General Dance Discussion > Why technique is the way it

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Partner Dancer, Jun 11, 2017.

  1. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    I'm curious if Ballroom/partner dancers actually understand "why" the dances are the way they are? Having done this stuff for decades, I'm quite clear that a big issue is blindly doing technique that is oftentimes propagated without critical analysis (or with bad/sham analysis). I'm certain that if partner dancers were taught "why" they have to dance in certain ways, their "bad" habits would change pretty quickly. There are very basic functional reasons why partner dancing work in certain ways, and there are many contrived (suboptimal) technique people teach because of blind regurgitation or poor understanding of the nature of partner dancing.

    As specifically for prior Ballet/Jazz/Tap/etc. experience, in many cases the problem is that instructors don't understand what it takes to "convert" a dancer with prior/related/relevant experience to a Ballroom/partner dancer, but only know the canned method of teaching non-dancers. The ability for classically trained dancers to hold "up" their bodies and get on their alignment axis (and turn/spin without dizziness) gives them a huge advantage over non-dancers. I did a few years of adult Ballet/Jazz/Tap/etc. when starting Ballroom and it was several years before I understood many of the classical techniques that apply to partner dancing.

    Anyone want to take a stab on "why" some of the dance technique quoted above are the way they are (more or less)? I have plenty of opinions on this issue, but will defer expressing them for the time being.
  2. raindance

    raindance Well-Known Member

    That's probably better off in a separate thread.
    opendoor likes this.
  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    So true, Partner Dancer, but how will you change this fact? Of course technique is an issue for teachers' associations. But who actually is training the teachers-2-be, in the end? My two cents on this: There is a totally different understanding concerning "technique" when it comes to compare the educational programms of either traditional ballroom teacher associations or of their free living counterparts. Programs of constituted organisations tend to be mediocre. Teacher trainings out in the wilderness simply are good or bad, and in the end bad teachers will dy out (hope so, anyway). In the traditional ballroom world, technique, is rather seen as a style question, wheras outside it is regarded another word for body technique, body work, compensation, strengthening, posture, balance excercises. Many of those free living teachers got an additional qualification or certificate, either in Alexander, Pilates, or Franklin. My own teachers all had a background in ballett, and as Pilates once was invented for ballett schools, so in the end I found my way into Pilates, too.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
    vit likes this.
  4. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    Apparently I have been very lucky, because in spite of being a franchise studio student, my instructors have always explained the "why" of the technique they are teaching. However, just because I understand "why", doesn't automatically mean I will pick it up faster. I like to joke with my teachers that if this were "Jeopardy!", I'd be an undefeated champion, it's the physical execution that I struggle with. Ballroom is hard. It takes years to master this stuff. And sometimes it takes a while for things to sink in - I've had concepts introduced (and explained, in case that's not implicitly understood by now) that didn't click until months later. So, while I absolutely concur that the "why's" need to be covered, it's not an instant panacea that will magically accelerate a student's progress, and I don't think it's necessarily the reason that students don't progress faster.

    I have to be blunt, I don't think it is the responsibility of a ballroom (or any other style) teacher to understand other styles and how to convert them. A ballroom teacher's job is to teach ballroom, period, and my job as a student is to learn it. In fact, I hate it when teachers do that to me, i.e. try to make an analogy to something else they know I do and think they understand. Just teach me what I need to do inside the ballroom context and leave it at that. I know I've told this story before, but when I took adult ballet, the teacher kept trying to relate things back to ballroom (particularly waltz, which was pointless since at the time I was primarily a rhythm dancer). It was not helpful.
  5. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Five likes for the "in spite of being a franchise studio student" part and another for the "Jeopardy" joke. That is also me. ;) Teacher has taken to saying, "could you please demo that with your body?"
    IndyLady likes this.
  6. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    1st Para ; I'm not clear on what you mean by "an issue" ?

    I belong to 3 recognised Soc. whose formats ,and techniques are virtually identical . And, I am aware that there are "teachers " who may have trained in other disciplines ,and believe that knowledge is transferable .

