Foot Dancing vs. Body Dancing --
What Is the Difference?
& Barbara Blackford
BODY DANCING is when we take into account how each part of our body
affects the appearance of our dancing. Our head position and the upper
body can impact not only our own dancing, but can also have a
significant effect on our dance partner.
FOOT DANCING is when we forget to use our body.
There are several "body parts" that affect how we dance.
The proper dance frame will allow each partner to move with ease while
dancing. If either partner breaks their frame, by moving the arms
independently, for example, their dancing becomes "labored." If the man
breaks his frame, the woman can lose his lead. Many times we see men
pulling or yanking his partner into a position, when in fact it was his
fault that she was out of position.
With a proper dance frame and movement, a man can lead his partner to
dance forward, or back, or side. He can lead his partner to cross one
foot in front of or behind the other. Maintaining a proper dance frame
will allow continuous movement/rotation to complete the figure.
When taking a closed position hold, you need to have balance and a
stable frame. A good hold must allow each partner to stay balanced and
not interfere with movement down the floor. Leaders, don't hold the
lady like you are a vise -- a good hold must have some toned flex/give
to allow adjustment inside the hold.
The head weighs about 20 pounds, and can have a large impact on the
rest of the body. If you move your head forward, by looking down even
by just a little, then the head's weight will be forward of your body's
center of gravity. That leads to counter-balancing the head weight by
sticking out one's butt or leaning on one's partner, neither of which
is considered good dance form. If you put your head slightly to one
side, (and think of your head weight on the back side) then the head
weight will be more over one foot and therefore less likely to require
body or frame distortion to counter-balance the head weight.
Many leaders stress that dancers must keep their heads to the left.
This is true. But we must remember that it's not just our head that
remains to our own left, but the fact that we must keep our entire left
side to our left. When each partner stays on their own left side, they
will not interfere with their partner's movement. This is especially
true through rotations and pivots.
In a good hold, every partner has his/her own territory. If you enter
your partner's territory, you risk war (or at least crushed toes).
Actually, it is not only the lady's head position but the man's as
well. And it's not just the individual's head but the upper part of the
bodies. Wayne likes to think of his body as 4 quarters -- divided at
the waist and straight down the middle; and it's the upper left quarter
that should be slightly to the left (partner's right side), and it
should stay there in every position where the dance calls for a closed
body: closed, banjo, sidecar.
In positions where we have to step outside partner, the tops remain in
"closed" and the bottom moves to the outside of partner: banjo,
sidecar. The shoulders should remain parallel to each partner and
remain there; i.e., when a woman dances a Wing, her top line is still
to her own left, keeping her shoulders parallel to the man's (and the
man rotates to stay with his lady). Her head is closed and her right
shoulder should not pass the center of the man's body, but her lower
body is outside partner on his left side. If you were driving down a
dark road, you would not veer over the center yellow line for fear of a
crash -- well, a crash will happen if either partner does veer over the
man's center line. No two people can ever dance in the same place at
the same time.
Upper Body Poise
Many times we see a male dancer leaning over his partner, which throws
her off balance, which then pulls him off balance. Many years ago, we
thought of the body as a banana with slight back poise. This is NOT so
true today. Rather the woman maintains a slight forward, side, and
upward body poise, and the man maintains a slight forward poise.
As we become more aware of how to use our bodies, instead of just our
feet, we will better understand the idea of moving on the floor as ONE!
prepared for a RAL Minilab, October 2016, reprinted
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, May 2023.