"Spaghetti Arms" - What is this?
Have you heard the term "spaghetti arms"? If you are in the dance world you would know what this means. Just in case you have not heard of this, "spaghetti
arms" is the lack of tension or firmness in your arms or dance frame.
This situation ("spaghetti arms") is extremely common amongst beginners. Teaching proper arm tension is actually not that difficult. It is putting what you
learned (proper arm tension) into actual practice is the hard part. Having proper arm tension while dancing is one of the hardest technique to master in partner
What is this "spaghetti arms" exactly? Let me put it to you this way, your arms act like noodles! Imagine it. Flimsy! Definitely not firm at all. So if your
dance partner gives you a signal to turn, you won't read (feel) that signal at all and won't be able to follow that lead. Why? It is because you were not able to
"feel" the lead. When your arms are "flimsy" (like a spaghetti thus the term "spaghetti arms"), you will not be able to "feel" the command
(lead) from your partner.
As a simple test, ask your partner to stand in front of you. Raise your right hand (each of you) in front of each other and connect palm to palm. Do not grab a
hold of each other. Just palm to palm flat hands. The connection should be around the shortest partners' shoulder height and somewhere in the middle of both
of you. You two might have be slightly offset and not directly in front of each other. The "lead" will now push on the follower's palm indicating a backward
motion to the follower. If the follower's arm goes back (meaning the elbow passes the rib cage) and it feels like a feather to the lead and the follower doesn't
move backward then that is spaghetti arm. There is no "connection". The reverse would be is that when the lead pushes, the follower's arm has
firmness/tension and she "feels" the lead indicating that she is instructed to move backward, she can then move backward, following the lead. Now there is
connection. The arm and body were one. The arm was moved and the body went with it.
As you can see from the example above, "spaghetti arms" is a communication killer. Like I say in my classes, the follower pretty much just said "HELL
NO" to the leader if the follower has "spaghetti arms". It is very difficult to dance with a person who has noodle arms. Communication between dance
partners is conveyed thru proper arm tension. There is no communication when "spaghetti arms" is present.
How do you know you have proper tension? This is when your arms are not tired from being stiff and you "feel" the lead and follow the instruction with ease.
Then you know you have it. You know that communication occurred.
It does take time to master proper arm tension. So go out there and keep dancing. Try very hard to "feel" the lead and avoid anticipating anything. You must
train yourself to "feel" the lead. In the end all the hard work will pay off and your dancing experience will rise to a higher and more satisfying level.
John "salseroblanko" Morey
Salsa is on the rise in Huntsville, ALABAMA