Monday, November 25, 2013

Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Plano Events Calendar Groups, Parties December 2013

Manager's Forum: What is the Difference Between "Using the Floor" and "Floorcraft"

Are you ready to learn something? For this week's manager's forum question, we asked the managers AND the Dance Director's at the Arthur Murray Dallas and Plano studios for their explanation of the difference between "using the floor" and "floorcraft". What we ended up with were these awesome answers!

Ian & Sarah at the 2012 Texas Showdown
Ian: "Using the floor" simply means pushing off the floor with your feet so that you can move more easily and with more fluidity.  "Floorcraft" is actually how you get around the floor.  In both smooth and rhythm, but more so in smooth, you really have to be able to navigate your way around the floor so that you can fully get into the dance and truly express all of it's characteristics without running into other couples.
Adriann at the 2013 Cancun Showcase

AdriannWhen your teacher says "use the floor", he or she is referring to the way you use your feet against the floor to move yourself. Like jumping, your feet pushing against the floor, uses the floor as leverage to move your body. "Floor-Craft" is, essentially, driving. Remember, when you're dancing, you're the only car on the road, so don't run yourself or your partner in to anyone else. 
Justin & Nikki competing

JustinTo me, "using the floor" deals with how your foot interacts with the floor, where "floorcraft" deals with navigating and direction of movement around the floor.  
So when we talk about using the floor, we want to be aware of what part of our foot touches the floor, how we slide or roll along the floor with our foot, and how we use friction with the floor to move against it. For instance, pushing the edge of your foot against the floor to move in the opposite direction is an example of using the floor.  This is why it's important to keep your shoes brushed, as we need texture to create friction between the foot and floor.  This is also what we are referring to when we talk about dancing on top of the floor versus "using the floor." Cuban Motion, for example, should be a result of your feet and legs interacting with the floor, not just a lot of movement near the surface.
Floorcraft, on the other hand, will relate to where you face on the floor, and how you move around it. Room alignments, like Line of Dance, help you aim your traveling figures.  Understanding that certain figures serve specific purposes--like traveling, rotating, or picture steps-- will help you choose which figure to use next.  It's important for men especially to develop skills to protect his partner from other less-aware couples, as well know how to brake quickly or "shoot the gap."  For both men and women, it's important to know etiquette for dancing on a crowded floor compared to an open floor with more space between dancers.  Size of step and arm styling can effect floorcraft because it concerns your neighbors on the dancefloor.  

The less-dance-nerdy version is that using the floor is pushing on the floor with your feet to make your dancing more comfortable and balanced. Floorcraft is making sure you don't run in to people when you're dancing. Clear as mud, right?

Lindsey & Ian at the
2013 Texas Showdown
Lindsey: Using the floor vs floor craft

To me, I have a mental image when it comes to these topics. Picture this:

1) imagine one of your favorite movies where the scene depicts a king preparing for battle by seeing an areal view of the landscape and sees how his chess pieces can move in the most strategic way.

For a man on the dance floor, his teacher is his trusted advisor that intentionally created the flight plan  for his most successful and skillful  route around the floor. You can see this skill by observing the plan from an areal view and see how it maps out to your advantage. This is the art of using the floor.
But scenario 2 comes into play when the actual battle begins and plan turns into action. For example:

2) The man is aware of what he needs to accomplish and then he himself realizes that there will be obstacles that will try to thwart the plan. Imagine this idea:

You are actually on the battlefield in the front line. In that moment, the leader is in the moment, knows what he is supposed to do, however must adjust his strategy to what the reality is and find the best way to maneuver through the unknown. This is the art of floor craft.

Therefore, there should always be a plan to what a leader wants to accomplish, but also have a fine balance between strategy and what reality will throw at you.

Nikki & Justin at the 2012 Showdown
NikkiThe difference between "using the floor" and "floorcraft" is a huge one when I am teaching...

I can certainly see where "using the floor" can mean using all corners and such; however, if I'm teaching, I'm referring to your feet on the actual floor.  A lot of times when I see people dance I see surface movement, meaning that they are using the big muscles in their legs, but no muscles in their feet.  When you are dancing, it should actually be the tiny muscles in your feet that work to move you from foot to foot, and across the floor...  Not your thighs, or head weight.  Imagine standing on one foot with the other in the air...  (or actually try it!)  then pushing from the leg you are standing on, jump onto the one you just had in the air.  Using the floor is very much like that.  Another analogy is to think of the old school tread mills...  The one's that weren't motorized.  In order to start them, you had to push hard with your feet into the belt and then make it slide backwards.  That's also "using the floor."  One last thought for those of you that used to be in marching band.  Do you remember how to roll your feet to move across the field so that your instrument didn't bounce?  That is also "using the floor."  If you can look at your feet, point your toes and notice little muscles pop up from being flexed, good job!  You are "using the floor!"  If you can't, just keep working!  It will come.

