Part One found here.
If you find it difficult to keep your balance during this exercise, don’t be discouraged—it merely proves that you need the practice. It will come easily after a few tries.
This is glamour training—it will develop supple muscles in your diaphragm and waistline.
Stand with your heels together, and your hands held loosely at your sides.
Step sideways on your right foot to the right, and draw your left foot behind the right. At the same time, bring your arms and hands up over your head. Sway to the right.
Then step with your left foot to the left and bring your right foot up to and in back of your left. Sway to the left.
It is helpful to practice this to slow Waltz music, using three counts for each swaying movement. 1, 2, 3 to the right; 4, 5, 6 to the left.
When you first try this exercise, you may feel insecure. If so, lean on the top of your dresser or on the back of a chair until you can hold your balance.
This movement will train you to hold your head up high and it will gracefully arch your back. A stiff, unyielding back makes a girl feel wooden to her partner.
Begin by standing erect, with your hands at your sides and your heels together. Then swing into the following figure-skater-like position: one leg extended backward, toes pointed, and both arms held out straight behind you. Your head should be tilted back to elongate your neck.
Repeat, swinging back on the other foot.
This can be practice to slow Waltz music or by counting 1, 2, 3. Don’t bring your feet together again until after the third beat.
Note that the toes of the back-swinging foot are leading—and pointed outward.
Caution: Do not repeat these exercises too often the first time—or you will regret it the next day!
If you can do this exercise correctly, with your body erect, you will develop a good sense of equilibrium. Practice it until you are well satisfied with your appearance in your mirror.
Simply extend one foot to the side and raise it as high as possible. Note that—again—your toes should lead.
Practice this ten times with one foot and then repeat to the other side.
When you have mastered this, with good balance and keeping your body erect, then rise on the toes of the foot carrying the weight.
Count: 1, 2, 3, 4. Raise foot 1, 2. Lower foot 3, 4. Try it to slow Foxtrot music.
This exercise will not only train you in balancing, but it will enable you to follow any quick side step that a partner may take.
At every newsstand you will find books of instructions for playing tennis, golf, swimming, and so on. This information is easy to read and digest—but do you feel that you could perform these muscular activities just by knowing about them?
Dancing deals with the muscles, too. You can pick up steps just by watching them—or reading their description… but you will have your knowledge in your head only. Your feet and your body cannot respond to your will and desire alone—your muscles must first be trained to obey your command.
Men who want to be good dancers must learn only their own part—and train their muscles to follow the steps they choose to do. But ladies are in a different position… they must be able to follow many partners—some tall, some short; some with a great variety of intricate steps, some with a weak lead and faltering steps.
The way to become an alert, agile partner—ready to follow anyone, is to train your muscles to obey quickly and to strengthen them to support you in any direction you choose to move.
You cannot dance merely by wanting to—any more than you can be a fine tennis player just because you know the rules and know that the game is fun to play.
To exercise sufficiently takes character and determination. It takes enthusiasm, too. If you really want to be a far better than average dancer—one who is sought out as a partner—you will study these exercises carefully. They are a sure means of training your dancing muscles quickly and effectively. Remember, no one can do it for you… but once you’ve achieved your ambition to be an attractive, popular partner—everyone will envy you.
Here are eight (the first two in this part) exercises for you to use—you will find it more entertaining to do them in front of your mirror, in time with music.
Have you ever wondered why some girls look better standing than others do? Or, have you ever wished that you knew how to stand when someone takes your snapshot?
Count One of this exercise will give you the same standing posture that the best photographers’ models use. Count Two will give you the backstep technique of an exhibition dancer.
To make your feet look well as you stand, train your heels to always come together. The toes should be turned out and the knees should touch each other. Look in your mirror!
On the count of One, bring your heels together so that your knees touch and your toes point outward. Now, on the count of Two, kick your right foot as far back as possible—toe pointed out and leading. Return to correct position of Count One. Repeat this same movement with your left foot and continue in time to slow Foxtrot music.
This is an exercise that will train your feet and ankles to look attractive from any angle. It will teach you to automatically turn your toes outward—a definite “must” for any girl who wants to look well while dancing.
Place your feet together as in Exercise 1. Take a peek in your mirror to see how you’re doing. Then, step backward with your left foot, counting One—draw your right foot up to your left, counting Two.
Now try the same thing with your right foot back.
Repeat this movement, going backward around the room. Don’t forget that your toes must be turned outward.