    2nd para ; Bad teachers will always exist. And, I do not know of any Prof. , who confuses/believes, style with "techn " and or substitutes one for the other.
    IndyLady likes this.
  7. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Sorry, better "is task for"
  8. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Different people certainly have different ways and speeds of learning.

    Perhaps we can get into some details about why, to get past discussions by hand-waving.

    1) Why is it that in Latin/Rhythm, the feet are supposed to face (roughly) 11 and 1 o'clock? Under what conditions, and in what dances is this not the case, and why?

    2) Why is rising up on the feet, as in Ballet, not good in partner dancing. Are there any circumstances when this is appropriate? OTOH, how far from the floor should the feet be in partner dancing? Why?

    3) In partner dancing, should the body dance turns/spins (or anything else) with lower body "down" and upper body "up?" Under what circumstances? Why?

    4) What are some of the Ballet techniques that apply to partner dancing? And which ones do not? Why?

    It takes years and decades because we often have to take big detours, significantly because of mediocre understanding, often caused by bad instruction.

    That's not to say the detours are not interesting, as oftentimes they make us better people/dancers.

    In my experience, many of the "concepts" instructors teach/espouse constitute pseudo-science. IOW, they try to make dance seem like some PHD program, when in a lot of cases, the concepts are just some random concoctions that sound so astute.

    That's not to say that all concepts are bad, as some of them are quite brilliant. The problem is sorting it all out.

    For me, many things I "learned" don't click until a decade+ later.

    The problem is sorting it all out.

    Well, why is it that in education in general, people believe that teachers/classes should meet the particular needs of students. For instance, students with special needs or students who are gifted are set up with different teachers/classes than the "common" student.

    Teachers who have deeper understanding of particular students' abilities/background can aid greatly in the education of those students.

    I bet the Ballet teacher who tried to bring Waltz into your Ballet training had very minimal exposure to Waltz/Ballroom, and was just trying to apply pseudo-science.

    I've encountered plenty of situations dealing with instructors/coaches who use dance (style) analogies to claim authority of understanding of dance/movements, when they themselves have so little exposure in the "other" dances of which they claim knowledge (mostly from 2nd hand).

    Of particular note was in WCS/Salsa classes where instructors claim Ballroom technique is the foundation of good partner dancing (which is mostly true), and proceed to demonstrate Ballroom techniques (poorly). Of course, the group classes students are mesmerized by the "deep understanding" these instructors/coaches had, when it was mostly pseudo-science.
  9. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I have answers to all of your questions ,and will address them in due course. First, to the above statement ;

    Salsa; There is little that BR may claim, from a technical standpoint, that it laid foundation for partnership in the latin genre.
    The most common mistake made by many BR teachers, is that the techniques of one are transferable to the other .

    The prime differences are, very simply this; Hold, Frame, CBM, and Footwork, by and large, are completely different .
    There may be a commonality in the steps used, and the origins in many, are a moot point .

    If "we " accept that, latin partnership was in evidence long before BR entered the arena, but, it's simplicity was the order of the day.BR did add another dimension, a paradigm shift if you will, but that's on the latin side of dance.

    The BR comparisons with other genres are many, and are well documented. That is not to say that, the founders of BR did not create new dances, but did "borrow" from other sources .

    Danzon, is given credit for the existence of todays BR Cha cha and Rumba,and is easily traced back to their roots.

    BR dance, as we now it, has gone thru many transitions ( and I've lived thru many of those ! ),and music has played a significant role in those changes ( for one ex. going from 2/4 to 4/4 timing ) .

    So.. Is BR responsible for P/ship dance ?, I suppose if we go back to Contradanze , then yes, BUT, the advances that exist today, are far removed from those roots.

    I will address some of your other issues later..

    PS.. by the way, you have raised some very good questions .
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
  10. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I forgot to add in "techn. " differences.. CM, a totally different approach..
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2017
  11. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Here ;are some answers to your bullet points...;

    1...The foot turn out in latin. was chosen to accommodate the figure 8 hip action used in CM, The Standard, has no comparable style, and , the general direction of travel is not suited to that foot position.

