Ballroom Dance > Body Swing and Foot Placements

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Chris Stratton, Mar 7, 2005.

  1. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Body swing seems to be one of the most sought-after, but hardest to describe concepts in ballroom dancing. Personally, I've come to feel that swing is an essential game plan for how to execute a figure, a trend which ties together the steps, suggests where each will land, and makes them easier and more consistent with each other.

    Recently I got into a bit of an argument in another thread over the relationship between swing and foot closure. My personal belief is that foot closure is not really a distinct purposefull action, but rather a result of aiming the swing out of step one for the right point in space, and sustaining it through the rise onto step 2. I find that if I mis-aim the swing, it's fairly difficult to close my feet, while if I correctly aim and sustain the swing it would take purposeful effort not to close them. Similarly, if I want to do an open or foot-passing turn, I aim the swing lower and further (and feel it starting later) so that it will carry our bodies past the 2nd foot placement on to a third. And if I want to create a heel turn, I aim the swing shorter so that my partner will arrive on a straightening leg while her free leg swings under, but not past her body.

    But where does swing really come from? I'm not sure of the absolute origin, but one of my coaches stresses the timing of the foot action on step one as a major early contributor. Specifically, if the footwork says heel-toe, what that means is that your weight needs to be in the toe, with the heel starting to rise, by the time your free leg passes the standing one on it's way into step two. It took me several months to be able to sometimes create this, but in combination with sending the standing knee forward this helps get the lower body center really swinging forward and up.

    This actually has a lot of implication for how to take step two. Many of us initially developed a habit of reaching for step two by sending the leg forward from the hip socket. But if the entire body is swinging, the free leg can unfold and simply swing towards a line drawn through the shoulder and hip. With body swing designating the point where the free toe should land on step two, there is no need for the free leg to ever cross this line and reach forward of the body. Done right, the result is visually captivating - the free side of the body swings forward with a gentle curve, leg gracefully uncurling to create a long line in the instant that the toe finds its place on the floor.

    Several things can go wrong though. In a quest for extra time to get the lower body accelerating out of step one, it's possible to kill the energy and then try to recreate it from the foot action, rather than using a well timed foot action to add to and redirect energy carried out of the previous step 3. A related mistake would be to send the upper body backwards while the lower goes forward - swing is about the lower body passing the upper, by moving even faster than an upper body which is also moving forward. The person ahead of the swing also has an opportunity to kill it by prematurely moving away from their partner on a level path, before the start of an upswing can be felt and matched. Ironically such early movement actually becomes small movement, because without swing to incline the body line across the floor, the target point of the step feels under the present body position, rather than in line with the body projection.
  2. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    The foot closure bit is fairly obvious. If you swing past your closure point, you won't close your feet. If you don't have the right swing but endeavor to close your feet, you will eventually find the right swing. Too often I see amateurs (and even professionals) who don't close their feet on the most basic step--the waltz natural turn.
  3. spatten

    spatten Member

    Chris - I think you have to be careful when describing where swing originates from and ends in a turn and on which step. Swing is different from the Reverse Turn to the Natural Turn - due to the fact that the lady is on your right. If I am doing a right turn I can swing with my body all the way up to my ribcage - but if turning left then I swing only up to my waist otherwise I upset the ladies weight. I mention this because you generally refer to "step 2" but I think it needs to be specific.

    I also think that it might be useful to think of that action that closes the ladies feet or not as dependant on the man's rotation rather than swing.

  4. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Scott - I wrote this mostly with the natural turn and feather step in my mind, and I'll have to think more about your comments on the reverse turn. I do think one common mistake is to keep not just the body offset, but the foot placement also very offset there - the forward person's foot needs to be placed inwards enough, under the actual track of their body, so that they have a clear path down the floor rather than getting tangled in their partner's leg.

