BALLROOM DANCING in STITTSVILLE
Stittsville (Ontario) and district; 613.831.4924
welcoming dancers from Kanata, Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, Perth, downtown Ottawa, or wherever!
Richard W. Macmillan, Eng.D., B.A. (Honours Psych)
Accredited ("Grande Distinction") by the Perron School of Dancing (Ottawa)
Teaching in the Stittsville/Goulbourn area since 1998!
"As I have experienced it, ballroom dancing is the total immersion of a
couple in the precision and grace of musical expression. Owing to its
contribution to good health through pleasurable exercise and the relief of
stress, it is surely a key to longevity; and through the ever-expanding circle
of good friends and acquaintances it is a constant source of well-being and
BALLROOM & LATIN DANCE COURSES IN STITTSVILLE:
Please check your Goulbourn, Stittsville & West Carleton Activity Guide, published and sent
to your home by the City of Ottawa, for ballroom and Latin-American dance courses taught
at the Stittsville & District Community Centre. Although I will be teaching these courses,
registration for them must be done through the City of Ottawa.
PRIVATE INSTRUCTION (to Silver level):
In your own home (or mine), at your convenience! 613.831.4924
Touch me with your cursor!
Cha-Cha, Swing, Rumba, Samba, Mambo, Merengue, Foxtrot, Slow Waltz, Tango,
Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, Bolero, Salsa, Bachata, Paso Doble, Argentine Tango and
Think about it ...
- You'll have my attention 100% of the time!
- You'll learn 2 to 3 times as much per hour as in a class - and with style!
- You choose the day and the hour (if not already booked).
- Couples, singles, or minigroups welcome!
- You choose the dances in which you are really interested!
- Dance in a pleasant, comfortable environment.
- Need to cancel/reschedule an hour? OK with 24 hours' notice.
- Getting married?? I'll get you ready!
Rates per hour (singles, couples or minigroups):
At my home: $30 (1½ hours: $45; two hours: $55);
at your home, within a 20-km radius of Munster: $40 (1½ hours: $55; two hours: $65);
at your home, within a 40-km radius of Munster: $50 (1½ hours: $65; two hours: $75).
Where else could you find this?
... a six-hour package of private lessons for only $160 per couple!
Why not start a with some of your friends?
Think about it: two couples = $7.50/hour per person; three couples = $5/hour per person!
PC/Windows DANCE STEP SOFTWARE
Never forget a dance step again!
Touch picture with your cursor!
NOW AVAILABLE: A Windows program for PC's which demonstrates
the man's and the lady's steps for more than 400 commonly taught dance steps
of 17 ballroom and Latin dances as well as a number of line dances.
A PC with a sound card (for spoken counting of the beats) is required.
(Microsoft Vista & Windows 7 not recommended)
Steps may be observed at 50% to 100% (selectable) of actual dance tempo or
in single-step mode, using any keystroke to advance from step to step. The
animated feet slide from one step to another. The man's and lady's feet may be studied
together or separately. Messages at the bottom of the screen indicate changes of partner
position or other important technical details at the steps where they occur. Available on
pre-paid personalized CD.
DEMO PROGRAM: A demonstration program has been prepared which
permits the user to observe a moderately complex Rumba step consisting of
a spiral, fans, left and right underarm spot turns, and back breaks. The
dance step title and file menus of the complete program have been intentionally
dance step demo package
(Run the above to put the demo package on your desktop (blue icon with 'RWM & A'))
PRICES: Preparation of the dance step files is a difficult and
time-consuming activity (the dance step shown in the demo program required
four hours to program - beyond the ca. 200 hours required for the basic
software). Pricing is therefore structured in accordance with the number and
complexity of the dance files included.
PRELIMINARY: basic PC program + 74 easy steps of the Foxtrot, Rumba,
Waltz, Triple Swing, Cha-Cha, Samba, Tango and Mambo: Cdn $25
CLUB DANCES: basic PC program + 111 steps of Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Slow
Dance and Argentine Tango, as well as a selection of line and group dances: Cdn $25
COMPLETE: enhanced PC program + all currently available steps in the
above dances + Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble, Argentine Tango, Bolero and Salsa;
in total, more than 440 steps: Cdn $95 (my students: $60)
To order, please call me at 613.831.4924. Not recommended for use with Windows 7.
DANCE BEAT CD
(It's repetitive and boring... And it might even make you sleepy...
sleepy... sleepy... as it goes deep into the furthest reaches of your brain...)
Now with musical background!
I have been teaching since 1998, and in every Level 1 (Beginners’) Class I find that
more than half of my students have serious trouble with timing. Without proper timing it is
impossible to dance any dance correctly; therefore, timing is the very first thing you must learn.
No, you cannot learn the steps first and the timing later – this will only create a bad habit which
later may be impossible to fix.
For this reason I have created a special CD with my voice rhythmically and stereophonically
reciting the beats of the basic steps for twelve ballroom and Latin dances. Each of the twelve
rhythms is repeated for a duration of three minutes - the length of an average piece of music -
then begins to fade out (two minutes). I often use my Dance Beats in my classes when first
explaining the rhythm of a dance, and it is not unusual for dancers to find the effect hypnotic!
Those who have done meditation might describe these rhythmic recitations as mantras.
When using your Dance Beat CD, find a comfortable chair or couch, select the band for the
dance you are studying, close your eyes and let it run for its five minutes. If you have
headphones, put them on, because the accented beats alternate between the left and right
channels – just as your feet will alternate when dancing. The five minutes will be very boring –
intentionally so – but surely you can tolerate five minutes of boredom, can’t you? Believe me,
it’s well worth it, because the dance beats will go deep inside your brain - and stay there!
