What is Dance Frame

by Mark Van Schuyver

Few things are more important to dancing than the frame. Like a bad fence between neighbors, a floppy or maladjusted frame will result in disaster. The frame keeps partners in proper weight balance, and at the correct distance. The frame is the conduit for precision leading and following. The frame keeps one dancer from stepping on the other's toes.

Two frames are generally used in West Coast Swing, a closed position frame and an open position frame. The points of contact, the shape, hand position, relative tension, and angles of arms and body are vital to each type of frame.

I'm no expert on framing, or anything else to do with this dance for that matter, but I'm happy to share some things I learned the hard way. Let's start with the open position frame.


In the open position, the woman's right hand rests on the man's left. Her left hand rests in his right. Both partners keep their forearms parallel to the floor (may vary slightly if one partner is much taller). During the dance, partners must maintain a tension between their arms. For example, when they step together at the end of a push, there is an equal and opposite pushing pressure. When they pull apart at the end of the push basic, there is an equal and opposite pulling. During the entire push/pull cycle, the forearms remain parallel to the floor.

Keep the forearms horizontal and do not allow the wrists to break upward. Just as important, keep your forearms pointing straight at your partner. Do not let your elbows break out to the sides. Do not bounce your arms.


Stand up. Let your arms hang straight down along your sides. Notice that your arms hang naturally along the center of the sides of your body. Now bend your elbow 90 degrees. Hold your forearms parallel to the floor. Now, extend your arms forward until your elbows are bent approximately 100 to 120 degrees. Your elbows should now be slightly in front of your body. Someone standing beside you could count your ribs without touching your elbow.

To check your position, hold your left arm in place, take your right hand and place it on your tummy. Slide your right hand to the left. Your fingertips should touch the elbow of your left arm. Got it?

When dancing, your elbows should hold to this angle and this position. If the angle of the arm breaks back to 90 degrees your frame will be weak and may collapse. During a push, your elbows must never pull back behind the body.


Think of your frame as a rectangle. The two longest sides of the rectangle are your, and your partner's forearms. The two short sides are imaginary, one between your two elbows, the other between your partner's two elbows. In a perfect basic, the angles of the rectangle are the same between left and right arms. In actual dancing, the rectangle will shift with one elbow moving forward of the other. This is fine as long as the forearms remain horizontal, the arms do not bounce, the elbows stay in, and the elbows remain forward of the body.


Imagine driving your car. Hands on the wheel, you turn to the left. The car does not respond! The wheel is loose, there is too much slack. You pull harder, the car responds too late, OOPS, missed the turn. With dance it is the same. Partners must maintain firmness in their arms in order to accurately deliver a lead and to properly respond to a lead.

Floppy arms will not conduct the message. Your car (body) will not turn in time and you may run into a light post! Firmness in the frame is the solution.

What about too much tension? Yes, it happens. Men, use too much firmness in the lead and you will jerk your partner. Ladies, use much tension in the follow and you will respond like the steering wheel of an 18 wheeler! When partners get the firmness/tension just right it's power steering. Only through practice, trial and error will you discover exactly how much firmness to employ.


The frame does not go away when only one hand is used to lead. One arm "frames" are common at the end of a push, a pass, or other move. Positions may open up, cool gestures may be employed, but the arms do not usually straighten out.

With few exceptions, the forearms should remain horizontal even in a one hand break-open position. Otherwise partners will find themselves too far apart when they attempt the next movement.


This is easier because there are so many points of contact between partners. Standing close, the man's right hand rests on the woman's left shoulder blade. Her left arm rests along the top of his right shoulder. He pulls slightly, she pushes slightly.

Man's right, and lady's left forearms are parallel to the ground. Partners hold the weight of their own arms (the woman does not rest her arm on the man's arm). The woman's arm is above the man's and there is a light contact at the arms. In close dancing, there can be a contact at the hip, man's right to woman's left.

The man's left hand is low, and palm up. The woman's right hand rests in his palm. There is a slight pulling by the man's left hand, and a slight pushing from the woman's right.