    In terms of foot closure, I don't believe that turn plays a critical role. Both waltz turns and chasse actions have foot closure, but different degrees of turn. Also locks use a similar subtle chasse-like swing mechanism to close the feet in their alternative position, and many of those move in the same direction for all four steps. I think that it would actually be possible to take three steps straight forwards with body facing forwards and generate a swing that would close your feet - it would feel wierd, but because we never take three steps forward in alignment with both our body and feet. A possibly interesting question is if a toe release out of one is comptaible with aiming towards foot closure. I believe that it is, although perhaps a little unfamiliar - we do release toes into the 2nd step of a back lock, and the actual "book" reason the person on the inside of a waltz turn does not release the toe is that the turn means they leave the foot with too much sideways component.
  5. spatten

    spatten Member

    Understanding the dynamics of swing on left turning figures vs right turning figures helped me alot - at least on the left turning figures, which are always more difficult for me.

    I made a mistake in reading your earlier post - I presumed you were talking about foot closure of the lady. You wrote clearly, I just had been doing a lot of practice in closing the ladies feet in heel turns so had that on my mind.

    I have one question, more apropo to your original post. When you dance an open natural turn, do you not feel as if your right foot (step 3) actually passes through neutral (both feet parallel and equal - as if closed) before coming out? I don't have a lot of technique experience dancing open NT in Waltz, but it certainly feels this way in Foxtrot to me. If so, wouldn't the swing be the same?
  6. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    It's only in the past few weeks that I've been able to get really detailed coaching on the open natural. My feeling is that while the feet pass through something approaching a closed position, it's very clearly one where you can't stop, because the body weight is aimed to swing beyond that point. Sometimes if you have an element of swing-beyond to what was intended to be a closed natural, and you do manage to close your feet, either you will immediately stumble or you will keep your feet but your top will over-turn as the mis-aimed energy has to go somewhere. I think a good closed natural swing is aimed such the the final direction of the weight is purely up - a position that is stable over the closed feet. (I'm not saying the body is vertical - just that the final motion is)

    One tidbit of recent focus on the open natural: like heel turns, it is two steps in a line (such as DW) and one in a divergent direction (such as down LOD) - it doesn't quite work right if all three steps are placed on the same line. That should seem obvious, but is easy to forget in the common case of commencing from promenade.

    Also, I notice that many couple's back open natural (ie, running finish) doesn't have the right swing... and I am very much one of the culprits.
  7. spatten

    spatten Member

    Interesting idea. It may be that you are able to develop more travel, shape, etc by swinging to a different point from the closed to open turn.

    Using a more analytical thought, I am tring to find a point in space you aim your swing differently that would still work. Assume a NT taken DW. You could swing to a different point along LOD, or to a different point closer to Wall or Center (or to some vector inbetween). The former is going to have the same amount of turn, the later is going to change the amount of turn between 1-2. I don't think we want to change the amount of turn. So let's look at the former.

    The main difference I can see between swinging further down line of dance is that you have to travel more to get to that point. This of course requires more use of the standing foot, otherwise your weight is in front of your feet - bad. Analytical mode off.

    I get nervous when you talk about not being able to stop. I think you could produce a nice, correct, open waltz turn with the same swing used for a closed turn.

    I guess I will have to try it with a partner to see if my analytical ideas match up to reality. Interesting topic Chris.

  8. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I guess I'm not sure what, other than the swing, would indicate to your partner that you wanted her to pass her feet? If I want to close the feet, I use a very underhanded, pendular swing that gets more vertical as we arrive over step two, and says "stay here". If I want passing footwork, we pass step two with a swing that is moving at a less steep angle, which says "not done yet". (Also, while I speak about using the swing to lead my partner, it's actually leading my body to do the right thing every bit as much as hers)

    Clarification: aiming for a point in space was a poor description on my part. I'm arguing that if you plotted the swing in the vertical plane - height of center of mass vs. progress down the floor - that it would have a different shape for open and closed turns, and that we could predict the ending based on looking at a small region out of step one. (I'm not sure it's enough to model the body as a point mass though - we might have to take the angle of body inclination into account too)

    Or putting it yet another way: In an open turn I try to have body flight that will carry us through step two and into a seperated step 3, but in a closed turn I try to send all that energy upwards, so that the body can stay over the foot.

    And one more thing: the only pair of same-dance syllabus alternatives that commence in the same position which I can find in the technique book are the chasse reverse turn and the quick open reverse of quickstep. It could be interesting to try mixing and matching those in social dancing. (As far as I can tell the chasse reverse is just a closed waltz reverse with quickstep-flavored rise?) When I want to demonstrate this idea in person, I lead a double reverse, then a chasse reverse, then a quick open reverse.
  9. spatten

    spatten Member

    I'm going to suggest that there is an invitation, mostly in the man's hips that encourages the lady to pass her feet. This is mostly conjecture, not based on any technique anyone has discussed with me.

