I want to first say thank you for a great website! I have been studying in China for the past couple months away from my home in America. So this website has been great for me to continue my hobby far away from home and checking the proper technique on all these dances.
So I was recently corrected on my hand position by a Chinese dancer. She insists on the man's right hand been held either on top of the girl's left shoulder or on her left shoulder blade. I did some research and see that she is correct about this. But, I have been doing it different for my past two years of dancing. I first learned closed position in a blues class from swing dancers. They taught that the man's right hand is placed on the center of the girl's back between the shoulder blades. The rule of thumb is that if we feel the girl's bra strap then we are correct.
This is the hand position that I have always used since and my professional ballroom and folk instructor has never had a problem with it. When I questioned her about it once (noticing the hand position the other ballroom dancers used) she just said my way was a different way of doing things. I greatly enjoy my way as I feel like I have greater control as a lead. I can perform zig zag motions very easily and my hand is already in the right place for dips. I can dip the girl very fast with this hand position.
My question is, in this long post, has anyone else ever been taught that the lead's right hand goes between the girl's shoulder blades?
Not really. In ballroom tango the man's hand is further around the lady than in the waltz, foxtrot, etc. His fingertips will be on or across her spine. But his hand is also lower on her back as his forearm slopes down, so not really between her shoulder blades. In the US especially anyone can call themselves a professional, it does not mean they have much knowledge of what is actually important to physical mastery of a style of dance, or are necessarily making an effort to insure that what they do have is comprehensively passed on to their students. And every region has its own local variations which may be popular with casual dancers, alongside or seperate from more universal ideas which would be agreed upon by experts from both countries.
The goal should not be to control your partner but to communicate with her as subtly as possible. Relatively little activity in the right hand is needed, primarily your body moves your hand, so that she feels the movement of your body through your arms and hands (and possibly also directly from your body).Primarily you need to keep your hand in a stable correct place on her back, secondarily there are situations in which you will need to open your elbow a small amount so that the frame can "breathe" to give her a tiny bit more room. You can think of it as your hand going with her body, and your arm relaxing to allow the difference between her body and yours.
You should not be dipping partners without their previous consent. Ballroom "lines" are traditionally quite a bit different than dips.
Ha! That's funny! So I'm keeping it old-school! I guess at this point its just a different way of doing the same thing. I like it alot though. But now I know how to do it the more conventional way. The girl who complained about my closed-position earlier (the only one to have done so) said that she felt too confined with my closed-position. So I dance using the more conventional way with her now.
I am curious on what you had to say, anymouse, about the dips. Is that some kind of dance etiquette that I was never educated on? I used to go to a swing dance club and we just dipped whenever. Here at this dance party in China I NEVER see dips. So the girls are often surprised about it (and guys too, who cheer when they see it) and sometimes don't even know how to do it. At this point after months of going there they know I dip them at the end of a song. So if they don't want it they just spin themselves out and bow at the end of the song. I am not sure how to get "consent" ahead of time. Do you mean specifically, verbally asking them about it before or during the dance or some kind of signal before the dip?
I like my teacher's take on dips as a finish for a song (she is a professor of world dance and ballroom dance at Susquehanna University and runs a studio. She is a professional with very impressive credentials); she would often say that "The girl has spinning throughout the entire song! It is boring to finish with yet another spin!"
"I am curious on what you had to say, anymouse, about the dips. Is that some kind of dance etiquette that I was never educated on?"
It is a safety thing, a style thing, and yes also an etiquette one.
"I used to go to a swing dance club and we just dipped whenever. Here at this dance party in China I NEVER see dips."
Amongst other things, swing dancers carry their bodies differently than ballroom dancers do, and may be more prepared for the possibility. A sudden movement which conflicts with the way the body is being carried is a recipe for injury. Even in a swing context it's still a potentially dangerous thing to spring on someone unprepared - there are lots of women out there with lasting injuries from "suprise!" dips which interfere with their ability to enjoy dancing now.
"So the girls are often surprised about it (and guys too, who cheer when they see it) and sometimes don't even know how to do it."
Consider that this could be as much rolling-of-eyes "what do we do with this guy?" as actual approval.
"At this point after months of going there they know I dip them at the end of a song."
Maybe, with regulars who know your game, but be considerate of those who don't.
"So if they don't want it they just spin themselves out and bow at the end of the song."
And how will someone new know she needs to defend herself against your trick?
"I like my teacher's take on dips as a finish for a song (she is a professor of world dance and ballroom dance at Susquehanna University and runs a studio. She is a professional with very impressive credentials); she would often say that "The girl has spinning throughout the entire song! It is boring to finish with yet another spin!""
This does not sound like the attitude of a ballroom professional who is attempting to teach sound and safe skills - those who are would stress quite the opposite! Remember, in the US anyone can label themselves as they see fit. It's unlikely that the dean of a university dance department would recognize the difference between sound and unsound ballroom teaching, as dancers from other disciplines tend to dismiss ballroom entirely as entertainment / culture rather than a "real" dance form.