B is for Ballroom

| February 10, 2014

After last week’s class exercises (and I think a mention of the tango), I began thinking about the ways in which we make lines with our bodies through dance. In undergrad, I had taken two levels of Ballroom Dance, which was an incredibly fun experience, in spite of the fact that I’m usually that person who trips on nothing while walking on an even surface. Everything about ballroom is about movement control, and so much of it is being aware of the lines your body is making. Not only do you need to be in control of your own lines, but you also need to make sure they connect well with your partner’s as you move across the floor. As a follower, I had to have a particular posture that would allow me to best sense where it was my partner wanted to go, and how he or she wanted me to get there. And, depending on the style of the music/ dance (Latin, Standard, and all the deviations within those), those lines are totally adjusted into something new.

To watch the pros, like the championship couples in the embedded video below, in action, really does seem like a work of art to me. They’ve perfected their styles and synchronization in order to draw out their lines across the dance floor.

In competitions or group dances, the lead also has to make sure that your line of movement as a pair doesn’t intersect or crash with any others. (And you can bet that as beginners we often failed at this, to much hilarity.) This awareness of space, how much of it you will take up as you move, and the lines that others are also making is crucial to avoid collisions. Within the pair units, can also make shapes or move into ghost lines as a group, depending on your positioning, like in my own class’s performance below (which is exceptionally less impressive than the experts above, but still required quite a bit of coordination/ practice).

Ballroom requires a lot of discipline and in retrospect was all about the shaping and movement of the body’s lines. By making the body into a type of tool, aesthetically beautiful movement can take place.