In the movie Dirty Dancing, dance teacher Johnny Castle harshly lectures student and love interest Baby about framing. Holding her in a close-frame position he says, "This is my dance space. That is your dance space. You don't get into my space and I don't get into your space!" In other words, if good fences make good neighbors, then it follows that good frames make great dance partners.

Mark Van Schuyver lives in Atlanta. He is a writer and a West Coast Swing enthusiast with over thirteen years experience dancing. More than 100 of his articles have been published in national magazines including many on the subject of dance. You can reach Mark at by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pulled from http://westcoastswingamerica.com/mvsframed.htm

Finding a Dance Partner

Welcome to the most heartbreaking aspect of competitive dancing: you can't do it alone. And, to make matters worse, there aren't even enough men involved to go around! Looking for a new partner can be difficult. There are so many issues for partners to consider. For example, if dancing standard, then your body heights and leg length needs to match within a certain comfort range. If dancing Latin, many men are sensitive about dancing with women who are not significantly shorter than they are. Also, there is the issue of practice time available to both partners. Rachel Holland has some practical advice on how to deal with the notoriously tricky business of finding a new dancing partner.

Stay positive

The only way to find a partner is to keep looking. You never know who will join your class, enter that competition, who will decide to come back to dancing after stopping for a while, or who will break up with their partner. Keep your eyes open and try every resource you can.

Post an Ad

The internet has made finding new dancing partners a lot easier. Web sites such as www.dancepartner.com or www.dancepartner.com are set up by dancers for dancers. These sites will let you post an ad or check out other potential partners. Just post an attractive picture of yourself and fill out all the information (don't leave your prospects guessing!)

Spread the Word

Tell every dance teacher, coach and dance friend you know (not just the ones you take lessons with) that you are looking. Go to a variety of dance venues, studios and competitions. It works like this: The more places you go to, the more people you meet and the more dancers you talk to, the more hooked into the local gossip network you will be.

Arrange to have try outs

It's hard to know if you want to dance with someone you haven't met. That's what try outs are for. If you connect with someone through an ad, arrange for a series of try outs. You'll soon know whether you have a dancing future together! "If you try out with one or two partners that don't work out, don't give up! It's not uncommon to try 10 or more partners before you find someone compatible," says Ken Greer, who recently founded www.DancePartner.com . "Finding a dance partner is somewhat like dating, only far more stressful!" he says. "Realize that you are both together with the same goal in mind - to improve your dancing and have fun in the process," Ken advises.

Go to competitions

Going to competitions is a good way to find a partner. You'll be surrounded by actively competing dancers. Let everyone know you're looking for someone, and the contacts you develop will help you to get news of new prospects. Volunteer to help the organisers, it's a good way to meet the competitors and have them get to know you and remember you (and you often get free or discounted admission to the event for it, depending on how much time you can offer them).

Keep an open mind

If you are too picky you run the risk of limiting your choices. So go and check out the beginners class every once in a while. If lessons are offered at the beginning of the dance, take them, even if you are an advanced dancer and it's a lesson for beginners. Single people, especially beginners, who are looking for partners, are more likely to be taking part in the lessons. Every so often someone with just good talent but not much experience comes along. University classes get a lot of new dancers, and every so often a gem appears. If you're not a student, don't be put off; many university dance clubs allow non-students to join in.

Keep your options open

Never sit or dance with someone for very long unless you want all other potential partners to assume you are together. If you go with a friend, split up, it's more intimidating to ask a stranger to dance if they are with someone. You can reconnect every now and then during the evening. Circulate and pay attention to where single people tend to stand if they want to be asked to dance. When in doubt, stand near the dance floor to let people know you want to dance. Smile, have fun! Others will notice and want to join you.