The CD is inexpensive - only $5 - and provides the basic rhythms for Foxtrot, Rumba,
Triple Swing, Waltz, Cha-Cha, Mambo, Jive, Tango, Samba, Salsa, Merengue and Bachata.
The new improved version synchronizes the spoken beats with a generic musical phrase in the
style of the dance.
BALLROOM DANCING IN OUR AREA:
JACK PURCELL COMMUNITY CENTRE, Elgin at Gilmour, Ottawa.
Every Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. Admission: $4.10 per person (including snacks/coffee!)
Parking privileges free to participants. Music (computer controlled) much improved!
CHINESE CANADIAN CULTURAL CENTRE, Kent at Florence, Ottawa.
Every Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Admission: $5. Ample parking on the street.
Good quality music (hen hao de yinyuè). And don't forget their Chinese New Years bash!
SMITHS FALLS, at the Orange Hall on William Street, typically on the last
Friday of each month. 8:00 to 10:30 p.m.; $5 per person, refreshments included; Contact
Suzanne Rebetez for further details: 613.253.2172
LET'S DANCE, 60 Colonnade Road N., Nepean. 613.723.6592
Every Friday, 9:00 p.m. Admission: $7 per person. L.L.B.O. licensed.
GLEBE COMMUNITY CENTRE, 690 Lyon Street S., Ottawa.
Sundays, 8:00 to 11.00 p.m. Admission: $10 per person; 613.564.1058.
ADVICE TO MY STUDENTS ON TECHNIQUE:
Although there is still a great deal that is not yet known about the human
brain, it is clear that dance steps are first communicated to us verbally
and visually. The verbal part involves our understanding of what is being
said, and together with the movements that we see, we attempt to translate
this information into motions of our own (sometimes not very successfully!).
Initially, therefore, we have to talk to ourselves, both
during the lesson and while practicing. This self-talk and comprehension
involves the speech areas (on the left side of the head) and the reasoning
area (the frontal lobe) of the head. But after we have practiced the steps
for a while, the sequence of steps and movements become a motor routine.
This allows us to perform the movements on "autopilot", simply by thinking
briefly about what step you want to do, then letting the brain execute the
sequence automatically, with little or no active thought during its execution.
Those familiar with computer programming will note the similarity of this to
calling a procedure or subroutine.
Motor routines are known to be stored in the cerebellum,
(Restak, The Brain, pp. 87-91) which is located in
the lower rear of the head. Encoding the verbal and visual information for a
dance step in the cerebellum takes time - hours, days or weeks, depending upon
how much you practice. As a result, when learning a new variation you must
continue to talk to yourself about the steps throughout the programming process,
and you should avoid social conversation or distracting thoughts until the steps
become completely automatic and technically correct. Once you have done this,
you can relax and really enjoy your dancing.
Finding the beat:
MEN: When starting a dance, first make sure you can distinctly hear the rhythm
of the dance in the music which is being played; then start! Your
partner will wait until you have done this. If the music contains a vocal
part, try to avoid listening to the singers, who often deviate considerably
from the beat of the music for the sake of their artistry, and instead
listen to the accompaniment - the drums or double bass, if any - which,
in a good piece of dance music, will provide a strong, steady beat throughout.
Dances like the Samba, Merengue and Paso Doble should start at the beginning
of an eight-beat musical phrase. A musical phrase is difficult to
explain in words, but it is like a poetic line in a song, with the final
beat of a phrase usually unstated (as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,(8),1,2,3,4,5,6,7,(8)),
similar to a pause in speech. Using suitable pieces of music for these
dances, try to divide its beat patterns into logical, even eight-beat groups,
repeatedly counting to eight.
If you are having trouble keeping on the beat, it is probably a good idea
to purchase a few CD's or tapes of approved ballroom dance music and to
practice finding the strong beats in musical bars for each of the pieces,
first clapping or tapping out the beats with a pencil, then executing the
steps on the floor. I strongly recommend my
Dance Beat CD, which uses a hypnotic-like technique for anchoring the
dance beat in the brain. A secure knowledge of the beat patterns for each
dance is absolutely essential, and I take the necessary time to emphasize these
in my teaching.
Leading and following:
MEN: Although the ladies sometimes have more difficult and artistic steps
than you do, your job is in many ways more difficult. You are the on-the-spot
choreographer, determining at each moment of the dance which step to do next
in order to make the dance as interesting as possible for your partner and
yourself. I strongly recommend avoiding lengthy fixed routines, and believe
that your dancing will be much more interesting if the order in which you
put your steps is varied each time you dance. If you know approximately 15
steps of each dance, you will find that you will probably only be able to
use each one of those steps once in a three-minute piece of music.
If you know more than 15 steps, you will only be able to use part of
your repertoire in any single piece of music, and if you are a good dancer,
you will select a different group of those steps each time you dance.
At the same time you are attempting to be a good choreographer, you
must keep a careful eye on traffic on the dance floor, and use whatever steps
are necessary to avoid collisions with other couples or stationary objects.
This is floorcraft, and, considering the number of collisions found
on a dance floor on an average evening (and often caused by more experienced
dancers), it probably needs to be taught more often in dance courses than it
To have proper control of your dancing you must learn to lead well.
To do this, you must keep your arms firm and avoid moving the upper part of
the body unnecessarily. Collapsed left arms and swaying of the upper body are
common errors among inexperienced male dancers. Your movements, when made,
are to serve as signals to the lady, and such movements as raising or
lowering of arms or shifting torso position must be carefully observed and
incorporated when learning a new step. You will not be able to lead well if
you have not securely programmed your steps in your cerebellum (see
Learning, above); insecurity leads to false movements, and these will
cause your parter to misinterpret your actions.
