SUGGESTED METHOD OF APPROACH
(1) The Novice
The novice (whose initial desire is to learn sufficient about dancing to be able to move both comfortably and unobtrusively in the ballroom) will only need to assimilate very little of the information in this book. To many people dancing is a hobby, a recreation, or a pleasant means of obtaining healthy physical exercise. Others approach it from different aspects, one of the most important being the mental relaxation that an evening’s dancing can give. Obviously, the method of approach must vary in each case. The unambitious beginner need not be alarmed by the seemingly intricate details which follow the simple descriptions of the various figures. They are as unnecessary to him or her as are the intricacies of motor racing to the ordinary car driver.
After reading the general instructions at the beginning of this book, paying especial attention to the Hold, and the Poise and Balance of the Walk, the beginner should turn to the Quickstep Section, and learn the Walk, Quarter Turns and the Natural Turn. Full use should be made of the charts. They are quite easy to follow, especially if the squares are marked out on the floor. The various steps should be danced with the feet kept flat at first, afterwards a little attention being paid to the Footwork, as the turns will be much easier with some little use of the ball of the foot.
The fundamentals of the Waltz should be learned next, and the best method of approaching this dance is given at the beginning of the section dealing with it.
The beginner who enters the ballroom with just a knowledge of the Walk, Quarter Turns and Natural Turn in the Quickstep, and the Closed Change, Natural Turn, and Reverse Turn in the Waltz, will be able to take part in about three-quarters of the average Ballroom Dance programme.
It must be remembered that a good carriage and the ability to move easily and rhythmically are of utmost importance. There is much more pleasure to be obtained from dancing a few simple figures well than from dancing a dozen indifferently. When an easy and comfortable interpretation of the basic figures has been achieved, the desire to learn further variations will soon follow.
(2) The Competition Dancer and Keen Amateur
The reader who aspires to competition dancing should remember that a judge’s first impression comes from the general appearance of the couple. A good poise and a hold that is stylish and unaffected are most essential, for however well a couple may dance they will never command attention if such important details are lacking. Much useful information on these points is given in the early part of this book, and it should be studied with great care. Footwork, so important because it is so noticeable, should be neat and correct, whilst the subtle difference between “Body Swing” and the rather hackneyed “Contrary Body Movement” is well worth investigating. Finally, the controlled use of Body Sways and Rise and Fall, which should be felt in the body, should be understood, as a really finished dance is impossible without them.
The charts will be found most useful in checking the alignment of the various figures. This feature of dancing is so often overlooked by competition dancers.
There is no shortcut to championship rank in dancing. The standard of competition dancing at the present time is so high that there is not the slightest chance of a dancer attracting the judge’s eye with a series of tricky variations that are not based on a sound technique.
It is possible to learn much from a book, but lessons from a good teacher are essential: it is so difficult to visualize the general effect of one’s own dancing.
The keen amateur who shrinks from the publicity of competition dancing will be well advised to enter the Amateur Medal Tests which are held quite frequently all over the country. These Tests are of a similar nature to the Ice Skating Tests, and bronze, silver, and gold medals are awarded according to the standard of the entrant. There are also tests for the social dancer and ongoing tests beyond Gold for the real enthusiast, affording an excellent opportunity for dancers to test their proficiency. The fees for these Tests are quite moderate, and the board of examiners includes the most famous teachers of dancing in the world. Further notes on the Tests and on Competition Dancing will be found on pages 295 to 305.
(3) The Student
The student who is training for a professional examination with a view to becoming a teacher of dancing should obviously be able to derive the most benefit from this book, for it contains much technical information necessary for a student’s or teacher’s examination. A big mistake, however, would be made by the student who thinks that, with a mere book knowledge of the technique of dancing, plus a reasonably good practical demonstration of the standard dances, a competent examiner can be cheated into believing a candidate is fit to hold the diploma of a Teachers’ Society.
The secret of the successful study of this book has nothing to do with the ability to remember such technical details as the numbers of the steps on which CBM, Rise and Sway occur.
Rather, it is the ability to understand why they occur. The student reader who tackles his or her studies in this way will never have the mortification of going “blank” in the examination room and not being able to repeat” those lines which have been so carefully committed to memory. The descriptions and technical details should be learned thoroughly, and applied in practice. Where slight alternatives to the standard technique have been given, these should be noted, and, more important still, the reason for such alternatives being suggested should be understood. Remember also that a technical knowledge of dancing is not even a half of the requirements of a successful teacher. The ability to give a good practical demonstration of dancing and to speak firmly and clearly (but not dictatorially) will always inspire confidence.
Note: It is important to work from the syllabus of your chosen society, obtainable from their Headquarters. Remember the figures used in this book are the author’s choice.