Monday, October 26, 2009

Quickstep - Style

As you can expect from the name, the Quickstep is a rather fast dance. This requires fast footwork and a light, easy, approach to the movements. The upper body should remain as smooth and unaffected as possible, while the legs and feet work quickly underneath.

The rise and fall of the dance helps to provide the momentum needed to drive along the long lines, but being able to stop immaculately and show some complex footwork is also usually an element of show/competitive choreography.

A fast and upbeat dance, the Quickstep has similarities to the Social Foxtrot and has a crossover of steps from dances like the Waltz as well, but uses the rise and fall more conservatively than the Waltz and also can incorporate elements of Charleston and other swing dances of the early 30's.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rumba - Style

Rumba is one of those dances that requires a lot of control though your centre and needs to be carried by the style and presentation of it more than the footwork alone. Because it is generally quite slow, especially when learning the basics, Rumba needs to utilise all the hip movement that it can and must be very conscious of the music and its impetus for movement.

Concentrating on connection with your partner and sustaining movement throughout the steps will give you the smooth and sultry style that is associated with the Rumba. Because the steps are slower, and in general, slightly less complicated than other latin dances, this is a great opportunity for you to pay close attention to the give and take connection between you and your partner. And, to make sure that each move is actually being led and not simply done because it has been taught.

Making sure that you never stop the movement of the dance - by maintaining control of your movements at all times and sustaining your hip action over the course of all the steps - will help you to feel as though you are settling into this dynamic and luxurious feeling dance. But if you allow it to get too squared off and prescribed, it can easily lose its appeal.

My strongest advice is simply to relax and enjoy it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tango - Style

The individual style of each of the Ballroom and Latin dances is integral to defining the movement and feel of each dance. But more than in any other dance, the style of Tango is what makes it dynamic and unique. Without style, Tango is simply walking around the room.

Most people, when thinking of the tango, think of the rose in the teeth and one arm pointing dramatically in the direction of travel. Although this is a common stereotype, there is little to back that image up technically. The hold for Tango is more compact - rather than stretched - and the drama does not come from the presence of a rose.

Instead, it is the quality of the movement that you should focus on. Tango has a feeling of "stalking" to it. Your knees should be bent at all times (imagine the ceiling is 2 inches above your head) and the impetus to move comes from your core - not your feet or legs. It is very important that you do these things technically, though. When I say your knees are bent, that means that you need to keep your hips under your shoulders and simply allow your knees to move forward over your toes rather than remain over your heels which will cause your bottom to stick out. Posture is exceptionally important to maintain as the dance just wont look right unless you keep your shoulders broad, collar bones lifted, and heads to the left (ladies more left than gents).

Ladies, dont forget that your Left hand is not on the gents shoulder as usual, but instead is placed behind his shoulder - sort of like a karate chop with your thumb ending up at his armpit and the palm of your hand facing down.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jive - Style

Jive is one of the only dances that allows you to have a bit of a jumpy skip in the chasse movement. This is NOT, however, license to hop all over the place. Throughout the Jive, especially with the two chasses when moving side to side, you should imagine your head being kept at one central location and that your feet/hips are swinging in a pendulum style movement underneath you.

Keep all your movements small, as the Jive gets very fast, and make sure that you are not transferring your body and head weight back when you do the rock step. You need to make sure the heel of the back foot touches the floor, while maintaining a body position that has minimal change. (If you allow your body weight to transfer back with your foot, you will firstly be unable to maintain the speed necessary and secondly will possibly separate yourself too far from your partner.)

The Jive should be light and fun and the hold should remain flexible and much more relaxed than any ballroom stance.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Waltz - Style

One of the most important qualities of the Waltz is its Rise and Fall.

In order to understand the Rise and Fall, a little understanding of what your footwork should be is necessary. Taking simply the first 3 steps of a natural turn as a general example, gents step forward on the Right with a heel step, step side onto a toe with the Left, close together onto another toe with the Right foot, and then before moving into the next step, lower the Right heel and release the Left knee, preparing you to take your next step. For ladies, you step backwards through your Left foot (ball-heel), side onto the toe of your Right foot, close your Left foot together with your Right foot and lower the Left heel (popping the Right knee) before moving on.

