Monday, March 30, 2009

Tango - Two walks and Rock Turn

Moving on from where we left off last week, you can easily add the following combination to extend the sequence of tango steps already listed.

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Take two steps forward starting with your Left foot. (Slow, Slow)

Take a small step backwards and slightly turning your body to face diagonally towards the corner from which you have just been travelling using your Left foot. (Quick)

Rock forward onto your Right foot (Quick) and then back onto your Left again (Slow).

Step backwards on your Right foot (Quick), step side on your Left foot (Quick), and use your Right foot to close your feet together (Slow), turning your shoulders (and therefore your partner) back towards the original corner on the second step.

Follower's/Lady's Footwork

Take two steps backwards starting with your Right foot. (Slow, Slow)

With your right foot between your partner's legs, rock forward onto your Right Foot. (Quick) You should use this step to turn about 90 degrees to be backing the corner from which you have just come.

Rock back onto your Left foot. (Quick) And then forwards again onto your Right. (Slow)

Step forward onto your Left foot (Quick), side onto your Right foot - which is when you return to your original alignment (Quick) and close your Left foot to your right (Slow).

Notes for both the Leader and Follower:

- Remember, tango is a stalking dance - your knees should be bent the whole time!

- The total amount of turn should be approximately 90 degrees over the first 5 steps and returning back to where you began over the last 3

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rumba - Basic

Although one of the slower Latin Dances, Rumba is one of the more difficult dances to do correctly for beginners as it requires you to fill a lot of the time without actually having anything to do with your feet!

With a lot of the steps being very similar to the Cha Cha Cha, the Rumba also starts on the 2. It will generally count "2, 3, 4-1" as the "4-1" is often one step that needs to be spread over two counts. Much like with the Cha Cha, it may be beneficial to start with your weight on the opposite foot to the one that you want to start on, and then transfer your weight on the 4-1 counts.

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Step forwards on your Left foot on count 2. Replace your weight onto your Right foot on count 3 and step side onto your Left foot, taking the full two counts of 4-1 to transfer the weight over the Left leg.

Step backwards on your Right foot on count 2. Replace your weight onto your Left foot on count 3 and step side onto your Right foot, taking two counts (4-1) to transfer the weight completely over your Right leg.

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

Step backwards on your Right foot on count 2. Replace your weight onto your Left foot on count 3 and step side onto your Right foot, taking two counts (4-1) to transfer the weight completely over your Right leg.

Step forwards on your Left foot on count 2. Replace your weight onto your Right foot on count 3 and step side onto your Left foot, taking the full two counts of 4-1 to transfer the weight over the Left leg.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tango - Progressive Link and Closed Promenade

Many people are surprised when they find out that Tango is listed as one of the Ballroom dances and isn't considered one of the Latin ones. The reason for this is not anything to do with origin, but more in the similarities between tango and the ballroom dances - such as the anti-clockwise progression around the room, remaining in close hold more than working apart, and an emphasis more on footwork and placement than hip movement and single hand leads.

Unlike the other ballroom dances, Tango has little to no rise and fall. (It is danced as though you are in a room that has a ceiling which is about 2 inches shorter than your actual height... keeping your bum under your shoulders and thinking of your belly button being pulled through to your spine in order to keep your bum from sticking out, your knees are bent and all movement is done in a slightly 'stalking' manner. ) The hold is slightly different as well. The Lady's Left hand does not rest on the Man's arm just below his shoulder. Instead, she places her hand behind the Man's shoulder, with the palm facing the floor and her thumb lightly resting under his armpit. (Sometimes it is said that she should think of giving him a karate chop - as that is the right hand positioning!)

Tango is easier done in body contact with your partner (which helps keep you from knocking knees) and counts in Quicks and Slows like Foxtrot.

There is no one 'basic' step in Tango, so I will give you a set of steps today that you can use repetitively for practice. Basically, the sequence will be 2 Walks, a Progressive Link, and a closed Promenade. Even though all that sounds a little scary, trust me, it is as simple as walking!

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

2 Walks:
Are just that! Start facing diagonal to the closest wall and beginning on your Left Foot take two walks forward. (Slow, Slow)

Progressive Link:
Take a third step forward (Quick), and then a small one to the side with your Right Foot(Quick). As you put the weight on your right foot, sit into your hip and open your shoulders slightly so that you are facing more directly towards the wall you were travelling towards. Try to make this happen only from the waist up... your knees should remain facing your partner. While you do this, you will also indicate for your partner to open her shoulders so that the both of you are in Promenade Position and facing the direction that you are about to travel.

