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The Secrets to Arm Connection for Salsa & Bachata

Welcome back to the Dance Dojo! Today, I’ve got a quick salsa tip for you focusing on arms and elbows to help you achieve a better connection with your partner. Let’s dive in!

Maintain the Common Center

To maintain your frame…

  • Keep tall posture: stand tall, head up, chest up.
  • Keep your hands in between both of you, the common center.
  • Don’t move your elbows behind your hips/body.
    • It’s uncomfortable and it breaks your frame – you can’t send or receive signals

Hand Position and Connection

Proper hand positioning enhances your connection:

  • Leads: Your hands go underneath the follow’s, palm up or neutral.
  • Follows: Your hands go on top, palm down, responding to the lead’s push and pull.

Balancing Tension in Your Arms

How much weight should you give your partner’s hands?

  • Follows: give your partner the weight of your hands, but not the weight of your entire arm. Don’t hang on the lead’s arm, which can cause discomfort and injury.
  • Practice an elastic connection to feel the right amount of tension: Stand facing each other with your hands held between you, lean back and catch yourselves and then bounce back falling toward each other and catch yourselves again, before you hit each other in the face. Use a natural reactive tension and rotate your palms as necessary (see video). This exercise shows you how much tension you need at any given moment – just enough, you match what the leads gives you.

Tension Will Change Depending On What You’re Doing

Finding the right balance:

  • Minimal Tension: while doing a basic step, no tension is required – just enough to keep your hands touching.
  • Elastic Connection: For moves like open breaks, where you move away from each other, maintain enough tension to create an elastic connection, that’s smooth and comfortable (like the previous exercise).

The Weight Of The Follow’s Hands

To ensure a good hand connection:

  • Relax your arms: Follows should relax their arms so they naturally fall but provide slight weight for connecting with the leads hands. Leads need to relax their arms as well.
  • Finding the right weight:
    • Too light feels like holding a dollar bill – hard to control.
    • Aim for a little bit of weight, like holding a cell phone. That’s much easier to control.

Practicing Smooth Arm Lifts

For effortless turns the follow needs to respond and help life their arms.

  • Follows, be responsive with your arms: When a a lead starts lifting a follow’s arm, the follow should respond and assist the lead by lifting the weight of their arm, while always maintaining the hand connection.
  • Follows, avoid heavy arms: if the follow gives the lead the full weight of their arms, or even pulls down, it’s going to be too hard for the lead to lift their arms to accomplish anything, and it will likely injure the lead’s shoulders.

Elbows Down And Relaxed

Keep your elbows relaxed and pointing down:

  • Elbows down: ensures there’s enough space for turns and avoids shoulder tension.
  • Releases tension in shoulders: allows for quicker, more fluid arm movements and turns.

Demonstration of Proper Elbow Technique (See Video)

Example of relaxed elbows in action:

  • Relaxed Turns: Perform turns with elbows down to maintain fluidity.
  • Avoid Tension: Keeping elbows down prevents shoulder tension and allows for faster arm loops.

Summary: Relax and Connect

Key points to remember:

  • Relaxed Arms: Keep elbows down and relaxed.
  • Maintain Connection: Provide enough weight to maintain hand connection without over-exertion.
  • Mutual Responsibility: Both leads and follows are responsible for the weight of their arms and maintaining their frame and common center.

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