This back step may seem exaggerated to you… but remember that most of your partners are going to walk you backward very often. You must prepare your muscles to carry you easily.
Don’t start off on the wrong foot! The man always starts with his left foot—the girl with her right. Easy? Sure, if you know your left from your right… do you?
Don’t, ladies, oh don’t hang your full weight on your partner’s arm… he can’t dance for both of you. You’re a big girl now—balance on your own two feet and support your own weight. If you can’t, then stay home and take your vitamins.
Don’t, brother, don’t walk forward all the time. Your girl friend will get mighty tired of backing up all evening. Try strolling backward for five minutes straight and you’ll get the idea.
Don’t criticize your partner’s dancing… this goes for all genders. Finding fault with the other fellow is a sure sign of a beginner—or worse, of a sourpuss.
Don’t, little lady, blame your crushed toe on your partner. Maybe your back steps are too short. Test yourself—are the toes of your new slippers soiled already? Then, practice long steps, stretching back with your toes. Get out of his way!
Don’t be a sad-eyed Sammy or a sour-apple Sue. The dance floor is a place for fun… do your worrying on your own time. Smile now… or you’re apt to have no one to smile with.
Don’t, ladies, believe for a minute that all you have to do is relax. To relax is to collapse. Be alert, full of pep, on your toes—then you’ll be fun to dance with!
Don’t forget that the best position for dancing is the same as for walking—keep erect. Dancing with hips ‘way back is out-of-date. Besides, remember the stag line’s view… you owe something to your public!
Don’t clutch your partner’s hand too firmly. You may not know your own strength! And, ladies, don’t take a death grip on the poor guy’s thumb… you’ve got him safely hooked for the dance—he can’t get away.
Don’t hum or sing loudly—you’re only an inch from your partner’s ear. Humming or singing is fine if you’re good enough to compete with the orchestra. But if you aren’t sure of the tune or the words, do your warbling in the shower. Soaping and singing make a swell duet.
Don’t be a butterfly, little lady. You have arms, not wings. A loose hold will make you miss the lead and stumble. What a comedown that will be! Hold your left hand in a firm grip on the back of your partner’s shoulder… you’ll keep your balance and your partner’s praise.
Don’t hug the floor! Lift your feet! Lift your feet a fraction of an inch off the floor and move through the air. Air offers no resistance—therefore, you can step lightly and effortlessly. Lift your feet slightly for graceful dancing.
Don’t keep apologizing. When you make a mistake, say “I’m sorry”—but just say it once. If you protest: “Gee, I’m clumsy” too often—someone may believe you.
Don’t expect a happy home life if you dance once with your wife—and then park her for the evening. You know what happens when cars are parked too long… they get cold; they gag and splutter, their carburetors overflow and their feed-lines don’t work right for a long, long time.
Married couples shouldn’t dance together for the whole evening. But, the way to do it gracefully is to change partners with another couple. Four divides into two-and-two… and a much better combination than three.
Don’t go to extremes. A stately tread belongs in marble halls… bouncing high is for the village green. They are both too exaggerated for present day dancing.
Dancers used to hop high in the days of the Galop, Polka, and Leaping Waltz. Then, fashions changed and swung far the other way. Dancing became overly conservative, dignified. Every step seemed meticulously measured.
With this vogue for dignity—in about 1900—came the theory that good dancers must not lift their feet. Dancing teachers of the day preached: “Do not permit a crack of light to show between your feet and the floor.”
This certainly made dull dancing. How can you dance lightly, with expression and animation, when your feet scrape the floor? Yet, even today, some pupils look surprised and skeptical when I tell them they must lift their feet while dancing.
Good balance is the ability to maintain your equilibrium easily, lightly. If you have ever noticed a small child, toddling about, you have seen that it takes times before a steady, upright walk is achieved. We learn to balance our weight through practice.
Before we go on, supposing you try this simple balance test. Place your weight on the toes of one foot, raising the other foot off the floor several inches, either forward or backward. Do you feel as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar? Most people cannot hold this pose, without wavering, for more than a few seconds.
But, good balance is easy to acquire. In dancing, there are just two things necessary… first, to strengthen the muscles of the toes which carry your weight—second, and for girls only, learn to use your left hand as ballast—to give you added support.
Both men and women can improve their balance and strengthen their toe muscles by dancing alone and by practicing the exercises in this book. Many men feel self-confident—they are not afraid of being wallflowers because they know that they can always ask a girl to dance. But, if those men who “get by” with poor dancing could hear what their partners say about them in the Powder Room, they might be more anxious to improve their technique.
