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The Five Rules of Good Connection

Dance is a language, and like all languages it has rules for communication. It's these rules that allow us to share blessing. Spoken language is arbitrary- the sounds used to convey a thought will be different depending on a language. The thought "I want you to spin three times to the left at 64 beats per minute " sounds very different in English than it does in Spanish. But the language of dance is not arbitary; it's the language of the body and there is only one way communicate to the follower that you want her spin that way, and it's based on the mechanics of our body. The language of dance is based on our biology and our psychology and even our spirituality.


There are thousands of rules to good connection in dance. But we understand connection through five broad principles. At Theology of Dance we teach that these principles of connection are not unique to dance; rather that they apply to all good relationship. This is because in all relationship flows from the one true source, God.

Rule 1: Never Use Your Thumbs!

Love in Dance

Loving Neighbor

Loving God


The very first rule for good connection is to never grasp or cling to your partner. For a beginner it's pretty tempting to cling because it means the connection is secure- you know that you are not going to lose your partner. the man knows the woman will follow (because she can't get away!) and the woman knows the man won't drop her (because she is hanging on for dear life. But this is not a very trusting connection. Flexibilty is limited, meaning that many patterns are no longer available. If we try to move past the flexibilty  we'll find that well hurt ourselves. And grsping simply feels uncomfortable. Grasping makes for dancing that is boring, uncomfortable and dangerous. 

But if we don't grasp, and the man moves and the woman doesn't, then the relationship instantly falls apart. If we don't grasp then each person needs to choose, each and every moment with their entire being to stay in the relationship. In this relationship we stay connected by constantly matching tension and compression. This requires far more skill, but allows for much more freedom, creativity and comfort.  

Applying this to Loving God and Neighbor

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  The first rule of love is tp have poverty of spirit- to let go of your right to someone one or to something- to treat everything as gift. The kingdom of God is where God is King- and God is king only in the lives of those who choose to follow God. To achieve the blessings of God one must enter the kingdom, and to enter the kingdom we cannot cling to God like a follower who is unsure of the lead. and who is scared of losing God. Rather we need to learn how to discern God's will in our lives and follow it with our entire being. To receive God's blessing can only happen when we respond by blessing God back. This is what it means to love God with all our being. This poverty of spirit is a Christian fom of detachement that allows for authentic connection. 

We show the same poverty of spirit when we give ourselves to our neighbor. Giving ourselves to our neighbor starts with abandoning our right to a relationship to them and by becoming a gift to them. It certainly means letting go of jealousy and envy. 

Rule 2: Keep it Clean and Clear

The ancients put great stock in the art of rhetoric- that is the ability to express yourself well, not merely with logic, but also with emotion. If you listen to great speakers or read great writers you are immediately struck by their ability to get across complex thoughts and to convey those thoughts with great and perfect emotion. Martin Luther King Jr is a great example of this- listen to his I Have a Dream speech. He is poetic and flowing, using dynamics and inflection. But he is very clear about his message, and he doesn't take too long to say what he means. He seems to hit all the right points in all the right ways. 


The purpose of language is not to get our way or win an argument. The purpose of language is to convey ideas, to learn about reality, and to understand one another. It's to connect us and bring us together. It's to share our inherent goodness. Language is the based on words, which come from the Word- Christ. So saints are interested in using words, actions, and even the way we dress to communicate this blessing. Saints want to speak both in truth and in love, and so we always look for a better way to convey our thoughts. We work on the right combination of words. We work on inflection and dynamics. We work on body language. These are all things that impact the person we communicate with.  When we communicate without thought to all these elements of communication we risk putting up barriers between us, or even driving ourselves apart. It's only by understanding these aspects of communication and being thoughtful of them that we are able to connect fully with one another. 


Saints also work on understanding others. They know that what comes out of a personn might not accurately say what they really mean. They know that as fallen creatures something is always hidden. So saints learn to seek the goodness in others, even when it's hard to see. When a saint like Mother Teresa looks at a beggar and see Christ she displays this ability to see the true person.  


Loving Neighbor

Or, say what you mean and mean what you say. Or have good frame. I am not going to explain what good frame is, save only to  Good dancers rarely move the connectioon

We describe this as simpleness, not to be confused with simplicity. Simpleness means that we something can be quite complex, but it's done with great grace, with purpose, and in the most efficient way to create the work of art. This is important! The most efficient way to move around the dance floor is simply to walk, but no one just walks at dance. Instead they pick beautiful choreography and then do it cleanly and clearly. 


Keeping frame Frame is a pretty complex subject. Proper frame is in a constant state of change, but it's purpose is to create a medium through with the leader and the follower communicate-through which they feeleach others bodies. The woman needs to know what the man leads, an dthe man needs to know what the woman can do, so the connection needs to be constant! It's more like  building skeleton instead of a picture frame. Generally speaking beginning followers should usually have their hands in front where she can see them, and have good tone in her arms. Leaders should do the same. Good leading is not telling her what she is doing, but what we are doing! 


