Like many communities, the ballroom dance world has a unique language, and this can be confusing when you’re just getting started. Perhaps you’ve heard your teacher mention “CBM” or “CBMP”. These terms can be confusing for many students because they sound similar but refer to completely different actions.
First, let’s discuss CBM. CBM stands for Contra Body Movement. This sounds like a complex notion, but it simply means turning the opposite side of your body toward the moving foot. This action happens quite naturally when you walk. Let’s try it out: walk forward at a brisk pace. As you do, notice that your arms swing forward and back to propel the movement. If you look closely at your torso, you’ll see that it twists very slightly as well. If you examine this further, you’ll find that it is in fact the opposite side of the body that turns toward the moving foot.
For example, when your left foot is moving forward, your right arm moves forward and your right torso turns slightly to the left. This is CBM, and we use this natural movement of the body for our own purposes when we dance. As in this example, we can use CBM for progression. You’ll see this in the Waltz Progressive step for instance. But CBM is most widely used to initiate turn. In the Waltz Left Turning Box, you’ll use CBM on your first step to initiate your turn to the left. So when we use CBM, we are moving the opposite side of our body toward the moving foot. This helps us turn and achieve other objectives when we dance.
When we talk about CBMP, we mean something completely different. CBMP stands for Contra Body Movement Position, and it’s helpful to focus just on the “P” for “Position” when you hear CBMP. This is because CBMP refers to a foot position; we step with CBMP when we position the moving foot in the same track (or across the track) of the standing foot.
Let’s see how this works: Find (or imagine) a line on your floor. Stand with your left foot on this line. Now walk normally, keeping your left foot on the line. As you do, notice that your right foot remains to the right of the line. If there were a line parallel and to the right of your left foot line, your right foot would remain on this parallel line. We call these two imaginary lines “tracks” because they resemble train tracks. Your left foot has it’s own track, and your right foot has it’s own track. When we walk, and when we dance, we normally keep each foot in its own track. But sometimes it’s useful for a foot to step on the opposite track. Let’s explore this option. Once again, find the line on your floor and position your left foot on this line. Now, let’s pretend that this line is a tightrope, and you must walk the tightrope as you move along the floor. As you walk notice that the right foot steps on the opposite (left foot) track to stay on the tightrope. In this case we would say the right foot is stepping forward in CBMP.
In our tightrope example if we positioned the right foot further left (left of the track and off the tightrope) we would say the right foot steps forward and across in CBMP. This is because the right foot stepped forward across the track of the left foot. We step forward and backward with CBMP in our dancing for many reasons. For example we step “forward and across in CBMP” on the second step of the Promenade in Foxtrot. This enables us to stay in promenade position as we travel down the line of dance. You can now see that stepping with CBMP means that we position the foot on or across the track of the stationary foot.
One final note: CBM and CBMP are often confused due to their similar sounding names, so please remember that they are completely separate concepts. CBM refers to a turn of the body while CBMP refers to a foot position. In any given step you may have CBM without CBMP, CBMP without CBM, both CBM and CBMP, or neither CBM or CBMP. While the acronyms may be tricky at first, learning dance terminology will help you communicate more clearly with your teacher, will further your understanding of movement, and will help you as you grow and learn as a dancer. Happy dancing!
Have a dance question you’d like answered? Send your questions, comments, and queries to: marcia@RevolutionBallroom.com