Now, as for "floorcraft..."  Well, I think this the most important skill that a man can develop in dancing.  This is the road map that a man will use to get around the floor.  "Floorcraft" is often looked at like a chess board.  How is each piece moving, and which piece is moving at a particular time.  However, since I am terrible at chess, I have to think of it as driving on a highway.  Back in the old days, before GPS, we all had to plan our own trips based on maps.  Then, if we ran into traffic, we had to do some quick recalculating of our own and find a new route.  Dancing is the same way.  We can set out on doing a specific set of steps, and traveling a specific way, but if there is traffic, an accident, or a lane closure, we have to be will to adjust, and adjust quickly.  This is often pretty easy if we are dancing rhythm, as we are not trying to move around the floor...  But in smooth, we have to make sure that we are not the car waiting till the last minute to try and get over, or the car that ignores the caution signs and ends up as part of the problem.

Both techniques make dancing a much more enjoyable experience for all involved, so make sure you are studying both!

Sarah at the 2013 Cancun Showcase
Sarah: What a wonderful question! All the true dance nerds will surely eat this up and get very excited about it! So here it goes;
Floor craft is like driving a car in traffic. Sometimes the traffic is heavy, sometimes it's light but you can learn how to drive you and your partner around like a Ferrari! Most times you start like a Mack truck and as you learn different patterns you can begin to grow your agility, your response time becomes faster and you handle the turns and breaks better! FUN! 
"Using the Floor" is how you use the relationship between your feet and the only constant thing in dancing ( the floor) to move your body. Using the floor with your feet is the same as how a tire uses tread. It gives the car traction, groundedness, control and a smooth strong ride. So yes, they both have to do with the QUALITY of movement, but in two very different ways. Floor craft = quality of movement in a crowd or in the "big picture". 
Using the Floor = quality of movement in your own body from your feet and how you feel, just to your partner. 

What I really love about doing this post each week is that you can very clearly see the benefit of learning from as many of our instructors as possible. Everyone interprets, understands, and explains things just a little differently, and when you take all that information in and let it simmer for awhile, what comes out will be a amazingly well-balanced dancing! 

Dallas Event Calendar, Group classes, Parties for Arthur Murray Dance Studio

Did You Know? Featuring Arthur Murray Dallas Dance Instructor Ulysses Kronos

Meet Ulysses Kronos AKA Uly

Uly has been an instructor at with the Plano and Dallas studios for 4 years. His quirky sense of humor and his great smile make him a joy to work with and learn from. He's been a repeat offender for winning Best Dressed Staff Member at our annual Christmas party. But, did you know...

Uly dances with one of his students, Phyllis, at the
Texas Showdown.
Favorite Movie: The Notebook

Favorite Animal: Lion

Favorite Dance: Cha Cha

Favorite Color: Blue 

Uly says that according to his mom, he first started dancing when he was still in her stomach. Dancing has been a life long interest for Uly, and although his first job was as a Dental Assistant, he says if he could do any other job he would be a Back-Up Dancer! 

We all know that Uly has sense of humor. He says the funniest thing that has ever happened to him was that he accidentally wore a mismatched pair of black shoes for 3 days straight! 

He says the bravest thing he ever did was moving to the US with only $40 in his pocket! If he could visit anywhere in the world, he would go back to Greece. His favorite season is fall because he knows the Holidays are coming! Uly loves to surround himself with happy people and is inspired by friendships, family and love.

His idol is Benito Juarez, and his favorite thing about being a dance teacher is seeing the smile on his students faces when they actually feel the music! His heart is located more towards the center of his chest, and if he were a cartoon character, he says he would be Mighty Mouse! 

Uly's quote to live by is:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Manager's Forum: Why is it so important to have a good frame?

This week, we asked the managers at Arthur Murray Dallas and Plano to tell us about the importance of a good frame. Here's what they said...

1) JustinFrame serves two purposes- communication and aesthetics. If you are dancing in an event, performing a show, or just want to be sure people enjoy watching you dance, your frame and topline are some of the first things people notice. Like your posture, your frame conveys confidence and experience. But when it comes to the social aspect of dancing, few things make more of a difference than leading and following. Your ability as the man to communicate where you're going and how fast you're going will put her at ease and put the energy back into having fun. As the lady, the better you can listen, the easier it is to follow, and your frame is your new set of ears. Rather than saying where and when, the frame is the way to non-verbally talk to each other on the floor, and that takes practice. But just like any other language, you'll become fluent by immersing yourself as much as possible. The more people you get to dance with, the parties and events you attend, all teach you how to adjust to each nuance of your partner. Be patient and diligent with your frame, and you'll be a master communicator in no time. 