    It has been awhile since I have done a quick open reverse, (I'm working with a new bronze-level partner), but my recollection is that there is less rise compared to the chasse reverse. Of course that doesn't help explain the Waltz case.

    You might be correct, I am just offering another possibility based on thought and small dance experiement in my cube.

    How about Tango? Isn't there a open and closed version of the reverse turn without any swing involved?
  10. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Actually that brings up something I was hoping to talk about next... how to move on the pre-swing step 1, and in tango where there is no swing. I believe the basic technique is to send the body forward, through and beyond the standing foot. In the swing dances, we must not reach with the moving leg - once it catches up with the body, it remains vertically underneath, rather than reaching forward into the partner's space. In tango we similarly propel the body, but the hold and style of that dance permits us to reach the free leg ahead of the body, while the need to avoid body flight means it needs to be there in advance to catch the weight transfering off the old standing leg.

    Getting the lady to pass her feet in tango would be a function of letting your weight continue to move all the way through your foot on step two, rather than having it stop forward in the foot as in say a viennese cross turn. Some will describe the passing step three as "squeeeeeze" as the motion is more fluid than in many other tango steps. I guess I'd compare the mechanics of the action more to the step 1 outside partner action of an outside change, than to the step 3 outside partner action of a quick open reverse. But in terms of feel, there is something in the rhythm of tango that suggests you move through the slow in a way somewhat analogous to the carry-through swing into 3 of the swing dances.

    This also makes we wonder how pre-swing beginners should dance the swing dances - you can only go so far projecting off the standing leg, normally most of the travel comes from unwinding the swing out of step 1, but if there is no swing to incline the body then step two wouldn't end up more than about a shoulder width greater than your projection distance . To go further without the aid of whole-body swing you'd have to use tango technique and reach your leg alone (bad habit!) or simply be content to not move much.
  11. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Okay, I have thought about this some more, and while I have not yet been able to do partnered experiments to investigate your concerns about my method, I've come up with several concerns about your method ;-)

    First I want to try to define swing: We could talk about the pendulum, but for purposes of this issue it might be more usefull to point out that swing is a coordination between travel over the floor and changing inclination of something. Travel of the pendulum and angle of it's string - or travel of the dancer's center of mass and angle of the body. In dancing we use propulsion of the body center off the standing foot to achieve some of the travel, and changing inclination of the whole body to direct the moving foot to a point further down the floor than simply vertically underneath the center.

    While we can talk about the legs swinging on their own, a leg which swings to a a greater inclination than the corresponding side of the body breaks the body line and reaches into the partner's space. Even if that doesn't cause a collision, it is potentially confusing, because if your foot placement is not consistent with your body angle, then her appropriate foot placement isn't usefully indicated by her body angle. So the leg may swing up to, but not past the angle at which the whole body is swinging.

    In the case of the reverse turn, you advocate swinging only up to the waist. My concern is that this means you will swing your free leg ahead of the body line. Another choice might be to incline the body only up to the waist and break the sway there - in moderation such that the side of the body is a gentle curve this might be okay. But it's actually easy for the person on the inside of the turn to incline their entire body to match yours.

    So maybe the real potential problem is with the travel component of the swing. The whole inside/outside of turn thing won't work if the inside person gets pushed along ahead of the outside person the whole time. But I think there is a solution - the inside person rotates their body over the standing foot during the course of step one, such that during the really reaching part of the swing the potentially interefering part of the bodies are both moving sideways, parallel to each other. I'd again mention being sure to place step one in the direction of travel, and not offset way to the side where moving over it would put you on a collision course with the partner's body.
  12. spatten

    spatten Member

    Ok, I understand what you are saying. I do feel there is a difference between body inclination in the NT and the RT. But I don't believe it causes a problem - I believe it solves one.