Strengthening the toe muscles will serve you well in other fields than dancing. Good balance is required for football, basketball, tennis, skating, boxing, track, and golf. Further, good balance gives you an attractive and tireless walking posture.
Try the “balance test” again; placing your weight on the toes of one foot, with the other foot extended in the air. Now place your left hand on the top of your dresser or on the back of a chair. It’s easy to stand steadily now, isn’t it?
When you dance, train yourself to hold your left hand very firmly on the back of your partner’s shoulder. Don’t be afraid, you will not seem heavy. He will not feel the slightest discomfort from that pressure. Instead, you will seem lighter to him. If you would like to prove this to yourself, lead one of your girl friends. Have her hold onto your shoulder, steadying her full weight with her left hand. You will find that you can lead her easily, even if she drops her right arm completely.
This is the first bit of training that I give to every female teacher in our studios. My experience has been that I must repeat this warning several times to each girl… Hold your left hand firmly on the back of your partner’s right shoulder!
It is annoying to be told to “stand up straight”. Yet, we all envy the appearance of those with good posture. When a person wants to look his best, they automatically lifts their head and stand tall and erect. There is no trick to achieving perfect carriage—it’s easy to learn. Then, once it becomes a habit, it is yours forever.
An army man needs no uniform to display his soldierly bearing. Through practice, he has developed fine posture. You can tell at a glance that he’s a military man.
Dancing, like military training, accustoms the body to fall in line, without the necessity of effort or reminders. Very few people can train themselves to adopt good posture, by willpower alone. If you walk along the street and think: “I must stand more erect”—you do so, but for a few moments only. As soon as you stop thinking about it, you slump back into your old ways.
But when you take up a new muscular activity, such as dancing, which constantly requires correct posture, you have the chance of a lifetime to replace old, faulty habits with new and good ones. It is a good idea to practice new dance steps in front of a mirror—your reflection will prompt you to adopt an attractive and flattering position. Before you know it, good posture will come quite naturally to you.
Dancing needs soul—not soles. You have seen couples whose feet fairly fly. That’s fun! If they can do it, you can, too. Practice will put wings on your feet.
Pumping your arms or flouncing your elbows betrays an unconscious attempt to keep time to the music because your feet can’t do it. Train yourself to be nimble and quick—don’t accept substitutes!
Swaying the body from the hips is fine for high school calisthenics. A good dancer moves from the hips down.
A rose by any other name would be just as lovely—provided it has an upright stem to show it off. To droop is to wilt… keep your head and shoulders up.
Good dancers float through the air—but they do it through training and practice. It can’t be done by sheer luck or sheer dresses. A smiling glance in yoru direction may mean amusement—not admiration.
Rising too high on your toes will make you look and feel tense and stiff. Try walking around the room, perched unnaturally high on your toes—do you like the effect?
This is “for men only”! A lady dresses to suit you—not to be spread-eagled over your suit. Avoid deep dips and brusque or sudden motions. She’s dressed for dancing, not for wrestling.
Do not bend your knees any more in dancing than in walking. A bent knee may make the wrong impression on your partner.
Placing your feet apart will give you a firm stance in golf—but too firm a stand for dancing. Plant your feet in neat rows, close together, and you’ll harvest a crop of admiration.
Heavy, heavy, hangs the partner who cannot lift feet from floor. If you drag along—or scrape—or hug the floor; you cannot float or glide. Practice new steps by exaggerating the lifting motion of your feet.
Above all, be natural. Remember that the other dancers are busy enjoying themselves, not looking to criticize you. Let yourself go with the music and your partner.
This is not meant for ladies only. Watch a tennis player, swimmer, skater—even a boxer—and you will realize that men can be graceful, too. To be graceful means to move lightly and without effort. We are not born with this ability; it comes only through training and strengthening the muscles.
When you train to gain muscular control, your movements must be exaggerated at the start. A football player, who wants to be able to kick a ball accurately, at the height of his waist, practices until he can kick as high as his head. Then the lower distance seems so easy that he can reach it with no effort at all.
Good dancers not only feel graceful to their partners but they also look graceful in the motion. Study and practice these pointers—they will help you acquire a smooth, smart dancing appearance. Remember, exaggerate at the start and you will reach perfection with ease.
