ZoukSide Down – A journey with Brazilian Zouk

A personal blog aimed at contributing, and paying homage, to the most sensual, beautiful dance of Brazil.

7 ways to improve your connection while dancing

Or the follow-up to “What the very first thing you do when you start dancing with a girl says about you…”

The best hug is that spell, when you feel eternity in a few seconds; the magic of allowing two people to visit the sky in the same instant.

The best hug is that spell, when you feel eternity in a few seconds; the magic of allowing two people to visit the sky in the same instant.

 “The best hug is that spell, when you feel eternity in a few seconds; the magic of allowing two people to visit the sky in the same instant.”

This translation is my own understanding of this beautiful quote ❤
If anyone has other translations which they think are more fitting, then please let me know.

Now to the point. The first post mentioned some benefits of hugging or building and maintaining the connection during the dance. But it’s not always easy to do it. Maybe you are not sure how you will do that, even though you want to do it. So here are some which can make you think and hopefully enrich the way you connect to your girl.

    1. Feel it. Enjoy this moment.
      You can fake it if you are truly shy at first, and by “faking” it, you will actually relax yourself into it and make it happen so it won’t be faking any more.
      But the idea is that if you are hugging: Don’t just mechanically put your arms around while looking around and thinking of your next move. Enjoy this moment, close your eyes (unless you are moving into space, you don’t need to check what’s going on around you). Relax, open your body to your girl, and give her a chance to relax with you, too. Be conscious. Maybe she has put some sweet perfume on. Or maybe she smells a little sweaty. Maybe she is very nervous and is thanking God that you are taking some time to just be with her for the start of the dance. Maybe she feels excited, and you can feel the tension (a good form of tension) rise between you and are preparing for having a hell of a good time. Maybe you can feel her heart beat fast. Maybe she is holding herself very stiff: Is she physically tired, meaning that you should go easy on her, or is she only nervous and maybe you can help her relax?
      Just be aware of all these things, whatever those things are which you notice.
      Be present. Your girl will know if you are not with her.

      Kamacho enjoying it very much here.

      Kamacho enjoying it very much here.

    2. Relax
      Guys…  I hear some of you repeat often something like “but she doesn’t want to hug” or “she doesn’t want to wait”… First, who is the leader, here? I thought it was you…? This is the first thing. You ARE the leader. It means you will take most decisions. It doesn’t mean that you try to force the girl to do figures she can’t do, or you go against her natural movements or try to do that move that you really, really wanted to practice… it means that you are attentive to her, see what is needed, and from there on, you take the lead and show you are here for her.
      If you feel she is impatient, like many beginners tend to be, think about it: Why is she like this? I bet that, most of the time, it’s because she is a bit nervous. An advanced follower learns to wait. But that can take some time to master and is not as easy as it looks.
      If you feel that your girl doesn’t wait, gently make her wait. If you see that she is rushing into movements, slow her down. Use gentle tension in your arms, and if you really need to stop her at some point, you can gently press your palms or thumbs down on top of her hands (because you don’t need to really use these in most situations, so when you will use it, the girl will notice some change is happening and she will pay more attention to you). Don’t go after her! Seriously…
      The second thing is that whatever you do, she will also tend to mirror. Meaning: if you see she is nervous and impatient at first, and you start rushing after her and doing the same (because sometimes, it’s you guys who start mirroring and following us), then what good is that gonna do? Instead, why not make her attentive to you just like you are attentive to her. Give her your undivided attention, and she will start to relax and trust you = and start following you better. It’s not that she doesn’t want to follow you. To be able to really feel the lead and follow patiently, a girl needs to feel relaxed first. So basically, if you can’t help your girl relax, she will not melt into your arms and she will not follow you as well as she actually could. If you are not showing you are here, she will go “somewhere else” and that will show in your dancing. It will look and feel disconnected.
      But before you can help the follower relax, you have to relax yourself as well. Relax your shoulders, release the possible tension in your neck and shoulders, and the girl will feel that and you will both be able to connect better (after all, she has her left arm around you, when you dance in closed position, she can feel ALL your tension).
      In conclusion, relax yourself first. The girl will feel it and relax, too. Then, you will both be better equipped to listen to each other and improve your connection.
      – Note: Of course, in some instances, you can also dance in such a way that the borders between leader-follower become blurred. Modern dancers especially are good at improvising and maybe won’t put such an emphasis on definite roles. But for the sake of this post, let’s keep things simple for now and say that there is a leader and there is a follower.