Closed Promenade:
As you have all of your weight on the Right foot, you are going to push forward onto your Left foot (Slow), take another step forward with your Right Foot (Quick), a tiny step to the Left with your left foot (Quick) and close your Right foot together to your Left (Slow). It is over these last two steps that you will lead your partner to come back in front of you again - closing the promenade!

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

2 Walks:
Starting backwards on the Right Foot, take two Slow steps backwards.

Progressive Link:
One more step backwards on the Right Foot (Quick), and a small side step onto your Left foot (Quick). On the second step, put all of your weight on the Left Foot and sit into the hip slightly. Your partner should lead you to open your shoulders into promenade position (where you are both facing the same direction) but try to leave your knees facing your partner - this will require you to twist from the waist.

Closed Promenade:
Step forward onto your Right Foot (Slow), and take another forward step - guiding your partner's leg forward with your own (otherwise there is no way of staying in body contact... so your leg will be slightly behind his...) - onto your Left foot (Quick), Your next step should be led, but will be taken with your Right foot forward and side as you turn to face your partner in your original hold (Quick), and then close your Left foot to your Right (Slow).

Notes for both the Leader and the Follower:

- Remember to keep your knees flexed and your parter slightly on your Right side, with body contact from rib to hip if you can.

- Always step inside your partner - in the same line as them - even in the promenade... do not try to step around each other's feet. Ladies, use your leg to gently push his forward for the step forward on your Left foot.

- Make all the Quick steps as stacatto as possible. This is Tango! Stalk and pounce!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jive - Change of Hands Behind Back

I thought that this week, to give the guys a little more to do than we did last week, we would look at a step that requires them to do a little more work. (You will have to forgive me a little, because as you may have noticed, the Latin steps are a bit tricky to draw sometimes and my diagrams may get a little numerous, but feel free to ask any questions you may have or get in touch if you want any clarification!)

Before jumping into footwork, I suggest you practice the hands for this one. Start with the Lady's Right hand in the Man's Left and open hold.

Leaders'/Men's Hands/Arm Placements

Holding your partner's Right hand in your Left hand, swing your Right arm in a circular motion up and over towards your clasped hands to end up taking hold of your partner's hand from the top. (That motion can be large or small depending on your style, but it is easier to remember at the beginning if you do it large.)

Let go with your Left hand as you move slightly towards your partner and take your Right hand (holding her Right hand) behind your back.

While your hands are behind your back, reach your Left hand down your back to take hold of your partner's hand - letting go with the Right when you have accomplished this - and then keep moving away from your partner slightly to allow you to bring your Left hand out in front of you. You should now be facing your partner and will have accomplished half a turn - to end facing the opposite direction to the way you started.

Repeat all of the above - no changing anything - to end up back where you were to start.

Followers'/Lady's Hands/Arm Placement

You have it slightly easier this time, Ladies. Start with your Right hand in front of you, elbow relaxed in to your waist, and in your partner's Left hand.

Leave it there!

That's it! Of course, you will need to move to facilitate your partner, but the actual arm placement is the same all the way through. Do not try to grab for your partner's hand - this actually makes it more difficult for him to do what he needs to - even if you think you are helping.

Your body movement is exactly the same as if you had your Right palm on a bollard or post of some sort and you move in a circle around it. Always keep your Right shoulder leading and your body facing your partner (or the post - if you are still imagining that) regardless of what he does. This means at one point, you will be facing his back... that is ok. That is supposed to happen!

Leaders'/Mens Footwork

Standing facing your partner, with your Left hand holding her Right, start with your Rock Step. (Back on your Left and then replace onto your Right.) This is when you swing your Right hand up and over.

Instead of doing a chasse to the side as you normally would, take your chasse moving forward, turning your shoulders to face the wall on your Left. (This is the point at which you have your partner's hand behind your back and are reaching back to take it with your Left hand again.)

Continue turning your shoulders in the same direction as you take your second chasse moving backwards - slightly - to bring your body around to face the wall that was originally behind you and your partner's hand back in front of you.

Repeat exactly as before - turning your shoulders so that your Right shoulder is moving forward and your Left is moving back - as you take your Rock Step and the two Chasses to get you back to where you started.

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

Nice and simple, to match your simple arm positioning - let him do the work on this one!

Take your Rock Step as usual. (Back on your Right foot.)

As I mentioned when talking about your arms, your Right shoulder will be leading throughout this step. That just means that you need to turn from the waist (leaving your feet straight ahead) to put your Right shoulder in front of your body. