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

    My observations, YMMV...

    The single most important technique which the vast majority of partner dancers don't know or are inconsistent about doing is alluded to in these videos.

    at 4:18

    at 3:20

    The ability to maintain a taut/flat lower ab and a butt that's tucked under the torso is essential for good upper and lower body coordination. This straightens the body line, making the body like a pair of chopsticks with flex, directing energy and force with maximal effect (and hence minimizes the work). This is the "primary effort" a dancer should make.

    Although most (serious) Ballroom dancers have probably heard of the idea of axes of rotation, many/most don't manage to attain it (consistently) because of lack of understanding of the above. An uncontrolled ab or protruding butt breaks the axes lines, making it hard/harder to rotate or lean/sway. Unfortunately, because many dancers are more into the "look" and pizzazz, they often miss this most fundamental of techniques, either because they were never taught or exposed to it, or because they never figured it out for themselves.

    How do I know this? I am a prolific social dancer and I observe a lot of dancers in action. At this point, I can tell from the movements of my social partners of the moment how well they coordinate upper and lower body actions and can "superimpose" myself onto the dancers I observe to figure out the force vectors they employ, and consequently how much excess work they do. Because the connection between partners is pretty much always above the waist, and typically at the hands/arms, the ability of each partner to extend that connection across his/her own body so that the legs+feet which provide the weight-support are integral and consistent with the inter-partner connection, both in position and timing, is key to how pleasant and easy the dance goes. IOW, when a partner shifts the connecting point one inch, what he/she desires is to have the other partner shift his/her foot/feet a proportional distance/direction, with appropriate time skew.

    I consider Ballroom Samba to be the most difficult dance to do with real lead+follow and connection. Few Samba dancers can do this, and the primary reason is because most others have poor grasp of abs/butt control. When a partner executes a body gyration, the idea is to carry it throughout the body, but most dancers end up flailing the upper body separate from the lower (especially with disproportionate butt shaking), making it "impossible" to do good/true lead+follow (no connection from one partner's feet to the other's). Consider the following figure, the Closed Rocks...

    Although doing an acceptable demontration (I will be critical here to press my point), the dancers are not using enough abs/butt control so their upper and lower bodies are disjoint (bellies are flopping). There is no energy flow from the feet of one dancer to the other, and the dancers are in each-other's way (because their dance axes are not "straight enough"). The leader can't convey to the follower to "get out of the way" (at the hip), so there's in-fighting. Unfortunately, most dancers dance Samba (and lots of other dances) using patterns/amalgamations rather than individual movement/weight-change, which means a lot of mediocre/bad technique is covered up. A Standard-only dancer who understand/uses abs/butt control technique should be able to do Samba basics ad-lib.

    It turns out that for a lot of activities, such as skiing, skating, scuba diving, and gymnastics, being able to straighten the body, so upper and lower parts are integral, is key to basic competence. Because these activities are primarily characterized by performance/balance/control rather than appearance, participants tend to gain awareness of the need for abs/butt technique as a natural outgrowth of doing.

    In the 20+ years I've been taking private/group classes in all sorts of partner dance, I have never heard of any instructor mentioning the abs/butt technique. Instructors talk about "posture" but don't mention the important details of how to achieve it. In the 3 or so years of classical dance lessons I attended, I learned implictly to use this technique at all times, as the 45 minutes out of every 1 hour lesson doing bar and floor exercises demanded the ability to keep the body straight. Every competent Ballet/Jazz/Tap/Modern/etc. (solo) dancer knows this (as shown in videos above). Although I had become keenly aware of the need for partner dancers to do this fairly early, particularly in Samba, it's only in recent years that I would categorically state that in _every_ partner dance across the board (of the 35+ dances I do), this is a core/foundation technique (now that I understand even better "why").

    To be clear, the abs and butt techniques shown in the solo spin videos are only part of the story. For partner dancing, the technique has to be refined with such things as body rotation, how much strength verses habit, how much play there is between upper and lower body, etc.. While this is necessary for the partner dances and classical solo dances, it is optional for other solo dances such as line dancing, since the body dynamics are different and these other solo dances have so much more random freedom.

    The abs/butt technique gives rise to so many other good/great techniques; trying to do these other techniques without this core capability would be a futile proposition.
  2. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    You sure do make a lot of assertions..

