What’s the purpose of a car’s steering wheel? Most will say to turn the car. A few will say to initiate a series of mechanical events that turn the car. Others may say to detect the desires of the driver and direct those desires through the steering mechanism to bring about a response by the car. Although each answer involves a different perspective, all are correct.
So what’s the steering mechanism for a dance couple? When we first start learning how to dance, arms and body position serve as our steering mechanism. Do you recall how you first initiated a promenade in fox trot?
As we progress to our next level, the steering becomes more refined, intricate, and subtle. Early we learned that the man’s right hand (on the back) directs much of swing and waltz, but our progress moves us to using our shoulders and hips as a steering mechanism. From my own personal experience, this transition is not easy; but it does make sense. Meanwhile Karen still occasionally brings attention to my extraneous arm movements.
Whether in a private lesson, a group lesson, or even a fun class, notice how much the instructors emphasize using hips and shoulders for determining direction; let alone using the body’s core during bend-and-send. Yes, arms and hands still play a role, but less than before, but also I’m sure there’s even more about leading to come.
A dance couple is connected in a similar manner as the mechanical parts in a car. As men we are learning different ways to deliver subtle, but direct leads through that connection; just as the women are learning to detect those subtleties through the same connection.
Think about this the next time you are in a car. Your hands contact the steering wheel, which is connected to a steering column that has a rotary end deep in the car’s core. This rotary end turns the tie rods to direct the wheels so the car goes where you want it to go. Ever heard of rack and pinion steering?
Image from Fred Astaire Dance Studios