The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Tips To Hold Your Partner

There is nothing mysterious about “how to hold your partner” in dancing. Your position should be guided by comfort, common sense, and convention—and that is all there is to it.

Outside of a few eccentric crazes like the Bunny Hug, Charleston, Black Bottom, and so on, position in ballroom dancing hasn’t changed appreciably in the past 30 years.

Youngsters have always had fads in their dancing style. One year you may find young girls leaving their right arms outstretched, palms up—as though feeling for raindrops. By the next season they will have forgotten that fad and will adopt another distinctive style.

Some youngsters assume exaggerated dancing positions merely to cover their embarrassment at not knowing what to do. As their dancing improves, they will drop affectations. Young people are more comfortable when they dance exactly as their friends do—wise parents realize this and overlook short-lived styles.

In this book we are concerned only with presenting to you the quickest and easiest means of becoming a good dancer—popular with all partners. A correct dancing position will help to make this possible.

  1. You can practice correct dancing position very easily in your own room, without a partner. Face a mirror and stand erect. Don’t strain—simply stand naturally and comfortably as though you were about to walk down the street. Now rise so that your weight is placed evenly on the soles of your shoes—no weight on your heels. Hum a popular tune and walk about in time to the rhythm until you feel fully at ease.
  2. You will find it helpful to raise your arms in typical dancing position as you practice alone. Do not hold your elbows unnaturally high—it is tiring, unnecessary, and out-of-date. Glance in the mirror and you will see that a medium elbow-height forms the most graceful line.
  3. Looking at yourself standing erect, with your arms up, will remind you to hold yourself tall. Good dancing posture is flattering. It will help you form the habit of holding your head high, with your chest out and chin in. Bring out the best in your looks!
  4. Remember to keep your heels off the floor as much as possible. A flat-footed, firm stance belongs on the golf course—not on the dance floor. Keeping your weight over the soles of your feet will make you feel quicker and lighter as a partner.
  5. Here is one of the most important things for you to remember. Without this, you can never hope to be a good dancer or to even “get by” in appearance. Keep your feet close together, unless you are taking a definite step to the side. Walk toward your mirror in dance position… see how you look when your feet are apart. It’s not a pretty sight, is it? Now, walk again and make a conscious effort to pass your feet closely together. Are you sold on why this is so important in dancing?
  6. For graceful dancing, you must learn to turn your toes out, rather than in. Again, a peek at your mirror will convince you why this looks better.
  7. Now is the time for you to stop worrying. You have seen yourself as others see you, so you should feel secure and ready for teamwork with a partner. When dancing with someone, adopt the position that is most comfortable for both of you. Not so close together that you have no freedom of movement—but not too far apart.
  8. Do not curl your arm under your partner’s. Fancy, trick holds should be put away with your high school diploma.
  9. A man leads best when he holds his partner in front of him or an inch or so to his right… no tape measure necessary… we’re dancing for fun!
  10. Easy does it. Don’t plan to lean forward or backward—just assume a natural, comfortable position and your partner will find you a natural, comfortable dancing companion.

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Tips To Keeping Time

You Can Learn To Keep Time!

People sometimes like to brag about their deficiencies. They will say, proudly: “I have terrible handwriting” …or… “I have no memory—I can never think of a person’s name.” In the studio, we often hear this said: “But, I can’t carry a tune on a bet!”

The ability to carry a tune is not a necessary factor in learning to dance. To dance, you must simply be able to keep time to the music. And if you can march to band music—you can keep time to dance music.

The unfortunate belief that they have “no sense of rhythm” keeps many people from enjoying the pleasures of dancing. Yet, every normal person is born with a sense of rhythm. In some cases, it may need developing but it’s there. Forget about the idea that you must have a knowledge of music—nine out of ten good dancers don’t know one note from another, yet they can keep time.

If You Can’t Carry a Tune

Remember this: dancers do not keep time to the melody or the tune of a song. The high and low notes have nothing to do with it. The count in dancing is determined by the beat or tempo of the music.

So, if you can’t sing, hum, or whistle a simple tune like “Yankee Doodle”, don’t despair. It won’t keep you from becoming a good dancer, although it should keep you from singing in your partner’s ear!

Here are two simple ways to train yourself to keep time:

  1. Beat time with your foot.

Sit next to your radio and listen to any dance music. Imagine that you are the drummer and simply beat time with your foot on the floor as though you were hitting the pedal of the bass drum. Tap your hand on the chair arm at the same time. Keep tapping to different types of music until it becomes automatic to follow the drum beat.

  1. Walk in time to Foxtrot music.

After you have learned to beat time, walk around the room, dancing one step to each beat. Do this in private, so that you will not feel self-conscious. Try talking to several different songs. In a surprisingly short while, your feet will “carry the tune” easily.

And that’s all there is to keeping time in music!

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: The Importance Of Knowing Steps As A Follower

Why Girls Too Must Know The Steps

Whenever I hear a woman say: “All I need is a good leader”… I know that she is probably a poor dancer and that partners steer clear of her.

“Leading” must be a misleading word—so many girls confuse it with “dragging”! The leader is merely the one who chooses the steps and guides his partner into them. But, unless his partner is alert and ready to dance with him, she becomes a tag-along, an extra weight to be carried around.

A girl cannot dance with her partner until she knows what she is doing. She can test her own knowledge by trying to dance alone to music or by leading a girl partner. If she feels helpless by herself, she can tell immediately that she does not know her own part. It will be safer for her to refuse invitations until she has learned what she needs to make her popular and fun to have as a partner.

