Dancing Tips


Reading Time:  min remaining

Matching the 9 Arm Connections

Have you ever noticed that you connect really well with some dancers while something feels just a little bit off with others?  The dancers experience levels might look the same but for some reason you just seem to connect “better” with one than the other.

Would you like to be able to connect to the “other” one just as wonderfully as you connect with the “better” one?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could make all your dances feel as amazing as that “better” one?

Learning the 9 Arm Connections will show you some of the hard to notice details that can make a lot of your dances feel much more connected and wonderful, regardless of the level of your partner or the method in which they connect.

Benefits of Learning “The 9 Arms”

  1. Learning the 9 Arm Connections will teach you the subtle details that allow you to connect more consistently with a variety of different dancers that all have slightly different ways of leading/following. 
  2. If you mainly body lead/follow and try to avoid using your arms, this will probably open your world to a whole lot more understanding of how the arms can work wonders for your dancing.  It sure did for me! 
  3. You will be able to quickly and drastically change your style of dance by simply switching which one of The 9 Arms you are applying.

[expand title=”Note: You can view additional info and examples below by clicking any text with arrows like this:” trigclass=”arrowright”]Click the text again & this info will disappear.[/expand]

The Requirements

[expand title=”1. You should already be able to react to 3 types of connection: push, pull, & relax.” trigclass=”arrowright”]

Some call this resisting the pressure/connection of your partner, matching your partner’s connection, or giving equal and opposite connection to your partner.  There are a few extra things to be aware of:

  1. Try to avoid adding excess pressure when in any of the 3 connections.
  2. Relax any muscles you don’t need in order to accomplish the connection.
  3. Match the connection for the length of time that your partner requests it.
  4. Be able to match the speed at which they request the connection.
  5. Make exceptions to the above rules when you consciously want to (for example, to express the music).


[expand title=”2. Be willing to practice in slow motion & analyze your dancing in extreme detail. ” trigclass=”arrowright”]

It is not always easy to notice exactly when you miss a transition, so you will need to be willing to go in extreme slow motion for the first few minutes, until you start to see and feel the transitions.


[expand title=”3. Don’t expect to be perfect overnight. ” trigclass=”arrowright”]

This is not an easy concept to implement perfectly right away.  You have probably been using your arms in very specific ways for a very long time and you will need to break your habits.


[expand title=”4. Be willing to go back to basics, especially the 3 types of connection.” trigclass=”arrowright”]

Most people struggle with The 9 Arms because they don’t consistently match the 3 types of connections at the speed their partner requests or for the length of time their partner requests.

These 3 connections might be simple concepts that you learned when you first started dancing, but they can always be improved, even World Champions get a lot from practicing these concepts on a consistent basis.  Go back to basics!



The 9 Arms

In forward/backward movements (not side to side movements), there are 9 different arm connections that can be used to lead or follow your partner.  I would like you to learn to match your partner’s arm connections so that if they are doing option 7, you are matching and doing option 7 with them… **here is the important part**… for the length of time they want that specific connection!
Most good dancers match a connection with their partner but they almost always release it early or keep it longer than their partner wants.
Want proof?
When do you release the “pull connection” on a Rock Step? On the “Rock”? Just after the “Rock”? On the “Step”? Just after the “Step”? After the follow thru of the whole move? Never? Did you know ALL of these options and many more are possible (including only having a push connection during the entire movement)?
When do you release the “inward connection” on a Volcada?  During the movement, just after it, or never?  Did you know ALL of these are possible and many more too?  Sure at some point it might not be a traditional Volcada anymore, but it can still be done and if your partner is doing it differently, it doesn’t help to do it traditionally.
Now, my question is… if it is done a non-traditional way or anyway that you haven’t learned, would you rather get frustrated that the person doesn’t know how to do it your way and so you can’t dance well with them in that move OR would you rather rock it out and make it look and feel amazing no matter how they do it because you are a bad ass that can dance with anyone and make anything amazing?  I choose the latter and that is what matching connections can do for you.  It helps you make everything amazing, not only the things you have been taught but also the things you have NOT been taught.
Are you matching these connections for the length of time your partner feels most comfortable doing them, or are you forcing them to match you, or are you just ignoring this aspect of your dancing? My advice… don’t ignore it and don’t force them to match you.  Instead, match them. (Yes, this advice is for BOTH the follows AND the leads!)

So how can you learn to improve your ability to match your partner’s connection?


