Ballroom Dance > figure groupings in International Standard

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by foxtrotguy, Apr 22, 2013.

  1. foxtrotguy

    foxtrotguy New Member

    As I try to memorize and internalize the approximately 125 International Standard bronze-silver-gold figures (mostly according to ISTD syllabi), I get frustrated how so many seem to be presented almost randomly. I learn better and faster by comparison-contrast.

    In the deep history of this amazing dance style, I can't imagine there aren't some great texts, web sites, or other resources that have identified and explained figure groupings and specifically how elements of certain basic figures are combined into other more advanced figures. I could try to figure this all out myself, but why, if it's already done well elsewhere?

    This idea was reinforced in a dancecentral blog comment:
    For months I've been asking quite a number of teachers and experienced competitors for suggestions, to no avail. Occasionally, in a good group class, an instructor has selected 2-3 similar figures (e.g., several whisks) and taught them comparatively. In my crazy head, teaching by concept ought to be the rule, not the exception. I don't want to memorize recipes. I want to systematically learn how to cook, understand my craft, and become a chef.

    I'd also like to study a well done work or works, that I can refer to again and again. That would be far preferable to classes or private lessons where my memory vaporizes too quickly, or I miss the details I wasn't ready for at the time or distractions get in the way.

    Your suggestions, please! Thanks in advance. (My apologies if this topic was already addressed elsewhere. My searches were unsuccessful.) What are the good conceptual resources for figures and technique, and why are they good? Where do I get them?
  2. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Learning Bronze through Gold is similar to acquiring a Bachelor's Degree or Higher. You will need to study a variety of videos, learn from at least a couple of teachers, and also study at least one book. Geoffrey Hearn has done MANY videos with top couples, and you might want to pick one of the series (Hiltons, Mirko/Allesia, Pino/Bucharielli). That would be a good starting point. Often they do have basic groups, and then show related but more advanced groups. Additionally, the Hiltons especially talk in detail about the technique. Another resource would be the Blackpool Dance Congress tapes that have been produced every year for the last few decades.

    One person likened learning standard to building a house. You can't just build the South Wall, or just work on the plumbing. You have to steadily build on everything. As you build one part, it becomes easier to build on another part, etc.

    I think you will find there are some overall principles of posture, movement, music, and partnership that are fundamental. However, if I try to explain one, I can't help but involve the others. So I feel your frustration, but with some determination and consistency you will become a chef of dance. :)

    I would recommend taking some basic groups and developing them over the next year. For example, Mirko and Allesia have some Steps to Success videos where they have 9 groups for each dance. Each group is 16 bars. There are 3 for each level (beginner, intermediate and advanced). Plan on always returning to the basics, and know that in the end EVERYTHING is the basics, but as you become more advanced you are working from a level where many of the concepts or principles have come together for you.

    Where possible, try to find out who the very best teachers are in your region of the country and go and see them for guidance. That can really speed things up if you get a good mentor. Some of us here on Dance Forums were so dedicated that we picked up and moved to a location where the best teachers were accessible.

    Good luck!
    vcolfari, samina and Gorme like this.
  3. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    are you familiar with natural and reverse turn actions?....are you familiar with forward and backward basic movement?...feather, 3 step, ff and hairpin?...are you familiar with weave actions?....these things are basic...from there, things like fallaway, hover cross,weaves, twist turn etc. can be built in
  4. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    certainly key is not what you are doing, but in your understanding of HOW...if you do not have an instructor who is strong in how,you will be in a difficult spot
  5. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    Generally in partner dance, if you don't take tons and tons of privates, and probably even if you do, expect to figure out a lot yourself. Rich history or no, the written body of knowledge (especially authoritative) is slim and videos go further, but only so far. There are some videos that are very good, but I haven't found any that look across the entirety of the syllabus and "group" by type or basic action yet. Usually, if they don't go by syllabus order, they present a mini-choreography. You may have to write the list yourself.