    2... The foot rise in ballet ,is unique, and not being an expert on the genre, I will assume that its fit for purpose. As to the BR usage of " toes ", they do come into prominence ( as you know ), on numerous occasions, but, unlike ballet , that position is not sustained quite as long. ( Scrivener was a proponent of less is more on that subject ) .

    3..."Spins"...It depends upon the the "wheres and whens " .. heres what Irvine said about the " body" ( paraphrased )" I feel like something is pulling me upwards and yet, there seems to be a counterpart pulling me down ".

    My take on spins is simply this ; the lower the centre of gravity, the more control one should have .

    4.. Ballet techn and its usage in BR...
    Having taught some ex ballet types over the years, I find that generally speaking, the way they "use " their body, in some cases, is diametrically the opposite to what BR teaches.

    For ex. the frame is taught, the feet spread way outwards, and the way they "Walk" in Forward steps " in travelling actions, is ingrained , and breaking that "style" is endless ( or so it seems ! ).

    The latin side is probably somewhat more adaptable , with some slight modifications .

    As you may or may not know, the BR technique, was established in the 1920s, and it took several years to refine.
    The likes of Josephine Bradley, Eve Tynegate Smith and Henry Jacques to name but a few, who contributed to the technical standardisation, of which was/is revised as deemed necessary .

    I don't know if this will satisfy your questions, and there are I'm sure , other opinions ,on how some "techn." may differ.
  12. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    So you finally agree with me that technique is a style question, tt ;)

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  13. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I believe you misread /understand my position, as I do not agree that style is techn. Techn. may accompany style, but, they are 2 different concepts. One is the application of efficiency, and the other, is HOW we portray a specific figure/move. Some techn. is not visible, whereas style always is.

    Here's an ex where the 2 concepts need to work together to achieve a result ; Contracheck with changing sway line .
    The visual impact is strong ,whereas the hidden.

    The foot position in Latin, as I stated, is a technical aspect and the "style" of that is not common to BR,
    Requiem likes this.
  14. vit

    vit Active Member

    I think that I agree with the whole context as described, although of course, single sentence is leaving room for various explanations/agreements/disagreements

    In each genre/subgenre/style/area where it is being danced, there is some commonly accepted way how to do something "correct", although whole thing usually isn't visible (which would be "style"). This way is frequently totally different than used by members of some other genre/subgenre/style/area ... so discussions what is right and what is wrong are quite common in dance world

    However, general body condition/balance/posture isn't that connected with it ... one may perfectly understand what should be done, but can't do it well because his/her body isn't working good enough for that ... and dance teachers are usually more or less able to explain the first, but most of them can't help much about the second or even understand why technique doesn't work on particular person ...
    nessundorma, opendoor and IndyLady like this.
  15. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi Partner Dancer , do you mean travelling or pivoting turns. It would make a difference.
  16. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    ^^^ This.

    I'm not going to humor the "gotcha" response to my other post, it's missing the point for the most part.

    At any given moment in any dance, there are probably at least 20 technical things I'm supposed to be doing. My brain doesn't have the capacity to remember that many things at once, so of course they have to be taught and internalized gradually so that I don't have to consciously articulate them to remind myself, and some things are going to take longer than others to make physically happen. In fact, I have told instructors (one in particular had to be reined in a lot) that they had a limit of 3 things at any given time, so pick the most important ones. (Same instructor once tried to bundle three elements and count it as one thing... ha ha, no).

    At the end of the day, both students and instructors are human, none of them are perfect, and not every teacher is right for every student. And matching them up optimally is not always possible (especially geographically, based on what I read on this forum). So you just have to work with what you have and make the best of it.
  17. vit

    vit Active Member


    My overall experience is that teachers that are best for me have similar body type like me (if man) or my ideal partner (if woman). That was the case even if I was attending only group classes, where there was usually not much dancing with the teacher, and of course for privates where I mostly want to "feel" it by dancing with the teacher. Theories never worked well for me, although I was reading books etc and I am not against theory, just that theory I got from the teachers was mostly some kind of pseudotheory and was ringing wrong bells on me as mechanical engineer ... exception was a gentleman that was studying physics before oriented to dancing, he was free of telling physical nonsenses to the students for obvious reason ...
  18. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Open ended question, answer as you will. As mentioned in the "original" post, I'm interested in what/how others think (about) in learning to dance, and to what extent they pursue "why."