    The techniques of which you speak, are not

    as uncommon as you think/believe. I will use salsa for a classic ex. of a dance where, the use of the "body " from the core ( abs to you ) is a constant part of most teachers vocabulary in that dance discipline .

    What really concerns me , is your reference to Ballet technique that should apply to BR. This one area of "dance " is contradictory to the BR technique in most aspects.

    I also would beg to differ that, Samba runs a distant 2nd to Foxtrot in degree of difficulty . ( as most Profs will agree ) .

    I'm also surprised( thru your statements ) you have never come across any teachers , who advocate the FULL use of the body in partnership dance .

    lastly, the amount of time spent social dancing , does not equate to the multi years of prof training, with world class technicians . The theories you espouse, are common knowledge, to any well trained Prof.

    NB.. may I suggest you go to salsa Forums, where you can spin technique at its best ( and those dancers are as common as sand at the beach )..
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  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    On the contrary, in my 20 years of dancing I found it impossible to finde a teacher who not only mentioned the core techniques. At the risk of repeating myself, I think you have confused style with technique for over 20 years. It should be clear that teaching viennese waltz in a proper international standard technique involves a totally different concept of postitioning the axes than teaching one and the same dance in a balfolk or folklore class does. If fear that the said "all sorts of partner dance" only account for two or three different styles. Have you ever asked the teacher before attending a class which style and which techique he/she actually follows?
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  4. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I believe PD was using the example of the ballet dancer to illustrate the need to basically stand up straight and maintain that by use the core in order to spin properly. I agree that other ballet techniques don't work/is counter-productive to partner dancing but I don't think PD was pushing those.

    My experience on the social dance floor is consistent with PDs. Also have never heard core techniques discussed in a group class but there are a lot of other techniques not described in group classes. One local teacher of C&W dances has invented the term "popcorn feet" for rank amateurs. "Popcorn feet" being the technique you would use to move past people from the center of a row in a crowded theater. Popcorn feet is basically used with one foot pointing LOD, the other foot facing wall, and the body pointed DW. The objective is that the leader's center points at his partner while he leads her in spins. I myself use CBMP facing DW and I believe the teacher uses that for her more advanced students, but if it works it works.

    I have taken private lessons with only a few teachers. My present teacher teaches this, the others did not but possibly because I had other issues that were more pressing. I must say that I don't see a reflection of this technique in the private male students of some local female teachers, perhaps they're making a bit of financial calculus in there if the teacher can cover for her student's lack of technique. Countering that, I find it difficult to overcome the habits of a lifetime of slouching over a keyboard and just walking down the street and engaging my core in the "heat of battle" on the dancefloor.

    The local "teacher guy" illustrates the lack of core techniques quite well. Teacher Guy is quite sway-backed, but it's even worse than that as his upper torso is straight. So that pretty much eliminates other techniques like CBM and he's so forward-weighted that he sometimes stumbles over his own feet. Teacher Guy compensates for his inadequate technique by teaching the lady to do her part well enough to compensate for his crappy lead; I suspect that he has the "gray book" pretty much memorized even though he can't execute it himself. It was comical watching him attempt a fleckerl. I later told his dance partner who is one of those rare women who naturally can move in CBM and CBMP that I believed that she could do a fleckerl with a minimum of competent instruction but that Teacher Guy never ever would. Or if they did it, it really wouldn't be a fleckerl, rather he would be dancing in one spot while she managed somehow to orbit around him.
  5. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    I just wanted to chime in that I've had many instructors/coaches who have stressed the importance of both the core and the pelvic floor, drilling down to the point of discussing individual muscles and how to engage them.

    That said, I've also had several instructors/coaches who would be very leery about any discussion of tucking one's butt. Certainly, sticking it out is bad, but the importance of maintaining the natural curvature of one's spine has been a common thread among the higher-level instructors I've worked with. (And even the ballet instructor I'm taking group classes with these days.) It's all too easy to overcorrect.
  6. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    The "grey " book does NOT teach anyone HOW to dance, but What.

    Teaching complex moves , is better served , in verbal instruction, and the book is essentially a guide for Prof exams ,technical approaches , and syl. work. Essentially, it is the basic foundation of the dances, and there is no way to include "nuance " f,or each and every step.