How To Use Your Feet Gracefully
- Lead with your toes moving forward, backward, and to the sides. Actually stretch from the ankle until your muscles can feel the pull. Dance about the room, practicing this motion.
- Keep your toes turned slightly outward. This is not a natural position; it will take conscious effort to acquire it.
- Your toes should always touch the floor first, whether you are dancing forward, backward, or to the side. Avoid a flat-footed step!
- Always keep your feet at close together as the step permits. Even when your feet are moving in different directions, you will note that they should pass closely—almost brushing against each other—rather than to be spread at an angle.
This secret of graceful footwork is important to you. Read the preceding paragraph again. Then try the step in front of your mirror. See how different it looks when your feet pass close together.
Graceful Body Motion
Body motion is governed entirely by the movement of your feet. In walking, when you step forward with your left foot, your right arm moves forward. You don’t have to stop and think about it—it is automatic.
Therefore, don’t attempt to acquire graceful body movement by consciously swaying from the waist. This won’t work. Strive for graceful footwork and your body will naturally and easily move in a graceful dancing position.
Don’t be afraid of your partner!
For Men: girls want to be launched… they want to step out on the floor with a partner. That’s why they dress up for dances. You may not be a Fred Astaire, but you’re a mighty welcome sight to the girl you choose. She’s willing to go your way… so don’t grip her like a boa constrictor—she wants to stay with you! Use about as firm a grip as you would if you were helping her down a bus step—or across the street. That’s firm enough!
For Ladies: Don’t grip him so hard that he thinks he’s your last chance. There is only one spot for a strong hold… and that is to take a firm grip, with your left hand, on the back of his right shoulder.
Don’t worry, if you’re the leader, about how you will get in step with the music. All good dancers pause, in dance position, at the beginning. They listen to the tempo before they start. There is no law that says you must start with the very first note that the orchestra plays. Listen first. Remember that the distinctive rhythm of each type of music repeats itself every three or four seconds. You’re bound to hear it.
Start off with your left foot on the accented—or heaviest—beat in the music. If you miss the first one, wait for the next. In foxtrot, the first of every three beats is the most definite.
Don’t worry about the onlookers when you step out on the floor. The other dancers are too interested in themselves to pay attention to you and the “kibitzers” are too busy wishing they had partners. If you know your own part, you and your partner will feel well and look well… so, let yourself go straight ahead for fun and good times.
Little ladies often complain about their lack of height—but they never remember the advantages they have. Just think of it—no partner is ever the wrong size… men of all sizes are possible partners.
Even the smallest girl, whose vision is bounded by vest buttons, can be a comfortable, adjustable partner to a six-foot-plus. Here are confidential hints to pint-sizers:
- Train yourself to dance on the tips of your toes instead of balancing your weight on the soles of your feet. Practice this, at home and alone, until you can stretch and reach smoothly.
- Always imagine that you are trying to touch the ceiling with the top of your head. Stretch high up, from the waist, to gain height.
- Here is the most valuable tip of all… LEAD WITH YOUR TOES! You can actually see in your mirror that by reaching back, with your big toe leading, that you have lengthened your step from four to six inches. By doing this, your steps will be as long as those taken by a girl five inches taller than you are! Happy now?
- Hold your elbows as high as you can. Practice alone, holding your arms bent in partner position—as high up as possible. Exaggerate… and your muscles will be strengthened and ready for the real thing.
- Always hold firmly with your left hand at the back of your partner’s shoulder. No matter how hard you grip—it will be welcome to him. All men find it easier to lead a girl who holds firmly to their right shoulders.
- Never take short steps. Practice until you can step forward, backward, and to each side with a long, graceful stride. (Toes leading.)
(Just to cheer you up—many of our famous exhibition dancers aren’t over 5 feet 2.)
One characteristic that is admired in American girls is their height and fine bearing. Whereas most short girls yearn to be taller—few tall girls would trade places with them. Tall girls should be proud of their size… they should remember that models, who are selected for beauty of appearance, are always well above average height.
However, short men do avoid dancing with girls who tower above them. They are afraid of looking insignificant and comic—even when they secretly admire the girl’s appearance.
Tall girls can be smart—they can seem shorter to partners whenever they choose. Here are two pointers that work:
- Keep your elbows low when you dance. You will appear shorter because your partners will not have to reach upward for dancing position. But, practice this with your girl friends first so you can avoid resting your arms heavily on your partner.