The first step is taken into the "down" part of your rise and fall. Like a wave, it should move smoothly upwards as you step onto your toe for the second step, reach the peak of the wave as you bring your other foot together (still on your toes), and begin to "fall" as you lower through the supporting leg and gather the force to move you into your next step.

A large amount of power can be drawn from your "down" steps as they push into the floor and allow you the best point of being grounded in the whole sequence. This can be used to add emphasis to your movements - making them more dramatic and confident looking - and to really move through the steps and cover ground, if that is your decision.

The top of your rise is a great place to suspend timing for a breath in order to play with the rhythms of the music or delay the second step by a partial beat - adding interest and variety to the traditional even rhythm.

Practice your rise and fall as it is an important part of not only the Waltz, but a lot of the other Ballroom dances as well. Strength in your ankles, calves, and centre is needed to take advantage of all that Rise and Fall has to offer your dancing so be sure to do exercises that help to give you control and endurance.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Cha Cha Cha - Style

The Cha Cha - as I am sure you know - is a fun and flirty dance that has energy and personality throughout. As one of the dances that is usually taught first, it holds a lot of the techniques necessary for many of the other Latin dances as well.

It is necessary throughout this dance to keep your toes connected to the floor and allow all your steps to work through your feet. There are NO heel steps! (I often say that you should imagine a £50 note under your toes - and if you lift your feet off the ground ... you lose it!)

Another important characteristic is the hip movement. What most people don't realise is that the hip movement that you can see when watching performers or competitors stems from a completely natural movement that occurs when you have one heel on the floor and one not. Of course, it can he heightened and exaggerated and at times pushed beyond what would be needed on a social floor, but a relaxed easy hip movement is completely achievable.

If you stand with your feet together and simply bend one knee and remove that heel from the floor, you should find that your weight moves slightly over your supporting leg to help you balance. The easiest way to do THAT is to sit into your hip. If you then just switch your weight onto the other side and change bent knees/lifted heels, you will have already started a natural hip movement.

What I am trying to say is that your hip movement comes every time that you put your heel down during the dance - which for Cha Cha, is all the time! Just think about letting your hip push slightly out every time you put your heel down on each foot and you will quickly find a natural amount of hip movement will infuse your dancing.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Social Foxtrot - Style

With a good base now in the elementary steps, I think that it is time that we mention a few things about each dance that contribute to the unique characteristics of each one. Aside from the actual foot patterns, every dance in the Ballroom and Latin repertoire has individual characteristics that help to make it look and feel different from the rest.

Social Foxtrot is one of those dances that can be done to almost any piece of 4 beat music but is generally done to something nice and swingy.

Unlike most of the other Ballroom dances, Social Foxtrot is a bit more loose in terms of the hold and allows you to add a bit of sway into the upper body. There is also a bit of a bounce that can be put into the knees, especially during your Slow steps, though the footwork rules of generally stepping forward onto a heel and backwards through the foot still apply. Body contact is not necessary.

Generally, have fun with this dance! It should be relaxed and you should allow yourself to play with the steps as the music tells you.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Samba - Turning Voltas

This step is one that is a nice way of moving from a variety of different steps and back into a closed hold. It incorporates the Whisk step and the Voltas that have been described before and are essentially an underarm turn for the Lady.

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

The Leader simply does 2 Whisks, Left first then Right.

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

Using the Volta motion that you have already practised, take a step onto your Right foot turning to your right. Try to take a fair amount of the turn with this step - ideally to face the wall behind you.
Bring your Left foot behind your Right, turned out, with part weight (dont put your heel down) to lift your Right foot and complete the turn to face your partner.

Then complete with a Whisk to the Left matching your partner.

Notes for both the Leader and Follower:

- Leaders, dont attempt to turn your partner for her, allow her to complete the movement naturally. Ladies, try not to move the first step too far away from your partner sop that you can remain connected to him and return to essentially your original position.