General Movement Understanding for Beginners

Reviewing notes taken from my instructor during private lessons, I realized I might have some difficulty in defining movement in dance.  I felt challenged as an amateur to explore my personal understanding and practical application of the process.  I desire to firmly grasp the meaning to improve my individual movement on the dance floor and to strengthen the harmony of movement with my partner.

At the very basic, movement is the required action transferring an object from one location to another.  In dance movement, primary for me is the music to tell me how my body is to go from here to there.  I listen to the beat and rhythm to sense what action my body is to take.   An easy way for me to identify my process of movement is to ask several questions.

  1. Is my movement forced or natural? In the beginning it may be mechanical (or forced) while learning steps/patterns, then I begin to mesh the natural body action with the music, my feelings, and my partner.
  2. Where is my energy coming from to drive the movement? It is not a duty but the excitement of expression.  I have to think about and remember the steps while drawing from that inner force, the desire to communicate a story and my feelings through correct and creative movement.
  3. Am I connecting dance patterns through continuous movement with my whole body?  To begin dancing I move my feet in designated designs yet my head, my arms, my torso, my hips, my legs, my feet, and my toes all become an extension of each other as I move.
  4. Is my partner comfortable that we are moving together, not pushing or pulling? The greatest challenge for me in ballroom dancing is the responsibility to exhibit interwoven movement with my partner.  For International Standard there is required physical connection in the frame.  In Latin dancing, even when the partners are not physically touching, through emotion and styling they are “connected” in their movement.

To the audience and the first time dancer, movement in ballroom dancing is both mental and physical, what they see.  To the individual, movement is emotional interpretation of the music, what they hear. To the couple leading and following, it is understanding and matching the movement of the other partner, what they feel.  To the judges movement includes transitions, not solely steps and patterns but a continuous flow of action. Movement combines seeing, thinking, feeling, and hearing, the creation of a continuous expression in dance.


Suggestion: For professional and technical expertise, the World Dance Council Educational Archives references a book by Kenneth Laws, Physics and the Art of Dance: Understanding Movement.  Also, ask your local dance studio for written or visual material on movement.

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Martha A. Harper, M.Ed. Education Leadership, B.A. Sociology Martha embraces 16 years in Ballroom and Latin dance, 8 in American Smooth, Rhythm and Latin and 8 in International Standard. Currently training and competing Pro-AM, International Standard. Primary focus: enhance awareness of cultural development, artistic creativity and health advantages of ballroom dance while encouraging fine tuning of instructional methods. She is a retired legal secretary and is a published author residing in the United States.

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