While dancing with abandon is a great way to feel free and release any angst, when partner dancing, even socially, there needs to be some semblance of control from each person.
It can be interesting to watch people who dance with no worries in a loose and relaxed way, and we may want to be able to dance in the same way. Dancing with a partner needs both dancers to understand how and where their body moves to be able to react and move with, against and towards their partner in a non-dangerous way. There’s also the rest of the dance floor to think of. Flailing arms, massive steps and total unawareness of those around you is not a good way to get dances and be appreciated on the dance floor.
For beginners, controlling their body can be a worry. Spinning is usually the main ask
‘how to spin without wobbling?’
‘how to not get dizzy?’
If beginners can’t use their core and posture within their movements, they’ll may struggle more than they should.
Tips on how to dance with more control
In dancing posture is key. It’s easy to see people who’ve been to ballet classes or gymnastics, because they’ll hold themselves upright, walk smoothly and just generally look like they don’t slouch. While social dancing doesn’t need perfect upright posture, holding yourself up proud and upright rather than leaning over your partner, or pulling away from them, is always going to give a better impression. And means you’re in a better position for following or leading.
There’s a reason why professional dancers often do pilates alongside their dance training, and that’s to tone and retain the strength in their core. To spin well, you need to be able to hold yourself upright, and that means tightening your core. Not contracting because you still want to be relaxed in the spin, but holding yourself as though you’re pulling your tummy in rather than letting it all loose.
Having a strong core is essential for followers when doing dips and drops. The follower needs to be able to hold their own weight, which means strong legs and a strong core to be able to get back to standing without pulling on the leader. (I’ll admit now, since having a child I have no core strength and a dodgy knee means rubbish leg muscles now so I rarely do dips and drops)
The shoes you wear will also change the way you dance and the control you have. If you’re not used to wearing high heels, then don’t start wearing 3 inch heels for dancing straight away. You want to feel stable and not wobble all over the place.
A small heel will ultimately help your body position – when spinning you want to be slightly over your toes rather than on your heels (smack on my wrist for being lazy and doing this sometimes). Heels also suit certain dances – so tango, salsa etc. But if you want to get a bit more down into the floor, then flatter shoes can work better as you can feel the floor and the movement of your feet.
If you want to be able to have more control over your dancing, you need to practice. Whether that’s more classes, privates, practising with a partner – they’ll all help. But you need to have control dancing on your own. So if you feel like you wobble a lot then getting in a kitchen with socks or dance shoes on and practice spinning on your own. Just move around the room, walk in different ways, practise balancing on one leg in different positions. Work on rotating and turning in different directions, to different types and speeds of music.
Even when you’re back dancing with a partner, you should be the one holding and controlling your movements, the leader is just guiding you.
Spotting when spinning
I’ve written before about improving spinning, and especially for multiple spins, spotting is good to stop dizziness. Again, it’s something that takes practice until it becomes automatic.
On the competition floor big movements can be good because it gives more impact. But on the social dancefloor there’s little room to dance when it’s busy, so dancers need to adapt their movements. Smaller steps and keeping them underneath the body helps with remaining in control while still giving enough room to move. If you make huge steps back then you’ll also find you’re out of position for following. A leader has further to lead you in, potentially leading to injuries and a leader and follower having aching arms at the end of the night. Smaller more contained steps and you’ll be in a lot more control of your movements and timing.
Listen to the music and your partner
As a beginner the important part is listening for the beat, and certainly easier for a dance partner trying to follow if you’re both in time with the music. Once you progress and dance to more challenging music, you’ve got more opportunities to play with and stretch the movement within the music. Play with the light and shade, quiet and loud, and different speeds.
What leaders and followers find hard is when their partner is following something only they can hear in the music, and aren’t adapting to what their partner is hearing and dancing to. The best dances are when both are dancing to the same beat, phrasing, texture but it’s each person’s responsibility to dance within those boundaries.
Hopefully there’s some useful tips to take away about control – without being regimented. After all, rules are made to be broken especially in the arts. But having control over your movements is a base of your dance, which you can then build on with style, musicality, more complex moves and partnering.
How do you find learning to dance? Is it something you find you struggle to keep up with, or do you feel in control when you dance?