This compilation of posts on dance holds has been collected by Mark Balzer m-balzer@uiuc.edu Holds for ballroom dancing (Waltz, Tango etc) Our teachers say body contact should be made between man and woman, not just through the hands, shoulders etc, but also at the chest/abdomen depending on size of each other. In the waltz the man and woman stand with others right hand sides in contact, man looking up to the left and the woman doing the same. The feet will then obviously be staggered with mans right foot in line with the ladies right foot, or more correctly pointing in between the partners feet. The mans left hand should be out-stretched as far as the ladies arm will allow and be about eye ot ear height, adjusted for partners height, mans right hand closed and on the ladies shoulder bladejust under the level of her arm. The ladies left arm the "rests" gently on the mans right arm fingers closed about the top of the biceps where the muscle narrows. In this position we danced 10 times better. Also in this position there's no room for groping or any other funny buisness. I'll also point out for the beginner this is a very painful frame to hold if your not used to it, so get your teachers to get you into the correct hold before you fall into bad habbits like me, as can't hold yourself there. Andrew D Allen My studio teaches us to dance with the only contact being in the arms and hands. I've had a couple of group teachers (who are *really* good dancers) who've encouraged the contact described above just for the sake of good leading and style. After learning to dance apart, it's very difficult to dance with (more or less) full body contact. I wish teachers would start us off on the right foot, so to speak. Bill Sallee My wife teaces social and competitive dancers in both styles to use body contact, and uses the same technique for beginners through advanced competitors in both styles (technique for American is the same when in closed position). When we first started dancing many American teachers taught differently (more separation) but no one I've taken from in the past 5 years still teaches that way. Also the speed of American and International style waltz are more or less the same (28-31 for NDCA international vs 28-30 for American in competition). I have heard of beginning group classes taught with only arm contact, but only as a remedial thing (which will have to change when more experience allows closer dancing without painful or embarassing collisions of various body parts). I HAVE been taught "arms only" technique by some very highly placed English dancers (Stephen Hillier when he was World Champ - 5 years or so ago) so this is (or was) a debatable point. My wife's point of view (which I hear quite often) is "I want to feel where your BODY is (not just your arms)". This usually means that I have lost connection between the top of me (arms, etc) and the legs, somewhere in the middle of the torso. She is looking for and following my body from the tops of the thighs to the middle of the rib cage (not just hips or arms). Jay Dusenbury body contact is very important, and one of the dance "gods" back where I first learned even told me that (at least in waltz, if not all of them) a very large part of the lead comes from the hip. I'm nowhere close to being able to do that, but full (or near-full) body contact is a must for really good dancing. (I remember my first serious Tango lesson, where the instructor spent 5 or 10 minutes just working on how we stood together at the beginning. Of course we lost all that structure as soon as we tried to move/dance. :-P But that was some _serious_ contact. You definitely don't want anything, especially metallic, in your right pocket!) And like someone else mentioned (I forget who), one either quickly gets over any thoughts at all about the contact with a member of the opposite sex, or one doesn't become a better dancer. Tom Nugent Body contact: Yes always for ballroom (waltz, tango, slow fox etc) not for latin (rumba, cha cha etc). Leading is from the body with light pressure on heel or fingers of the mans right hand if necessary. Try dancing a random selection of waltz steps with no hands whilst keeping an album sleeve gripped between your hips and your partners... not easy! Howard Spurr In intl. ballroom this is a problem. Dance position and hold is normally taught to a couple when standing still. But that is just a single moment. Normally jou move on the floor and have to keep a good hold. So if you have a very compact hold (very close) it is difficult to move freely, if you have a very open hold it is difficult to lead (I lead primarily with my body and not with my frame). I think it is a good thing to stay close, but in some movements I need an extra amount of freedom in the body and than the contact in the body centre (lower rips to navel) must be allowed to release for some moments. As a teacher I think it is a good concept to start with a more open position so that the couple can move with less obstacles. If steps, movement and basics are understood, I would introduce some aspects of closer position and body leads. But that is just one possible didactic concept. Dr. Richard Stoll From: sheldon@ai.mit.edu (Mark A. Sheldon) Subject: Re: International Standard Vs American Style - body positions Date: 17 Nov 94 22:56:06 Joseph Paul Dusenbury <dusenbury@RDDVAX.DECNET.LOCKHEED.COM> writes: A quick two cents worth re: body