- Without changing your natural standing posture in any way, let your knees bend slightly. This will reduce your height by several inches. Practice in private!
Perhaps you will feel that these suggestions do not enhance your appearance. But, if I were a lass, and had to choose between pleasing my partner or the onlookers, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment. I’d forget my appearance, if need be, and stand so that my partner would feel comfortable and would want to dance with me again.
Bent knees, by the way, will not show with long skirts.
Dangers For Tall Ladies To Avoid
Tall ladies should never try to appear smaller by leaning forward. This will make you difficult to lead, whether your partner is tall or short. Your hips and feet will be too far apart from your partner’s and you will not only look, but feel awkward in all steps. It is an impossible position in which to follow turning steps.
Do not take short steps. No matter how tall you are, you can never take too long a step… don’t worry—your partner’s right hand will act as a safety break.
Be proud of your height—and carry it proudly!
I once met a girl who was very unhappy. She said to me: “I don’t understand it, Mr. Murray, boys never cut-in on me but I know I can dance—why, I can follow anyone.” I dance with her and found that she could follow, provided that I led her in the few simple steps with which she was familiar. As soon as I attempted anything more advanced, she was at a complete loss.
I asked her: “Do most of your partners do these same steps I’ve been doing with you?”
“Why yes,” she said. “That’s exactly the way they dance.”
So I explained to her that her partners were held down—they could only do those few steps because those were all she could follow. I showed her that I could not lead her in any of my other steps without having her falter or stumble.
That girl is only one of the many girls and women who believe that they can follow anyone… and then they wonder why they are not in demand as partners.
A man is limited in his dancing to what his partner can do. He finds it dull and uninteresting when he is hampered in his choice of steps—and bound down by his partner’s lack of knowledge. Here is a list of pointers that will help you to become a popular dancer, sought-after over and over again. Note that the very first essential is in Rule 1.
10 Rules For Following
- Know the basic steps and their possible combinations. Isn’t it logical that you cannot dance well with a man until you are familiar with the steps he will do?
- Next, give your partner a feeling of freedom in his forward steps—keep your feet out of his way. You can develop a long, free, swinging backward step. Try it… step back as far as possible, toes leading. Keep your foot off the floor until you step with your weight on it. Exaggerate by lifting your feet high off the floor as you practice.
- Let your toes lead! Look at your foot when you take a plain walking step. Now watch what happens when you stretch with your toes. It is a simple matter of arithmetic… you can add actual inches to your step by merely pointing your toes. Practice a long, graceful stride backward, forward, and to each side—letting your big toe point the way.
- Here’s another foot-note… practice dancing on your toes—it will help to make you lighter.
- Be ready for the next step—come what may. Want to know how? Don’t slide your feet along the floor—lift and pass them through the air instead. Invest in practicing this… it pays big dividends in popularity with partners.
- A short step may seem dainty to you but it will spell disaster to your dancing. Prove this to yourself by leading one of your girl friends. Tell her to take short steps—it will convince you immediately why you need to develop a long dancing stride.
- Track down the true meaning of the word “relax”. Try relaxing while you stand in front of a mirror. Do you look like a dancer, full of life and spirit? You can bet you don’t! When you relax, your body sags—if you were with a partner, your full weight would drop on him. Dancing is motion—pep it up!
- The opposite of complete relaxation is “tenseness”. But, you cannot cure a stiff, tense body by commanding it to relax. Tenseness comes from a feeling of insecurity and from a lack of training. Learning the steps will give you security and confidence… practicing the “Exercises” in this book will give you training. Don’t envy popular girls—rival them!
- This should have a page to itself—so don’t overlook it. It is the answer on how to have good balance. No girl can be a pleasure to lead until she can balance her own weight. It’s a pity that so few girls know that their balance is in their own hands!
Simply hold firmly with your left hand just in back of your partner’s right shoulder. Hold on very firmly—he won’t feel your weight, I promise you.
- Learn your steps and train your muscles on your own time. Then you will be automatically limber and ready to follow a partner—without a thought of your feet or your steps. He’s the leader… don’t be ahead of him or drag after him—just dance with him.
To Be A Good Dancer—
- Keep your feet out of your partner’s way. Develop a strong, free, swinging step by stretching your toes backward. The easy, graceful step is taken by leading with the big toe, backward.
- Move naturally, easily, comfortably. Don’t be self-conscious or stiff. Don’t think the other couples are watching you. They’re probably concentrating on themselves and each other.