What Makes Figures Work
by Pat & Joe
When dancers begin
moving into Phases III and IV, it is time to help them develop
dancing skills that will allow them to make figures work more easily.
Here, we will explore several concepts including lead and follow
techniques, dancing with and through your partner, and spatial
LEAD AND FOLLOW
A woman without
posture, correct body/foot positions, and body tone cannot be led. A
man without these qualities cannot be followed because the woman
cannot distinguish the signal from the noise (and may be physically
prevented from doing the intended figure). Therefore, both partners
must work on maintaining their own frame. A frame allows us to
maintain our positional relationship to our partner. Therefore, we
must have toned muscles so that we are not like cooked spaghetti.
However, we do not want to be as stiff as a board. We should try for
the minimum tone required to achieve and maintain our position. This
will allow flexibility in movement while allowing the leader to pass
messages to the follower. Leading is not pushing or pulling. It is
communicating an intention. A good lead/follow is like a good
conversation -- you don't have to yell, you only need to talk. The
leader is not supposed to "haul" the follower around the
floor every second, and the follower is not supposed to just hang on
like a sack of potatoes and be dragged around. Leading and following
is a dynamic process that requires a great deal of effort on the part
of both members of a partnership. It is an understanding of the
entire body and how to make two people move as one around a common
center. Beginning leaders need a lot of help. The best way their
partners can help is to follow their lead, even if it's wrong, rather
than "compensating" for a bad lead. This gives the leaders
proper feedback. This feedback should not be verbal criticism,
instead it should be direct feedback in the sense of "I wonder
what happens if I move this way?" When the follower follows, the
leader can clearly see which cause has which effect. If the follower
compensates, she deprives the leader of this cause-effect feedback.
DANCING WITH AND
THROUGH YOUR PARTNER
The concept of
with and through your partner focuses on the idea that two
individuals act as a single entity (couple) when dancing together. As
a single entity, they occupy the same space. As long as they do not
move, each member of the couple has a defined space, and there is no
competition for space. However, as soon as the couple begins to move,
one partner must yield space to the other, if they are going to move
in unison. In closed position (CP), the partner going forward moves
into the space vacated by the partner moving backward. This is a
relatively simple matter as long as they travel in a straight line.
However, when a turn occurs, the couple needs to realize they are
working around a fixed point, as a couple. For example, in a
left-face turn, body rotation commences on the first step. That step
fixes a point that the couple must move through while retaining their
relationship to each other. To move successfully, the partner going
forward must dance through the spot just vacated by the partner going
back, while continuing the rotation, so the second step can be
completed. This moving into the vacated spot is what we describe as
dancing through your partner. This concept is important because many
dancers think they must go around their partner to be able to
face in another direction. When someone dances around their partner,
successfully executing figures becomes much more difficult. Dancing
with and through your partner should be practiced in all dance
positions. This concept allows a couple to move in unison without
blocking each other’s movements.
we are referring to the placement of body parts during movement to
allow the couple to move from one spot on the floor to another spot
on the floor. This includes the transitions required to achieve
different positions with our partner. Another way to think of this
concept is to ask yourself the question, “What do I need to do with
my body for my partner and myself to move from here to there in
unison?” This concept is especially useful in helping kinesthetic
learners to learn figures. When the leader, who has the
responsibility to ensure the couple gets to a figure’s correct
ending position, understands and uses this concept, execution of the
figures become much easier. To use this concept, one must analyze
Try to determine
What are the
figure’s beginning and ending positions?
How much body
rotation will be required?
placements are required?
What are the
relative positions of each partner during the figure execution?
Let's use the
Hover to demonstrate this concept.
Beginning and Ending Position -- may start in closed or banjo position
(CP or BJO) and usually ends in semi-closed position (SCP). The Hover
is frequently used to move the couple from CP facing DLW to SCP facing
Amount of Body
Rotation -- generally results in a body rotation of 1/8th of a turn for
Placements Required -- forward left, forward and slightly side right,
recover left. In the Hover, the recovering left foot will land very
near where the first forward step with the left foot ended.
Positions -- if the figure starts in BJO, the first step forward goes
into CP, the second step is in CP, the third step transitions into SCP.
Now that we know
building blocks of the Hover, we can apply the concept of spatial
orientation. The first step is forward. If we are starting in CP, no
position adjustment is required. Since we know the recover step
should land very near where the first step landed, we should think of
that as an anchor point. The second step requires the body rotation
that moves the right side of the leader’s body through the space
previously occupied by their partner while maintaining a CP hold. The
second step becomes more of a side step that lands in a position that
is forward and slightly to the right of the first step. During the
rise that follows the second foot placement, the leader completes the
body rotation that allows the leader to recover onto the left foot in
SCP facing DLC. Using the spatial orientation approach is very
beneficial to making complex figures work. It allows one to think
through all the actions required to move one’s body through space
to end at a desired location in unison with one’s partner.
From clinic notes for the ROUNDALAB Convention, 2008, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, October 2013.