Properly weighted and properly balanced  We tend to stand in split weight, but when we walk all of our weight is either on one leg or the other. When we come to a pause in danceits important (especially for beginners and especially for followers!) to in a sense 


Sharing a common center a


Flow from the heart aaa


Love in Dance

Connection 2

Loving God

In our own lives it's very easy to keep God hidden from us. Just add noise and distraction! So we need to make sure that we don't get attached to things like videos or TV's or Facebook. Not merely "too attached." Rather no attachement at all!

Leaders Initiate, Followers Respond

Love in Dance

One night at an event I was watching a couple dance. The man was clearly a beginner, and so to be helpful she was doing what she was supposed to do, and by extension, what he was "leading." She was deciding when the turn would happen. She was deciding when to let go and when to reconnect. The man's face had a bewildered expression the entire time. So I went up and asked to dance, and she said yes. The music began, she tried the backlead, and I did nothing. Then I started to lead and a look of sheer terror came to her face. She had always danced with guys who didn't know how to dance, and they always did what she told them. Here now was a man who knew what to do, he wasn't going to be back led, and now she had no idea what to do!


In this example the men in her experience had all lacked the skill and confidence to initiate in relationship, and so to compensate she learned to backlead- that is the follower would initiate and the leader would respond. In a dance a skillful man can lead dozens of patterns out of any pose. How is a woman supposed to know which one to take? Despite what a woman would like to believe she can read a man's mind! So she needs to wait until she hears the lead and then respond. Initially this means that she needs to negate her will. She'll keep good frame and keep her weight on one foot or the other.



Loving Neighbor

Loving God

Connection 3

Some relationships by nature are lead-follow. In particular, government, teaching and business are all relationships in which one person leads and a nother person follows


Many relationships are not lead - follow by nature. For example, hiking, having a meal together or playing a board game do not have a clear lead or a clear follow. 

Principle 4: Small Leads, Big Follows

When I lead a pattern the last thing I want to do is force my follower through it or to constrain her freedom. I've decided where to go and what pattern. The how is not my decision! That comes from the music and the imagination of the follower. Great leaders are able to convey a great deal of power and confidence in a very small lead. In return, I expect the woman to fill the pattern with power, energy and passion. If I need to push or pull her constantly to get her through the pattern it doesn't feel good to me, nor does it feel good the her. 


Leading. There are two basic kinds of frames- stable and dynamic. Stable frames are ones where the man and woman move in the same drection at the same time. Waltz, rumba and salsa all use this frame. Dynamic frames are based on open breaks, where the couple breaks apart then comes back together again. This frame is the default in swing dancing. If I am leading a pattern in a stable frame I want to supply no more than a small percentage of her power-less than 5%. The rest comes from her. If we are open breaking then the size of the lead is what I worry about, and that's no more than an inch, maybe two. That allows the woman the freedom to express who she is in the pattern.


Following: Whatever a direction and movement is lead continue it until lead other wise. 



Continue until you are lead to stop


Grounding is described as the connection of a person into the floor. It's better described as the lack of tension in a persons legs. This is important because the energy of dance comes from being grounded. We tend to subscribe to the "bowstring" theory of human anatomey- just as a Bowstring is most ready to impart energy when taught, so too our muscles are most ready to impart energy when taut. However, that's not how muscles work! THe provide power when the go from loose to tight, not tight to loose! So after every 

What Dance Says

Loving Neighbor

Great leaders know that great followers are capable of great things. In fact they usually are better at doing thier roles than is the leader! Beacause of this he trusts them to implement and express his plan, knowing that they will fill out the missing parts.  Leaders sin against this principle when they try to micromanage their follower(s). Followers sin against this principle when they look uneccessarily to leaders for guidance.


For example-there was an episode of Top Chef Masters in which the contestants were given chefs from the previous show Top Chef. While not of the same caliber as the masters these were all excellent chefs, some of the very best in the country, all of whom were well known in the industry and who ran their own kitchens.  Michael Chiarra treated his assistants like common sous chefs, giving each a specific task and micromanaging each. Each spoke with resentment of not being appreciated for the skills that they brought. Rick Bayless gathered his team, told them his plan and asked for input. Each chef gave his thoughts, he assigned broad roles and lightly managed his team, and he won going away. Each spoke of the joy of being part of the team and being able to use their skills to the fullest. Yet not a single one usurped the plan.


Spiritually I refer to this as the Elijah principle. In the Book of Kings we follow the story of Elijah, the greatest of the prophets (who appears with Jesus at the Transfiguration.) Near the end of his story Elijah is waiting ina cave for the Lord to speak. There is a strong wind, and a great fire and a mighty earthquake, but God is not in a single one of these. Then there is a still small voice, which Elijah recognizes as the voice of God. God rarely speaks in booming voice. Rather we need to listen for his small lead. 


Elijah, as follower, never did anything half-way. From the way he boldy proclaimed the word of the Lord to Ahab to his confrontations with the false prophets on Mt. Carmel to his reliance on God's providence showed how he filled the pattern God defined with great zeal.  All great saints show this. St. Francis with his radical embrace of poverty while Mother Teresa heard only God's small prompting on a train before forming a worldwide religious order. Even St. Therese, she of the "little way" followed God with great passion and energy. This passion, energy and  (perhaps her favorite word) confidence in her next step characterized her life and left an obvious impression on her sisters. 

Small Leads anBig Follows

Loving God

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