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re: Are Americans Ruining Smooth?
Posted by Jonathan Atkinson
7/12/2003  12:44:00 AM
My experiences have not led me to encounter nearly the opposition you have. With all but one exception, I've never met anyone who disagrees with the concept that Smooth and Standard technique are nearly identical in all respects (exceptions noted below). I do recall one rather lengthy debate on rec.arts.dance with someone who insisted that American Waltz should be absent of sway, without the full swinging actions. But as I said, this was just one exception in my many years of teaching.

Any other time I've encountered someone with a misconception regarding smooth technique, it seems to me that it stems from a lack of understanding rather than a firm belief in an opposing idea, and they'll usually accept when I correct or inform them. Of course, most of my recent experiences which are currently springing to mind are related to an A.M. staff which I am currently training, and this particular group of kids is very respectful and eager to learn. So it's certainly possible that my experiences, especially of late, are not a good representation of the chain school community as a whole.

On the topic of technique which is exclusively American style in nature, one very notable example comes to mind. I've come to call it "inverted sway", although others may have another name for it. It applies to many 3-step turning figures, such as Open Side Lock, but also to "Flip-Flops" and similar figures which swicth back and forth between open PP and open CPP.

Normally when dancing a Twinkle, for example, I would sway left from 2-3 as man. But if I were to release the LH-RH connection and open the "V" to a wider angle (as in a Flip-Flop), I would be more likely to take just the opposite sway -- to the right. I would then switch to left sway for steps 5-6, as I flip-flop to CPP.

This type of sway would be terrible if you keep a traditional closed position hold, but the open promenade position affords you the space you need to sway right and still maintain a positive direction as you step into PP.

I could probably think up more examples, but the main point is that if there are techniques which are uniquely American, it's not necessarily because they were invented by Americans, or because they were patented by Fred Astaire, but because the open positions of American style allow for a greater variety of techniques.

So there are indeed times when the open position creates a difference in the technique. But these are generally the exception, not the rule, and it usually applies to very specific movements or figures, not the mechanics of the basic building blocks such as a walking step, or of common figures such as the basic closed position turns, Twinkles, pivots, etc.

Anyone who would argue that Smooth technique is different than Standard had better have a sound, mechanical reason for it based on the difference in positioning. "Because Arthur Murray said so" is not going to hold water here, or in any competition for that matter (unless, I suppose, you have a judging panel which is predominantly A.M.).

If you do happen across anybody who would argue some technical difference, send 'em here. I'd love to pick their brain.

Regards,
Jonathan
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