Sharing The Joy Of Dancing

LEARNING DANCE PATTERNS


When I first started Ballroom Dancing, I had a lot of problems learning new patterns. For some reason I just couldn't remember the pattern sequences. There just seemed to be so much information that it just all ran together. It was frustrating because it didn't seem like it should be that hard to learn.

To be truthful, when I was in high school, I always had a hard time memorizing things. When I joined the military and went to basic training, the very first thing we were expected to do was to memorize the 25 rules of conduct. If you were unable to do so, there were bodily harm consequences. Amazing enough, I learned them over night. Fear is an incredible motivator. I am not recommending that you to go to this extreme, but if there were more consequences in Ballroom, we would learn much faster.

There is a more civilized way to improve your Ballroom learning ability. Over time I realized that I was trying to learn patterns at a too detailed of a level. I was getting devoured by all of the tiny details in the whole pattern or sequence. View the patterns at the highest level, then work your way down to the finite details.

Dance patterns are composed of a sequence of dance "Elements". An "Element" is normally a measure of music (Like everything else there are always exceptions.). Examples of Rumba "Elements" would be the "Front Half of a Box", an "Open Break", an "Under Arm Turn" etc., etc. These all have a Slow, Quick, Quick timing (one measure of music). Examples of Slow Waltz "Elements" would be the "Front Half of a Box", the "Forward Hover", "1, 2, 3 of an "Open Left Turn", etc., etc. These all have the traditional 1, 2, 3, timing (one measure of music). "Elements" all start and end in a specific dance position. For example, the Rumba the "Front Half of a Box" starts and ends in "Closed" dance position. The Waltz "Forward Hover" starts in "Closed" dance position and ends in "Promenade" dance position.

Look at the pattern or sequence that you are learning from an "Element" view point. Observe the progress of the pattern from Element to Element". You now know how the pattern moves from an "Element" sequence. Patterns are just sequences of "Elements". As you look at the "Element" sequence, pick out the "Element" or "Elements" that are new to you. Now work on just the new ones (not the whole pattern sequence). As time goes on, there will be fewer and fewer new "Elements". Eventually a new pattern will be just a reordering of "Elements" that you already know. Now all you have to do is learn the sequence of the "Elements".

Generally speaking, "Elements" are a measure of music. In Waltz it would be three steps 1, 2, 3. In Rumba it would be three steps; Slow, Quick, Quick. Learn each "Element" in as much detail as possible. Each "Element" starts in a dance position and ends in a dance position. For example: The Waltz "Forward Hover" starts in "Closed" dance position and ends in "Promenade" dance position. The Rumba "Front of the Box", Starts in "Closed" dance position and ends in "Closed" dance position. As you observe the dance pattern, you can see it progress from dance position to dance position. This is a great help for the leader to know where the partnership is going to start and end in the "Element".

It is very important that the dancer learn the correct footwork associated with each "Element". For example: the Waltz "Front of the Box" footwork (from the leader's point of view) is Heel/Flat, Ball, Ball/Flat. The Rumba "Front of the Box" foot work is Ball/Flat, Ball/Flat, Ball/Flat. The footwork for Waltz creates Rise and Fall. The footwork for Rumba creates Latin/Cuban Motion. Footwork is a key ingredient in creating the character of a particular dance.

The use of the legs is also very important. Waltz utilizes the lowering and the straightening of the legs to help facilitate the Rise and Fall of the body. Foxtrot has Rise and Fall in the ankles but it is absorbed in the knees to prevent the body from moving up and down. Waltz has an up and down body motion and Foxtrot a level body position. Latin/Rhythm dances have pretty much the same foot and leg action to create Latin/Cuban motion.

Some dance "Elements" contain other attributes such as "Sway", "Pendulum" actions, "Syncopations" (In Waltz the timing could be 1, 2, &, 3 instead of 1, 2, 3.), etc. etc. The basic timing in Quickstep is "Slow' Quick, Quick, Slow", but there can be other timings such as four Slows, four Quicks, etc.

All of the above creates the "FEELING" of the "Element" and the character of the dance. Learn each "Element" thoroughly and understand its "Feeling". Now stringing the "Elements" together into a pattern or into longer sequence will not be such a daunting task.