Maybe you've recently done one of those performances where judges give written comments* on your dancing. Maybe you need more explanation on their messily-written, much-too-brief phrases and want to understand, but are too shy or too far away to get clarification.
First of all, it is AWESOME that you got out there. You did great, really. So much improvement and guts and goal-busting. I wanted to give everybody high fives and hugs and cheer ever-so-loudly. But mama ain't got time for that. I got a pen running out of ink and 30 seconds or less of words to write down that I hope to be helpful.
Not that I speak for all of these manic commentary writers, but we have often mentioned just needing a stamp to do these events, since the mistakes are pretty universal.
Without further ado, here's some clarification:
"Watch timing" is hard for me to write. It's even harder for me to watch. It means you're not dancing with the beat of the music and/or you're not dancing with any perceptible rhythm. Read this and eat your dinner.
"Stand up tall" means several things...
Your occipital lobe needs to go back and up, so it doesn't weigh down the rest of your upper half.
Your shoulders need to get away from your ears, the ever-popular "back and down" phrase.
And you might want to read this stuff:
- here's one about posture (the good ol' dance pyramid)
- and while you're at it, read the whole damn pyramid (timing, footwork, characteristics, choreography, other stuff)
"Smile" might seem self-explanatory, but maybe you need to look at a picture or video of yourself dancing to realize you look slightly to completely terrified or lost. Other facial expressions are acceptable, but please no "acting!" until you're doing choreography.
"Watch footwork/footwork/FTWK/FOOTWORK." feels self-explanatory but APPARENTLY NOT. Toe releases on back steps. Heel leads on all forward steps. Like, even that third step forward in tango. And those steps in Promenade position, which are forward and across yet STILL FORWARD. And yet, none of that in American Rhythm or International Latin (except Paso, where you can do whatever you want) where it's all "ball flat" all the time always.
And not, like, wussy, footwork, where you never use your ankle joint. Like extremely clear footwork, like these guys.
"Close feet", along the same lines, means your feet should actually touch on a 3 in Waltz, or in the box in Rumba. The word "together" is in The Book (thanks, Beth), so do that.
"Transfer weight" or something like that means that when you're supposed to step on a foot (LIKE IN CROSSOVER BREAKS FOR EXAMPLE), step on that foot. Don't tap it forward [or side or back], but step on it enough to be able to lift up your other foot. On a slightly more advanced level, it might mean you need to stack your shoulder over your hip over your foot. But still.
"Pull center in/forward poise" You might be standing up tall, so now it's time for an upgrade. Standing up "straight" is admirable, but overdone. Standing up forward is better. Or standing up differently is even better. Read more about it here.
"Tone your arms to yourself" is a little difficult to explain, and easier to make one feel in person. BUT many of you give your arms up to your partner and forget they belong to you first. It looks as though someone told you to put your arms like so and you do and then forget about them. Test: the tops of your shoulders might be a little tired if you're doing a lot of closed work, but your shoulder blade area should be dying after a few minutes of practice. DYING.
"Man's left hand is on her side". Get it in the middle and probably get away from your partner. While you might be attempting to dance better by using body contact, you're dancing worse because you haven't mastered a lot of important things through your topline (let's say that's your shoulders and back for now) before you jumped too close to your partner. Also, ladies, your elbows should always be in front of your shoulders, especially in dance frame. See above about tone. And read this about getting into frame and ladies' poise.
"Don't break your sides" or other things like "you're collapsing your sides", "teapotting", or "leaning". Stop it. I know you're trying to swing and sway, but if your angle stops at your waist, you're not doing it right. You gotta learn how to use your base (ankles, knees, hips) to get those awesome shapes you see the big dogs doing. You ARE dancing what you see, which is admirable, but it's ever so wrong and unproductive.
"CBM/CBMP/latin motion" and other random techniques that get written with no explanation either means we think you know them and don't see any use of them or that you need to upgrade so we can see that technique clearly demonstrated.
If there's any other comments you need translated, please ask. If it's a doozy, you might need more than two minutes, but anyone who wrote comments, wants you to understand them and improve, and is available for private lessons, which would be worth the investment. PROMISE.
*At all these events, judges are instructed to be nice. Since we all have a different version of "nice", there's quite a range of honesty. I'll give you a more honest evaluation if you ask. But be prepared.