    There are many ex. where one single word verbally given, may give immediate enlightment to complex issues, but , to include these in a book of technique, they could easily be misconstrued.
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  7. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    +1 for having multiple instructors emphasizing core/abs/butt/etc. Repeatedly.

    Similar here. At first it was a simplified "booty in", but more recently I've noticed an emphasis on "it's not squeeze your glutes, it should be coming from the abs". Even the lady on one of my hip hop exercise DVD's says that.
  8. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I agree with you, Teacher Guy would not.
  9. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    My post was very specific. The "only" assertion has to do with tucking the butt under the torso and using the lower abs to position that portion of the body "straight." The Ballet/Jazz/etc. solo dancer in the video demonstrates this nicely. It's amusing how other readers infer from my claim all sorts of gobbly gook, like dancing from the core, which is _not_ the gist of this "positioning" issue. For all decent classical dancers, this is a given.

    Most/all of my other statements/claims are in support of the main assertion.

    My single/main assertion goes beyond just maintaining the tucked butt for spins, which is probably what many dancers do (only). I assert that for most if not all of partner dancing, the butt should be positioned (roughly) thus because the "straight" lower back allows superior movement. This includes in doing walks, rocks (as in the Samba example video), leans/sways, fans, whatever. Note that in my analogy of the "flexed" chopsticks when the tucked butt is deployed, the body itself may not be rigorously straight (note "with flex"), as there could be a (single) curvature of body (from foot to head, as with a tree blown by the wind). This is simply physics, and I can elaborate more later.

    To me, technique is technique, independent of dance (the idea that a tucked butt is "Ballet/Jazz" technique is silly, as obviously many/most dancers do it when spinning in any dance, partnered or solo). Some techniques work in certain dances/movements (good technique) and some don't (bad technique). Certain dances expose us more to certain techniques, such as Tango tends to involve more fans (fan figures/moves), but these figures (and related techniques) can certainly carry to other dances, as in fans in WCS or Foxtrot.

    Instead of hand-waving in contesting whether a particular technique is good or bad, especially when misinterpreting the original point(s) of my assertion, there is much more useful/productive ways of making points. I invite posters to make comments about the dancing/dancers in the Samba Closed Rocks example, being very specific and indicating time in the video, since the posters seem to have so many strong opinions about techniques (in this case butt positioning). Show us what you know. I already stated some of my thinking, and can go into even more details later.

    I have taken 10+ years of privates and 20+ years of group classes (in Ballroom and many other partner dances), plus dozens if not hundred of coaching lessons, including with many top-ranked dancers in many genres. I would be surprised if any of the other posters in this thread has taken as many lessons or have come across as many varied instructors/coaches as I have. A very few may have spent some $$$ more than I have, but probably in areas (costumes, comps, etc.) not related to lessons and learning. Unfortunately, as human nature would have it, (other) readers jump to conclusions about what I stated, twisting my words from not reading carefully. They can certainly believe whatever they want, including dancing with a protruding butt, but their assuming things like I haven't "heard it all" is amusing. I deliberately use words like "lower abs" and "butt tuck" to stay away from this over-used idea of "core" (what is that? a lump of the entire abdomen? the entire torso?), and yet readers assume based on their own stories.

    I re-iterate that in the thousands of lessons I've taken in partner dancing, I've never heard one instructor mention the importance of tucking the butt, the one technique I believe is fundamental to all partner dances I do (about 35 of them). I'm sure some/many of the instructors do in fact tuck the butt at times, or perhaps most/all the time, especially when they spin, etc. but they may not recognize its (all situational) importance and convey it to students. I have to stress, as I had already mentioned in the need to refine, that the "tucking" in partner dancing is not quite exactly what the Ballet dancer demonstrates in the video. I'll get into this later, as it gets protracted, since this and many other great techniques that derive from it are highly intertwined.

    The posts from other readers actually support my claim that no/few Ballroom/partner instructors ever teach/mention butt positioning (from what I can tell reading some posts, some instructors may even teach/espouse/do butt protrusion). The posts keep mentioning some ethereal concept of "dancing from the core" which is so vague, it's useless (and not what I'm describing). Very similar to what I hear from many instructors about "body leading," when many of them that claim to teach it have no clue how to do it well. There's a big distinction between never having heard of the specific technique verses having come across it (heard about it or figuring it out) but discounting it (for oneself, or for all).

