Technical Elements of Ballroom Dancing

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For many years we searched for and studied ballroom dance technique. This is the book we wish we read before we started.
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Robert Cura
Dance
Eugene
United States
3 Team Members

Proceeds from this project will go towards building METROLETA.COM, an organization dedicated to helping children and teachers

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We are writing a book on ballroom dance technique and we could use your help to get it published.

The working title for this book is: The Black Book of Ballroom Dancing. The Fundamentals of Technique and Movement.

This book will discuss in detail the most sought-after information in ballroom dancing: THE MINUTIAE OF TECHNIQUE OF HOW TO DANCE. It will describe the difficult-to-find details that will help you find the path to becoming a master dancer of the art of ballroom dancing. 

This book is about the details of dance movement. It is not going to be a book about figures. Nor the foot diagrams of steps. Nor the psychology of how to win competitions. Nor the lovely costumes or the elegant tailcoats. Nothing like that. Nope.

This book is about the little minutiae you need to grind and polish. It’s the kind of nitty-gritty you work on for hours and hours—in a hot, humid studio, in front of a cracked mirror—until you feel like you’ve nailed it enough. And then you practice it again the next day, the next week. The kind of knowledge that you practice while waiting for the bus. 

This book is about the invisible things that need to happen between one movement to the next, and how to execute them and create a smooth transition between the two. Here, for the first time, we will compile into book-form the different techniques of movement used in International Modern Ballroom dance.

This book answers 5 fundamental questions in detail  

  • WHAT are the elements of a movement  
  • HOW do those elements move  
  • HOW do those elements change through the movement over time
  • WHAT are the variations in how those elements change  
  • WHEN are the variations to those elements appropriate


There are 4 reasons why we’re writing this book.

First. Any profits we derive from this project will go towards funding METROLETA.COM, an organization dedicated to providing children and teachers with school supplies and food.

Second. Virtually every book, DVD, and video we’ve encountered on dance preaches a “correct” way of doing things, but seldom if ever does it discuss the HOW or WHY and more importantly the WHEN.

Third. Such material often teach a movement from a point in time of a figure, but very seldom is the evolution of the movement THROUGH the figure ever discussed.

Fourth. The most common refrain in the ballroom world is: “I wish I knew that when I first began to dance. Then I wouldn’t have developed such bad habits!” 

When we first begin to dance, our road to understanding and enlightenment is fraught with misinformation, styles and philosophies that seem to conflict or are irreconcilable, or movement we misconstrue or misunderstand, or ideas that limit us because our teachers lack the scope of experience or knowledge to explain those ideas well.

We want to remedy that situation.

This book will be a culmination of many years of studying ballroom dance. As avid students of dance, we were lucky in that we had good mentors who understood the intricacies of ballroom dance movement very well—and gave us good foundations so we wouldn’t develop bad habits. They also were fonts of knowledge who generously shared what they knew. 

Very often, in order to get to the right information and train correctly, one has to go through a small team of teachers and adjudicators (of local and international stature) who can, over a long span of time fill various gaps of knowledge and experience left out by other teachers. 

In our own experience, we have not found a book or resource that sufficiently describes or discusses the fundamental elements of movement in ballroom dance. For years, we had to search for answers on fundamental questions like “How do you take a forward step? Where is the torso in relation to the moving foot? When do you bend your knees? When do you take a diagonal step?”

There is a significant difference between taking a step like we do in every day life and knowing how to take a step with the correct and appropriate technique for the figure being performed. Just as rare was the teacher who could articulate WHEN and HOW to take a metronomic step and a pendular step. And describe the distinction between the two.

This book is dedicated to, and designed for you—the serious ballroom student who is in search of the FINAL explanation of movement—whether you are a beginning, intermediate, or advanced dancer. We are all “beginners” in the sense that even when we've become masters of dance, we know we will always practice and polish those fundamentals discussed in this book. It is the understanding of these fundamentals that will allow us to stretch a movement and create nuance that could mean the difference between good movement and spectacularly great dancing.