Checklist for the ideal dance partner:

• Someone who has got the ability to dance, learn, teach, and compromise

•Someone about your height; your mutual body height and leg length needs to match within a certain comfort range

•Someone of a similar age to you

•Someone with an evenly matched experience level to you

•Someone who is flexible and capable of compromise

•Someone who lives reasonably near to you

•Someone who shares your dancing goals ("strictly business" versus "strictly social")

•Someone who has practice time available

Teaching Partnerships

Want to find a partner who you can teach with? Teaching partnerships require a lot of give and take. Ideally, you both actually talk during class, thus giving students the benefits of both of your experiences. A partnership needn't have both dancers dancing the exact same style, merely that both styles look good and work well together. So, you want to start teaching with someone, what do you look for? First, Communication Skills: The best teaching partnerships come from people who can communicate well, not just to the class, but with each other as well. Second, Mastery: This means that being a good club dancer, or a top-notch competitor, may not necessarily make for the best teaching partnership. It may seem easy to explain the basic steps, but beyond that, there are a lot of nuances, tips, and dance fundamentals that a good teaching partnership should be able to get across to their students. Third, Connection: Ideally, the partners dance well together and can demonstrate the patterns clearly and confidently.

Don't forget: Make your move when you think you have found a possibility, jump on the chance rather than waiting around wondering whether the person is available or interested, or even if you should approach them. If you don't ask, someone else will, and then a brief window of opportunity will have closed. Grab those dancing shoes and go for it! Article courtesy of Dancing Times Ltd.
Pulled from http://www.torontodancesalsa.ca/articles/The-Tricky-Business-of-Finding-a-New-Dance-Partner.php

How to prevent the top 10 Common Dance Injuries

Injuries can be devastating to a dance career, but you can reduce their occurrence or avoid them—if you know what to look for. To learn why certain injuries happen and what can be done to prevent them, we consulted a group of experts: Jacqui Greene Hass, director of Pilates and Dance Medicine at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Therapy Services; Marijeanne Liederbach, director of research and education at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries; Jennifer Deckert, assistant professor at University of Wyoming (holds an MFA in ballet pedagogy and has presented at the International Association for Medicine and Science); and Michael Kelly Bruce, associate professor at The Ohio State University (certified in Pilates and specializes in conditioning). DT

1. Neck Strain: Choreography that calls for excessive head movement can easily strain dancers’ neck muscles, especially if dancers do not properly use the full spine when arching the head/neck. Prevention Tip: “Lengthen the neck rather than collapse it,” says Bruce. “I like using the image of the fountains at the Bellagio [Resort & Casino]: a long, graceful arch.”

2. Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Impingement: Extensive use of the arms (overhead lifts and falls) can lead to tears in upper-arm tendons or even impingement, painful pressure felt in the shoulder when the rotator cuff and scapula rub together as arms are lifted. Prevention Tip: “Be aware of the actual landmarks of the shoulder girdle,” says Bruce. “Once students understand the scapula is located behind them, they can have better anatomically aligned mechanics.”

3. Lower-Back Strain and Muscle Spasms: Lifting, arching and improper technique can all overwork and strain the lower-back extensor-erector muscles. Dancers with lordosis (a swayed back or lower-back curve) are more prone to spasms. Prevention Tip: “I like to use the image of a cummerbund, where the student has a more three-dimensional sense of their abdominal wall,” says Deckert. “Or imagine the pelvis as a bowl with water. Preventing the water from splashing will improve core strength.”

4. Snapping Hip Syndrome: Iliotibial (IT) band tightness, weakness along the outside of the hip and lordosis can cause this syndrome. Dancers will experience a snapping rubber-band–like sound in the frontal hip joint, as the IT band glides over the greater trochanter (upper-leg bone) during battement or développé. Prevention Tip: Strengthen the lower abs and all pelvic stabilizers (abductors, adductors, hip flexors), and avoid turning out at the feet, which stresses the knees and hips.

5. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: This syndrome stems from tight hamstrings and calf muscles, weak quadriceps and repetitive force from normal movement putting pressure on the patella (kneecap), causing the knee-protecting cartilage to lose its shock-absorbing ability. Dancers with high-arched or flat fleet, wide hips and knees that turn in or out are more likely to experience this pain. Prevention Tip: “The knee is the victim between the ankle and the hip,” says Liederbach. “Core strength, hip-abductor strength training and IT stretching are key.”

