The Ryder Cup ’97, an annual golfing event between the USA and Europe, was an astonishing victory for ‘mind over matter’. Not many who follow golf tournament ratings would have predicted a European victory this year. The American team was one of the strongest they have fielded in recent years. Some of our golfing stars had been off- form. There was a feeling that ‘our’ team of Europe’s best would get slaughtered. But that was not how it turned out.
Rising to the big occasion and tutting up the most inspired terformance in a contest of great skill and high drama, the Europeans ist managed to hold onto the lead, gainst a tremendous challenge on e final singles ‘head-to-head’ day, at they had established in the first to days. There is no money at ake in the Ryder Cup team rtches. None of the players get id. Yet every leading tournament golfer, on both sides of the Atlantic, wants desperately to play in this prestigious event. It is all about glory.
It was the players who had the strongest ‘Will-To-Win’ which kept the trophy in Europe!
‘Will-To-Win’ was the subject of my introductory article of The Making Of A Champion as being the most important element. (Some cynics say it is money but I just don’t believe it!)
In Edition f 531, I wrote about two very basic elements of good dancing, Body Conditioning and Style, in the Standard dances. What I wrote there about these fundamental principles has significance for all dancers, right from Novice up to International Class. It is never too early to acquire a good basic framework, nor too late to remedy technical faults; though the latter is very much harder work.
This week I want to cover the subject of Advanced Timing which, as the title implies, is not for those who are in the embryonic stage of acquiring the skills necessary for Championship and International Class competition dancing. It is only at the stage of Championship and International Class that I would recommend the use of Advanced Timing. To understand Advanced Timing it is necessary to be quite clear about what is meant by ‘Common’ or ‘Normal’ Timing.
The timings given to the basic figures of the Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and Quickstep in the Technique books are those commonly used; the timings by which teachers train students for examinations and pupils for competitions up to and including the Pre-Championship grade. Similarly with lectures; the lecturer may have provided written notes which will give the normal timing as generally used. For instance, where a series of Quicks or Quick-&-Quicks are in sequence,
it is assumed that they each have the same face value; either 1 beat for each quick or a ½ beat each for the split beat timing of Q &’s.
The Advanced Dancer may take the interpretation of the timing of a figure or group of figures a stage further – personalise it, in fact – in order to achieve some special effect; that is, by treating the figure or group as a whole in order to make a particular step or section of the group the highlight in body or leg speed. Figures danced at uniform speed (timing), lack impact.
In Advanced Timing four (or more) consecutive Quicks might each have a different value; for instance, more accent might be placed on one or more of the steps, or, perhaps, the middle pair might be speeded up to allow a ‘breath pause’ on the last. There are many possibilities. The Waltz, based on the twin themes of the pendulum and the spin, has a basic 1-2-3 rhythm. But, for added effect, this simple rhythm could be varied to create greater visual impact. I will give examples.
Some professionals speak of two-bar units (of music) in the Waltzes – English and Viennese – as though this possessed some magic ingredient for the dancer. How is this two bar theory to be put into practice to create worthwhile effects? I will agree that it might be effective in highlighting any one part of a two-bar figure in the ‘English’ Waltz but this would be a very primitive use of the concept of linking bars of music into an integrated unit.
A much more effective use of this principle is where the unit of amalgamated dance steps consists of three bars or more.
Furthermore, this principle may be used in the four standard dances, not just the Waltz. But to start with, I will take a well-known Waltz group of three bars to exemplify the principle of Advanced Timing.
The half Natural Turn, overturned Spin Turn into overturned Turning Lock to Right in Waltz is well-known to all (I would think) international class dancers.
Indeed, it is a very popular opening group. It is very attractive even when danced in common time. But boost the body speed from the end of the first bar until the beginning of the third bar and the dancer has done two things. He has brightened up the spin and stolen a little time which can be used to allow that fraction more ’hold’ to enhance the effectiveness of the ‘on-the-tips-of- the-toes’ gravity-defying Hover ending to the group.
The Standing Spin is another figure which benefits from this Advanced Timing treatment. Take the anticlockwise rotating Promenade Standing Spin. This may be rotated for three, four or five bars of music. (I always kept this as a flexible option, the exit depending upon what the melodic structure of the particular tune’s arrangement was “saying” to me at the time.) The average dancer will rotate at a uniform speed (unexciting) but a more artistic effect can be achieved by varying the speed of rotation. I liked to start slowly, building up speed to a peak, controlling the smooth slow-down to arrive at the exit moment in sympathy with what I deemed to be the right point in the music.
To elaborate, I would be rotating at full foot and body rise, maintaining balance, undeviatingly, on my axis point; the toes of my left foot. Doreen, poised in a narrow V of Promenade Position, keeping a ‘glued-together’ body contact throughout – thereby not disturbing my balance – would rotate around my central position, guided by the increase and decrease of my speed of motion. ‘Paddling’ – that is, pushing – with the right foot would be kept to the absolute minimum, usually only to initiate acceleration, then allowing the right foot to drift into a trailing lock position, close behind my rotating supporting foot. Only at the moment of exiting from the figure would I transfer weight to the right foot.
(Dancers who frequently change weight from foot to foot during this spin are only showing their inability to balance on one foot.)
But to come back to the main theme of this article, it is the play with timing which breathes life into movement. There are many more examples which could be given but those I have given amply illustrate the principle.