    BTW, discussions about specific muscles, etc, is really pseudo-science to me, where dance instructors pretend to be surgeons. Dancers need to know much more general and practical information, such as the lower abs are far less strong than the butt and thigh muscles, and hence should be used more for positioning than powering.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  10. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    there is a lot to take in here.... butt I am sure I can counter most of it.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
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  11. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    One more note since maybe it'll clarify things: I screwed up in my last competition and there were a few points where I *was* sticking my butt out. While watching the video, my instructor pointed them out specifically as something I both should know better than to do and as something I needed to stop. Because we've talked about it before. So when I talk about "maintaining the natural curve of the spine", it's definitely not about sticking one's butt out.

    In all sincerity, I'm not doubting that your experiences are what they are. But all I can do is relate what mine are.
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  12. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

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  13. nessundorma

    nessundorma New Member

    At least in Smooth, dancing on the diagonal or with CBM has rendered the butt point moot. If I am extending and stretching across myself, there’s not a lot of butt to throw around. Stabilizing myself over a stretch and transferring weight certainly involves tone in the core, but as a result of the stretching, diagonal action--more like what I’d use in yoga to sustain and flow through a pose. For a while I was dancing in this incredibly aggressive way, very squared up with my partner even though I thought I was keeping weight to the left, and with a strong core, butt tucked and all that. It worked to iron out all the s-curves in the body, but it came at the expense of a lot of movement and much more reactive following. So, I don’t know. It’s something I’m still tinkering with in spite of plenty of very early exhortations from instructors.

    In Latin, yes, I absolutely do lengthen the spine and very consciously transfer weight, so I need control over the pelvis and core. But I have a tendency to get very locked up if I focus too much on the whole flat back thing. Finding the diagonal is probably a much more dynamic way of dancing, if I could just find it. Not sure I’m saying any of this very well, but one thing I do mean to say is that I am wary of anything that comes across as dance dogma. Things unfold and evolve over time.
  14. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    There you go again making assumptions about how no one has had more exposure to first class coaches, than you ( I'm really curious to know who YOU rate ? ). I was dance "raised " in an era and a location where there was an abundance of world class teachers ( too many world champions to mention ) and oddly enough I never came across one of them
    who advocated in the terms you use, to get the results they did, i.e. produce world class dancers..

    And, the length of time spent in lessons does not necessarily equate to superior knowledge.

    Last.. I will agree that there are differences of opinions on some techniques by world class dancers/coaches ( Scrivener was certainly one, backed by sound theory ), which brings me to this point ; Your posts are primarily theoretical which begs the question, have you utilised them on others ?

    The mark of great theory is its workable practical application in large sample sets, which I will assume that is not the case with your assertions , which makes them opinions with no basis of fact other than your own experiences .

    NB.. Personally, I have coached in the recent past, numerous dancers who had been taking Private and group lessons for far more years than you keep quoting, it's NOT as uncommon as you believe .
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017
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  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I forgot to add this advice given by Bill Irvine ( he of 10 world championships )..
    He stated that without these 3 components ,all will fail if losing one ;

    1.. Balance control
    2.. Muscle control
    3.. Timing control
    These 3 items "trump " all else no matter how perfect is the technique .
  16. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    So let us let the personal bickering die down. Everyone is a bit heated. Right or wrong here we are, no sense pointing fingers. Let's just move on without dragging it out even more.

    Here is my teaching. Take it or leave it.

    The idea of "tucking" never comes up in ballroom because it is a horrible term and idea. The concept of intentionally contracting the lower abdominal muscles so that the butt tucks under is so misplaced. There is no reason to engage it so strongly that it pulls my lower spine underneath myself. You never hear the word "tuck" in ballroom because good ballroom teachers and coaches are taught from day one to never say that word.

    And that area is NOT my core anyway. IF I wanted to create a better core tone in a person I would say "take your belly button up to the in middle of the shoulder blades". This creates the core connection within a body but is above the butt so it leaves it out of the equation and avoids a tucking crunch.

    What we do say is that the lower spine should remain in a neutral state, the butt should never been crunched or tucked under nor should it be sticking out from behind. When I work with a dancers whose bum is out I gently press my hand on their back side and encourage them to relax the muscles that create the hyper lordosis. I tell them to look for the tension in their back area and release it to let their tail bone fall down to the floor. When I work with students who have a serious hips locked forward in a tuck I do the same, I put my hands on the side of their hips and tell them to release the muscles in the lower ab area that are holding their spine out of alignment.