      Sonja and Renata relaxing into dancing

      Sonja and Renata relaxing into dancing

    3. Connect heads together.
      This one is not necessary for connection to take place. But it is a very good tool.
      Some girls may not want to be too close to you, though. Maybe she or you are so sweaty that one of you is not wanting to do that. Maybe you are the shy type and need to have danced together many times before you can do that.
      But let’s say that the conditions are right for this. Then use it as much as you want! Of course the easiest position which comes to mind is when you are in the typical closed position, facing each other. But you can do that at other times, too.
      I will not put all my examples here as this would get too long, but as an example, if you have turned the girl and her back is facing you (so she cannot see you), it can be really nice and reassuring for the girl to feel your head touching hers. It will make you feel like you are more attentive to her and it will make her feel…. well, really good, believe me! But remember to feel it… Don’t do these things just because you think you should. Do it and relax into them and enjoy them.
      So think about when you can do that anddoitwhenever possible.

      Leo and Sonja connecting...

      Leo and Sonja connecting…

    4. Look at her. Or look at her movements.
      Vision is our most important sense, as humans. So let’s use it!
      Both from a practical and from an artistic point of view, it will feel and look really nice if you are looking at the movements you are creating. You can be looking at the girl directly, but it gets creepy if you do it 24/7. The opposite is unpleasant, too. If you never look at your girl (or she never looks at you), it might not be very nice for you.
      But if you look at the movements you are leading, you cannot go wrong. Why?
      Because you are constantly directing your gaze at her, but not aggressively searching her soul through her eyes, if you know what I mean. Are you doing a simple lateral? Use your chest and head and direct them slightly down towards your arms. Are you leading her into some head movements? Follow those movements with your eyes and your head. later on you can start moving even more, using shoulders, etc. Give your body some life by showing you are also moving your body by moving your attention to wherever the movement is taking place. The girl will see it or at least feel it. It will enrich your connection and really give your dance a lot more depth: Simply think of where you are focusing your attention. If you are looking away and around at other people, it looks like either you are not confident (and that will affect the quality of your connection: remember, you are the leader), or maybe like you are quite rude, depending on how bad it is. Most of the time, girls would probably think that you are shy and will try to be understanding. But be careful of the image you give.
      Simply re-positioning your eyes (meaning focusing your attention) on the right things can give you a huge advantage and make you feel a lot better.
      PS: That doesn’t mean you cannot look where you are going. Actually, this goes well together. Just before you lead a move, if it involves stepping into space, then, by all means, look at where you are leading your girl half a second or a second before you do it. So you will also avoid crashing into another couple, but it will also add some style to your dance, as your eyes will precede the movement which is coming.

    5. Vary the pace
      I know, sometimes, we girls are demanding. it can be tough to be a leader. But it gets better and easier, if you keep at it.
      One of the things which should make most girls go crazy for you is your musicality, or the changes in speed, let’s say for now. Something quite simple which you can do is to lead some movement, and change the speed during that movement. It works on absolutely everything, everywhere, at any time.
      One of the simplest examples would be using that of walking. Whether you are in front of your girl or sideways to her or behind, imagine you are leading her into a walk. Listen to the music. If there is a rapid succession of accents or an increase in the melody speed, then why not increase the speed of the walk? If the music is constant, you could lead the walk at a constant speed or maybe have fun and play with it and change the speed anyway. Why not? If the music slows right down and you were walking at a normal speed, don’t just keep your “1,2,3” count, use maybe the slow and the second quick in the music, or maybe you can do it even slower and use only each slow beat. Everything is possible.
      Just put some change into the movements so you’re not always going at the same speed and have fun with the music. Play with your partner. That will very likely increase the attention of your girl, she will haveto be more attentive to you, and you to her, and that, in turn, will improve your connection.