  1. First, learn to match your partner’s push (compression), pull (tension), or relaxed connection (spagetti arms)… If your partner is pushing against you, match that push until they release it! If your partner is pulling against you, match that until they release it! If your partner is relaxed,  let your arms be spaghetti arms as soon as they relax and never when they aren’t relaxed (most dancers forget this because too many teachers tell them spaghetti arms are bad. I challenge you to change your thinking from “spaghetti arms are bad” to “spaghetti arms are the basic of dance”. If you have been dancing over a year, I bet your dancing will improve dramatically just from that one concept.) 
  2. Next, make sure you know the difference between Expanding, Contracting, & Static Arms.
    • Put your arms in Zombie position (yes, do it now) and move them to Chicken Wing position while saying the word “Contracting”. Now, move them from Chicken Wing to Zombie while saying “Expanding”. Repeat this a few times….. Did you actually do that? Great, let’s move on :-)…
    • Static Arms happen when your whole body moves with your arms staying stationary like a barbie doll (commonly referred to as body leading or body following). For Static Arms, they can be stuck in Zombie, stuck in Chicken Wing, or somewhere in between but they are NOT contracting or expanding. Walk around with stiff arms in Zombie, Chicken Wing, or somewhere inbetween and say “Static”. Dance around the house (solo) with static, expanding, & contracting arms and notice when you are doing each.  
  3. Now, grab a partner & visually try to match their arms. Expand when they expand, contract when they contract, and be static when they are static. Notice when you can feel each of these arm movements and when you need to rely on the visual to make it work. Make sure to match the speed of the contractions & expansions too. 
  4. Now try to match the expanding, contracting, and static arms with out your eyes. Hint, in order to do this well, you will need to be matching the length of the push, length of the pull, or length of the relaxation of your partner as well as the expanding, contracting, or static arms. Videotape your dancing and look for moments when you match & when you don’t match your partner. If your partner is challenging the norms of your dance scene, you will probably find A LOT of moments of unmatched connection. 
  5. So what are the 9 arm connections in forward/backward movement? The first 3 are having a PUSH connection while Expanding, having a PUSH connection while Contracting, & having a PUSH connection while moving with Static arms (body leading). So what are the other 6?  

[expand title=”Try to figure it out for yourself before clicking this text to see the answers.” trigclass=”arrowright”]

Hint: 3 of them have to do with a PULL connection & 3 of them have to do with a RELAXED connection.  [expandsub1 title=”Post your guess in the comments below before clicking here to finally see the answers.” trigclass=”arrowright”]

The other 6 arm connections are PULL connection while Expanding, PULL connection while Contracting, PULL connection while moving with Static arms, RELAXED connection while Expanding, RELAXED connection while Contracting, & RELAXED connection while moving with Static arms.

6. Get detailed… break each one down in slow motion and make sure you can match that specific arm connection for as long as your partner asks you to match it!

What are the 9 ways your connection might be off?  If you read everything above you can probably guess it.  It is when your partner is doing one connection and are doing one of the other 8.  So maybe it technically should be “8 ways your connection might be off” :-).
If you like this sort of in depth teaching or you want more details and a specific plan to implement this topic, join my Black Belt Training, where you can spend an entire month working on this topic alone and still want to do more.

In 7 more days I will send you another email on how to Get Others To Fall In Love With Your Musicality. Keep a look out for it!
Homework: Don’t waste all this excellent knowledge! 


  • Do #s 1 & 2 above on your own. 
  • Do #s 3 & 4 above with a partner. 
  • Check out this free video I created to see these 9 different arm connections explained in detail and share your thoughts & aha’s in the comments below the video:
  • Bonus concept: Although learning to match your partner will dramatically improve your dancing, matching is NOT always the best thing to do to give your partner the best dance possible. When are some good times to NOT match your partner and what value comes from NOT matching them? Answer that question in the comments after watching part 2 of the video:

Dance it out!

~Andrew Sutton

P.S. Click the “like”, “tweet”, or “+1” button to share this email with your dance friends so they can improve too!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

About the author 

Andrew Sutton

Andrew Sutton is a Vice World Champion Lindy Hop Instructor, and one of the original founders of the Fusion partner dance movement. He uses his extensive research in over 254 cities across 38 countries (& 44 dance forms) to help dance instructors be more successful in their teaching & finances during their pursuit to help their students...Make Every Dance Amazing!

You may also like

Get Our Dance Instructor Blueprint

Use this blueprint to take your dance instruction to the next level, giving you more gigs and students.

  • The 3 fundamentals to becoming an in-demand, sought-after, or world class dance instructor
  • How to turn your students into raving fans that come back to your classes year after year
  • Works for any partner dance: lindy hop, blues, salsa, ballroom, fusion, west coast swing, tango