How to connect with your partner (properly)

This is basic stuff. Really basic stuff. Something I’ve probably heard a hundred times, phrased in different ways. But today, in my weekly Intermediate Foxtrot class at Caltech, I think I finally learned something about correct posture and connection, in the sense of converting the words into body stance and body memory. Here’s the idea:

When dancing a Standard dance like foxtrot (or waltz or quickstep), you have connection through your arms (frame), but more importantly, you connect with your torsos, slightly offset so that the right sides of the fronts of your torsos are touching. Because it is difficult (at first) to try to move with another person that close to you, it is common for the follower to arch her back, trying to maintain the ribcage-to-ribcage connection while still getting her legs out of the way as the leader moves forward. I’d been told by one dance instructor to imagine that my body hinged at the breastbone, and that my legs were long extensions behind me — I think this just encouraged me to arch my back more, to maintain that rib-high connection. But in my current class, the instructor showed me that a better connection point is a bit lower, which permits you to keep your pelvis straight (not rolled forward as you arch your back) and permits your upper body to achieve that gorgeous lean-out — ironically, by arching the back less, you create the illusion of it arching more. This also takes a lot of pressure off of your back. She also emphasizes a lot of extension upwards, maintaining a strong straight line up through your spine.

The picture at right (from was the best example I could find by googling (too bad it’s low-res). But looking at it now, it seems obvious; her pelvis is totally straight, and it’s just her shoulders and her head that are titled back. Not that this is easy to do (the head is heavier than you expect!), but at least it doesn’t hurt your back!

I have been working on this for the past few classes, and today it actually seemed to be working. I left class in the usual overwhelmingly positive mood it gives me, and with the added bonus that my lower back didn’t ache at all. I’ve gotten used to it being a little achey after a good bit of Standard dancing, mainly because I couldn’t figure out how to dance without arching my back. But today I must have finally done it!

3 of 3 people learned something from this entry.

  1. jim said,

    February 12, 2007 at 8:41 am

    (Learned something new!)

    (Nothing to add; just: I learned something new!)

  2. LearningNerd said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:55 am

    (Learned something new!)

    Ditto. :) I’d love to learn to dance something like that one day. Sounds like a lot of fun!

  3. Magus said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:49 am

    (Learned something new!)

    Interesting. I’ll have to think on whether I can apply this to posture as a lead at all. At the very least, maybe I’ll have useful advice for my partners…thank you.

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