The basic Posture is something upon which there seems to be fairly general agreement. In arriving at the ideal Stance and Hold it is more a matter of fine tuning as far as the majority of internation amateur competitors are concerned. The following check points are recommended to be practised until the resultant correct partnership posture and setup has become instinctive.
Man: Stand with the feet together, the toes of both feet pointing to an imaginary 12 O’clock – say, the Line of Dance – but certainly pointing in the same direction, not splayed outwards at an angle to each other. Stance should be perfectly upright with as straight a spine as possible. The back should not be arched. The chest should not be inflated. The centre of power, of control, of turning action, should be the waist and hip area which forms what might be termed a ’muscle cummerbund’.
The arms, when lifted to the Hold position should feel relaxed, toned, never stiff or braced. The shoulders should never be lifted nor feel tense. They should feel settled, relaxed. The head should feel ’high’, the neckline an upward continuation of the vertical spine.
Although there is a feeling of stretch, of tone in the body, the legs and feet, there should be not even the slightest trace of rigidity, of stiffness at any point. The joints of the knees should never be locked even wen at the maximum height of rise. To get the correct feel in the legs, as an excercise pull the knees right back as far as they can go. You can feel that the legs are now in the locked position; i.e. the wrong position. Now ease the knees very slightly forward. The legs still look straight but are now locked. This is the correct legs setup position.
The weight should now be moved slightly forward on the blocked-together feet – remember, toes pointing along the same line – until balance has moved from the central position of the foot onto the front part of the soles of the feet. This completes the individual setup for the Man.
Lady: She arranges her body, legs and feet in a similar setup. the fee,ing should be one of being stretched and toned but avoiding all traces of overtension, of rigidity. The traditional feminine look is achieved by poising the body, from the ankles upwards, in an unexaggerated arching curve, with the hips and waist being the intended point of contact with the Man’s middle line. Note that the hips should not be held back. It is wrong for the body curve only to start from the bottom of the spine with the hips pulled back. Not only is this incorrect but this bad posture also puts undue stress on the spine, which may give rise to spinal problems in later life.
I repeat, the curve of the body must be one continuous gentle arc right from the ankles up to the top of the head. Do not exaggerate the backward poise of the upper body. There must be scope for the opening up of the Lady’s Top Line in the various spin actions, and line extensions in contra checks, oversways and the like.
Flexibility of the Lady’s back is most important in order to smoothly react to the centrifugal force of spins, etc. It is also traditional for the Lady to have a slight, very slight, leftward curve of the body from the pelvis upwards. It is important to note that at all times the balance of the Lady should be poised towards the Man. With this posture it is clear that the Lady’s head and eyeline will appear to be looking slightly upwards.
Partnership Setup: I have spoken of the individual setup of the Man and the Lady. Now for a description of the partnership setup. Care must be taken to place the two bodies of the dance couple into the correct relationship, relative to each other. The Lady must not be placed too much on the man’s right side. Nor should she stand directly in front of him.
The exercise of the setup drill is this. Either Man or Lady should stand int he correct individual posture, feet blocked together. (It is not important which partner. It can be prectised alternately, each partner taking the negative role.) The other partner should place the toe of their own right foot close to the partner’s feet, with the toe pointing on a line exactly between the blocked feet of the other partner and then close their own feet.
In this position the partnership will now be making light contact at hip and waist level, lady very slightly to the right of centre of the man’s body; both balanced with weight forward over the toes, the man upright, the Lady elegantly balanced in the head-to-foot arcing posture.
The Man and the Lady take their Hold. The placement of the joint of his right thumb should be just below the Lady’s scapula (shoulder blade) not on top of it. This will permit the Lady to use her spinal flexibility to open her Top Line without losing body contact or feeling restricted or pulled off balance by a too-high-hold on her back.
It is important that the Lady’s raised arms in the Hold position should never look hard or rigid, as though set in stone. This would be distinctly unfeminine. The most descriptive picture of how the female’s right arm ought to look is, ’as the soft shape of a chiffon drape’; between her hand and shoulder. The left arm, similarly, should ’float’ and not pressed down nor be a weight on the man’s arm. The ideal look is one of soft, elegantly poised femininity. Elbows should never point above the horizontal, an ugly stiff look, totally unfeminine, the absolute antithesis of what has just been described.
The correct individual and partnership setups should be practised until they become automatic each time the dance couple step on the floor. The concept of parallelism of foot movement and placement is not helped by the Man standing with the weight on one foot, with the other foot placed to side with the toe angled outwards. His brain is getting the wrong signals. Balletic foot positioning is OK for Latin, correct for Old Time but definitely wrong for the Standard Dances. (I shall be dealing more fully with foot positioning in a later article.)
To Recap: 1. Both members of the partnership should ’fine tune’ their individual postures.
2. The partnership setup should be similarly ’fine tuned’.
3. Both setups should be practised until ’automatic’; i.e. committed to muscle-memory.
source: Dance News newspaper Edition No.1501
Harry Smith-Hampshire, Making of a Champion series