    When you see "butts sticking out" you are seeing one of two things. One is the butt is actually sticking out because the lower spine is contracted pulling the hips up in back. This is not good. No one wants this.

    The other thing you may see and mistake for a butt sticking out or spine out of alignment is this... The hips must swing freely front to back, and side to side, to allow the extension of the leg to create swing and sway. When swinging sideways the hips are included (sway). When swinging into a forward movement my hips are included. When my legs are swinging back MY HIPS ARE INCLUDED. This often is misinterpreted as sticking the butt out. Indeed when I teach and dancers are top weighted going back (meaning their hips are locked forward when they step back which in turn means their head and shoulders will travel faster than their lower half) I sometimes just shortcut to the end and say stick your butt out. But only when I need immediate relief from tucking. I then have to go back and explain the why and how. Because tucking restricts leg legs from naturally moving back. Just as sticking the butt out by curling the tailbone up on back hinders forward movement. It is the intentional (or unintentional) tucking or sticking it out that get us into trouble, misalign the spine, stifle movement, and create an imbalance. Creating a fluid soft natural mobility of the hips is far superior to a one directional tucking any day.

    A popular analogy for this idea is that "your legs go up to here" as teacher points to their rib cage. Meaning that where ever the legs go... so do the hips. Your legs do not stop where they met the torso. "They go up to here and INCLUDE the hips." If you legs go forward so do the hips. If your legs go back... so do the hips (and butt).

    And without getting into a pissing match over how much effort, time, money, and information has gone into my dancing, I can simply back up my information's validity with successful results for myself and my students... as well as positive peer feedback from industry greats. I was coaching a couple and the girl was stepping forward onto a press line and then spinning, unsuccessfully. I was working right in front of Shirley Ballas who happened to be coaching in our studio that week. I said several times to the girl that she was having trouble spinning because her hips were out of alignment. Her butt was stuck out. She needed to make sure that she finished swinging her hips forward with her leg. Her head was over her foot but her butt was left behind. I said "You need to complete the forward action. Take your whole spine, hip flexors included, and stack them up over the front of your standing foot, under your head. Get that crease out of your pocket area in your pants." I even encouraged her to put her hand over her hip flexor and feel that area lengthen and line up. She needed more than anything to simply move her weight forward in her foot so she could stand up properly. Aligning her whole spine, hips included, over her foot helped to achieve that. Even though her butt was sticking out telling her to tuck her hips never would have fixed the issue. It would only have created another problem by locking the lower lumbar and sacrum in an unnatural alignment from the rest of the spine, removing the NATURAL curve in her back, and created other balance and energetic issues. After my lesson Shirley said "I thought I was listening to Lorraine teach. You sounded just like her right then. It is nice to hear good information."

    So yes I "believe" my information to be correct. Your assertion that we advocate teach people to dance with their butt stuck out is flat out wrong. But you are right, we don't EVER use the word tuck, because tucking is vastly different from any alignment that is natural easy and efficient in a swinging action for the hips.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2017
  17. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    Or #3.... those of us with ample booties and swaybacks. :D (j/k, sort of).

    Btw, that is all helpful information. I think I have been on the "porridge too hot" side of tucking (or whatever you want to call it), because the last two instructors have been pushing my hips away from them during smooth/standard dances (e.g I am blocking their forward progress).
  18. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Yup, the porridge too hot/cold is an ongoing struggle, Steve used to call it the thermostat fight.

    And as to #3. Having a booty or ample padding is one thing, not much can be done about that! But if you are fighting your swayback and booty by tucking then you are blocking not only yourself from swinging back but also your instructors!! Making for cranky teachers...
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
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  19. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Larinda. The number one reason I have zero interest in ever teaching is that I know that I am - in the words of the great poet Charles Barkley - "just turrible" at explaining things, even though I've had some lovely instruction and coaching. "Come on now [Jude], use you words" was a running joke for years in my lessons. I think I'll sit back and listen to the people who know what they're talking about and communicate well. Plus there's less chance of Cranky Jude sneaking out that way. :)
  20. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Honestly it is a learned skill. I simply have had a lot of time to practice explaining.
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