LADIES: Following is not an easy task, either! You must know your dance
steps well so that once a dance step has been initiated by your partner you
can execute it properly to completion. There is unfortunately little you
can do if your partner does not know how to lead: It is not possible to know
what variation will be danced next unless you receive the proper cue(s), and
you must avoid guessing or taking over the lead. But in order to follow
properly, you absolutely must know the standard cues for each step, remain
alert to these cues, and also, in many cases, keep a firm right arm.
Many of the Latin dances (e.g., the Rumba, Cha-Cha and Mambo) have Afro-Cuban
origins. Steps in these dances are never initiated with the heel!
Instead, we employ a stepping technique known as "Cuban Movement". It
uses a delayed shift of body weight, executed by first moving the
ball of a foot to its next position (forward, backward, to the side or in
place) with a bent knee, then later transferring the body weight to that
foot, bringing the heel down and straightening the knee. While transferring
the weight to this foot, we typically bend the other knee and lift the other
heel from the floor in preparation for the next step. Thus we have an
alternate bending and straightening of the knees, somewhat similar to
"marking time" when marching, or walking down a flight of stairs.
Dances vary considerably from one another in their character. This includes
posture. Surely, a Swing or Jive, with its abandon and free expression, does
not require as upright a posture as should be applied to the elegant Slow
Waltz and Viennese Waltz. A too upright posture in Swing would appear stiff
and unnatural, and in the Argentine Tango (but not in the standard Tango) the
norm is to look downward with an intense, absorbed facial expression. Students
must be taught at an early stage about the distinct characteristics of each
dance they learn, and must be corrected when they attempt to apply techniques
of one dance inappropriately to another.
I have found that many beginners - particularly ladies - have difficulty
with the spot turn, which is introduced to them when learning the Cha-Cha-Cha
in Level 1. Perhaps the reason that men tend to have less difficuly with
this turn is that it is used in military marching (although to their right
instead of their left), and is actually called a "military turn" by some
dance teachers. This turn is extremely important in the Latin dances,
as it is used extensively in the Cha-Cha-Cha, Rumba, Mambo, Samba, Bolero
and Salsa, both as an underarm turn for the lady and as simultaneous spot
turns for both partners.
Before attempting the spot turn in the Cha-Cha-Cha, the beginner is introduced
to the forward crossovers (international: the "New York"). Dancers turn on
these to their left or right, hand-in-hand, and execute a forward rock step
in place on Counts 2 and 3. Beginners usually do not have much trouble with
these. The lady, when executing a spot turn, begins exactly as she would
for a forward crossover to her right, turning right on Count 1 and
stepping forward for Count 2. On Count 2, using the ball of her left foot,
she swivels 1/2 turn to her right, transferring her weight to her right foot,
which must be kept in place. By now bringing her left foot forward and
turning further to her right, she faces her partner once again, and the left foot
steps down for Count 1, which is the first step of the three-step chassé
("cha-cha-cha"). The man, turning to his left, does the exact opposite,
swiveling on his right foot, then transferring his weight to his left foot, which
is kept in place. The errors that beginners typically make are failing to keep
the unweighted (lady's right or man's left) foot in place while turning and not
transferring weight to that foot during the half-turn swivel.
Pass to the Right (Triple Swing):
A Pass is a Swing variation in which the partners usually exchange places.
There are several kinds of Passes in Swing, and they are a very prominent
feature of the dance. The first of theses Passes, the Pass to the Right,
is taught in our beginners' course immediately after student has learned
the basic step of the Triple Swing. It uses the same rhythm and steps as
the basic step, i.e., back rock: 1,2; chassé: 1-a-2; chassé: 1-a-2, but
turns 90° (a quarter-turn) on each of the two chassés - the man to his
right, the lady to her left.
As shown in the above diagram, the man raises his left arm on the back rock
to signal his intention to pass the lady. After the man has turned 1/4 to his
right and the lady has turned 1/4 to her left on the first chassé, the lady
will have her back to the man's chest, and he will have his arm raised over
her head to allow her to pass under. Then, moving her left foot back and to
the left, the lady again turns 1/4 to her left for her second chassé, moving
strongly to her left side to directly face the man. At the same time, the
man steps back and to the right with his right foot, turning 1/4 right for
his second chassé and lowering his arm.
Contra-Body Movement (CBM) and CBMP:
Dancers first encounter contra-body movement in Level 2 when introduced to
the Promenade in the Foxtrot. Here, when the man steps forward with his
right foot, his left shoulder is leading, i.e., held in front; in contrast,
the lady has her right shoulder leading while stepping forward with her left
foot. This movement, stepping with the opposite shoulder leading, may seem
somewhat unnatural, but is found frequently in ballroom dancing - so
frequently, in fact, that dancers refer to it as "CBM", and its position as
"CBMP" ("Contra-Body Movement Position"). This designation is also found in
books and is required when explaining steps on professional examinations.
Quarter-turns and level of maturity (optional reading):
The first dance step that a beginner learns is usually the Progressive Basic
in the Foxtrot. In attempting to teach this step correctly, i.e., as one
would explain and execute it on an examination, we run the risk of totally
confusing the beginner with an overdose of terminology and hair-splitting.
After s/he learns the meaning of "slow" and "quick", "Line of Dance" and
"facing/backing diagonal to wall/centre", there is the problem of executing
the quarter-turns needed go from the "zig" to the "zag" and back to the
"zig" (Paul Bottomer) of the zigzag. I admit that until
I studied for my professional examination I did not know that the turn made
from "facing diagonal to wall" to "backing diagonal to centre" consisted of
two 1/8-turns rather than a single quarter, and it took me a while before I
could comfortably express it that way. To complicate matters even further,
while one partner is executing two 1/8-turns the other partner is performing
a single 1/4-turn, "pointing diagonal to wall/centre; body turns less", and
later, "body completes turn".
