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Re: Beginners Frame
Posted by anymouse
1/29/2012  11:02:00 AM
One particular challenge with the frame is that many dancers are ambivalent about it's role - is communication primarily through the frame, or through the contact between the bodies. Both ideas can be used successfully, but until both dancers are pretty good, it's likely that whichever is not chosen as the priority is going to be inconsistent. If there isn't a clear decision to prioritize one or the other, then both may end up inconsistent.

Especially when inexperienced students dance together, I think it really makes sense to prioritize the frame - really hold each other with your hands. Try to keep a good arm position, and a fairly consistent spacing between the bodies - not getting further apart, but also not bumping in towards contact either, because the skill being developed is the one of matching, and being inconsistent with spacing is a form of mismatch. This requires both students to develop many important aspects of dancing on their own. They will each need to learn to use their own standing leg. They will each need to remember to keep their posture, and leftwards stretch (slight for the man, substantial for the lady), even in situations where the movement might suggest the upper body flop across to the right. And they will each have to learn how to use their body for an outside partner position.

Communicating primarily through fixed contact of the bodies brings a lot of potential for getting in each other's way when attempted between two students, and they may adopt bad habits such as arching their lower spine if they try to force it to work. But for a student who is dancing primarily with a highly skilled teacher, it may be a more practical path. Presumably the teacher will do their part of the task correctly, and hopefully will be vigilant for distortion sneaking into the student's body. But the real benefit is that if the teacher's body is expertly used in the correct way, the student may be able to learn important aspects of body usage by feel, from the affect of the teacher's body on theirs. This can help with becoming used to things like outside partner position, swing, and especially the pacing of actions and the way in which dancing flows smoothly rather than having a little "bump" to mark each footstep. The leftward stretch for a lady student may also be more readily suggested since it will have the aspect of being a projection of her upper body off of her teacher's. But one risk to be aware of is that there are unfortunately a few teachers who in trying to quickly train lady students for pro/am competitions may ask them to really arch into their poise, placing their belly firmly on the man and their shoulder heavily into his hand, so that the teacher can quite physically manhandle the inexperienced lady through the dance. That might superficially resemble the shapes achieved by a professional couple, but its neither healthy for the student nor going to fool a skilled judge if he or she has the option of marking instead a couple where the lady is doing a good job of using her own body.
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