring clinic in May, you heard her say “use your
happy face” a lot. Her overall impression is that we tend to dance too
square. You can move forward in three ways: Straight, with a side
leading or its opposite, in CBMP (contra body movement position).
Seldom will you want both sides of the body moving forward at the same
rate (straight). Swinging your hip up on the first quick of a foxtrot
step creates graceful movement. Follow that by swinging the rib cage,
which makes you fully commit to the standing foot, creates shape and
guarantees balance, she said. The idea is to push your sternum to be
over the big toe and the toe next to it. In a natural weave for
example, Lady has a harder time knowing when to step outside if man
dances too square. His banking into the turn (swing, creating sway)
tells her when she is welcome to move into banjo. His right elbow tells
her to go.
We were asked to summarize some of Marzena’s teaching points. A list
might go like this:
Most all, stay happy and keep dancing.
- A side lead does not mean dropping one side while pushing
one forward. She said to think of it as a car race with both sides
trying to win, one is just faster than the other.
- To encourage men not to collapse their frame, she suggested
they practice with styrofoam cups under their armpits, to create tone
in the arms and adjust to keeping the arms up.
- Lady can open her head (to the right) as long as her head
weight remains in her “window” of the man’s frame. If she opens to
semi-closed position and her nose comes level with his tie, she is out
of position and impeding his movement. This means she can have her head
to the right or left in a fallaway as long as her poise is not invading
his space. Think, her head weight belongs over her left foot.
- A man’s personal frame is established by extending his arms
to the side, then bringing his middle fingers together in front of his
chest with elbows extended out. From there, he can open his left and
right arms to dance position, but the height and distance between the
elbows should not change.
- Lady projects to her partner through her arms, and he can
direct her like pushing a shopping cart.
From a club
newsletter, June 2017,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, November, 2018. Find a DRDC Finch archive here.