There is, of course, a rationale for this complexity. Human beings
can execute spread-eagle turns (toes pointed outward) much easier than
pigeon-toed turns. If a human can even stretch enough to do a pigeon-toed
quarter-turn, it is, by most people's aesthetics, extremely awkward and ugly.
In the first beginners' course I ever taught, I tried to avoid the
issue altogether, not mentioning how one was supposed go from one alignment
to the other. The result was that the beginning students, for the most part,
made only 1/8-turns, which led to a total disregard for the alignment!
Encouraging them to swivel on pigeon-toed turns led to the free foot being
held out in front of the swiveling foot, rather than closing.
I know for a fact that, even today, a beginning student in chemistry
first learns to visualise electrons in concentric circular orbits around the
nuclei of atoms long before s/he learns quantum theory - in which one learns
that the orbits do not follow this simple circular scheme. But, due to its
complexity, teaching quantum theory to someone first learning about the
structure of atoms is probably not a good idea. Similarly, it may be
necessary to withhold certain details of dance technique at the beginners'
level, in the hope that the student will be able to absorb these details
later on. So for now, to be better assured of a good alignment on the Foxtrot
basic, I teach my beginning students to perform their side-closes facing the
wall (men) or centre (ladies), realizing, of course, that this is true only
for the first step of those chassés.
GENERAL REMARKS ON THE DANCES:
... or possibly Slow Dance as your wedding dance?
Social vs. International:
The dance courses which I teach as part of the Goulbourn Township
Recreational Program include the Foxtrot, Rumba, Triple Swing, (Slow) Waltz,
Cha-Cha-Cha, Merengue, Samba and Tango. The dance variations taught
in these courses are known as "social steps", and are commonly
performed by dancers in Canada and the United States. It must be
admitted that much of the ballroom dancing that we know in North America
today has been heavily influenced by the late Arthur and Kathryn Murray,
and their book How to Become a Good Dancer first appeared
in 1938. The steps diagrammed in my copy from 1959 are pleasant, easy and well
explained, and includes the Cha-Cha-Cha, which was first danced in the
U.S. (probably New York) only a few years before (Ernst Fern; see
Bibliography), as well as the Merengue, also very new
at that time.
In Europe, however, ballroom dancing became dominated by the Imperial
Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) in London. The first edition
of its best-known publication The Ballroom Technique
was published in 1948, i.e., ten years later than Arthur and Kathryn Murray's
book. The Ballroom Technique consists of step charts (no diagrams) for
typically 25 variations each of the (Slow) Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango and
Quickstep, with many of these variations common to two or more of these
dances. The coding scheme incorporated in the charts is attributed to
the late Alex Moore, MBE, and he served on the ISTD committee responsible
for the variations included in the book. This book and its companion,
The Revised Technique of Latin-American Dancing, have
become worldwide standards, and the ISTD is now the de facto governing body
for international competitions and teacher certification tests.
Despite the current influence of the ISTD on ballroom dance teaching
throughout the world, the Murray-inspired social dance steps continue
to be used as much as ever in North America. In many cases these steps
are more interesting than those defined by the ISTD. In addition, most
dances performed today originated in the Western Hemisphere, with the
Foxtrot and Swing (and to a major extent, also the Cha-Cha-Cha) created in
the U.S. The only dance of British origin, the Quickstep, was put together
by the ISTD committee and is derived from the American (social or
Rhythmic) Foxtrot and, to some extent, the Charleston - also American.
The Foxtrot defined in the ISTD book is the Slow Foxtrot of international
competitions, and, with its many heel-turns and continuous movement, is
considered by most dance teachers to be far too difficult for beginners
- even in Europe, as may be seen in the books by Paul Bottomer
(U.K.) and Ernst Fern, ADTV Germany (see Bibliography).
The American social Foxtrot, with its chassés and slow-slow-quick,quick
rhythm is, in fact, included in those books as the "Rhythmic Foxtrot"
(Fern: "der rhythmische Foxtrott"), with no mention of the international
Slow Foxtrot in Fern's book except for remarking that it requires a very
large floor upon which one can move freely.
The international Rumba deviates strongly from the social Rumba taught
in North America. In contrast to the American basic step - a common
box-step -, the international Rumba basic is essentially the same as
the Mambo basic, and many of its variations are identical to those in
the Mambo. Fern describes both types of Rumba, designating these as
the "American System" (but showing a reversed box-step) and the "System
Cubano". The only major problem for beginners in the international
Rumba is starting the basic step on the second beat of the bar (there is
a weight-transfer step straddling the counts 4,1), but it may be argued
that the similarity of its variations to those in the Mambo results in
a lack of variety when both are danced in the same evening.
Aside from the above concerns about the Foxtrot and Rumba, there is a
fair degree of commonality between the North American social dances and
their international counterparts. The international Jive is really the
social Triple Swing danced to somewhat faster music, and the American
Jive, done to fast music, is a Single Swing (single steps
instead of chassés).
Conventions of the Standard ballroom dances:
The Standard ballroom dances include the Foxtrot, Slow Waltz, Tango,
Quickstep and Viennese Waltz. These dances follow the "Line of Dance
(LOD)" - a path moving counterclockwise around the perimeter of the room.