contact in International vs American. My wife teaces social and competitive dancers in both styles to use body contact, and uses the same technique for beginners through advanced competitors in both styles (technique for American is the same when in closed position). Right. Both American and International Styles can be done either with or without body contact. International Style usually is taught with body contact, and body contact is required in competition (or rather lack of contact, gapping, is punished). However, doing international timing/figures in a social situation without body contact is perfectly acceptable --- though it may make certain figures like pivots more difficult. Similarly, American Style is done with body contact when couples are in closed hold in competitions. I think the non-contact hold is attractive when someone is in a new dance/social situation and may have concerns about body contact with people they don't know. Yes, after a while we get used to it, but not everyone at a social dance is comfortable with contact. At the MIT workshops (beginning and intermediate classes are taught by long-time club members, only advanced classes are taught by pros) we teach no-contact holds with the respectful 1 person-width space between the partners. This makes many beginners who are already timid about dancing a bit more comfortable. Another problem with body contact is it makes each person's posture affect the other person more directly, and this may not be such a big help, at least at first ;-) Also, incorrect attempts at body contact will often lead to heaviness and loss of posture (and therefore balance and lead/follow). Good body contact is very light. It is partly a matter of taste, but... In a lesson with Anne Lewis, I remarked on the lightness of the contact, and she responded: ``Our clothes are touching, that's plenty of contact.'' The truth is, you really only need enough contact to have a constant awareness of the other person's postion and shape. The best dancers can tell you where they are, but are otherwise light as a feather. This can be a very hard balance to achieve, and it may be better to put it off sometimes and take a roomier hold. When we first started dancing many American teachers taught differently (more separation) but no one I've taken from in the past 5 years still teaches that way. Also the speed of American and International style waltz are more or less the same (28-31 for NDCA international vs 28-30 for American in competition). True enough. And in general tempi of American and International style versions of a dance are different. I believe Jay has posted a rather complete and handy list that ought to be put in the archive or FAQ should one ever emerge. I HAVE been taught "arms only" technique by some very highly placed English dancers (Stephen Hillier when he was World Champ - 5 years or so ago) so this is (or was) a debatable point. Well, the Hilliers never did an arms only hold in competition, for the reason I mentioned above. I have also been lucky enough to dance with them both on a number of occasions. They use body contact when they really dance the figures; however, they will, like most of us, use alternative holds for teaching (or learning in our case) and practicing. Lindsey has really been creative on a couple occasions, and it was great! This allows them to concentrate on some points while not worrying about others. I myself have acquired quite an assortment of practice holds that help me to correct various problems, or feel certain things better, or just prevent me from doing something bad. My wife's point of view (which I hear quite often) is "I want to feel where your BODY is (not just your arms)". This usually means that I have lost connection between the top of me (arms, etc) and the legs, somewhere in the middle of the torso. She is looking for and following my body from the tops of the thighs to the middle of the rib cage (not just hips or arms). All true. But you must have correct posture and tone for this to happen. This does not mean stiff as a board, but it does mean that the body parts must be lined up correctly and that their relationships are clear. It's easier to bootstrap a new dancer with a hold that is more forgiving in this department, and then go to full contact (though not in John whatshisname's sense :-) later. This is true of more advanced dancers too when they want to work on something while contact is not an issue. When you dance with the Hilliers, there is never any doubt about where the weight is, where it is going, and what the overall shape should be. This is true in with or without contact. Ahhh. -Mark In response to the comments on lead and follow with hand/arm or body contact, I'd like to add that it is the hip contact that causes the lady's head action in many moves. The slight change of shape of the man at the end of the spin turn in the waltz can be felt through the hip. This is the action that allows me to lift or 'grow' at the end of the turn and causes my head to extend its shape slightly. I'm not sure how all that could happen with only an arm/hand lead. (?) Yvette Makowski From: sjhalasz@interaccess.com (Steven J. Halasz) Subject: Re: BALLROOM: Body Contact Date: Fri, 18 Nov 1994 20:14:34 My experience vis a vis body contact is that, when starting out, it is best to dance apart. You just don't have enough control of body movement to dance with a lot of contact