Size Matters: Dance Partners Taller/Shorter Than You

Throughout my active ballroom dancing career, I stood at 5’10”.  For that reason, I was considered to be a tall woman.  As a ballroom dance professional, I’ve danced with many shorter fellas.  Of course, I’ve also danced with much taller men.  Because size matters if there’s a significant difference in partner’s heights, here are some tips to make things work.

If size matters, what are some of the issues?

Let’s begin with underarm turns.

The woman turns under her arm, not the leader’s arm. In fact, the leader does his underarm turns the same way, by going under his own arm.

Free spins can substitute for underarm turns. A free spin is first led by a short windup in the opposite direction of the turn. Then, the partners compress into each others hand followed by a release to a spin with no hand hold.

Body contact is not always possible.

When ballroom dance partners are not a good fit as far as their height is concerned, adjustments have to be made. For one thing, it’s not possible to have good body contact in the Smooth dances when one partner has long legs while the other has short. If that’s the case, the bodies will not line up to allow for a comfortable dance position. This makes a strong case for relaxing the frame.

Another thing to consider is a shorter dancer won’t be able to take the longer strides a taller partner might enjoy. Once again, compromise is the name of the game.

For a Good Fit, Relax the Frame

Ballroom dancers must keep a good frame. The frame is how the arms are held while dancing. A good, solid frame from the leader lets the follower know where to move. His partner’s strong frame offers the resistance needed for following. This is how the couple moves as one.

So, we’ve gotta have a good frame. However, the difference in heights makes it impossible to hold it straight. The taller person will keep a strong frame, but he or she will have to lower it to be comfortable with their partner. In other words, the elbows will point a little towards the floor.

Notice the couple on the left.
He’s much taller, so he relaxes his frame for his partner’s comfort.

To Heel or Not to Heel – Shoes Matter

If you’re a lady on the taller side who loves to dance, you might want to consider wearing a shorter heel or flats when you go out.  It’s just a suggestion.  

Take it from me, it’s sometimes hard for a tall lady to get all the dances she’d like.  If wearing a shorter heel or flats helps, why not?  

A picture of a cute shoe with a shorter heel proves getting a good fit doesn't have to be unattractive.
Here’s a cute shoe with a low heel.

On the other hand, if the lady is a bit shorter, it would be smart for her to wear a good-sized heel so she’ll be a good fit for a taller partner. Again, level the playing field, so to speak.

Anything else?

Yes. One way to get around the size matters thing is to consider dancing Rhythm or Club dances with a taller/shorter partner. Cha Cha, Swing, Salsa, and Bachata are some examples of great dances. And, in these dances, size doesn’t matter. They’re more relaxed. Once you figure out the turns and spins, they’re fun and easy.

Size matters:  Here's an example of a relaxed Swing where the man has about a foot on the lady.
Here’s an example of a relaxed Swing where the man has about a foot on the lady.

Don’t avoid the dance floor. Big girls, little guys or big men, little ladies all deserve to have a good time on the dance floor. Just do it!

One last thing, this is a cool post about acquiring a “tall personality“.

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