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A. Connect to the Music - Listen before you dance. Find the strong quarter-note pulse, with the double sixteenth note pickup to each strong beat. Listen to the bass and percussion. Tune in to the 8-beat phrasing. TIming of any move is variable: same move can be done slow or fast. Slow is the norm, with the move taking many beats of music.
B. Connect to the Earth - Earth-Sky connection: hips forwards vs. back, weight closer to baslls and toes of feet vs. carches and heels, energy rising and light vs. sinking and solid. EARTH: Relax the hips and knees a little as if you were just about to sit. Your center of gravity lowers. Your hips relax back a bit. Feel your weighted ness. Feel how the floor or ground feels to the bottom of your feet. You feel relaxed, but you have energy and awareness. This is a "playing readiness" posture, common to many sports. Your body has a down-down pulse, with the music's pulse that is a continual background energy in your body - towards the earth. This is part of the African roots in Carribean dances. You are in a way receiving energy from the earth in this manner.
C. Connect to your own Body - Push off the floor into weight shifts. Roughly pushing off a bent leg to a straight leg which receives most of your weight. A step is a full change of weight to the new side. Let the energy spiral up and across your body, like a big "X" - from the one side of your body at the floor level, up through your belly, rib cage and shoulders on the other side. It is not about isolations, it is about the path of energy flow. Relax your shoulders. Rotate them a bit to relax them. Relax your neck muscles. Let your head be free to move. Your default free arm position is roughly parallel to the earth, so it can move expressively, a little or a lot. Free hand is relaxed, not in a "dance claw." Elbows are in front of torso, "never" behind. Weight is a bit BACK for the most part, towards the heels somewhat or flat footed, except when spinning (ball of foot and toe base usually receives the weight for spinning). In Merengue, when you step, your toes and ball of your feet drag along the floor - lift your heels, not the front part of your foot. Merengue is not "Marching in place."
D. Connect to your Partner
Psychologically: Look at your partner. A lot. Smile. In some cultures, direct eye contact is discouraged, and you don't want to stare at your partner the whole time anyway. But at least keep checking in!
Physically: In both closed and open position, there is energy away from each other, as your are both sitting back a bit. There is a big difference between choreography and lead-follow partner dance. The leader is essentially choreographing stream of consciousness, but knowing enough in advance to communicate to the follower. The follower waits, listens, responds. But we are not just leaders and followers! We are dancers - expressive, fun, even artistic at times. Whatever part of you is not touching your partner is free to move any way you wish. Ladies: wait for the lead. Better to be late than early. If he is not dancing to the music, dance to his rhythm. If the guy is a totally baffled newbie, you could try offering to back lead for a bit. Guys: be kind, not rough, but have firm, smoothly generated, well-defined, rhythmic leads, that don't come in at the very last microsecond. Your partner needs some time to respond in rhythm. It is 2009, so don't feel that your role is to control everything she does - give her space and time to turn however she wants.
E. Connect Socially - Brush your teeth. Use mouthwash and/or breath mints. You are going to sweat, everyone does, often a lot, so don't worry about that. When you enter the room, say hello at least to both friends and acquaintances as you encounter them. It helps you and others to feel a part of the scene. It is common for girls to ask guys to dance. Try to ask some totally new people to dance. Thank your partners after a dance. When you bang into, kick, or step on people on the dance floor, express concern and apologize. When you leave, It is nice to say goodbye to some people with whom you have danced.
- Torsos roughly parallel.
- L offset to left, right feet point are between the other's feet.
- F's back in L's RH, as L & F about to sit on a high stool.
- L cups L's RH on F's closest shoulder blade.
- F's L arm rests on L's R arm.
- L's R arm is high enough so F's tricep rests on L's forearm.
- When turning, L extends L's R arm to give F space to turn.
- L's R arm is firm, but it varies - let F go back for RS, firming more for couples turns.
- Island style: L's R hand resting on F's hip.
- Sit back a bit as if on a high stool.
- Forearms are low. L begins leverage. F matches it.
- Arms firm, but not rock-like. A bit springy, but steady-ish.
- Feel pull in fingers, forearm, bicep, not shoulder joint.
- Connect with muscle tone in FINGERS: no thumbs.
- Arm and finger muscle tone will increase and decrease for turns and place change moves.
- Yanking with your lead arm after a turn? Instead, bring your elbow near your side midriff for leverage.
Let L lead leverage. Use a "short rope."
TURNS: for the one turning
- Turn under the hand connection.
- Use your partner's hand as a pivot point. Don't push up: leverage down slightly. L's: No cranking.
- Step close to your partner.
- Don't let elbow go behind you (hurts!). If your hand goes behind your head, keep it close to your head.
WILD DANCING (L & F): Go nuts,..
- Improvise funky rhythms with your free hand, shoulders, hips, head, legs, NOT your connected hand.
- RS with the ball of your #1 foot near your #2 heel, and keep your weight mostly forward.
- L's: keep an eye on F during a turn. You'll lose her if she gets too far away. Don't yank on the RS: it hurts.
1. POSITIONS dig music, partner, bounce with pulse.
- one-handed open
- CP: facing
- Promenade AKA Conversation
- Cuddle AKA Sweetheart AKA Basket
- Varsouvienne AKA Skater's
2. MOVES from 1H: extra leverage from a leader's back step
(can connect either opposite hand, or either cross hand)
- F's Inside turn, position switch
- F's Inside Turn with hand change (from 1H or SH)
- L's Outside turn with position change
- L's behind the back turn
- Bring F into CP, or into CS, or into 2H (offer other hand)
- Arm Slide (from SH, after Ls RH behind his head)
- L's CW duck turn, either self-hjammerlock, or F's handon L's L shoulder.
3. MOVES from 2H
- Butterfly: arms behind head
- Cuddle: (& side to side)
- 2H alternating F & L turns
- Preztel (4 starting methods)
- Back to back
- Rope Turns
4. MOVES from 2SH
- Reversing Window: F turns 3 times to each position
- Table top pretzel ( L leads self into hammerlock and duck)
5. MOVES from CP: leader backs away to get some space first
- small pivots clockwise
- F's outside underarm turn (L make space first)
- L's outside underarm turn
- F's open (hand drop) outside turn
6. MOVEMENT variations