Check it out! To those who say, “Pics or it didn’t happen,” it happened, man! Can you tell I’m excited? I didn’t survive my first coaching lesson; I thrived! Initially, I was scared quiet. Newness is always frightening, but things changed quickly. Jonathan’s energy was infectious, and it didn’t take too long for my smile to appear. He was very sweet, and I saw the same gentle warmth in his eyes that I saw in Victor, Nick, and Adrian’s eyes. He cared and wasn’t afraid to show it. We only worked on waltz, but the things he pointed out can be applied to the other Smooth dances.
“The body is yours, but the arms are his.”
This refers to posture in frame. My main question was “How do you strike a balance between relaxing and holding yourself up?” The lady is supposed to physically extend herself through her center, up her back, and out her head. Imagine one continuous line. Pulling that up will prevent me from weighing down Tommy’s arms. It seemed to me that the arms are designed to sit in an almost relaxed way on the man’s. However, if I start slouching bodily, my arms will go with it. I have to maintain a constant stretch.
Travelling, or “Keep the hips away.”
Booking it across the floor in Smooth dancing has been a consistent snag for me. I’m bending my standing leg as much as I can and stretching the other back. Yet, I’m still in Tommy’s way. As it turns out, the dancers’ hips shouldn’t really meet that much. From what he told me, it seems like a better connection starts at the center and goes up to slightly below the chest. That was just me eyeballing it, and every partner is going to feel different physically. Playing a game of Keep Away with my hips while keeping the rest of the contact should enable me to drive into the floor and zoom-zoom. (That doesn’t merit butt protrusion either.)
Like most of my errors, I was unaware of this one until he pointed it out. I was making movement more difficult because I wasn’t putting my standing leg’s heel all the way down before taking off.
An Extra Bit: Hyperextension
He was talking about my arm styling for the underarm turn. He wanted me to fully extend my arm outward because anything less would make it look half-baked. This applies especially for me because I have hyperextension in both my arms. I asked him what was special about it because other dance teachers told me how great it was for dance. He told me that it allows for greater width and length. A person without it can still straighten completely, but it may visually look “unfinished”, like it could still extend more.
All this technique was valuable, but that wasn’t what made the impression. What stuck was something I could apply off the floor. I had terrible posture when I was younger and would often walk with my shoulders slumped forward and my back bent. Dancing improved this, but Jonathan pointed out straight away that I still had a bit of residual slouch. For ballroom, I needed to channel my inner diva and be arrogant. Stand up straight and project so the whole world can see how awesome you are. There’s no need for that when I’m not dancing, so I had to think of another analogy to motivate myself. I pictured myself as a noblewoman, and no self-respecting aristocrat would dare let her stance flop. It’s because she knows she’s worth seeing. That sounds arrogant, but bear with me. Every person should know that they are worth seeing because they are literally unique. As a person and an artist, that’s part of my worth. So, to myself and all my fellow dancers, may we never slouch.