Occasionally a dance teacher describes a movement or a technique in a manner that works for other people but not for me. I think this happens because they omit key details in their explanation. I tend to miss or completely misunderstand details, so naturally, I do the technique incorrectly and miss the point.
For example, in Argentine tango I learned to keep my shoulders parallel to the leader’s shoulders in order to keep the frame and follow better. I had a heck of a time trying to keep track of both my shoulders relative to the leader’s. Today, almost a year after I stopped doing Argentine tango for unrelated reasons, I finally figured out the key technique that might have made everything easier for me (assuming it’s actually correct): Concentrate on keeping the center of my chest connected the center of the leader’s chest — not literally touching, but connected as if by a laser beam. Then I only have to worry about one point instead of two shoulders. Maybe I really did learn it in class and just didn’t pay attention or totally forgot about it for a year.
Another example: Activate the lats to improve connection, yet how do I activate my lats? I’ve never successfully done a pull-up in my life. I know where to find my latissimus dorsi, and I can squeeze them, but just squeezing them takes more effort than I want to expend during a dance. I finally found the answer when someone told me tonight to keep my elbows pointed down and low and imagine a string connecting the elbows to the body. I’ve always tried to keep my elbows pointed down (more direct power connection), but keeping them low activated the lats without making me squeeze uncomfortably. (Nevertheless, keeping my elbows low is still a bit uncomfortable. Oh, well.) That, combined with trying to keep my shoulders back, activates the lats.
To be fair, I might have figured out the latter example much earlier if I had actually tried the exercise of holding a tennis ball under my armpit as taught in the dance class I attended and also in tai chi class years ago, but keeping the elbows low and connected just seems like a much more direct tip. You don’t even need a prop.