What Is A Dancing ‘Figure’?

What Is A Dancing ‘Figure’

Dancing language can often sound like a strange code. With the right guidance and teaching, it is very easy to learn, and anybody can pick it up. Today, we delve into the meaning of a word that every keen dancer will quickly become very familiar with. The figure. What is it, and what does it mean?

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What Is A ‘Figure’?

A figure is often referred to as a ‘basic movement’. This refers to a set way of performing a textbook step. If you are completely new to dancing, you might find it helpful to think of a figure as being similar to a swimming stroke. Breaststroke, front crawl, and butterfly will all get you through the water, but they will do it in very different ways. Dancing figures are similarly formulaic. Latin and ballroom dancing is composed of sequences of figures. These are blended together into the beautiful performance that we refer to as a dance. Choreography will usually combine at least fifteen figures into one performance. For professional dancers, the number can be a lot higher!

What Are The Main Figures?

The types of figure depend on the type of dance that you are doing. Some terms that many people know are box step, chassé, closed change, contra body movement position (CBMP), and everybody’s favourite – dosado! The word dosado (dos-à-dos) is actually French for ‘back-to-back’, and lots of figures have unusual or imported names such as this, which can seem a little strange. Other curious names include the hockey stick, and ‘the walk’. The walk is where most dancers begin their careers, and you can see an excellent example of it here. Each of these figures represents a particular way of controlling and moving the body and the feet. Even for basic figures such as the walk, posture, poise, and tension are vital, which is why dancers require professional dance shoes.

How Can I Learn The Figures?

Most teachers will follow one of the set ‘schools’ of Ballroom dancing. The most well known is the International Style Standard, although you will also hear about the American Style, Smooth, and Rhythm. Each type of dance within each of these has its own set of figures. Beginners start at the Pre-Bronze level, which involves some crucial and lovely steps. These include figures such as the natural spin turn, which have novice dancers feeling like they own the dance boards very quickly. The highest level – Gold – includes some very tricky moves. Dancers work their way through each type of dance as they gradually build their figures into a masterpiece.

The trick to learning figures is to practice. Again, again, and again is the order of the day: systematic, methodical, and focused. Practice really does work and is the framework that underpins every successful professional dancer. For this, it is imperative to have excellent practice shoes and a good teacher. Mastering figures is as much about mastering posture, and this is challenging to do without guidance.

Next Steps

Learning to dance is an unforgettable journey. Feet are the main players, so look after them by choosing your shoes carefully. Take a look through our professional dance footwear selection to find a good fit for you.

Image source: Pixabay

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