With the possible exception of the Tango, the dance steps for the Standard
dances are oriented with respect to the walls of the room and the Line of
Dance. This orientation is known as "alignment", and should be
adhered to whenever possible. Exceptions may have to be made for a small
dance floor in a club or restaurant, where one typically finds crowds of
untrained dancers remaining virtually stationary. Understanding that a
dancer with his/her right shoulder close to a wall is facing the LOD,
the alignments most commonly used are:
|Facing LOD: ||"facing LOD"
|Back to LOD: ||"backing LOD"
|Facing 45° to right of LOD: ||"(facing) diagonal to wall"
|Back 45° to right of LOD: ||"backing diagonal to wall"
|Facing 45° to left of LOD: ||"(facing) diagonal to centre"
|Back 45° to left of LOD: ||"backing diagonal to centre"
|Facing 90° to right of LOD: ||"facing wall" or "backing centre"
|Facing 90° to left of LOD: ||"facing centre" or "backing wall"
This may be a lot of terminology for a beginner, but it is well worth the
few minutes required to learn it. Try facing as indicated, and these
alignments will soon make sense.
Although I expressed the angles above in degrees, turns in ballroom dancing
are normally expressed as fractions of a circle, i.e., 1/8, 1/4,
3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8 or 1/1 (= full turn) left or right. This applies
to the Latin dances as well.
The man and lady usually dance very closely together in the Standard dances,
typically with body contact below the waist. The man's body is slightly
offset to his left (but more in Tango). Heads and shoulders of both
partners are kept erect, with the each partner facing slightly to his or
her left when in closed position. In promenade position or fallaway
position (the same as promenade position, but moving backwards), i.e.,
when both partners are facing in the same direction, the partners will
face slightly toward each other. The lady's left hand usually rests
on the man's right upper arm; the one exception is the Tango, where her
left hand is behind the the man's right shoulder, with the palm held
parallel to the floor.
The five following sections, in alphabetical order, describe the
distinct characteristics of the Standard ballroom dances:
The social or rhythmic Foxtrot is the dance usually first taught to
beginners. When the basic rhythm of slow-slow-quick,quick (6 beats of
music) is used, the movement on the slow-slow forward and backward steps is
similar to normal walking, with no rise and fall. The chassés, executed
as quick-quick, are small side steps, using only the ball of the foot
for the first of the two steps. The dance also borrows many steps from
the Waltz, with the rhythm of these steps converted to slow-quick,quick.
The converted Waltz steps use as strong downward movement immediately
prior to the first step (slow), as is done in the Waltz, and by this
downward movement the lady is made aware that the follow variation is a
Waltz step rather than a slow-slow-quick,quick Foxtrot step. As dancers
become more proficient in the Foxtrot, they learn steps with more complex
rhythms, often including a series of quick steps.
This European Tango was created during the 1930's in reaction to the
"lewd" hooks, flicks and other intimate gestures of the original Tango,
which came from Argentina (see Argentine Tango,
below). These movements were eliminated, with the new dance (as in the other
Standard dances) moving along the Line of Dance and using a heel-onset for its
forward steps. A good upright posture is maintained (in stark contrast to
the downcast looks in the Argentine Tango), with the man offset further to
his left in closed position than in the other Standard dances. The lady's
left hand is placed behind the man's right shoulder, with her palm
parallel to the floor. The knees are slightly bent, and there is no rise
and fall. The man's forward movements are smooth and stealthy, often
punctuated by abrupt closes and position changes, somewhat like a fox
sneaking up and then pouncing upon its prey. In closed position his left
shoulder is often kept back, moving in Contra-Body Movement Position (see
CBMP above). The rhythm varies, with the beginner first
learning to dance slow-slow-quick,quick,slow (using an unweighted foot on the
final slow), later slow-quick,quick,slow and multiples of quick,quick,slow.
Pauses may also be added - normally after an abrupt transition to promenade
position (the Promenade Link) - to heighten the dramatic effect of the dance.
The Quickstep was derived by an ISTD committee from the rhythmic Foxtrot
and some elements of the 1920's Charleston (seldom danced today). There
is no social form of the dance, and it is therefore not taught in the
social syllabus. Dancers familiar with the social Foxtrot can easily
recognise its similarity to the Quickstep, with its long forward and
backward steps, chassés and converted Waltz steps. As its name implies,
the Quickstep is quite fast, and its steps must usually be perfected at
a slow tempo before they will work properly at dance tempo. Rise and fall
are used throughout, with quick steps typically executed on the toes.
A prominent characteristic of the Quickstep is its lock steps,
which are forward or backward cross steps outside partner in Contra-Body
Movement Position (CBMP).
Compared to its Germanic origins, relatively little turning is found in
the modern Slow Waltz. It is an elegant dance, and excellent upright
posture is expected. Although forward and backward steps are unusually
long (made possible by the down-movement immediately prior to these steps),
it is important to avoid jerkiness in the down-up-up movement normally
corresponding to the Waltz's 1-2-3 count. In closing the chassés, which
are moderately wide, the closing toe is dragged, lengthening the second
count slightly at the expense of Count 3.
Derived from the Austrian and Bavarian Ländler - a peasant dance still
danced at Volksfeste in Bavaria and Austria today -, the very elegant
Viennese Waltz probably dates from about 1830, made popular in Vienna by
the Strauss family (Johann Sr., Johann Jr. and brothers Josef and Eduard).
Internationally only a few variations are defined: the left turn, the right
turn, the closed changes from one to the other, and the Fleckerls (Austrian
German: "little spots"; very quick double turns, difficult and rarely seen).
The steps of the six-count left and right full turns are identical for both
partners, with one partner dancing the three forward-to-backward steps
while the other is dancing the three backward-to-forward steps. Critical
to their successful execution is keeping the backward-to-forward steps very
small as the other partner goes around with much larger steps. On the third
count of the left turn the left foot is slid across in front of the right
while turning backwards; this helps to keep the partners properly aligned
with each other. The imperial elegance of the dance is enhanced by an
exaggerated upright posture and lean toward the centre of the ballroom.