    6. Keep contact
      One of the thumb rules for a good connection to keep contact. Have you ever had a professional massage? Have you noticed how the massage therapist constantly keeps contact with you? Even if they have to grab a bottle of oil or something, they try to keep contact with one of their hands.
      Because when you lose the contact, you have to make it again. And if your connection wasn’t strong enough yet, you run the risk of destroying what you just gained.
      One of the easiest ways to do this is to put your right hand in the girl’s back, just as she is turning away from you and back to you during a single turn. It is not just “good technique”, it is also a way for the girl to feel you and know where you are, even when she has to turn away from you. She will know you are still there.
      If you do this simple thing well, girls will feel better and trust you more. Of course they will likely not be able to say why they feel that way and they will probably remember something like “it was so nice”. But you will know.
      It’s all those little details which make a great connection, and thus, a great dance.

      Jukka and Anastasia keeping the contact

      Jukka and Anastasia keeping the contact

    7. Bodywave
      Last but not least… I could not talk about this subject without mentioning the bodywave!
      There are many, many various ways to do a bodywave and I will probably write a single post just about it, in the future.
      But, for now, we’re talking about the connection. So the distance and the tension are going to be the most important aspects of the bodywave for this short paragraph.
      For girls, it means: Be aware of your leader’s hand in your back. Don’t arch your back, don’t try to get close to the guy if he didn’t invite you. He will do it, not you. And really give it a thought, because some of you may think that it doesn’t apply to you but in my experience of leading girls, it feels like about 80% of them are not doing it and not feeling my hand in their back. I have to tell them each time to “push” into my hand so I can feel the connection with them. So, focus on your back, feel the leader’s hand and stay with it. If his hand moves away backward, you have to push backwards as well! It’s the main way a bodywave will begin: Space has to be created. So if you girls do it, you will be able to follow a lot better. So gently push back into the leader’s hands and let him choose when to start, when to finish it, when to slow it down, etc..
      When the bodywave begins and the leader brings you closer, unless you don’t want to be close to him, you need to project your energy forward and really connect your body to his, with that wave.
      For guys, it means: Keep a good frame with your right shoulder and arm into place, don’t move your upper body too frantically, it won’t help. Instead, remain upright and present your chest to the girl as a board on which she would be doing the bodywave. You can do a small bodywave as well, just don’t do it more than the girl otherwise… well, it will start to look and feel awkward. If you don’t like contact, you can keep some distance.
      But then where is the essence of the bodywave?
      Personally, for me, a good bodywave includes good contact and good tension. That tension, which is the last point, here, is the amount of contraction you will use, and the force you will put into pushing every part of your spine forward and back. So when you begin the bodywave, present your chest forwards and a little up and press a little. Give something to push against. As the bodywave evolves into a serpentine shape and the energy goes lowers, you do the same. You press a little forward with your ribs and tummy, and then your hips before letting the movement relax back.
      If both dancers actually do that, I guarantee a really satisfying bodywave 😉

      Henri Velandia and Ashle Dawson demonstrating the start of a bodywave

      Henri Velandia and Ashle Dawson demonstrating the start of a bodywave

Feel it and enjoy. Relax. Don’t shy away from keeping heads in contact, if you can; it’s a good tool. Give your partner all your attention by focusing your eyes on what you are doing and looking at her or at your movements. Vary the pace, to keep her attention. Keep near-constant contact with her. And use bodywaves with energy and good contact.

To finish this post, I would like to swiftly return to the hug concept and share with you these few seconds of a pretty nice way to begin a hug. Just click on “Video Post” and you will be led to the video which Brenda Carvalho posted last month on her Facebook Timeline.

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