This book, therefore, is for the student who intends to progress beyond stepping through their standard figures. The one who has spent hours in a studio practicing and committing into memory the details of rise and fall, sway, precedes, proceeds, heel-turns, and so on. This is for the student who wants to learn about the details of each element of a figure.

In general, there are many ways or variations to dance a movement. For example, taking a forward step, a heel turn, turning, or pivoting. The problem is the parent or the ROOT movement is seldom explained or documented. In this book, we will explain the ROOT technique of a movement from where other variations (depicted as philosophies, styles, or schools) of a movement can be built on. For example, to correctly dance a simple step forward will require a good understanding of the underlying fundamental technique. This may include anything from compression, metronomic action, hip action, when to bend the knees, how and when to articulate the ankles, and how to skim the big toe, to name but a few.  

And most importantly, while it may seem that there are several ways to take that step, there is only one underlying technique, what we call the ROOT action or movement that controls several other elements that can be varied and results in an endless number of combinations. In this book, we will describe, explain, and illustrate various root movements. We will also, where possible, discuss the application of possible variations


MadMaximus, the online pseudonym of one of our team members, has decided to remain anonymous with regard to this book and project. We would like to take this opportunity, however, to say Thank You to him. His insight, essays, and writings are the basis of this work. We are confident that much of his experience and knowledge will permeate the finished pages of the book. 

To see samples of his insight into dance, please go to dance-forums.com and search for "madmaximus".


DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A WORKING DRAFT AND IS SUBJECT TO REORGANIZATION.

1. INTRODUCTION

Fundamentals of Orientation and Attitude (explains the basic terminology to be used in the book like Root or Baseline movement, Topline, hipline, alternates or variations or nuance, Body Lines, Line of Dance, Foot Direction, Fall Lines, etc). Contains diagrams of basic positions, directions, etc.

2. INDIVIDUAL TECHNIQUE

  • The Forward Step (Basic and variations of taking a forward step, balance points)
  • The Backward Step
  • The Rise (foot rise, knee rise, body rise)
  • Lowering (like the rise, except it's about how and when to lower)
  • Diagonal Movement
3. Gentleman's Technique

Includes discussions on Posture and Poise, Frame, Topline, The Head

4. Lady's Technique

Includes discussions on Posture and Poise, Frame, Topline, The Head

5. Technique for Dancing Together
  • Includes discussions on The Hold (and its variations during different phases of movement, technique for the different dances WTVFQ, points of contact)
  • The Sway
  • C.B.M and C.B.M.P. (Contrary Body Movement and Contrary Body Movement Position, will include Outside Partner)
  • The Turn
  • Pivots and Spins (single and multiple aka “continuous”)
  • Metronomic Movement (As with Pendular Movement, this section deals with fall lines, swing, application of sway, the use of gravity, grounded-ness)
  • Pendular Movement
  • The Promenade (dynamics and variations of Promenade Position and Promenade movement)
  • The Lock (forward and backward)
  • The Heel Turn
  • The Heel Pull
  • The Fleckerl
  • Precision: How to move together accurately
  • The Transition (going from one movement to another, smoothly)
  • Emptiness (the myth of Lead and Follow, and the introduction of creating space for your partner)
  • Body Flight (Harnessing Momentum, Precision, and Gravity to create flight)
  • Principles of Floorcraft (for Social Dancers and Competitors)
  • Principles of Expression
  • Stillness in Dancing and the path to perfection (creating your own path)


No technique book will be complete without diagrams that explain the elements being discussed. Here's a sample of the style we will be using in the book:


We understand that it is difficult to put faith and trust on an unpublished book. Here are several excerpts from the draft manuscript we’ve started to write.

True skill is effortless. And to achieve effortless movement on the dance floor you will need technique. This is true whether you’re a beginner, a social dancer, or a competitor—you need to learn and understand the foundations of movement. 

The only crucial difference between a social dancer and a competitive one is the degree to which one learns AND employs the technique, and the venue in which one or the other dances—nothing more. The social dancer’s focus is the ability to dance with any partner well, while a competitor’s focus is to bring out the best when dancing with their competitive partner. That means that while social dancers must know how to stretch the parameters of a movement so they can accommodate vagaries in the movement of their different partners, a competitive dancer must know how to push those parameters or variables to its physical and aesthetic limits.