    Let me describe a little more of what I mean by swinging to the waist. I am going to go briefly back to the pendulum analogy to explain better, though I do realize there is a lateral action to the swing. If we look at the second step of a NT (where I feel the most swing) imagine that the fulcrum of the pendulum is at the top of your ribcage. Perhaps try this without moving your weigth from the right foot. Now, in contrast, we move to the RT. In the second step, I am going to swing with the fulcrum only at the waist. Instead of thinking of it as a different inclination think that the swing is truncated so as not to upset the lady. With the lady connected on your right ribcage - you can't swing the same as your foot can. Attempting to swing through this area just causes problems - and throws the lady off the inside of turn.

    As an example of the problem of swinging here - look at the three step. Incredibly awkward step - and beginning male dancers inevitably have their right shoulder way out of wack.

    I realize this idea may not work for you or most people. I was given this concept by a former Champion - whose ideas are definately old-school but he has helped make all my dancing feel eaiser. It may be that he wanted to focus on this to fix my own right side lead problems.

    I agree distintcly with you that the first step of any turn, except contra check, is in the direction of travel. The same coach who mentioned the above empahsized what he called "no turn in the turn". I have encountered coaches who disagree and end up turning on the first step - which causes weight to fall inside but makes it easier for the person going backwards to open their hips.

    As to your comments on Tango, I agree with you. I believe the reach with the moving foot is more emphasized, but I also believe a dancer has to focus on keeping his/her weight in his center in Tango. It is easy to see dancers lose grounding in Tango in search of more travel in their walks. Tango is the hardest dance for me, without the swing it feels like work.
  13. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I can sort of get a feel for the merits of what you are saying here, but I still have a strong concern about a broken swing. If you swing from a fulcrum anywhere within the body, either only the portion of the body below that moves, or the body remains aligned and the upper body must move back. Having only the lower body move is only okay as long as it is swinging to catch up with the body line - but it can't swing in advance, or the line will break. And in most situations sending the upper body back should be avoided. So swing from a fulcrum within the body is limited to the leg playing catch-up - straightening a body line that was initially curved. Because the entire body is progressing, I feel the fulcrum of an actual body swing must be some distance above the head.

    I'm not sure that part of the problem isn't misinterpreting where the swing belongs. The right foot step is a heel lead, and so I think it should involve at least as strong a sense of pre-swing (stereotypical step 1) movement technique as swing-consequent (step 2) technique. It may not be a coincidence that in the ISTD book, the right foot is step 1. Now that I think about it though, my concept of step 1 movement technique does involve your kind of leg-only swing from a fulcrum within the body - but the big thing in my mind is that I don't believe the leg should swing beyond hanging under the body center. In truth though, given the three step's uncanny similarity to two walks in tango (some would teach to place the left foot almost in CBMP and move diagonally across it onto the right foot) I'll admit I cheat sometimes. Which gets us back to the question of how to cover ground on steps that don't feature whole-body swing.
  14. hjr28

    hjr28 Member

    Hi, am new to the site, but have now been reading posts (notably Chris') for some hours now...

    I think we all agree that we want to generate as much swing as possible and that it is the swing that will generate the momentum to carry the body as far as possible without (1) the standing foot needing to "strenously" push off or (2) the moving foot have to stretch as far as possible in front of the body, ie. the action should transfer energy generated by things happening in other parts of the body to the legs so that they don't have to do all the work and therefore can help ensure smoothness as well, etc.

    So, my question or thing I'm struggling with varying techniques for is how best to generate the swing, and when (apologies if this opens up a whole can of worms).

    Let's take a feather step first - ie. no turn to complicate things...

    The "mainstream" school of thought would say that having rotated to the left during the prep step and before, you should have unwound to neutral position as the right foot passes left and you take the first step and that by the end of the first step you will be fully rotated to the right and maintain this though to steps 2 and 3.

    I've been taught a fair bit by Benoit Drolet who comes from a slightly radical school of thought, but it makes so much more sense to me in terms of where the swing is generated. He teaches to keep the rotation to the left (or at least most of it - say 80%) all the way from the prep step to step 1, and then to "swing" the body from left rotation to right rotation at the same time as swinging the left foot through in order to take step 2 and thus also at the same time/rate as the foot of step 1 releases the heel and rolls through to a ball.

    This second method makes a lot of sense to me as the body rotation occuring at the same time as the step 2 means not only that the body rotation moves the left side of the body forward by at least 40-50cm, but also that the weight/momentum of the body rotation is coupled directly to the left leg passing underneath the body, helping to carry the whole of that side of the body+leg forward.

