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Frame (dance)

Frame is the position maintained by dancers during partner dancing. Maintenance of the frame provides connection.

Frame is achieved in all dances. Some dances, such as ballroom, the frame is much more pronounced than in others where it is more subtle.

Essentially, frame means that the shoulders and arms of both the lead and the follow maintain the same position throughout the entire dance. Position is maintained relative to oneself as well as relative to one's partner.

Frame may be easily achieved through rigidity. It is often taught this way to beginning ballroom dancers. However this is rarely, if ever, desired.

Instead, the dance partners should hold each other loosely, using only the effort required to maintain the body position required by the dance. It is only when miscommunication occurs because of inexperience with the dance, the move or each other that effort is required to maintain frame.

In ballroom dances, internal muscle tension is applied to ensure that the required position is never lost. At the extreme, this may require rigidity to stay with your partner. Body contact may be employed so that there is enough connection that this rigidity need never make itself felt. Advanced dancers can maintain enough connection without body contact so that rigidity is never required.

In street Latin styles, the arms are always loose. Rather than increasing pressure to maintain frame, allow the arms to move, but try to regain position as quickly as possible.

In the swing dances, instead of rigidity, use outward directed pressure to maintain the position. Like a spring, the further from desired body position, the greater the force should be.

The differences may be illustrated by imagining trying to lead the worst of all possible dance partners, a refrigerator.

In the ballroom dances, one would make the arms rigid enough that the legs can push around the refrigerator.

In the swing dances, one would let the arms give, increasing pressure until it matched the weight of the refrigerator, moving the refrigerator.

In the street latin dances, the arms would collapse until the body collapsed into the refrigerators. You've now achieved body contact and can push the refrigerator around with your body. Since the refrigerator is indifferent to the body contact, it can be maintained. If the refrigerator started showing signs of incomfort, one would have to simplify ones dance to the point where frame is not required.

For follows, one can imagine an unpredictably moving bulldozer rather than a refrigerator.

In ballroom, one would become rigid and let the bulldozer take you for a ride.

In swing you push back against the bulldozer just as much as it's pushing against you, which will fling you across the dance floor.

In street latin, after the undesired body contact, a slap across the operator's cheeks might be appropriate.

Luckily, one rarely dances with refrigerators or bulldozers, so one shouldn't have to go to extremes to maintain frame, even if the move is completely new to the follow.