Slow Dance - an ideal wedding dance:
There is a dance, known simply as "Slow Dance", which is not a part of the
normal ballroom and Latin dance scene. Probably derived from the very simple side-to-side
rocking movement that many people who have not taken dance courses commonly use, it has
a somewhat more demanding basic step incorporating a Tango-like Corté and a slight turn to
the right. It consists of four steps, one count each, and is ideal for beginning dancers. A
number of rather good variations have been built upon this basic step, and these include
walking outside partner, moving in promenade position, easy pivots, inside turns, and dips.
Slow Dance may be danced in a relatively small area, and does not follow the Line of Dance.
The very romantic and intimate closed position used for Slow Dance has the Man's left hand
(and Lady's right) clasped against the Man's chest, and his right arm far around the Lady's
back, just above her waist, with the partners gazing deeply into each other's eyes - all very
much in contrast to "good" ballroom closed position. Firm body contact - right thighs
overlapping - is an absolute must. This degree of intimacy makes the dance ideal for a
wedding couple's solo at their reception, and I strongly recommend it as such
- particularly if the couple has no prior dance experience. They only need to be reminded,
if they ever should decide to learn regular ballroom dancing, that the closed position in Slow
Dance does deviate markedly for the normal closed position. The variations include enough
interesting moves to motivate couples to learn the regular ballroom and Latin dances, and
- if and when they do - they will find many moves in these dances that they have already
encountered in Slow Dance.
Music for this dance is a slow, ballad-like beat which may be counted in 2/4 time, but the
accompaniment may include a gentle 6/8 beat, to which the partners will typically dance 3/8
per step. The ball of the free foot should be in contact with the floor when moving, creating a
soft, gliding action.
Conventions of the Latin and Club dances:
The Latin and club dances are very much more free-spirited than the Standard
dances, and for this this reason it is much more difficult to define a set
of general characteristics for them. Most of these dances require
Cuban Movement throughout, being very careful never to
use heel-steps except where required in the Paso Doble. Most Latin and club
dances are performed in place, but the Samba, Paso Doble, and Merengue
usually follow the Line of Dance. The dancers frequently execute turns
and other independent movements, typically requiring about 10 to 20 cm of
separation between the partners in closed position.
The following sections, in alphabetical order, describe the distinct
characteristics of the Latin and club dances:
First appearing in the bars and cafés on the back streets of Buenos Aires
over a hundred years ago, the Tango was branded "a glorification of an
immoral life-style" when introduced in Europe during the 1930's, and this
led to the creation of the Standard or Modern Tango, described above. In
recent years, however, there has been a major revival of the original
Argentine Tango, with audiences fascinated by the many hooks, flicks and
other erotic movements in combination with the uniquely sensuous, brooding
sounds of the authentic Tango music.
Although the eight-step basic is well-established, the timing on its steps
- as well as in all other steps of the dance - may vary with the dancers'
musical interpretation. Beyond the basic step, all moves are improvised,
provided that they remain in accordance with the established Argentine
style. The most common stylistic elements include forward and backward
half-turns (ochos), flicking the leg (boleadas), hooking the partner's leg
(ganchos), complex turns (giros), and even the lady raising or wrapping
her leg around the man's thighs or gracefully falling against him. One
partner often remains stationary while the other moves, allowing the partner
to complete his or her complex move in whatever time may be required. The
man must provide an extraorinarily good lead in this dance, and this can
only be achieved with considerable practice. Most dancers have learned
the Standard Tango before attempting the Argentine Tango, and must clearly
understand that the two dances are very different. The Argentine movement
more closely resembles that of the Rumba than of the Standard Tango.
Imitating the (perhaps poor) habits of the Argentine dancers, the partners
tend to look down at the floor, often watching the partner's movements in
intense concentration. The lady's head is usually turned to the right
in closed position, and at tense moments the partners may stare defiantly
into each other's eyes.
The Bachata has been a recent addition to dance evenings in Ottawa. Like the Merengue,
it has come to us from the Dominican Republic. Sometimes referred to as the "Latin Blues",
it often deals with the less pleasant side of life in that country - crime, poverty, and the like.
Much of the music imported for this dance, however, has a bouncy, happy tone. Its basic
rhythm is 1-2-3-tap (usually with a hip lift), 5-6-7-tap, with the man typically moving to the left
(or possibly forward) on the 1-2-3-tap and to the right (or backward) on the 5-6-7-tap.
A considerable amount of Cuban Movement is recommended for
both partners. Common partner positions are Latin Closed (directly facing with 15 to 20 cm
of separation), Ballroom Closed (close body contact with man offset to left), the Two-Hand
position (ca. 60 cm of separation), and occasionally Promenade, Shadow, Cradle,
Hammerlock, Open Facing and Solo positions, as required for the various moves. If the
social gathering (and partner!) permits, the man may use an extremely close semi-squatting
("dirty dancing") position with his right knee far between his partner's legs, often with both
partners writhing on the spot. Dips are also quite common - either with the man turning 1/4 left,
the lady fully supported on her right leg. or with the lady leaning far backward and swinging
from her right to her left (this second type of dip only recommended for younger ladies with
no back problems!). Many turns are used - closed, underarm or solo, for either partner or
both partners together -, and on the underarm turns the man may use either arm, switching
arms as desired.
The Bolero (American style) is not danced very often in the Ottawa area,
and this is unfortunate; it is a very beautiful dance. At dance evenings
in this area, however, there are typically several pieces of Rumba music
played which are uncomfortably slow for dancing the Rumba described below,
and these present an ideal opportunity to dance the Bolero.