    The first, more traditional/mainstream method I was taught originally, then moved to the "alternative" method, but am now back (somewhat more advanced) and wondering if i need to re-consider the traditional method. But I can't see how to generate the same power/sense of swing. I can see that the trad method has the advantages of more effectively moving the girl out of the way to allow movement past and by seperating in time when the left leg moves from when the body rotation occurs it's easier to make the whole figure smooth, but I can't see how to use my upper body/hips to generate swing if all the "stored" energy in terms of rotation is lost before step 1 really commences (ie. lost when right foot passes prep step)....

    So, can someone have a go at explaining how/where swing occurs in the trad method...

  15. hjr28

    hjr28 Member

    Gosh, I just found another thread that describes the same two methods that I describe:

    But my question still stands I think in how & when one generates swing in the "early CBM" or "traditional" method...
  16. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Specifying when the body should rotate is one of those very complicated subjects that may never really yield an informative answer. Instead, it may be more useful to look at why we'd feel a physical wish to have it happen at one point or another.

    Something that happens a lot in dancing is that we find ourselves having to go through positions where it is very hard to sustain a smooth movement. We might be going from one position supported by the big muscles of the body, to another one, but in between there's one supported only be the smaller muscles. Those aren't as developed, so we don't feel secure in that phase of the movement and try to minimize our time there, which in turn means that the muscles don't develop as fast as the ones we are using.

    Using the large muscles of the body to change side lead can be a very powerful action. It can be tempting for example to fully plant a foot, and then pull the body past it. In contrast, if we tried to rotate at a different time such as when we are rolling through the foot to its toe, we might have to exert all of that body torque against a standing leg that is in turn being supported only by the smaller muscles of the standing foot. That requires not only having a foot that can support our weight fairly far forward in it, but do so while also carrying the force of this extra push from the body muscles.

    And it also means that our body may move through positions relative to the legs that aren't as comfortable until we've developed flexibility by using them.

    I was kind of surprised at the way you treated swing as being primarily a rotational action. I tend to think of swing as being primarily in the vertical plane, perhaps with incidental rotation, but perhaps not. But it can be very hard to sustain movement through all of the intervening body positions required to make a downswing-upswing cycle in a way that feels smooth and natural, to feel that we are able to carry the energy from the down through into the up. This is both because of the unfamiliar stretches and because of the unfamiliar stresses on the feet - they don't feel natural, and disrupt the natural flow. If we look instead at where we get to use the large muscles (where we feel we have the 'leverage' to employ them), then yes the rotary aspect present in many swings seems to be the part of most importance. I suspect we tend to analyze in terms of what we are used to making our bodies do, or at least committed to trying to make them do.

    I'm not phrasing this as well as I'd like, but what I am basically saying is that our preference for dancing the actions one way or another depends a lot on what is currently comfortable in our bodies, and that depends mostly on what we are used to doing either in our dancing experience so far, or what we can borrow from our pre-dancing movement experience. Trying to do something in a way that feels awkward in the body probably won't be pursued to the point where it is comfortable unless the concept is well sold from an in-person demonstration by a teacher who can bring out the long term advantages of the proposed unfamiliar method, who can show us what it would be like after months or years of building capability in it.


    One try at an analogy for explanation: If the car is at a stop, we use first gear to apply the power of the engine to getting it moving. But if we've rolled down a hill, and we decide we want to get going even faster before we start up the next, we'll use fourth or fifth gear to apply the power of the engine. Similarly in dancing - if we don't feel that we can take the energy from swinging downhill easily through into the uphill, then we'll need to use our large muscles in a way that is basically first gear, to generate a new movement. But if we can carry our energy through effortlessly, then whatever we chose to add from the large muscles would be added by using them in a way akin to fourth gear. The proper timing of the application of the large muscles to body rotation depends on how the body is already moving.
  17. hjr28

    hjr28 Member

    I agree swing is in the vertical plane, but with the "non-traditional"/late rotation method I feel it's the whole body rotation in the horizontal plane that provides the power or induces the swing in the vertical plane and that this swing occurs as if the fucrum is the shoulders or even higher (even though obv everything is moving forward as well), whereas I cannot see how to generate more than simply leg swing in the "early CBM"/"traditional" method because by the time I want to swing from step 1-2 I have already rotated my body fully to the right with left side fully leading (in the case of feather step, granted with a NT there will still be a lot of turn left to do still, but that's why I took feather step as example). In this case there seems to be nothing left to swing apart from my leg which results in a less powerful/noticeable feeling of swing and slightly less translation over the floor...

