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If You Want Dancing To Be More Fun, Show Your Happy Face

by Sandi & Dan Finch

To get that smooth flow in your dancing, especially in foxtrot, you are told you need swing and sway. OMG, more technical stuff. Most of us don’t study dance through a textbook, so hearing the terms may cause eyes to cross. And that’s OK. You can get it if you remember that you have a happy face through your hips and another happy face through your ribcage, as well as the one on your face. You just have to swing them.

“Happy face” is a slang used by Marzena Stachura, four times world champion American smooth professional, to get across the idea of creating shape. She said it came to her while coaching at BYU where use of anatomical terms could be frowned on.

If you were at our spring clinic in May, you heard her say “use your happy face” a lot. Her overall impression is that we tend to dance too square. You can move forward in three ways: Straight, with a side leading or its opposite, in CBMP (contra body movement position). Seldom will you want both sides of the body moving forward at the same rate (straight). Swinging your hip up on the first quick of a foxtrot step creates graceful movement. Follow that by swinging the rib cage, which makes you fully commit to the standing foot, creates shape and guarantees balance, she said. The idea is to push your sternum to be over the big toe and the toe next to it. In a natural weave for example, Lady has a harder time knowing when to step outside if man dances too square. His banking into the turn (swing, creating sway) tells her when she is welcome to move into banjo. His right elbow tells her to go.

We were asked to summarize some of Marzena’s teaching points. A list might go like this:
  • A side lead does not mean dropping one side while pushing one forward. She said to think of it as a car race with both sides trying to win, one is just faster than the other.
  • To encourage men not to collapse their frame, she suggested they practice with styrofoam cups under their armpits, to create tone in the arms and adjust to keeping the arms up.
  • Lady can open her head (to the right) as long as her head weight remains in her “window” of the man’s frame. If she opens to semi-closed position and her nose comes level with his tie, she is out of position and impeding his movement. This means she can have her head to the right or left in a fallaway as long as her poise is not invading his space. Think, her head weight belongs over her left foot.
  • A man’s personal frame is established by extending his arms to the side, then bringing his middle fingers together in front of his chest with elbows extended out. From there, he can open his left and right arms to dance position, but the height and distance between the elbows should not change.
  • Lady projects to her partner through her arms, and he can direct her like pushing a shopping cart.
Most all, stay happy and keep dancing.

From a club newsletter, June 2017, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, November, 2018. Find a DRDC Finch archive here.


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