A. Connect to the
Music - Listen before you dance. Find the strong quarter-note pulse,
with the double sixteenth note pickup to each strong beat. Listen to the
bass and percussion. Tune in to the 8-beat phrasing.
TIming of any move is variable: same move can be done slow or fast.
Slow is the norm, with the move taking many beats of music.
B. Connect to the
Earth - Earth-Sky connection: hips forwards vs. back, weight closer
to baslls and toes of feet vs. carches and heels, energy rising and light
vs. sinking and solid. EARTH: Relax the hips and knees a little as if
you were just about to sit. Your center of gravity lowers. Your hips relax
back a bit. Feel your weightedness. Feel how the floor or ground feels
to the bottom of your feet. You feel relaxed, but you have energy and
awareness. This is a "playing readiness" posture, common to
many sports. Your body has a down-down pulse, with the music's pulse that
is a continual background energy in your body - towards the earth. This
is part of the African roots in Carribean dances. You are in a way receiving
energy from the earth in this manner.
C. Connect to your
own Body - Push off the floor into weight shifts. Roughly pushing
off a bent leg to a straight leg which receives most of
your weight. A step is a full change of weight to the new side.
Let the energy spiral up and across your body, like a big "X"
- from the one side of your body at the floor level, up through your belly,
rib cage and shoulders on the other side. It is not about isolations,
it is about the parth of energy flow. Relax your shoulders. Rotate them
a bit to relax them. Relax your neck muscles. Let your head be free to
move. Your default free arm postion is roughly parallel to the earth,
so it can move expressively, a little or a lot. Free hand is relaxed,
not in a "dance claw." Elbows are in front of torso, "never"
behind. Weight is a bit BACK for the most part, towards the heels somewhat
or flat footed, except when spinning (ball of foot and toe base usually
receives the weight for spinning). In Merengue, when you step, your toes
and ball of your feet drag along the floor - lift your heels, not the
front part of your foot. Merengue is not "Marching in place."
to your Partner
Psychologically: Look at your partner. A lot. Smile. In some cultures,
direct eye contact is discouraged, and you don't want to stare at your
partner the whole time anyway. But at least keep checking in!
Physically: In both closed and open position, there is energy away
from each other, as your are both sitting back a bit. There is a big difference
between choreography and lead-follow partner dance. The leader is essentially
choreographing stream of consciousness, but knowing enough in advance
to communicate to the follower. The follower waits, listens, responds.
But we are not just leaders and followers! We are dancers - expressive,
fun, even artistic at times. Whatever part of you is not touching your
partner is free to move any way you wish. Ladies: wait for the
lead. Better to be late than early. If he is not dancing to the music,
dance to his rhythm. If the guy is a totally baffled newbie, you could
try offering to backlead for a bit. Guys: be kind, not rough, but
have firm, smoothly generated, well-defined, rhythmic leads, that don't
come in at the very last microsecond. Your partner needs some time to
respond in rhythm. It is 2009, so don't feel that your role is to control
everythng she does - give her space and time to turn however she wants.
E. Connect Socially
- Brush your teeth. Use mouthwash and/or breath mints. You
are going to sweat, everyone does, often a lot, so don't worry about that.
When you enter the room, say hello at least to both friends and acquaintances
as you encounter them. It helps you and others to feel a part of the scene.
It is common for girls to ask guys to dance. Try to ask some totally new
people to dance. Thank your partners after a dance. When you bang into,
kick, or step on people on the dance floor, express concern and apologize.
When you leave, It is nice to say goodbye to some people with whom you
1. Torsos roughly parallel.
2. L offset to left, right feet point are between the other's feet.
3. F's back in L's RH, as L & F about to sit on a high stool.
4. L cups L's RH on F's closest shoulder blade.
5. F's L arm rests on L's R arm.
6. L's R arm is high enough so F's tricep rests on L's forearm.
7. When turning, L extends L's R arm to give F space to turn.
8. L's R arm is firm, but it varies - let F go back for RS, firming more
for couples turns.
9. Island style: L's R hand resting on F's hip.
1. Sit back a bit as if on a high stool.
2. Forearms are low. L begins leverage. F matches it.
3. Arms firm, but not rock-like. A bit springy, but steady-ish.
4. Feel pull in fingers, forearm, bicep, not shoulder joint.
5. Connect with muscle tone in FINGERS: no thumbs.
6. Arm and finger muscle tone will increase and decrease for turns and
place change moves.
7. Yanking with your lead arm after a turn? Instead, bring your elbow
near your side midriff for leverage.
Let L lead leverage. Use a "short rope."
the one turning
1. Turn under the hand connection.
2. Use your partner's hand as a pivot point. Don't push up: leverage down
slightly. L's: No cranking.
3. Step close to your partner.
4. Don't let elbow go behind you (hurts!). If your hand goes behind your
head, keep it close to your head.
WILD DANCING (L
& F): Go nuts,..
1. Improvise funky rhythms with your free hand, shoulders, hips, head,
legs, NOT your connected hand.
2. RS with the ball of your #1 foot near your #2 heel, and keep your weight
3. L's: keep an eye on F during a turn. You'll lose her if she gets too
far away. Don't yank on the RS: it hurts.
dig music, partner, bounce with pulse.
a. one-handed open
c. CP: facing
d. Promenade AKA Conversation
e. Cuddle AKA Sweetheart AKA Basket
f. Varsouvienne AKA Skater's
2. MOVES from 1H:
extra leverage from a leader's back step
(can connect either opposite hand, or either crosshand
a. F's Inside turn, position switch
b. F's Inside Turn with hand change (from 1H or SH)
c. L's Outside turn with position change
d. L's behind the back turn
e. Bring F into CP, or into CS, or into 2H (offer other hand)
f. Arm Slide (from SH, after Ls RH behind his head)
g. L's CW duck turn, either self-hjammerlock, or F's handon L's L shoulder.
3. MOVES from 2H
a. Butterfly: arms behind head
b. Cuddle: (& side to side)
c. 2H alternating F & L turns
d. Preztel (4 starting methods)
e. Back to back
f. Rope Turns
4. MOVES from 2SH
a.. Reversing Window: F turns 3 times to each position
b. Table top pretzel ( L leads self into hammerlock and duck)
4. MOVES from CP: leader backs away to get some space first
a. small pivots clockwise
b. F's outside underarm turn (L make space first)
c. L's outside underarm turn
d. F's open (hand drop) outside turn
5. MOVEMENT variations
b. hips rolls
c. tic toc (hips)
d. fast hip shake front and back (very "island" - not for the
normal human being)
e. body waves
f. ladies' arm and hand styling