    So I'm interested to hear how and if people of the "early CBM" school generate swing from step 1-2 and if if's only in the leg, etc.
  18. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    I have not been taught or tried the later CBM method you use, thus I can't really give it a fair shot as a master of the approach isn't here to show me. However, in trying it for a feather, the problem I feel is that there is not a sufficient communication to the partner. I may know what I want to do, but this late rotation doesn't give her much time to dance it or get in the correct position. But again, that's just from trying it in my flip flops in my living room without someone to explain the details of it to me ...

    I feel that I rotate a bit later on a waltz natural turn than on a feather. This is partly because at the end of 1-3 of the natural, the feet and body have really only turned just over 1/4, (maybe 5/16?), not 3/8, in order to properly set up the following step. Because of this, and the fact that the right side stays fairly positive even after 1-3 of the turn are finished, I feel little actual "turn" happening on a natural turn. So while the setup is similar to a feather, the end result is quite different. I say all of this to say that I feel much later rotation on this than a feather, and so it may jive well with your method.
  19. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    This is what I mean about using the muscles in low-gear vs. high-gear.

    Let me ask you how you would dance a natural turn commenced outside partner, such that you already have a substantial side lead. Can you give this a full swing, or do you feel like you've been denied the opportunity to use your muscles in much the same way as you noted above?
  20. Some guy

    Some guy New Member

    Wow Chris! I've always admired your analytical writing style, you're so good at describing things so precisely, you should write a book on this!

    Before that, let me offer a few quick pointers that have helped me. I dance more with feeling, and not so much thinking about each body part. I used to dance with each body part but then thanks to a young fresh coach, I was made to realize that dance is indeed a very natural movement and what people try to teach as independent "actions" is nothing more than a "reaction" to a solid foundation of movement (yes, my coach has studied with Luca Baricchi). Swing, is one such reaction. So is closing feet. When you dance with that solid foundation you start to feel energies trying to escape from areas of your body. These energies can be better explained as little muscle stretching notions in your body. Submit to those energies and you'll find your body stretching and swinging beautifully, only limited by your flexibility. Mirko Gozzoli submits to them almost entirely which is why he's so consitent and so much more animated with his body than any other couple to date.

    One of the basic foundations of any dance movement is stepping "back" into every step. I know this sounds crazy, but it works not only for ballroom, but any dance form, martial arts, and sports. It's what we do when we walk, when we run, and pretty much what we do at a club: imagine gyrating to music with eyes painfully shut and a stiff overbite. :)

    The reason we naturally don't translate this movement to ballroom is because there's another person directly in front of us, which is normally very unnatural to our movement, and our body immediately becomes more introverted because someone else is in our personal space. We're not as bold in our movements when we're afraid that we're going to run someone over. So we start dancing like the vision impaired, reaching out feet and legs in front of us to feel the floor to make sure it's there before putting any of our body weight onto our feet. Using that as a foundation, a pretty weak and unsteady foundation, we then pile on the actions of trying to transfer our body weight to our feet, swing our bodies, look confident in our posture, dance and breathe our frames, etc. Our foundation can only support so much, and from the get go, we become over loaded. So overloaded that nothing works naturally: weight transfer from foot to foot is completely seperated from drive, drive is completely seperated from the "heel and toe" actions, getting over our feet is completely seperated from rise and fall, and to top it off, all this is completely seperated from the connection with your partner.

    So it's time to go back and fix the foundation.