Once a girl becomes interested in the steps themselves, she will enjoy learning. She will begin to notice dancing technique on the stage, the screen, and among her friends. Only a good dancer knows the thrill of accomplishment… poor dancers don’t know what they are missing. The more steps a girl knows, the more spontaneity she will show in her dancing.

A girl who is not animated strikes a negative response. Partners do not return willingly to her and social evenings are a gamble… will she be popular or not? It is a pity for a girl to take a chance when a little effort can make her confident and sure. A girl who can do the steps alone will never be left alone at a dance.

Secrets That Will Help a Girl Become a Good Dancer

  • Convince yourself that the way to be light is to first strengthen the muscles you use in dancing. Watch an athlete walk across a floor… then watch someone who sits at a desk all day and whose muscles are slack. Which person walks lightly?
  • Prove to yourself that a girl must know the basic steps. Which of your girl friends are better dances… those who know steps and can lead them or those who “don’t know one step from another”?
  • Study this fact… a girl can follow only the steps that are familiar to her. Learn a VARIETY of steps so your partners won’t be held back by you. Variety will put spice in your dancing!
  • Always remember: If you can dance well alone, you can then dance more easily and successfully with a partner. Practice in private—to be popular in public!
  • Remember… a man is used to stepping forward—a girl must step backward most of the time!
  • Stepping backward is not a natural motion—it must be practiced. But, once a girl can step back properly, her feet will never be in her partner’s way. Besides, a girl cannot look graceful until she does master a long, free back step.
  • A girl always starts with her right foot. Be ready! Practice your back walk alone, starting with your right foot and reaching far back with your toes.
  • Take extremely long steps during your practice work. Stretch from your ankle with every step you take. Exaggerate when you are alone—then a normally long step will become second nature to you.
  • Don’t believe for a minute that you can “get by” by simply following a partner. Thousands of girls make this mistake—but none of the popular girls do. Decide now to spend a little time an effort to become the kind of dancer you’d like to be. You can do it—make up your mind to try!
  • Remember: Confidence comes only with knowledge. Your partner, too, will have confidence in you if you are sure of yourself.

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Walking Tips

How To Walk Correctly In Dancing

There is never any reason to fear that you and your partner may falter or stumble at the beginning of a dance. Simply remember that a man always starts with his left foot… the girl, facing him, starts with her right foot.

Most men start each dance by walking forward, left foot first. So girls can be prepared and ready to walk backward, right foot first.

When You Dance:

  • Lift your feet slightly off the floor in all walking steps. Never let them scrape or drag on the floor.
  • When you walk backward, never let your heels touch the floor at all. When you walk forward, your heels may touch—but only after your toes have touched the floor first.
  • While you are learning, practice by walking only on the ball of the foot. You must emphasize this at the start… then, when you become proficient, your natural walking steps will be graceful, light, and comfortable.
  • Emphasize and exaggerate only during your practice. When dancing with a partner, walk naturally without conscious strain or effort.
  • To give spring to your walking steps, practice rising up and down on your toes while taking long, slow walking steps around the room.

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Good Dancers Are Popular!

Stop and think a moment—do you know anyone who is a good dancer who is not outstandingly popular? I doubt that you do. And that is the main reason why people want to be good dancers. There is nothing so thrilling in life as to be popular with friends and sought after as a companion.

It’s Fun To Dance!

It’s easy to understand why good dancers are in demand. Just watch any crowd on a ballroom floor. Those who can dance well look happy—they seem in tune with the gaiety and music. Not only are they enjoying themselves, but their partners are having a fine time, too. People like to dance—they are born with a deep and inherent love of moving to rhythm.

There’s nothing new about dancing—it is as old as mankind. Dancing used to have a serious side back in the dark ages. Primitive man had a different dance for every phase of emotion… his religion, superstition, grief, hate, happiness, and love. Dancing has lived in every age, every class of life. High school students are always amused when they study the life of Socrates, the ancient philosopher—they can hardly believe their eyes when they read that he danced, too!

Physical Benefits of Dancing

We dance because it’s fun—that’s reason enough. But, dancing is also an easy, delightful form of exercise. Good dancers develop supple grace and superb muscle tone by using the muscles of the diaphragm, arms, shoulders, legs, and ankles. Dancing is closely related to rhythmic sports such as tennis, skating, and boxing.

Why Doctors Prescribe Dancing

Because dancing is so easy to learn and such a relaxing exercise, doctors prescribe it for many types of patients. A shy, awkward adolescent can become a graceful, well poised youth once he becomes confident of himself as a dancer. Middle-aged people who have slumped, given up, and “let themselves go” can gain a new, vigorous, youthful posture and personality through a re-awakened interest in dancing. Certain physical impairments can be improved and corrected by dancing… it is used toward attaining better posture; strengthening weak arches and developing strong, graceful legs.

Dancing Lasts a Lifetime!

Now and then I have heard pupils complain of the “routine” involved in learning. Basic fundamentals are necessary in the beginning—just as you must learn to hold a golf club or tennis racquet before you can play. But, once you have really learned to dance, it becomes something you will never forget. We often see white-haired couples doing a beautiful Waltz, just as proficiently as they did years ago. No matter how old a person is he can still move with youthful grace on the dance floor. Isn’t it worth the effort of mastering the fundamentals to gain a lifetime of pleasure?

Don’t Envy Others

I have never met any person who could not learn to become a fine dancer. You have the same natural ability that others have and good dancing is within your reach. Make up your mind today not to lose out on pleasure. Be a good dancer—have more fun out of life!