One Armed Dancing

OK. I need some advice. I love to waltz. But I have an injury to my right shoulder.

How do I lead?

For you non-dancers (and you are really missing out on one of life’s most exquisite activities here), it goes like this. The man takes his partner’s hand in his left, extending them out from the body. These hands are beautiful and graceful, like an elegant masthead. But the truth is, they don’t do much.

On the other hand (ahem) the man’s right arm is the rudder. It goes around his partner. Her arm lays across his. These arms form a semi-rigid structure. This is called frame. He uses this to steer them across the dance floor. Subtle shifts in the right arm queue your partner whether to turn, or step back, or pull in close. It’s the critical arm.

Except I don’t have one.

At least, not right now.

I keep it in a sling while dancing so some yahoo showing off (which more than once has been yours truly) doesn’t yank it into some unnatural angle.

So, the question is, how do I lead with only one arm? Surely someone out there has solved this problem.

Help me! I’m adrift.

4 Replies to “One Armed Dancing”

  1. I have the opposite proble, no functional left arm, plus an impaired left leg. I am struggling to regain the pleasure of dancing with my wife and am well aware of the difficulties of impairments. in your case, with a functioning left arm and two good legs, why not just reverse the frame? you can then lead with your left arm. You and your partner only need to coordinate what she will do with her left arm. I have the opposite problem, so we have been having my wife place her right hand on my shoulder, where my right arm can direct it for turns, etc. We are still working out the kinks, but are optimistic. Good luck!

    1. Good for you, Joe, for not giving up! It’s great that your wife works with you on this. I’ll give it a try at the next dance. Might be like driving on the left for me…

  2. Dancing is a joy.

    Contra dancing and other Country/Contry dance is beautifully egalitarian — no or rarely any Lead or Follow role work going on.

    So the Waltz or Polka on a program gives one that fun, couple (only), dance experience.

    Perhaps take it a step further — swap roles. Be the Follow, even try closing your eyes at some point.

    I still recall the first time my partner in a evening Contra dance first-half finishing waltz and I changed roles (arm orientation, and leading foot as well).

    My head swiveled from side to side, attempting to detect oncoming “threats”. I had no time, ability, or even orientation/framework to pick a path through the “fast lane”. Whoa!

    I said that . . . not the Whoa, the, “I can’t keep up!”

    I heard back, “It’s not your job.”

    Every dancer & dance caller might benefit in some fashion from trying the other role. Heck the whole dance series or community might benefit, from some folks trying it.

    What did I learn from this instance? Well, perhaps a bit of the Real unspoken reason (many) women might Like To Dance. [grin] (A couple dance, with someone one trusts, may be a bit of a fun, musical, social, fairground ride.) That even without closing my eyes, trusting the Lead to operate in their role was fun and liberating. That the rest of that dance evening truly did not have dances with a Lead and Follow role (To my mind a swing on the side of a longways set isn’t the same.) Also to try other things, other times.

    So I have, a bit. It’s mostly fun. [grin] In some instances it’s proven to be a handy adaptation for someone. One dance partner I “unwind” on request, with a swing of equal turns in the other direction (balance coping.) With another we’ll occasionally swing CCW to lessen pressure on some leg/foot joints.

    I hope your arm heals soon. I’ve been tending a lower leg injury for some time and am cautiously engaged again in social/country dance. The Morris will have to stay on “pause” though as I can’t throttle back on movement enough.

    Cheers, John

    1. Thanks, John. What a lovely relationship you have with the dance. I especially sympathize with your impulse to be on the lookout for oncoming threats. Good luck with that leg. Hope to see you on the dance floor.

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