The secret to beautiful ballroom dancing can be summed up in one word: Stillness. While it may seem like a contradictory philosophy at first blush, consider this: it is stillness that gives beauty to the dynamic and powerful movement of the Tango. Stillness gives the ethereal quality of the Waltz—both the Slow Waltz and its faster sibling, the Viennese Waltz. And stillness that gives the Quickstep its breath-taking flavor, and the Foxtrot its relaxed, efficient, almost lazy glide. 
So how does one achieve stillness during movement? As your dancing evolves into higher levels of competence, you will soon realize that the silhouette you worked so hard to keep still (in other words, “stiff”), is actually very dynamic. The stillness or the quiet quality of dancing is created by numerous shifts and adjustments in body contact, line angles, and arm positions as you go through the different cycles of a movement or a figure. 

For example, how do you create stillness as you travel in promenade position towards diagonal center? Well, the way you hold your arms (i.e., your topline) and head as you go through a section of the floor will need to be kept in the same position relative to where you are going. During promenade movement, the attitude or orientation of your arms, torso, and spine RELATIVE TO EACH OTHER will shift as you take those several steps. True, from the viewer’s (or onlooker’s) perspective the dancer’s arms will be in a consistent position relative to the floor and direction of dance, but the hip will shift when taking the inside step of the promenade (right foot for the gentleman and left foot for the lady). In other words, the torso will go through a twisting action (or torsion because of the torque) introduced by the travel of the inside leg, which in turn twists the hip counter-clockwise (for the gent). This torsion will introduce changes to your body contact and leg contact.

We appreciate any help you can give us to finish this project. Any amount we raise above the goal will go to creating the companion website of the book. If we raise an additional $2,000 over our minimum goal, then we will be able to develop quality video that will supplement the technique discussions in the book.

Any profits, as mentioned in earlier sections, will go to help fund METROLETA.COM, a project to help children and teachers.

We've done our share of large and small projects. Our professional careers in technology have exposed us to the rigors of project development and management. So we can say we understand risk assessment and mitigation very well.

We are trained Ballroom dancers who have been studying dance technique for a long time. Some of us, for 20 years. We have been teachers, competitors, and students of dance. Over those many years we have amassed quite a bit of information on movement and dance. We have written essays and contributed some of our knowledge on online forums.

So we have taken measures to mitigate those problems that, from long experience in other arenas, typically occur with projects. Current, we are actively writing the manuscript, have begun to design the diagrams we will be using in the book, and creating a system of illustrating the various components we discuss in the book.

The only delay on the horizon is in publication and shipping, since our planned release and shipping dates coincide with the busiest time of the year: Christmas.


Writing and publishing a book is seldom, if ever, the work of a solitary person. This project is no exception. We are lucky to have a multi-talented team who can bring their individual skills and talents in different areas and make us stronger as a group.

Robert Cura is our team leader, editor, champion, all-around guru. He has a broad-based background in Technology and Marketing, the bulk of which was in the Silicon Valley in California. He is the Founder Metroleta Corporation and Talino Design. He has over 20 years of ballroom dance experience and used to be a Championship-level competitor, teacher, coach, and mentor.

His first teacher was the legendary Rhona Pick of San Francisco who has trained numerous competitive dancers who have since gone on to open their own studios all over the United States. He counts as his former mentors Glenn Weiss, Wendi Davis, and the late Jenty Parkinson.

Alice Cura is our Marketing and Art Director. She has experience in Marketing, Communications, Brand Engineering, and Technical Editing and Writing. She has over 22 years of ballroom dance experience.

Miranda Hoover is our Design Group Leader at Metroleta. She is responsible for all the diagrams that go into this book. And she's one heck of a designer and one of the nicest people we've met.


Over the years we have searched for information on dance technique and the endless minutiae around it. A lot of it is scattered among the individual knowledge of our mentors. By helping us create this book, you will be helping a lot of ballroom dance students who are as keen and serious about the art as you and I are.

And most of all, you will be helping us build METROLETA.COM, an organization dedicated to helping children and teachers.


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