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

    - You're being a colossal jerk. Seriously, could you disagree without being quite so disagreeable?
    - Yes, dancing from the core is a nebulous concept that doesn't really explain what a dancer needs to do. Hence discussions of the TVA and how to activate and use it, for example. (I award one quatloo to everyone who instantly knows the coach I'm thinking of here.) There are very specific things that need to be done that "engage the core" does an inadequate job of explaining in and of itself, I completely agree. Which is why many of my instructors have gone well beyond nebulous exhortations to "engage your core".
    - If you think anyone here is advocating a protruding butt, you're doing as poor a job of reading as you're accusing others of doing. But(t) you really do want to maintain the natural curve of your spine. Early on, I had ... less experienced, let's call them, instructors advocate curling your butt in "like a scorpion" to try to straighten the spine. I've had multiple extraordinarily well-qualified instructors independently and cite that analogy as a terrible thing that no one should ever do. As part of their explanations of what to do with ones hips, which has been an extremely common component of lessons I've taken. Seriously, I can't explain the discrepancy, but this is an extremely well-tread topic in lessons I've taken.

    Now, all that said, let me be clear that I haven't watched your videos and I'm fine with the idea that may not be what you mean by tucking in one's butt. I'm just cautioning against the misinterpretation should anyone be inclined to make it.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
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  12. 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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  13. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

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  14. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Are you so insecure in your beliefs that on any _perceived_ disagreement, you resort to personal insults? I count a dozen+ "to me," "my," and "YMMV" adjectives/clauses in my posts in this thread, and go out of my way to preface the discussion with a post about opinions and ego, and yet you choose to find confrontation in my statements (which are all intended to assert _my_ beliefs [which apply to _me_]). I posted videos so that there would be something tangible to observe and discuss, rather than some argument about wording. I'm sure most people believe everyone has a right to his/her own opinions, and it's usually the mistaken belief that someone else wants to impose his/her will on others that causes friction. I have _zero_ interest (couldn't care less) in how anyone here dances, especially since I don't know anyone personally and probably have never seen him/her dance. I offer my opinions as part of my own learning/doing process, and whether anyone agrees or disagrees is pretty much irrelevant to me. I will stay on the high road and stay on the subject matter, not the personality.

    The irony is I didn't have much disagreement with any of the posts you made in this thread, save for the blurb about individual muscles, as I find that unnecessarily complicated. But, I'm entitled to my opinions (as you are to yours).
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  15. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    I phrased that extraordinarily poorly, and I sincerely apologize. I do feel you spent an awful lot of time belittling others in that post, and that it would be significantly easier to engage with you if you'd cut that sort of thing out. But that's doesn't excuse my lashing out.
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  16. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    Well you certainly seem to have a lot of opinions on what other dancers/instructors know or don't know, and that they are doing it wrong and/or don't know what they are doing.

    This. Remove all the references to other dancers/instructors and your perception of their knowledge base and this would be a totally different discussion.
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  17. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Exactly who am I belittling? Be specific. Re-read all my posts in this thread and perhaps you'd see my evaluations are pretty even-sided, especially given _my_ particular criteria/motivations of what constitutes good dancing. In post #19, I mention several instances of good instruction/coaching and, in #21, I mention that I've never heard of a specific technique in any of the thousands of lessons I've ever taken. In #29, I clarify _my_ position/thinking about the butt technique. And in #19, I prefaced the discussion with warning how being strongly in favor of one opinion implicitly disfavors competing/opposing opinions (from views of others). Are you contesting that _my_ experiences are somehow illegitimate or invalid? Why would _you_ even be slighted by _my_ position on technique and teaching (given that you've never been in my shoes)? Who/what do you feel you need to defend (instructors, the teaching system, etc.) and why?

    For the (hundreds of thousands of) $$$ and (decades of years) time I've spent on lessons/doing, I've certainly earned the right to comment on _my_ experiences and thought process. I've never mentioned anyone by name, so there's no defamation/slander (nor praise/exaltation). People who buy a $20 item on Amazon or watch a $10 movie get to make product reviews of what they experienced, without being put through the mill. At this point, I consider myself highly experienced (significantly due to compilation of information from many dance resources/instructions), and I'm very analytical, so evaluations I make are backed by quite a bit of know-how.

    I'm very clear about the difference between confidence and arrogance.

    Emotional reactions to perceived slight/wrong often have little basis. Sometimes, it's due to the inherent instinct for conflict/competition when there is none to be had. And (false) expectations are often much more due to one's own past experiences and anxieties than any real hostility. Of course, I re-iterate that any particular individual has the right to feel whatever they feel.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017 at 6:37 PM
  18. 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.
  19. 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 at 11:19 PM
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  20. 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 .

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