    For me, for Standard, the natural or reverse turn of figures is fundamental. Almost every figure is turning, even ones that look straight like feathers and chasses, and figures out of promenade position (follow closes to lead = reverse turn, follow on outside of turn. Lead closes to follow = natural turn, lead on outside of turn). Then you have movements that rotate more tightly (e.g. DRS) and those that rotate less and travel more (e.g. feather), and then a variety of specific actions and positions.
  6. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Just to draw a comparison, is there anything is say ballet that is more conceptual as the original poster is hoping to find in standard?
  7. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    You need to read Len Scriveners tome, as it covers fundamentals in the 4 Standard dances . And, its broken down into sections that, one can digest more easily. The book is out of print, so you may need to go the " net " .

    And, its NOT about groups per se, but more about HOW to reach an understanding of most all the aspects that, a trained dancer needs to know( He trained more champions than you can count) and most of todays dancers are impacted, by some of his theories .
  8. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Andy Wong's videos teach figure groups. Search YouTube for aanw97. "The Ballroom Technique" lists precedes and follows. Perhaps these would be good starting points for you.
  9. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I think regardless of number of lessons and have to know/learn it for yourself in practice or you will never own it...writing it down can be part of that...and I agree about natural and reverse turning figures
  10. millitiz

    millitiz Member

    It seems to me that the majority of information was passed on oratory (and visually) in the ballroom dance world. So finding a good coach and taking lessons from him or her seems to be the "easiest" way. So I suppose your personal notes would be your best conceptual resources for coming back again and again.

    I agree with fasc that the key is to practice. IMHO, dancing is an art of doing - in the sense that all the theories are good and fine, but at the end of the day, you have to get your hand dirty in order to improve your dancing.

    And I think DanceMentor said exactly what I thought on the topic of "teaching in concept, and grouping of steps."
  11. clumsy fellow

    clumsy fellow Active Member

    It's early, no coffee... I'll reread this later but for now... Huh?
  12. VTDancer

    VTDancer Member

    There is some good material in the beginning of Geoffrey Hearn's book "A Technique of Advanced Ballroom Dancing". In particular he has a great discussion about "swing" which is, of course, one of the underlying concepts of most of the Standard dances. The advanced figures in the book may be more than you want to get into at this point, but it is interesting the way he has grouped the figures by their underlying character or purpose and then shows how each figure would be danced in the various Standard dances.
  13. Soulmate61

    Soulmate61 Active Member

    Piano students need to practise scales and arpeggios, and actually play these as part of a piano exam. I did it even in a Grade 8 exam. I bellieve it is the same for violin students. Finger exercises are designed to accustom fingers to produce sounds with efficient agility and even tones, but they are not intended to express emotion. Practising scales and arpeggios is more like practising with letters of the alphabet when learning a foreign language. Elocution teachers also require vocal exercises, pronoucing words in a neutral voice without emotion or preference.

    When practising dance figures, even a single step will have selection and artistic preference already builtin, e.g. shape and dynamics. If so, mental and physical cannot be separated. Movement fulfills various functions, not like five-finger exercises being always neutral. If dance is language of movement, could dance figures be like grammar? Which move is like a noun, which a verb, adjective, adverb, exclamation, comma and questionmark?

    Dance communication would be more like an impressionist painting, less like morse code. If I have never seen any ballroom dance before, and now I choose to partner a girl, how would I design an original move to express a point? When would I invent a whisk, a lock-step? Yes I too would be interested in a cook book of dance, for me classified more by intention and effect, less by structural similarities. If moves did fall into patterns and families, hopefully it would be possible to absorb 125 figures as 125 variants of a small number of basics?

    Are we edging towards a Mendeleev Periodic Table of dance or a Dewey Library Classification? :D Count me in, tell me how classification gets on. If dance moves are like double helix spirals of DNA then there will be no end to it, I shall be paying for dance lessons for life :eek: . Aha, I've got the solution. I'll marry a beautiful dance teacher and get my lessons free :D .
    Gorme and Larinda McRaven like this.
  14. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    by jove I think he's got it!!!!
    Larinda McRaven likes this.
  15. alexandrahweis

    alexandrahweis Active Member

    Find every way and tool you can to learn until you find what suits you the best.
    Loki and Mr 4 styles like this.

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