until you have a fair amount of experience. We've taken a two hours once-a-week class for about five years, and it took us over 3 years before we had developed the coordination and balance necessary for close contact. Most of the syllabus, whether American or International, can be danced competently with separation, but some (International, at least, I've never learned American) steps, e.g. spins in Waltz and Quickstep, just don't work without hip contact. Plus the look and feel of the standard dances is very much enhanced once you can do it with hip contact. But you just can't do it until you've developed a whole lot of neuromuscular control and balance. It's absolutely wrong to be muscling or leaning on the partner, for example. Better to dance with less contact in that case. From: mintz@qkstep.tay.dec.com (Erik Pavlik Mintz) Subject: Re: Int. style= body contact & Amer. style=bodies apart ??? Date: 18 Nov 1994 15:20:34 GMT The primary difference between American Smooth and Internation Standard is that the American style allows open (and even separate) moves. However, that does not exclude closed position moves from American style. And while there are stylistic differences in body position between the two styles, my experience is that the basic body contact in closed position is fundamentally the same in both styles. Consider, as a practical matter, a pivot, or for that matter a basic V.Waltz turn. In both styles of dance, the partners move as a unit in a turning motion. If the partners are connected in some kind of a loose fashion, it becomes much harder for whoever is on the outside of the turn, because there is a larger distance to travel. It is also much easier to maintain common balance with a tightly coupled position. As a student of American style, I find that there was less emphasis on this positioning in my early training (which made things like pivots difficult), but as one advances teachers pay more attention to such things. Pretty much any time a visiting coach comes to town position/hold/contact takes up a good quarter of any lesson... Open moves, by contrast, are not simply a looser hold, but may be shadow positioning (in contact but both partners facing the same direction), completely unconnected (but coordinated) movements, or movements where the connection is through only one hand. The "loose connection", which I guess is sometimes mistaken for a fundamental characteristic of American style, is more of a simple informality. As Jay Dusenbury indicates, it is helpful to get new folks moving more easily. And since many American style students are not interested in competition, they may prefer to leave more space for comfort, or may simply not be interested in taking the time to improve "technique" when the could be learning "steps". This is an attitude that seems more acceptable in the American community than in the International community. -- epm From: davebu@microsoft.com (Dave Buchthal) Subject: Re: BALLROOM: Body Contact Date: Sat, 19 Nov 1994 21:53:56 GMT It is certainly true that body contact should be maintained during the smooth dances. However, there are a large number of things that a couple needs, including a good vertical line, proper foot pressure, a dynamic frame, correct head position, and appropriate musical interpretation for each dance. Body contact is (IMHO) less important than any of these things, and you certainly should not sacrifice your bodyline or frame to achieve it. This past summer at the Galaxy Dance Festival, I had the opportunity to see Kim & Cecile (sp?) Rygel who are currently one of the top modern couples in the world, ranked third or fourth the last time I checked. They were absolutely gorgeous dancers and I would rank their exhibition above any other modern couple I have ever seen, including the Hiltons, who are current world champions. However, one of their "deficiencies" was in body contact, in that they had gapping problems throughout many of their dances. So even the best of the best dancers don't score a perfect 100% in all aspects of all dances, and the ones who get to the top know how to prioritize. Dave Buchthal From: "Ralph Doty." <RDOTY@AARDVARK.UCS.UOKNOR.EDU> Subject: Re: Body Contact Date: Mon, 21 Nov 1994 18:25:10 GMT Steve Halasz points out that, although close body contact helps power and control, it is more suitable for advanced dancers than for beginners. Amen to that! My teacher introduced me to close body contact only a few months ago and WHAT A DIFFERENCE! But if I'd had to learn it as a novice, when I was desperately trying to control my footwork and my frame at the same time, I would have been 1) embarrassed, and 2) all over my partner's feet!:) Ralph Doty From: bruce@elekta.com (R. Bruce Rakes) Subject: Re: Another foray into (gasp!) ballroom Date: Mon, 7 Aug 1995 17:35:59 GMT rlg2@cornell.edu (R.Gray) wrote: > A couple characteristics of the ballroom culture that I still find puzzling: > * The partners don't look at each other when they're dancing (especially > in smooth or modern or whatever it's called) Not always true w/ Ballroom (aka Smooth, Modern, Standard). For the most part, the eyes are focused at spots in the room - necessary for proper movement and flight. You must be able to see where you are going and this is the responsibilty of both the man and the woman - it is a partnership! However, there are many opportunities for eye contact. These can occur during the development