2) SarahHaving a good frame is like having good pronunciation or the ability to speak all languages. The frame is how you communicate with your partner. Communication (physically) is the most important thing about dancing with another human being. Having a good frame promotes good connection which promotes amazing communication. And when the Lead is clear and the Follow is open, dancing is truly an amazing experience! 

3) NikkiI am sure that everyone knows the logic behind a good frame: it's the foundation to the dancing, you don't want the frame of a house to be unstable, etc.  But I don't know that many people think of how it relates to their partner...  And how it can ease the most common complaint, "He/she isn't Leading/Following!"

Most guys think that if they know all the steps, the girl will follow, and the dance will be great.  They spend SO much time making sure the steps are perfect, that they don't spend an appropriate amount of time working on trying to make sure that they communicate those steps.  Everyone grumbles when "the Rack" (the metal dance frame) makes an appearance, or if they are forced to dance with the lovely "Sue" (a Chair), but really, they are great tools to really understand what your frame is doing, or not doing...  Just because a guy knows his steps, doesn't mean that he is communicating them correctly.  His elbows may be sliding behind him, making the lady complain he is pulling on her, or maybe he is moving his frame independently of is body, making the lady feel like he is pushing her over.  Neither of these things makes a desirable dance partner.  I challenge ALL men to take "Sue" hold her up with her back away from you (so you can't cheat), and see if, as you are dancing, she changes position.  When you can do ALL your steps and routines with her in the correct position, you are ready to try things with a real live girl!  Of course, it's always an ongoing process, but at least it will make you more aware of what you are ACTUALLY leading when you try things out at a party.

Women - You aren't off the hook.  I hear all the time, "If he would just learn to lead, I can follow..."  Ok, that is true, but only up to a certain point.  Most women who say that aren't really that great at following, and they are the "Hangers" and "Fridges."  A women's frame is equally as important as a man's, and actually has to be MORE sensitive.  Otherwise she feels heavy and immovable.  Women, it isn't the man't job to hold up your arms, or your upper body.  By doing that, you are sending your energy straight down to the ground, and you aren't going to feel anything he sends your way.  (Plus it exaggerates that chicken wing/saggy skin look in your arms that we all hate!)  By the same token, your frame can't be so hard that man feels like he is in a pushing match.  If you feel like you are pushing against him and your back and arms hurt, that's WAY too much.  Dancing shouldn't be painful, no matter what we, as teachers, sometimes tell you! ;-)  Relax, hold up your hands, and just feel.

The frame is all about communication.  And in order to be a great partner, you have to be great at communicating...  On BOTH ends.  The man has to be clear about where he is wanting to go, and the lady has to be clear that she understood, and is willing to go on the journey with him.  Without both sides, you are just dancing NEAR each other, but not really WITH each other...

4) Ian: A good frame is one of the key components for everything that man is trying to get the woman to follow.  Without a good frame, the man can't effectively communicate how fast he is traveling and which direction he wants the lady to go, short of literally whispering to her under his breath (which I've seen many students try without much success).  You can't have a beautiful picture without a strong, solid frame to support it, just as it's very difficult for a woman to be fully shown off in the most beautiful way on the dance floor without a stong, solid man to support and lead her.

5) Amy: The frame in dancing is probably the most pivotal part of the partner relationship and the ability to communicate. The frame must be firm, yet forgiving, strong, yet subtle. It must communicate the nuances and respond to the slightest signal. It is how the dancers speak to each other. With a great frame, the dance will feel effortless, but without it...well, not so much. Here is the analogy I normally use when explaining frame. 

Have you ever been driving down the highway and seen the wonderfully frightening sight of a car being towed with a ROPE?!? This seems to be a common occurrence in Dallas. So, obviously, you have a leader car and a follower car. But, you have a wiggly, loose rope in between ("spaghetti arms" for the Dirty Dancing fans out there). So, if the lead car brakes suddenly, what happens? Well, unless the driver of the following car is really paying attention, probably a crash. What if the lead car accelerates suddenly? You can see the rope being pulled taught and then the following car feeling the "yank". This is what dancing with a poor frame can feel like. Pulling, pushing, yanking, trying to second guess ahead of time what the leader is going to do. All these things are uncomfortable and detrimental to an enjoyable dancing experience. Now, let's take another example, a car being towed with a nice, strong steel towing bar. Consider all of the same scenarios. You now have flawless communication. As one speeds or slows, so does the other. In fact, are you ready for this? You no longer even need a person in the following car at all. The person there (ladies, this is you) can just kick back and relax and trust that the frame will guide them. No need to keep a foot on the brake, no need to think ahead and try to read his mind. Just sit back, relax and enjoy. 