    My take on these things is quite different from what has been tossed around by others in this thread so far, and I'll expound on this in due time.
    opendoor likes this.
  19. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Perhaps the most basic question is "why" people dance, as that has a high impact on how they learn and how much they care about "why." Of course, different individuals have different motivations and viewpoints, and disagreements/differences/challenges in opinions could be viewed positively as "what works for me" or (implicitly) negatively as "what you are missing." For me, the quest for doing something better (given the amount of effort, time, money, etc., spent) outweighs the ego factors inherent in human interactions. Accolades/criticisms from others affect me far less than those from myself, but YMMV. To me, the ability to assess fairly entails understanding "why."

    My motivation in dancing (at this point, and as the case with my other hobbies) is just to do something well and better from day to day. I'm naturally curious, inquisitive, and skeptical and am highly practical in what I consider good/mediocre/bad in dance, not blindly following any religions or doctrines. To me, good technique makes dancing/dances easy. To me, good dancing is easy (but the path to get there is usually quite difficult). To me, being able to dance "anything" with "anyone" without much effort is the ultimate goal.

    When I first started, an AM instructor posed in group class the question of "why we have so many dances," and he was just referring to the ten AS dances, plus the miscellaneous Merengue, Salsa, etc.. No student responded, so he followed up with the answer that "it's so we learn to move in many different ways." This "simple" answer is actually pretty prophetic. By extrapolation, doing other dances (partnered or solo) beyond what AM taught would teach one to move in even more different ways. Also, the question of whether "movements" or "dances" should be the main focus of this endeavor pops up. After over two decades of learning and doing, and becoming capable/competent in well over thirty dances, I have my preferences and rational.

    About 5 years into my dancing, a high-ranked Standard coach introduced me to the idea of "easing up." Up till then, dancing just oftentimes felt like too much work and headed the wrong way. Although the lesson concentrated on Standard, the concept made me much more aware about enviable goals, that really apply to all dances. It was a turning point in that I realized I needed to take charge of my own dancing development. "Effortlessness" and finesse became my obsessions, and the means was understanding "why" certain instructions/techniques were better than others.

    Around the same time, a Latin coach made me aware of how much "effort" good dancers actually put in to control their bodies and movements. Prior to that, I really just "flopped around," mostly because I didn't appreciate enough the use of body isolations and integrity of movements. With this insight, along with stuff learned around then in classical dance classes, I gained greater clarity of what makes for great dancing. There's effort in training the body/mind to do things on demand/interaction, to achieve the effortlessness that can happen while dancing.

    Dancing is oftentimes like taking medicine. A lot of dancers are taught to do dozens of techniques simultaneously that are often conflicting or unnatural. Hence, they find it forever difficult. My observation is that many students (and instructors) were never made aware of the "real" basics and hence are always trying to apply a new technique to fix the old broken ones. It's like taking dozens of medicines, each additional one to counter the ill side-effects of the one before, without a diagnosis/cure for the original ailment in the first place.

    One of the distinctive qualities of Ballroom/partner dancing (note that I lump Ballroom as a subset of partner dancing (which excludes cabaret, etc)) is that a dancer gets to "work with" a partner, changing the physical dynamics of movement. There are many considerations in being tethered to a partner, that are absent from dancing solo. Having a good grasp of partnered dynamics makes choosing proper techniques almost trivial.

    I'll go through the various "why" sub-topics mentioned, as they relate to the issues above, in ensuing posts.
  20. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    So , you've just scratched the surface :D

    Time spent on "dance/learning ". is quite subjective. The quality of instruction anyone receives, and the ensuing time to adapt the theories, may differ greatly from person to person .
    This also needs to factor" in " , competing theories ( as Scrivener briefly outlined ) . The other aspect of "dance " , is how one approaches teaching for 1.. the social side ( the majority of students ) and.. 2.. the competitive side .

    It's worth noting that, the social strata in the UK and the States, are miles apart .

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