Monday, November 5, 2012

Ballroom Basics: Ten Tips in Ten Minutes that Result in Ten Times Better Dancing

Tip #9: Leading Turns with the Cup and Pin System

As we've discussed, dancers should try to avoid losses of connection. Maintaining frame and connection during turns is critical to leading and following. When leading spins and turns a cup and pin hand connection system is usually the best technique. In this system, the follower cups her hand and provides a cavity for the leader’s pin, which he forms with one or two fingers held vertically and pointing down. The orientation of the follower’s cup is thumb down for inside turns and thumb up for outside turns. Connection does not have to be lost when transitioning between inside and outside turns.
As important as the cup and pin connection system is the follower’s frame, specifically the positioning of her arm being led during the turn. The forearm should remain approximately vertical and in the front quadrant of her body, never moving behind her midline. The upper arm remains approximately parallel to the floor. The cup remains approximately above the lady’s elbow, never directly above her head. In this way, the leading action through the turns traces a halo above the lady’s head. Such a system provides a form of a crank that the leader can use to more precisely control turning speed and turning direction. The leading pressure is applied during the part of the halo that is in the direction the leader wishes the follower to travel.
Several mistakes are common among followers. The first is spinning out of time with the music, usually spinning too fast. In such a case, connection is lost and therefore leading and following is lost. The next mistake is the follower’s hand being positioned directly above her head, like a music box dancer. For partner dancing, this is wrong. Another mistake is allowing the arm to collapse and fall behind the midline. Here we see that mistake and the consequence. Another thing to avoid is squeezing the leader’s fingers while turning. Obviously, this can create a lot of pain.
Several mistakes are common among leaders. The first is trying to grab the lady’s fingers rather than simply providing a pin. The next is forming a humongous, non-circular, and non-level halo, which disallows the lady to maintain balance while turning.
All of this said, in the end, the leader needs to be able to lead the direction, timing, and speed of the turning action – both the acceleration and the deceleration. Very important is that connection never be lost during the turning actions. In competitive sequences, turns may start slow, then accelerate, and then stop suddenly. Such figures require a highly developed connection system.
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Happy Dancing!

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