Fast forward a few years, I moved to the US and found a dance class for salsa. I could not stop smiling the entire class, literally. Shortly after, I began learning the Rumba and Samba. I was hooked on partner dancing ever since.
See, I was always training in solo dances – like modern dance, ballet, hip hop. But somehow, I was fascinated with partner dancing. There is something electric, when I dance with another person – be it a stranger or friend. We can “speak” the same “language” with just physical communication and move as one to the music. No words needed. It’s like magic!
But connecting correctly and being able to lead/ follow isn’t always easy. This “connections” thing that makes partner dancing so magical, can also be incredibly challenging and at times frustrating!
When the dance connection is good, it’s amazing. You feel like you can do soo much! But when the connection sucks, (to put it bluntly), it can feel pretty darn bad. Often, it’s the lack of connection and/or the aggressive pulling/ yanking/ pressing/ manhandling/ woman-handling/ soul-crushing… whatever else you want to call it, that can destroy a dance. Not just the way it feels, but also the way it looks. No wonder it’s the number one thing that dance couples argue over! Which of course woudn’t happen to you if you’re taking lessons with us!
Having danced competitively and socially for many years, as well as coaching students from beginners to world champions, Tytus and I see these top 3 problems when it comes to connecting with your partner.
What are they?
Problem #1: Having a loosey goosey frame
I don’t want to get too technical, but the frame is basically your upper torso (arms, elbows, shoulders and ribcage). Your frame is important because that’s the pathway through which you connect physically to your partner. Having a loose frame means not having “tone” in the frame. A telltale sign is if you’re sagging your arms, moving them around a lot or being very heavy on your partner.
The more direct the pathway, the easier to connect.
Therefore, when the arms, elbows and shoulders are loose for a follower, it’s like trying to carry a floppy mattress. When the frame is weak on a leader, you’re like a forklift with a shovel made of fabric, there is no way you can actually move anything.
To practice having a good frame:
Keep stillness in your upper torso, arms, elbows, wrists and shoulders. They should all move as one whole unit. You want to practice this, while dancing some basic steps, and keeping rhythm in your feet and hips.
Problem #2: Focusing only on the physical connection
How often have you danced with someone and they don’t even bother asking for a dance and much less, tell you their name? Personally, I always ask for the other person’s name before I dance with them. Connection is much more than physical touch. It’s an emotional connection that really creates the magic.
How to connect Emotionally:
People like to know that they are doing a good job. A smile, and friendly eye contact can help create a friendly atmosphere with your partner. This playfulness before, during and after a dance will help you build trust with your partner. Isn’t it true that we act differently when we can trust someone versus being doubtful. So, when your partner feels trusted, they will up their game and you’ll be amazed at how well people can move when they feel inspired. And one last thing, truly appreciate your partner after a dance!
Problem #3: Not knowing what to do (with your connection)
Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s definitely not a good thing, if you actually want to improve your dancing. Sorry to say, it’s impossible to improve your connections if you don’t know, what you don’t know, and you don’t get the right coaching.
What happens then, is that dancers will try to imitate what they think is a connection. They end up pushing and pulling on their partners, without understanding what really creates a connection.
What you need to know:
Just like dance technique, connection is also a technique, a skill that can be learnt. Thank god!
Take a step like the New Yorker, for example: There is footwork, timing as well as technique to how you dance your body. Similarly, there is also a connection “technique” for each step. YES! Really.
For example, there are techniques to learn how to hold your partner, where to apply pressure and which direction the pressure needs to go, for both partners. This is true for any step!
Here are some basic rules to remember. There are many others of course, but this is a good start:
1. Leaders need to move your body with stillness in your frame to lead. You DO NOT use your arms to push/ pull follower around.
2. Follower should keep your frame still and work on keeping rhythm of that dance in your feet. You DO NOT anticipate the next step.
In this course, you will learn 15 combinations of Cha Cha steps (some beginner, some intermediate and a few more advanced steps), and the specific techniques on how to connect for each step.
We’ll clarify what each partner needs to do. We’ll show you footwork, timing, and how it works with a partner. On top of that, we’ll teach you the technique of connection, specifically the direction of your connection pressure. Super important!
This is truly a partnering course, and seriously, very few teachers teach this in a group setting or in a private lesson. However, we think it’s really important, because it is the foundation of great partner dancing.
We want YOU to be the ultimate dream dance partner!
Understanding and embodying connections will help you be a better social dancer, better dance competitor and performer!