Give your arms some love – let them relax when dancing. The arms are the line of connection and communication in partner dance. So having a relaxed arm will enable leads to send clear messages and follows to understand and respond to messages in the best way possible.
So how do you relax your arms? Firstly, I find that ‘thinking’ about relaxing my arms is counter-productive and in fact trying to relax any muscle is a contradiction. Trying and relaxing at the same time is a contradiction in action because to try is to be doing something, while relaxing is allowing to happen. What I find helpful for arm relaxation is, in fact, not to relax my arms at all but to relax my shoulders.
Bring your awareness to your shoulders. You know when you hear someone talk about ‘good posture’ or even ‘bad posture’ and all of a sudden you become aware of yourself and start sitting up straighter? This works a bit like that, in that when you bring your focus to your shoulders you notice how they are and you automatically start to let go of what they’re holding on to. Once your shoulders let go, your arms are going to follow suit. The whole arm becomes looser and your hands are able to rest more gently and easily into your partner’s.
Try it with a partner. When you are holding your their hand/s, bring your focus to your shoulders and see what happens. See if your shoulder starts to let go of any tension it’s holding, and in turn, see what happens to the way your hand connects with your partner’s. Do your fingers melt more easily into theirs?
Haven’t got a partner to hand? No problem. Put your hands on the back of a chair or on a table, something about waist height, and you can experience the same thing; your shoulder releasing and your hand connecting and melting more into the table top. Take a few minutes to feel what it feels like to have this more relaxed arm and feel how the whole arm is connected to the shoulder, from finger tips to shoulder.
Photo credit: Jessy Rone