29. Awareness

‘Awareness’ is one of those buzz words which creep, almost unobtrusively, into the jargon of a profession such as dancing, possibly without the utterer or the listener being keyed in to its exact shades of meaning. For instance, what exactly does “Be aware of your partner” really signify to you? She is there. You are aware that she is there. But surely much more is meant by this statement? Think about it. In what way should you be aware? This needs more exact definition.

The experienced, well-trained dance couple may have an established routine with which they are very familiar, so that most of the time when they are dancing they might be on ‘automatic pilot’, leaving the subconscious mind to do most of the work. This is good but like the real pilot of an aircraft preparing for take-off, the dance couple must frequently check that everything is right with the system, Style, Movement, Technique – as a partnership – in order to keep the subconscious doing its work properly; that is, fully tuned up to concert pitch.

Your conscious mind checks over the detail: Body property stretched, tuned-up…muscle cummerbund leading of partner…unbroken partnership contact lightly but positively maintained…feet stroking each other in passing…feet in parallel position as though swinging down adjacent touching slots…weight rolling smoothly through the whole of the foot on heel leads…technical accuracy…lowering controlled through leg muscles as well as foot strength…knees never locking even when legs are at their ‘straightest’… light, unstressed Topline….

Floating ‘soft-as-chiffon drapes’ arms for the lady…she positively oozing elegance of style…motive power received from man’s middle line (not his arms)…man’s right arm providing ‘armchair comfort’ support for the lady…contra body movement leading the lady into turn, spin, pivot, swivel, steps outside partner…weight, in balance, poised towards partner…man’s upper back, chest and shoulders relaxed, passive…lady’s upper body responding to the man’s leads and opening out with the centrifugal
force of spins… etc…etc…

This is one facet of what awareness is about! Knowing the moment when you make a mistake: such as losing contact with your partner, such as your feet erring from the ‘slotted’ track, such as your toes untidily wavering from the parallel alignment, such as your arms and shoulders tightening up, such as becoming rough in movement, a lack of resilience in the legs, etc, etc..

Part of your sense of awareness should be directed to checking over the thousand and one things which are contributory elements to your own pursuit of excellence; in aiming to be a model ‘complete champion’. Awareness of your partner is another part. If a man, you should be conscious of presenting your partner in such a way as to allow her to produce the best possible technical accuracy of footwork and most elegant, feminine of artistic body lines.

Or are you, in pursuit of your own ends, guilty of being oblivious to her needs? Like those erring male dancers who dance ‘forward forward’, using no CBM, on the first two steps of a Waltz turn. Clearly, ladies, those males who are blameworthy of this fault have never studied yourtechnique.

Being aware of your lady partner means unflagging attention in placing her in positions where she can comfortably perform technically precise body, leg and footwork: (a) pointing alignments on the second step when on the inside of a closed turn (e.g. Waltz basic turn), (b) exactly lined-up foot closures, (c) immaculate heel turns, (d) superb swivels, (e) superior telespins, etc. etc.

For the lady, being aware of your male partner means, predominantly, always acting upon the signals his body is giving you about the coming movement, always keeping body contact but with a feather-light touch, moving with him as perfectly as his own shadow, never anticipating by moving your leg or body too early nor dragging by being slow to respond to his leads. Most important, never taking over the lead (unless yours is one of those minority partnerships where the roles are reversed, with the lady being the dominant one, the leader).

One of the hazards of a long¬standing, frequently rehearsed routine is that both members of the partnership become so familiar with it that there is the ever¬present danger of anticipation by the partner who is supposed to be doing the ‘following’, when, in fact, the ‘leader’ has decided on an unpremeditated change of movement, perhaps to avoid a collision or to take advantage of an open space which has suddenly appeared. In the recent International Championship events at Brentwood, I saw occasions, in the middle of heats, when all the competitors were clustered in one half of this large floor, thereby leaving a vast empty expanse of floor space. I waited in vain for some opportunist couple to see the tactical advantage of breaking away from the group.
The really aware male dancer, always alert to the changing floor pattern, would have veered the partnership away from this overcrowded area and aimed for the centre of the empty half of the floor where the couple would be able to show to best advantage. No judge could possibly have missed them. This is another aspect of awareness-, grasping the opportunities which, from split second to split second, become available to the ‘champion in the making’.

Just one of the essential skills necessary to become a cham¬pionship couple is awareness: of your partner and his/her technical and artistic objectives; of every part of your own body in relation to its essential contribution to partnership performance; of always feeling the partnership totally on balance; of being in perfect contact, projecting superb style; of performing the four flows of Rolls-Royce quality of move¬ment while displaying classic footwork of unimpeachable technical accuracy.