6. Meniscus Knee Tear: Twisting knees during movement, forcing feet in turnout or losing control when landing a jump can tear the cushioning knee cartilage. Prevention Tip: “Strengthening the core is so crucial to knee health,” says Bruce. “It lessens the burden on the knee, so you are not landing with so much force.”

7. Posterior Tibial Tendonitis: Dropping the medial arch during warm-ups or basic barre exercises overworks the tibial tendon. This type of tendonitis also coincides with shin splints or can be the result of chronic ankle rolling. Prevention Tip: “Work to lift the arches and do not force turnout from the feet,” says Deckert.

8. Achilles Tendonitis: An overuse injury caused by training extensively during a short period of time, dancing on a hard floor or putting pressure on a tightened calf muscle. Weight pressure or unbalanced range of motion will predispose dancers to this type of tendonitis. Prevention Tip: Use Thera-Bands when doing tendus, basic flexibility and resistance work, says Bruce.

9. Lateral Ankle Sprain: A ligament tear that happens when the outside of the ankle rolls inward after loss of balance from landing a jump. Prevention Tip: “Use a Thera-Band to keep the ankle flexible and strong,” says Bruce.

10. Posterior Ankle Impingement Syndrome: A pinching sensation felt during repeated floor or barre work, as the heel bone comes into contact with the talus bone and tissues at the back of the ankle compress. Reaching a full range of motion when pointing the feet or in relevé will be difficult. Dancers born with an extra bone in place are more prone to this syndrome. Prevention Tip: Vary your training regimen to focus on other types of dance after excessive pointe or demi pointe work.

Pulled from http://www.dance-teacher.com/2010/08/10-common-dance-injuries/

West Coast Swing DJ 101 – OMG You Got Your First Gig!

By DJ Mineh Ishida

You’re a new west coast swing DJ, and you’ve just landed your first opportunity to play at a dance. Here are some tips to help you get an invitation to come back to play again!

Before the big day

Be Prepared. Make sure you know how to use your DJ software. Being able to start and stop the music without a problem, transition between songs, find requests, and track your BPM are essential to doing a good job. If you can’t do these things, practice before the night of the event and make sure you’re comfortable with your software. Also know your sound setup. If you’re using an external sound card, learn how to set it up with your DJ software. If you have access to the space where you are playing, make sure you can hook up to their system, and that you have the right cables to do so.

Build a backup playlist on your phone or ipod in case something goes wrong with your computer.

Find out beforehand what kind of music they typically play by asking the usual DJ, or local dance instructors and event planners. Every community has their own style.

Organize your west coast swing music on your computer in a way that makes sense and allows you to quickly find the songs you need. We will be writing more on this at a future date.

Music Selection

Your first gig is not the time to impress everyone with how unique your music set is. Show them that you understand the audience. Show them that you can play the west coast swing music they’re used to dancing to. You can add your own style into the set, but a good rule of thumb is 3-4 songs they know to 1 new one. Also, don’t drastically change the style of the night. If they play a blues heavy set, do the same. If they prefer R&B and Soul, follow suit. Keep the tempos in the range they’re used to, and the songs similar.

People are very resistant to change, and if you make too dramatic of a shift all at once, even if you played a great set, people may not recognize that.

The Big Day

Show up early and make sure you’re ready to go in advance. If you can, soundcheck before the attendees arrive. If there is a class, ask the instructor if they will need any particular music to teach to. If they don’t need a particular song, ask them what tempo and style of music they would prefer.

Find the event director/planner, and thank them for the opportunity to play. If you’re playing with another DJ that night, introduce yourself and offer some sort of respect for their experience… something along the lines of: “Hi, I’m _______ I’m going to be DJing with you tonight. I’d love it if you could share any experience you have with me!” A little humilty and respect go a long way.

At the end of the night, Pack up your gear, and once you’re done doing so, ask if there is anything else you can do. Thank the event planner again. Also ask for feedback. Take it graciously and LISTEN. The best way to improve is to learn to play what the audience wants.

Best of luck on your first gig!

Pulled from http://www.westcoastswingmusic.com/2012/05/31/west-coast-swing-dj-101-first-gig/