Connection is the foundation of partner dancing and it’s often the last piece to be addressed. It’s almost as if it’s taboo. We teach patterns and technique and leave the elephant in the room. The reality is that it’s a difficult concept to convey.
Because it goes beyond a simple physical formula and delves into mental, emotional and even philosophical realms. It invokes our worldview and touches on our insecurities. What does it take to truly connect to another human being? It challenges us to look within and to ‘up’ our game.
What? No. It’s just a dance! We’re just holding someone’s hand and moving around the dance floor. There is that option, and delving further into connection is not only the magic pill to improve your dancing but could potentially transform your life.
Throughout my dance career, connection, or the communication between two dancers has been a main focus of mine. I dove deep.
How do two people move seamlessly together, as one unit, without any words? What is the magic that transforms two people knowing (and doing) their parts into a piece of moving art?
There are several things I’ll be addressing over this year, and today I want to start with the physical: how we use our muscles as we set up various frames.
In dance, we connect to our partners through our frame. While there are many different frames, or holds, for all the different dances all of them result in the same thing – a way to communicate with our partners. It’s the telephone line through with we communicate.
Old fashioned wired, cellular or wifi, differed mediums, same result: connection and then communication.
Using our Muscles
The way in which we use our muscles to create our frame will make a world of difference. We can use our muscles isometrically, concentrically or eccentrically.
“When you think of a muscle contraction, you usually think of a muscle getting shorter, which is called “concentric” contraction — but that’s not always what happens. We can also do “isometric” contractions, in which there’s no change in length, AKA “clenching.” And then there’s the weird one, a mysterious but routine bit of muscle trickery known as “eccentric” contraction, and it is odd indeed: contraction while lengthening”Paul Ingraham, PainScience.com
Think of a bicep curl, as you bring the weight up, that’s concentric, it shortens the muscle. If you hold the weight in the curl, that’s isometric – it holds or clenches the muscle. As you lower the weight, that eccentric, you lengthen the muscle.
Most beginner dancers connect using concentric or isometric. The result is a lot of tension that is exhausting and inflexible. Neither of which is helpful in connecting to another. (Watch this video to see Maren demonstrate different frames using her muscles all three ways.)
Imagine talking to someone who is clenched. We’ve all experienced that, and if we’re honest, we’ve experienced it from both sides of that equation – the clincher and the clenchee. It does not make for a very pleasant conversation.
The same thing is true in dance.
A Better Alternative
So what’s a better alternative? Two things
- 1. Eccentric use of the muscles
Creating your frame eccentrically expands the muscles instead of contracting them resulting in tone instead of tension. This means there will be space and fluidity which is where conversation flourishes.
Again, imagine a conversation with someone that is open and has space to listen and be in the conversation rather than shutting it down.
- 2. Thinking ‘least’.
I not only connect in a way that lengthens my muscles, but I use the least amount of energy necessary to fully engage in the conversation. That DOESN’T mean that I drop out. It actually focuses my attention and presence. I am relaxed and present so that actually speak, AND hear though the connection.
Yep – it’s for both leaders and followers, and it makes dancing SO much easier.
For those of you that are visual, I go over the same material in this video. Please be sure to leave your comments here, on our YouTube Channel, or our Facebook page!