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Bowling Like a Dancer

One of the first dance metaphors (I love metaphors, can you tell?) I was taught was back in a low-key studio called Dancing at Twilight. It so happened that Don, one of the two owners, was teaching that day. “Anyone like hockey?” he asked. Most of us raised our hands. “Good. Mime me a hockey swing.”

Wondering if Don had been binge watching The Karate Kid, we all took practice swings. Don immediately pointed out how each of us had done two things: We had “wound up”, by pulling the stick backwards, and “swung” through the body to take the shot. “That is how I want you to execute your dance turns” he explained.

This approach helped me grasp two very important points that underlie (most) turns we make in dance:

  1. The turn must initiate from a wound-up, or prepped position.
  2. The turn is executed through the core, or centre of the body.

Nor do you have to be a hockey-fan to appreciate how much we use these turning principles in our everyday lives. Do you play tennis? Frisbee? How about golf? All these sports involve using a windup, followed by a body swing.

Why are these principles important? First, prepping before a turn helps generate the momentum we need, much like a slingshot that must be pulled back before it can loose it’s payload. And second, the core balances the weight of the upper and lower halves of the body, so neither pulls you off balance during the turn.

Bowling can be an especially useful metaphor for traveling turns, like the reverse or natural turn in waltz. Start by swinging one side of your body forward as you would facing down those 10-pins. Then imagine your fingers getting stuck in the heavy bowling ball, letting the momentum pull you forward and past your partner.

Of course, these metaphors aren’t perfect – you wouldn’t want to crouch down like a bowler for example, nor do you want (usually) to swing your shoulders as much as you do while taking a golf swing. Combining this turning action with good posture (toning the core and pulling up through the spine), can save you from both of these mistakes.

So next time you step out on the sports field or the bowling alley, know that in a strange sort of way, you are training your body in the fundamentals it needs to turn like a pro.

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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