Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Dallas and Plano Manager’s Forum: Why is it so important to have a good frame?

Manager’s Forum: Why is it so important to have a good frame?

This week, we asked the managers at Arthur Murray Dallas and Plano to tell us about the importance of a good frame. Here’s what they said…

1) Justin: Frame serves two purposes- communication and aesthetics. If you are dancing in an event, performing a show, or just want to be sure people enjoy watching you dance, your frame and topline are some of the first things people notice. Like your posture, your frame conveys confidence and experience. But when it comes to the social aspect of dancing, few things make more of a difference than leading and following. Your ability as the man to communicate where you’re going and how fast you’re going will put her at ease and put the energy back into having fun. As the lady, the better you can listen, the easier it is to follow, and your frame is your new set of ears. Rather than saying where and when, the frame is the way to non-verbally talk to each other on the floor, and that takes practice. But just like any other language, you’ll become fluent by immersing yourself as much as possible. The more people you get to dance with, the parties and events you attend, all teach you how to adjust to each nuance of your partner. Be patient and diligent with your frame, and you’ll be a master communicator in no time.

2) Sarah: Having a good frame is like having good pronunciation or the ability to speak all languages. The frame is how you communicate with your partner. Communication (physically) is the most important thing about dancing with another human being. Having a good frame promotes good connection which promotes amazing communication. And when the Lead is clear and the Follow is open, dancing is truly an amazing experience!

3) Nikki: I am sure that everyone knows the logic behind a good frame: it’s the foundation to the dancing, you don’t want the frame of a house to be unstable, etc.  But I don’t know that many people think of how it relates to their partner…  And how it can ease the most common complaint, “He/she isn’t Leading/Following!”

Most guys think that if they know all the steps, the girl will follow, and the dance will be great.  They spend SO much time making sure the steps are perfect, that they don’t spend an appropriate amount of time working on trying to make sure that they communicate those steps.  Everyone grumbles when “the Rack” (the metal dance frame) makes an appearance, or if they are forced to dance with the lovely “Sue” (a Chair), but really, they are great tools to really understand what your frame is doing, or not doing…  Just because a guy knows his steps, doesn’t mean that he is communicating them correctly.  His elbows may be sliding behind him, making the lady complain he is pulling on her, or maybe he is moving his frame independently of is body, making the lady feel like he is pushing her over.  Neither of these things makes a desirable dance partner.  I challenge ALL men to take “Sue” hold her up with her back away from you (so you can’t cheat), and see if, as you are dancing, she changes position.  When you can do ALL your steps and routines with her in the correct position, you are ready to try things with a real live girl!  Of course, it’s always an ongoing process, but at least it will make you more aware of what you are ACTUALLY leading when you try things out at a party.

Women – You aren’t off the hook.  I hear all the time, “If he would just learn to lead, I can follow…”  Ok, that is true, but only up to a certain point.  Most women who say that aren’t really that great at following, and they are the “Hangers” and “Fridges.”  A women’s frame is equally as important as a man’s, and actually has to be MORE sensitive.  Otherwise she feels heavy and immovable.  Women, it isn’t the man’t job to hold up your arms, or your upper body.  By doing that, you are sending your energy straight down to the ground, and you aren’t going to feel anything he sends your way.  (Plus it exaggerates that chicken wing/saggy skin look in your arms that we all hate!)  By the same token, your frame can’t be so hard that man feels like he is in a pushing match.  If you feel like you are pushing against him and your back and arms hurt, that’s WAY too much.  Dancing shouldn’t be painful, no matter what we, as teachers, sometimes tell you! 😉  Relax, hold up your hands, and just feel.
The frame is all about communication.  And in order to be a great partner, you have to be great at communicating…  On BOTH ends.  The man has to be clear about where he is wanting to go, and the lady has to be clear that she understood, and is willing to go on the journey with him.  Without both sides, you are just dancing NEAR each other, but not really WITH each other…
4) Ian: A good frame is one of the key components for everything that man is trying to get the woman to follow.  Without a good frame, the man can’t effectively communicate how fast he is traveling and which direction he wants the lady to go, short of literally whispering to her under his breath (which I’ve seen many students try without much success).  You can’t have a beautiful picture without a strong, solid frame to support it, just as it’s very difficult for a woman to be fully shown off in the most beautiful way on the dance floor without a stong, solid man to support and lead her.

5) Amy: The frame in dancing is probably the most pivotal part of the partner relationship and the ability to communicate. The frame must be firm, yet forgiving, strong, yet subtle. It must communicate the nuances and respond to the slightest signal. It is how the dancers speak to each other. With a great frame, the dance will feel effortless, but without it…well, not so much. Here is the analogy I normally use when explaining frame.

Have you ever been driving down the highway and seen the wonderfully frightening sight of a car being towed with a ROPE?!? This seems to be a common occurrence in Dallas. So, obviously, you have a leader car and a follower car. But, you have a wiggly, loose rope in between (“spaghetti arms” for the Dirty Dancing fans out there). So, if the lead car brakes suddenly, what happens? Well, unless the driver of the following car is really paying attention, probably a crash. What if the lead car accelerates suddenly? You can see the rope being pulled taught and then the following car feeling the “yank”. This is what dancing with a poor frame can feel like. Pulling, pushing, yanking, trying to second guess ahead of time what the leader is going to do. All these things are uncomfortable and detrimental to an enjoyable dancing experience. Now, let’s take another example, a car being towed with a nice, strong steel towing bar. Consider all of the same scenarios. You now have flawless communication. As one speeds or slows, so does the other. In fact, are you ready for this? You no longer even need a person in the following car at all. The person there (ladies, this is you) can just kick back and relax and trust that the frame will guide them. No need to keep a foot on the brake, no need to think ahead and try to read his mind. Just sit back, relax and enjoy.
So, what this all means is that if you become a master of the frame, you will also become a master leader or follower, and everything else is secondary!
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