    Even when you stand on the dance floor, you can make your stance look more dynamic by imagining that you are stepping backwards into both your feet: like your body just took a step back. You will not move an inch, just imagine what you stepped backwards into your feet.
    Let's take the Waltz as an example. I don't like breaking up body parts into toes, feet, thighs, knees etc, as I want to try and explain it to you the way it was explained to me. The fewer body parts you have to think about, the easier it is to execute. Also, have faith in the fact that your body is ridiculously efficient at using your joints if you get them to move naturally. Kinda like walking: you never have to think about weight transfer, rise and fall, foot articiculation, etc. With a solid natural reference to your movement, your feet will articulate naturally, your knees will lower your body naturally, and your hips will be nicely tucked in and not jutting out. I will be using the word "leg" intentionally, as I don't want you to think of feet, toes, knees, etc. To keep things a little simpler (as I don't have the ability to explain things as precisely as Chris) let's talk about the man's natural turn figure, and leave out the prep step:

    Before you take your first step forward on Count "1", imagine that you just stepped backwards onto your standing left leg: that will create a feeling of "drive" forwards in your left leg. Use that feeling to naturally drive your body forward, forcing you to release your right leg to move forward.

    Count "1":
    BEFORE the right leg hits the ground on count "1", imagine that you just stepped backwards onto that right leg. If you do this, what you will realize is that you're suddenly completely over your right foot, you're nice and low into the ground, perfectly balanced and as a bonus: you're naturally continuing the drive you started with your standing leg.

    Count "2":
    To finish the movement, you let your free left leg swing forward again (which would happen automatically due to the drive created in your right standing leg) and once again, BEFORE you land on your left leg, use a split second to imagine that you stepped BACKWARDS into your left leg. This would automatically cause your body to overtake your leg and create a natural tendency for "swing". Give into that tendency and you'll realize your body will swing naturally. At the height of the swing, just continue to land "backwards" on to your left foot to finish the movement. When you land "backwards" into the foot, you'll realize you again created the same feeling of a "drive" in your left leg.

    Count "3": Continue the drive you feel on your left leg to bring in and close your right leg.

    In short, just imagine that you're always stepping backwards onto your legs, even when you're standing. You can use this to devastating effect in a waltz promenade. Starting with both feet flat on the ground, if you create the feeling in your body that you just stepped backwards into both feet, then give into the tendency your body automatically generates to launch out of your feet, you'll realize that you'll be on your toes in no time. Continue forcing your body to feel like you've stepped backwards into both your feet, and you'll feel like you're about to launch into outerspace. What's interesting to note is that you won't feel like you're "on your toes". The frontal plane of your body ceases to work, and everything starts to work from the back of your body. It's an awesome feeling. Control that feeling for as long as you can and you'll realize you created the most still, dynamic, and balanced promenade postion possible. Release yourself from the position and you'll be free to go into whatever your next step is.

    I've had teachers try to explain the feeling of stepping backwards into every step with the words, "send all your energy to the floor and use that energy to move you out of it". Personally, it's never worked for me as I had no background in dance and the term "energy" was foreign to me. Then I was told to step "backwards" into each step suddenly my body started to feel all sorts of energy beams directing my body to doing things more naturally.

    What's even more interesting is that the "connection" with your partner becomes much less of an issue, because your partner feels every bit of energy that you generate in your body, and a good partner just follows that energy. For example, when going into a contra-check, if you stand on your right leg with the feeling that you just stepped back into that leg full-force, and then stepped into contra-check with the same feeling that you stepped "backwards" into your left leg, you create an internal eternal forward energy due to your right foot being planted firmly behind you, preventing your body from moving or growing forward any more. You'll feel like you're constantly dissipating "forward energy" the longer you hold this position and create the feeling like you just stepped backwards into your left leg. A good partner can use that energy and "complete" the contra-check by blossoming out of it like there's no tomorrow. My female coach always said that the connection between man and woman is not "on" or "off", physically. It's more just a warmth between the bodies. That's how light it should be. A good female will follow the energy created from the man and direct it onto and through herself to create the dynamic fluidity between the two bodies. But I digress! That's a whole other post, and thank goodness, as a man, I don't have to learn how to absorb and re-direct energy... or at least, not yet. Generating it by stepping backwards into each step is more than I can handle for the time being! I'm sure the next step is for me to absorb and re-direct so that the partnership looks even more dynamic and the communication between man and woman is continuous, but I haven't gotten there yet.

    Sorry for the long post. I'm sure Chris could probably explain this in one short paragraph with the aid of a quadratic equation thrown in for good measure. :)

Share This Page