So, what this all means is that if you become a master of the frame, you will also become a master leader or follower, and everything else is secondary!  

Did You Know? Featuring Arthur Murray Dallas Dance Instructor Bailey Kenzington

Meet Bailey Kenzington

Bailey has been dancing with the Arthur Murray Dallas staff for 5 years! Her bubbly personality, brilliant smile, and ever changing hair color make her a bright spot in the day for so many people. She is a constant ray of sunshine...but did you know...
Bailey dances with one of her students
at the 2013 Showcase By the Sea in
Cancun, Mexico

Favorite Color: Neon Green
Favorite Animal: Giraffe
Favorite Movie: Pitch Perfect
Favorite Vacation Spot: Italy

Bailey got her first taste of dance when she was just 2 years old. Her first dance style? Tap! Since then, dance has been an integral part of her everyday life. She says the thing she fears most is one day not being able to dance. Her favorite thing about being a dance teacher? Getting to share her passion and what she loves with others every day. The bravest thing she has ever done was getting out on a competition floor with less than 4 weeks of preparation!

Bailey's first job was babysitting, but if she could be anything other than a dance teacher, she would want Jennifer Garner's job in "Alias". Interesting stuff, huh? She enjoys crafts and baking. If Bailey were a Disney character, she says she would be Cinderella.

Bailey's idol is any Proverbs 31 woman. Her quote to live by is:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


"How Dancing Transformed My Life" #transformationaltuesday #dance


Monday, November 11, 2013

Did You Know? Featuring Arthur Murray Plano Dance Instructor Lindsey Jordan...

Meet Lindsey Jordan

Lindsey has been a staple of the Arthur Murray Plano staff for 6 years! Her bubbly personality and bright smile are contagious! Lindsey has a great sense of humor, but when she means business, you'll know it! Here are a few fun facts about Lindsey:

Lindsey with her student, Tore Bellis,
and Guest Judge Lynda Smith at the
2012 Texas Showdown
Favorite Color(s): Turquoise and Black (I guess that explains her costume choice!)
Favorite Movie(s): The Princess Bride, Nacho Libre, all 3 Back to the Future movies
Favorite Dance(s): Bolero, Viennese Waltz, American Tango
Favorite Food(s): Steak and Authentic Mexican Cuisine

Lindsey has been dancing since she was 3 1/2 years old. She actually took her first class at age 2 1/2, but threw up during class. I guess she knows first hand just how nervous a new student or first time competitor can be! Her first job was teaching/assisting dance classes at the age of 12. But, Lindsey says if she could do any other job in the world other than teaching dance, she would be a Research Physician specializing in autoimmune diseases or working at the CDC!

She lives for Coffee, loves summertime, and wants to someday travel throughout Europe! She says if she were a Disney character she would be Snow White!

Lindsey's Quotes to Live By:

But she does add that "Practice makes Permanence"!

Stay tuned to learn more about our awesome Arthur Murray instructors!


Having Trouble Understanding Your Teacher? What’s Your Learning Style? -


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Managers Forum: What is the most common mistake made by new dancers?

We asked the managers of the Dallas and Plano Arthur Murray Studios to tell us
"What is the most common mistake made by new dancers?"

This is what they said:

IanI think the most common mistake that I've seen new dancers, both students and teachers alike, make is that they try to be "perfect" or "right" all the time.  Dancing is an expression of a feeling that you get when you hear music.  There's no way to be perfect with your feeling or your emotions, so why would you aspire to do the same with your dancing?  Just as you emotionally mature with age, so you mature with your competence and skill the longer you dance.  So, in the end, just listen, feel, and move...the rest will come!

JustinThe most common mistake made by new dancers is to be too hard on themselves. Especially as adults, we forget what it's like to learn something new. We're used to being good at everything we do, and it has usually been a long time since we learned something physical (like driving a car). So we have an unrealistic expectation of how quickly we should proceed, or how much we should remember from one lesson to the next. We need to be patient with ourselves- remember that understanding something in our heads and getting our body to cooperate does not usually happen simultaneously. The hardest part is the initial hump of believing you can learn!

