It's More Than Just Banjo -- Making
Sense of CBM and CBMP
by Dan & Sandi
The foundation of good dancing is
natural movement. How you move is governed by certain physical laws,
as they apply to the human body. Apply those laws properly and
dancing becomes more enjoyable and comfortable, not to mention more
The concepts of CBM and CBMP are
important in making that happen. Although the terms sound alike, are
often confused, and can occur together or one right after the other,
they are not even distant cousins in application. Begin by
understanding that CBMP is a placement of the foot, while CBM is a
CBM is a signal, transmitted
the body, from leading partner to follower that a turn is coming. All
turns and turning actions should be initiated by CBM. Almost
all steps taken from banjo position will be in CBMP, as well as any
“through step” in semi-closed position. A turn initiated from
banjo will have both CBM and CBMP.
So what exactly do the terms mean?
CBMP is short for “contra (or contrary) body movement position.” CBM
stands for "contra (or contrary) body movement."
Roundalab (RAL)’s Standardization
Committee has proposed a sprucing up of the CBMP definition in its
Manual of Standards this year.
It is essentially defined as:
where the moving foot is placed on or across the line of the
supporting foot, either in front or behind, to maintain the body line
where the side of the body opposite the moving foot is leading.
Think of it as walking into a
line,” or a “slicing” position.
The purpose of CBMP is to allow
partners to maintain a good dance frame and still have room to swing
their legs in certain movements that otherwise would be awkward.
Without it, banjo would be hip to hip. (Note: There may be times, in
some rhythms, when “hip to hip” is the desired position, but
generally not in the smooth rhythms.)
All dancing starts with a good
with the partners in relationship to feel connected and dancing
together. This means that the partners’ centers are directed
toward each other, even if they are not in body contact. When
centers are not aligned, there is tension, a pushing & pulling,
and the individuals will be off balance.
outside partner/banjo generally have to be in CBMP to keep a dance
frame. One example: the last step of a feather finish, where the
man’s left side and right foot are leading (woman’s right side
and left foot are leading).
from closed position use CBMP, such as the checking into a contra
check and the first step (left foot for the man) when executing a
walk in tango.
position, CBMP allows partners to keep their dance frame as they step
through. The first step forward with the lead feet is not the
problem. But, the body position will fall apart, going hip to hip on
the second (through) step, without CBMP. Why? Because partners turn
their centers away from each other to create a path to get through.
With CBMP, they step forward with a “crossing” step that allows
them to maintain their frame.
It appears in
Sidecar as well, such as the fourth step of a Natural Hover Cross
where the man’s right side and left foot are leading (woman’s
left side and right foot are leading).
CBM is defined in the general
section of the RAL Manual as:
the opposite side of the body toward the stepping foot either forward
What It Is --
This movement is a signal from the
leader to the partner that a turn is coming. It begins with an
impulse, energy generated by a flexing through the torso
(hips, body, shoulders, as a unit) toward the direction of the moving
leg (the direction of the turn). The shoulders should never rotate
separately from the hips and body, and there should be no twisting at
the waist. Think about a teacup and saucer: When the saucer moves,
the teacup goes along with it, otherwise the tea spills.
What it isn’t --
CBM is a subtle impulse, not a
a push. It is not a step, but it is followed by a step.
If you don’t use your base to
initiate the power, you have to use your arms to direct the partner,
and that creates tension in the shoulders (as well as between the
How much “impulse?” --
This depends on the amount of
you expect to make. The amount of impulse needed to direct the
partner will be minimal through a feather step, greater for a curve
or turning figure, and powerful to initiate a pivot.
III. Why do you need to know this?
As a dancer, you want to move
for your partner and yourself. We began by saying that applying these
mechanical concepts will make dancing easier, more comfortable, and
therefore more enjoyable for you as a dancer.
We know that some people will come
a basic round dance class and be happy staying with easy level rounds
where not as much precision is needed to have an enjoyable time. But,
introducing the concepts—without the technical names—will
increase the comfort level for new dancers and give them some basics
they will not have to unlearn. They can layer on from that basis.
We suggest that teachers begin
these concepts from the beginning. The “hip to hip” style of
banjo should not be thought of as a beginners version of CBMP, while
“contra banjo” (as it was once called in round dancing to
distinguish it from hip to hip) is more advanced. Banjo should be
taught as “hip in front of hip” from the start.
When teaching waltz turns, start
gradual turns and tell the men to keep their partners in front of
them, whatever they do. A form of CBM will happen naturally. The
dancers won’t be focused on their feet or the floor, and a relating
to the partner will start to become habit.
As new dancers add on refinements,
as rise and fall and close body contact, they will not have to
relearn how to move.
and Sandi host two weekly
Carousel Clubs and teach a weekly figure clinic on advanced basics in
Southern California. A version of these notes was
published in their club newsletter, April, 2013. Dan
and Sandi have additional dance essays and helps on their website. This
article was reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, June 2013.