Horses are definitely a first and lasting love, and ballroom dancing is something I’ve learned to love as well. Two unlikely interests with a little more in common than you’d expect. I was reminded of their similarities last week when I brought a horsey friend to dance class with me, and offered equine “subtitles” to the instruction offered. You say ballroom, I say arena. Your partner has two legs, mine has four. Taking the line of dance, or working the rail, either way it’s still a dance between two souls, and a shared love of the right costume! Dancers and riders have a little more in common than we thought!
Commonly used terms appearing in both ballroom dance and horse showing vernacular…
Ballroom v. Riding
CANTER-Particularly in waltz, taking two steps in a three-beat measure, usually step, hold, step. V. Term used in English riding for a three beat gait. This is the same as a lope in Western discipline riding.
JUMP-With a soft knee, straighten leg, rise higher off the floor than in a hop, and return to the floor on the same foot; no weight change. V. A noun or verb indicating either an obstacle for a horse to jump over, or the act of jumping over an obstacle, to jump.
LEAD-The act of directing the woman through a figure or a dance. It involves choosing appropriate steps to suit the music and leading by hand and body signals to complete the chosen steps smoothly and safely. Lead is normally the man’s responsibility. V. When cantering a horse can be on either the right or left lead, depending on which hind leg commenced the motion. If the rear RIGHT leg began the canter, the left rear and right front would hit the ground together, leaving he LEFT front as the third and final beat. Thus the horse would be on the left lead.
LUNGE-Step forward or side, bending knee and checking the movement, maintaining an upward poise in the torso and head. V. Exercising (and training) a horse using a long lunge line attached to the halter, while the handler stands in the center and moves the horse around in a circle at the end of the line.
PIVOT-Usually as a couple, step and rotate on the ball of the supporting foot by turning the upper body. Stepping forward R, one would turn right. Stepping back L, one would turn right. The free leg is extended forward or back. Amount of turn can be very little or 1/2 turn or more. V. A movement in which the forelegs of the travel in a small circle, while the hind legs remain in place, one of them acting as a pivot.
SLIDE-Move the free foot in a given direction with light contact with the floor and take weight. Same as Glide. V. The horse accelerates to a gallop and then suddenly comes to a complete halt, planting its hind feet in the footing and allowing its hind feet to slide several feet, while continuing to let its front feet “walk” forward. The back should be raised upward and hindquarters come well underneath.
SPIN-Rotate on the ball of the supporting foot. The free leg is usually held under the body. The amount of turn varies up to a full turn and sometimes more. V. Beginning from a standstill, the horse spins 360 degrees or more (up to four and one-quarter full turns) in place around its stationary inside hind leg. The hind pivot foot remains in essentially the same location throughout the spin, though the horse will pick it up and put it down as it turns.
TOP LINE-In a dance position, the line created by the head, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. V. The term used to describe the muscle cover over the top of the horse’s neck, back and rump.
For a few examples of some great dancing, check these out…
American Smooth Ballroom