SarahThe most common mistake made by new dancers varies from man to woman. New male dancers make the mistake of thinking more steps makes them better and more enjoyable to dance with. So they know a bunch of steps but cannot lead any of them. Not fun or enjoyable for any woman. Women make the mistake of what we commonly call "back-leading". In their mind they are helping their partner, but in reality it does more damage than good to try to help the man lead. The best thing for a woman to do is trust her man and release the need to control. All women want to be beautiful and taken care of in the dance floor and men want to be a strong lead for his woman. When his lead makes a woman smile he is in "dance heaven". 

NikkiIn my experience, the most common mistake made by new dancers is not allowing themselves enough time to actually learn.  There are 2 types of students in this category, and they are both making the same mistake.

The 1st student thinks they can't learn.  They come in, beat themselves up for the entire lesson, and then walk away "knowing" that they were right.  The issue wasn't that they couldn't learn, it's that they didn't allow TIME to learn.  How many of us fell off our bikes the first time we tried to ride it without training wheels?  But just because we fell off that first time doesn't mean we weren't capable of learning eventually.  Relax, breathe, and remember that this is a new motor skill to learn.  For most of us, learning to drive a car was the last time we had to learn a new skill.

The 2nd student thinks they should have it NOW.  This student walks into the studio never having failed at anything, and they believe the dancing should be the same.  I'm not saying that students fail while learning to dance, quite the opposite in fact, if the teaching is right, learning to dance should be nothing but full of successes.  However, the student that thinks they should be great right now, believes that if they don't look like the dancer in their head after 10 min of instruction, they have failed.  And the failure, to them, means they shouldn't be trying to learn to dance.  Again, the reality here is that they just didn't give themselves enough time to become that dancer in their head.  And it really doesn't matter how many lessons you try to cram into your brain in a day, nothing can make up for "Floor Time".  

Amy: I believe that the most common mistake new dancers make is to compare themselves to the other dancers in the room. Of course, this mistake is also made by dancers at every other level, too! Remember the old adage about the race horse and never looking back to see where your competition is? I used to say that I wished I could put blinders on my students so they could not see the other students in the room. Unless you have had an in depth conversation with another person, you have no idea how long they have been dancing, what kind of skills they possessed coming into the studio, how much they practice, or anything like that. So, the frustration that you create in your mind by comparing yourself to someone else who maybe has been dancing for years instead of days, or maybe was a ballerina as a child, or maybe has the time to put in a lot of practice, or whatever, is totally unnecessary! Focus on what YOU are doing and where YOU are going and be the best dancer you can possibly be! And remember, it's all about having a good time!

How to Be A Good Dance Partner Part 3: "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

So far, we have talked about making sure you don't smell bad and what you should say to your dance partner. Today, we are going to talk about listening! Dance is a partner activity. It requires an awareness on the part of both dancers in order to be an enjoyable activity. You must LISTEN to what your partner is telling you! A few tips:

1) Listen to what they say about themselves, respond, and remember! When you remember small details about someone, such as their kids or pets names, it validates that they are important to you. It also makes you a great conversationalist, which everyone loves! Try to avoid spacing out and not paying attention to the person you are dancing with. It makes you seem rude, boring, and inconsiderate, and no one wants to dance with that kind of person!

2) Listen to their body language! This is very important for 2 reasons: you can gauge their comfort level with you, and you can tell a lot about how you should adjust your lead/follow. Pay attention to whether they are dancing closely or if they are holding themselves away from you. This is a good measure of their comfort level (or interest level) in you. Please, respect the physical space boundary they set. It is never fun to feel like there is a tug of war happening on the dance floor, where she sets her comfort zone and he keeps trying to pull her closer and she keeps trying to reestablish her space. Trust me, it is not fun, and it won't help, so just accept and respect the space that your partner is setting.

Now, it is important to keep in mind that this ALSO tells you about their dance ability... Someone who sets a wide personal zone may be a less experienced dancer and may be worried about their feet stepping on yours/being stepped on or whether or not they can lead/follow you. If they seem to tense up when you try to spin them, take that as a sign and take it easy on the twirling. I once danced with a guy who literally picked my feet up off the ground and crushed me against him every time he spun us around. No matter how hard I tried, he wouldn't stop. I honestly felt like I was bruised after that song ended and I DID NOT dance with him again.

Your goal when dancing with a partner is to make sure that you BOTH are having a good time. So be a gracious and kind partner and heed what your partner is saying both verbally and physically!

3) Listen to the music! This seems like an obvious one, but don't get so caught up in counting, trying to remember steps, or zipping through traffic that you forget about the music! Relax, take your time, and have fun!

If you are interested in learning to dance, contact your local Arthur Murray Dance Studio today!