Like the Rumba, the rhythm of the Bolero is a very strict slow-quick,quick,
with some minor exceptions in the more complex steps. Side steps on the
slow count are enormously wide, with a body lean opposite to the
direction of movement (oversway). The wide steps and oversway
provide the essential character of the dance. The basic step is wide variant
of the Mambo or international Rumba basic, and on the second repetition it
concludes with a hip-lift - as do all Bolero variations. In this
movement, used instead of a forward or backward rock-step, the knee of the
leg which has just closed (slow) is momentarily straightened, then bent
again (quick,quick). The first four variations defined for the Bolero are
not difficult, and use separations, underarm turns, passes and cross-leads
similar to those found in the Mambo and Cha-Cha-Cha. On the intermediate
level, however, the steps are very much more difficult, with a level of
sophistication - and beauty - found in the Silver-level steps of other dances.
I strongly recommend the Bolero as a wedding dance if the couple is already
able to dance well at the intermediate level.
The Cha-Cha-Cha is actually a triple Mambo, and was originally
designated as such, replacing the weight-change side step in the Mambo
basic by a three-step chassé - a modification made possible by the
Cha-Cha-Cha's slower music. As noted below in the description of the
Mambo, there are many similar steps in these two dances, usually differing
only as described in the basic step. The count of the Cha-Cha-Cha is
2-3-4&1, where Counts 4 and '&' are half-beats. Counts 2 and 3 are
typically a rock-step; Counts 4-&-1 correspond to the triple chassé. Many
dancers count the basic step as "2--3--cha-cha-cha", and it is from this
that the dance derives its name.
The dance is lively, and it may sometimes be difficult to apply
Cuban Movement (see above) on the chassé steps. In practicing the basic
step, therefore, dancers should take particular care to have the ball of
the foot make contact with the floor first on all steps. The beginner
should also see the item on spot turns (above).
The strong similarities of the Mambo and Cha-Cha-Cha have been noted above.
The Mambo, however, is very much faster than the Cha-Cha-Cha, and for that
reason a single weight-change step (Counts 4,1) must be substituted for the
Cha-Cha-Cha's characteristic three-step chassé. Although the Mambo
historically preceded the Cha-Cha-Cha, dancers usually learn the latter
first, and, if they have not been exposed to the International Rumba (the
basic step of which is virtually identical to the Mambo basic), they will
probably have difficulty starting the dance on Count 2 - which, in theory,
one should do, considering that the corresponding step in the Cha-Cha-Cha
(the man's forward rock-step) is also on Count 2. Paul Bottomer (see
Bibliography), however, notes that the Cubans - the
originators of the dance - typically begin on Count 1, and for this reason
the timing is often given simply as quick,quick,slow (beats undefined) rather
than 2-3-(4,1). The Mambo is best danced with abandon, but, as with the
Cha-Cha-Cha, care must be taken to use Cuban Movement
and avoid flat-footed stepping.
One story about the origins of the Merengue is told by Arthur Murray (see
Bibliography). In this version, a Dominican sailor with a broken leg heard
some music that appealed to him and, limping, attempted to dance to it.
Those who saw him found his motion amusing but also fascinating, and they
imitated it. The basic step of the Merengue usually consists of side-steps,
placing only the ball of foot (with a bent knee) on one beat of music,
and then waiting until the next beat to actually put the weight on that
foot. This extreme case of Cuban Movement does result in something of a
broken-leg action. Characteristic variations include underarm turns moving
along the floor, the partners turning around each other, and separations
of the partners, moving either backward or sideways ("Sliding Door") from
one another. The closed position used in Merengue is very unusual: The man
keeps his left forearm vertical, his elbow in contact with the lady's, and
the lady extends her left arm, draping her wrist over the man's right shoulder.
Although previously taught to be danced around the room following the Line of Dance,
it is usually danced more or less in place when found in clubs. Our syllabus now
deals primarily with the Nightclub style, which involves a wide variety of
arm-twisting turns and a more relaxed Cuban Movement than in the ballroom style.
Like the Bolero, the Paso Doble is seldom danced in the Ottawa area, and is
seen primarily in exhibitions and competitions. It is a very beautiful and
exciting dance, and many of its steps may be easily performed by the
average dancer. The dance simulates the movements of the bullfighter and
his cape (the lady).
The Paso Doble originated in Spain, and in several respects have more in
common with the Standard dances than with the Latin dances. Approximately
twenty-five of its steps are internationally defined, and
alignments (see Standard Dances, above) are specified for them. The dance
usually travels along the LOD, and rather than simple Cuban Motion, there is a
wide variety in the footwork, including flats and heel-steps. The most striking
features, however, are probably the arm and head motions, very Flamenco in
style, and these are best included when learning the steps. There are, for
example, sudden transitions from one arm raised, with a defiant look (I am
always tempted to call this the "Olé!"-Position), to a wide-armed stance, the
man's left arm stretched outward and downward, palm outward (possibly simulating
the matador's final stroke with his sword), and then back again. In the
"Huit" and the "Sixteen" the man remains stationary while moving the lady
from one side to the other as the matador would move his cape. There
are marching and prancing steps, steps which are stamped (Appels), legs
snapping suddenly to the side, and dramatic turns and twists. Although
one usually hears only one particular piece of music for this dance
("España Cani"), there are many excellent pieces of Paso Doble music from
which to choose - including some with the shouts of the bullring spectators.
The Rumba, which originated in Cuba, has been called "the dance of love",
or in German, "der Tanz der Verführung" ("the dance of seduction"). Cuban
Movement, described earlier, is absolutely essential to this dance, with
the partners maintaining a soft, graceful movement at all times. I often
urge my students to imagine the swaying of palm trees while dragging their
feet through the sand of a beach. Remember: No Cuban
Movement - no Rumba!
There are virtually no exceptions to the Rumba's slow-quick,quick timing.
Posture should be upright, and there should be enough space between partners
to allow them to execute solo turns easily.