of picture lines or during moves that make big changes to the relative body positions. In the open American style which incorporates a 'breaking' of the closed dance position, there is even more opportunity for eye contact (underarm turns, free spins, etc.). Eye contact is necessary for spotting. Now with the Latin or Rhythm style of dance, eye contact is extremely important and is used as a visual lead technique as well. R. Bruce Rakes, Software Systems Manager From: rhn@netcom.com (Ron Nicholson) Subject: Re: Another foray into (gasp!) ballroom Date: Mon, 7 Aug 1995 20:13:51 GMT rlg2@cornell.edu (R. Gray) writes: >A couple characteristics of the ballroom culture that I still find puzzling: > * The partners don't look at each other when they're dancing (especially > in smooth or modern) My guess is that this has to do with human anatomy and physics. If you look straight at your partner, then you're left with peripheral vision to spot converging traffic. Since I know how good looking my partners are :-), I can leave them in my peripheral vision and use my central vision for spotting traffic. In my opinion, good (closed position) dancing is all about balance, and moving the balance points or two people together in time to the music. The human head is one of the heaviest parts of the body, as well as being at the very top of the body and very easy to throw around. If you're trying to control your balance to within a centimeter or less, as top dancers do, then throwing around a heavy weight (head) out of sync with what you're trying to do with the entire step is quite detrimental. Most of the heads mass is in front of the axis of the neck. If you leave your head looking straight forward, then most of the heads weight will be forward of your bodys center of gravity. That leads to counter balancing the head weight by sticking out ones butt or leaning on ones partner, neither of which is considered good dance form. If you put your head slightly to one side, then the head weight will be more over on foot and therefore less likely to require body or frame distortions to counter balance the head weight. From: rhn@netcom.com (Ron Nicholson) Subject: Re: head weight & int. ballroom Date: Wed, 9 Aug 1995 00:35:35 GMT I heard Jim Maranto (U.S. American Smooth champion) talk about this. (The following is only a very rough paraphrase of what he was trying to explain.) International standard style dancing evolved with more expression of rotational energy while staying in closed dance position than American style dancing. e.g. Bronze International style basics includes the double reverse spin, vs. American style bronze basics only include the left turning box. Playing with this rotational energy required a greater angular moment and thus a more seperated neck and head position, since the rest of the body had to stay near or in contact with the partner. Articlation of the head inwards not only affects balance but significantly decreases a couples angular moment. From: psychohist@aol.com (Psychohist) Subject: C/W, Ballroom, & other technique (was leave them out) Date: Sat Oct 19 15:02:47 CDT 1996 ... some ballroom competitors, mainly the ladies, take a stronger upper body shape, with a resultant head tilt and apparent turn to the left. This stronger shape is more visible, and provides better dynamics in fast turns, both of which are advantages in competition. Warren J. Dew From: ProDnzr@AOL.COM Subject: Re: Another foray into (gasp!) ballroom Date: Wed, 9 Aug 1995 15:08:39 GMT Robinne questioned such as why partners don't look at each other. I use a simple method to show why you don't look at your partner. Your feet track the way you look. In an offset position take four steps back starting with mans L ladies R, by the fourth step, the ladies R foot is usually turned slightly just enough for the man's right foot to catch her right foot. As the foot goes, so goes the knee. If the knee bends now, it will hit the inside of the ladies knee. Secondly I like to kid that I don't talk into your nose, I talk into your ear, so if I'm going to make small talk it would make sense to keep my head straight ahead. Thirdly, "standard or smooth" are travelling dances while Latin or Swing are spot dances, just as you drive your car looking forward the man must keep eyes forward to protect the lady from running her into other persons or objects. As for teachers teaching technique re how to lead certain figures. Much of that is taught in private lessons. Why? Much of standard (God I hate that name) is body centered leading, you don't lead with hands arms or fingers. You drive your body in a direction and the lady goes because she is connected to you throughout the various contact points. This assumes that you are in (God forbid!) body contact. Could you imagine having a group class and having people rotate and then telling them "OK get into body contact". While you could teach people certain partnering skills, most ballroom workshops have people learning cool figures assuming that you'll spend many hours learning to do the figures then several private lessons understanding the nuances. Comparatively much more technique is taught in a ballroom workshop than a swing workshop because it has been analyzed for so long. In D.C.'s Swing Fling, workshops with titles Killer Moves, and Ladies Synchopations were packed while those titled Swing with Attitude, or styling classes were half as small. Enio