Square dancing is a team activity. It involves establishing appropriate connections between dancers. No matter which hand or arm hold is being used, dancers should always be aware of the need to aim for comfort when interacting with other dancers. This idea has been developed in response to many complaints about handholds that squeeze painfully, thumb grips that bruise arms, and connections that are held too tightly and so long that they cause twisted shoulders and wrists.
Ideally, all connections should be easily released but still provide a sense of unity in the movement. The simplest way to achieve this is to connect using a flat or cupper hand with the thumb adjacent to the hand being relaxed and inactive. Elbows should be bent to provide a springy interaction. Mutually exerted gentle pressure towards the other person’s hand or arm should be enough to provide the desired contact while allowing either dancer to disconnect when they desire. The thumb-lock grip should be strongly discouraged. If that type of hand connection is being used, simply unlock the thumbs and show the dancers how to place their thumb adjacent to their own hand so that each hand cups the base of the other persons thumb.
For those with arthritis, it is important that hands are never squeezed. The human hand has two sets of opposing sides. The palm and the back of the hand is one set, the side with the thumb and the side with the little finger is the other set. If opposing sides of the hand are being touched at the same time, that hand is being squeezed. This is independent of the force being applied. The force applied determines how hard the hand is being squeezed.
It is equally important not to squeeze arms because it can often cause bruising. Although there are not clear sides to an arm, squeezing occurs anytime the thumb and the fingers are on opposite sides of the arm. These factors apply to all the various regional differences in handholds.
Discussing and demonstrating these recommended connections with your dancers and other callers in your area will help promote comfort for all dancers. With awareness and reminders, most dancers will make an effort to adjust their hand connections. This in turn will increase sociability and improve the dancing experience.
( By Dottie Welch )
Editor’s note; Dottie began calling in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1983. She calls and teaches beginners to challenge, as well as contras, school children and seniors. Her goal is interesting and smooth Choreography melded with the music.