Salsa may well be the most popular of the nightclub dances at the present
time, but there is very little standardisation of steps, with several types
of basic step currently in use. Most Salsa music is played at a very fast
60 bars/minute, maintaining a quick,quick,slow(+tap) rhythm. There are many
complex arm-twisting turns and also many similarities with the Mambo. It
may be that the toe-tap executed on the second beat of the slow step is
primarily done to keep beginners in time with the music; it is sometimes
also seen as a tipping upward of the free foot or as a small kick, and on
complex variations this extra movement often disappears. Rhythmic arm
movements are frequently used, and on solo steps the hands are often turned
upward at the wrists "for a cocky New York/Miami nightclub style".
Best counted 1-2-3-(pause)-5-6-7-(pause), the most common basic step resembles
the Mambo basic, often danced as a crossbody lead, possibly with taps, toe-lifts
or small kicks on the pauses. Another common basic is the bilateral back step;
when danced with forward crosses it is known as the Cumbia Basic. There are
also bilateral back breaks and bilateral Cucurachas (stepping to the side and
then back), using taps on the pauses as desired. As previously noted, many of
the Salsa's variations are borrowed from the Mambo, often using passes found
in Swing. The dance is also characterized by many arm twists and spins.
The Samba originated in Brazil, and is often associated with the lively
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Perhaps in imitation of the parade on Rio's
Copacabana, the Samba moves along the LOD with frequent in-place movements.
Its music is fast, with a syncopated 1-a-2 (3/4,1/4,1) beat. On the short
'a'-beat the ball of the free foot is jabbed into the floor, causing the
standing foot to momentarily lift, somewhat like a pole-vault.
Many of the Samba's more complex variations make use of a combination of
three different elements: These are the Balance Steps (small underturned
back breaks); uncrossed or crossed chassés (called Compassos or Voltas),
executed straight or turned; and Bota Fogos (wide 1-a-2 steps, turned 1/4
or sometimes 1/2).
Triple Swing (East Coast & West Coast) and Jive:
Although grouped among the Latin dances, Swing or Jive is, of course, North
American in origin and closely associated with the various American Jazz
idioms. The Triple Swing (basic rhythm: 1, 2, 1-a-2, 1-a-2) is taught in
our social dance syllabus, but most of its may be very easily converted to
the simpler but faster Single Swing (corresponding rhythm: quick,quick,slow-slow-)
by replacing the syncopated three-step chassés (1-a-2) by two-beat 'slow'
steps. Many of the intermediate and advanced steps use a modification of
the basic rhythm known as Lindy timing, simply 1, 2, 1-a-2, without
the second chassé.
The most common dance position is the Open Facing Position (man's left hand to the lady's
right hand, but the (Swing) Closed Position (resembling Promenade) and two-hand holds are
also frequently used, being required in some variations. Most forms of Swing are danced
with considerable abandon (West Coast Swing - see below - is an exception), and, due to its
teenager-style informality, posture is not critical. Major characteristics of the dance are its
many underarm turns, passes, pushes, spins, kicks and rock-steps. The form of Triple Swing
most commonly danced in our area is known (mostly elsewhere) as
East Coast Swing.
West Coast Swing has gained some degree of popularity in our region - both
in downtown Ottawa groups and west of the city. It uses a slow Blues-like Triple Swing rhythm
(recommended tempo: 100 to 135 beats per minute), both standard and Lindy (see above).
The lady typically has the more interesting part in this dance, usually moving backward and
forward in a straight line known as a "slot", while the man moves only a relatively short
distance, either within the slot or to either side of it in order to lead the lady through her
Passes and Whips. Whips - of which there are many varieties - typically require an
eight-count Lindy rhythm, with the man usually turning clockwise around the lady, often in
Ballroom Closed Position, then returning to Open Facing Position.
SUMMARY OF BASIC DANCE RHYTHMS:
Legend: high dots = Man's left foot, Lady's right foot
Waltz steps in Foxtrot: like Rumba timing (below)
RUMBA / BOLERO:
(wo/w) = without weight; *extensions to SSQQS Tango steps are frequently QQS
^ = tap or hip lift
ROCK / JIVE:
same as Merengue, but Man starts with right foot
Timing same for Viennese Waltz
Dancing Step-by-Step, Claire and Rhéal Perron,
Perron School of Dancing (Ottawa),
Centurion Publishing & Marketing (Ottawa), 1993
How to Become a Good Dancer, Arthur Murray,
Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959
How to Dance!, Paul Bottomer,
Lorenz Books (London), 1998
Modern Ballroom Dancing, Victor Silvester,
Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd. (London), 1993
The Ballroom Technique,
The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (London), 1994
The Brain, Richard Restak, M.D.,
Bantam Books (Toronto), 1984
The Revised Technique of Latin-American Dancing,
The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (London), 1983
Wir lernen tanzen - Standard- und lateinamerikanische Tänze,
Ernst Fern, Falken-Verlag GmbH (Niedernhausen/Ts., Germany), 1980
RICHARD W. MACMILLAN - brief résumé:
Born in New York, 14 July 1941
Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering,
Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (New York), 1964
Master of Science, Electrical Engineering,
Columbia University (New York), 1969
Doctor of Engineering, Computer Science (Informatik),
Technische Universität Berlin (West Berlin), 1980
Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Psychology - Magna cum Laude,
University of Ottawa, 1993
--- Retired: 1998 ---
Intermediate Professional Examination, Ballroom Dancing,
Perron School of Dancing (Ottawa), July 1998
passed with "grande distinction".
October 1998: began teaching ballroom dancing for Goulbourn Township, now
Rideau/Goulbourn Ward of the City of Ottawa.
September 2002: organized first dance courses in the Carleton Place area.
December 2010: concluded teaching for the City of Ottawa.
03 February 2000; updated 18 April 2011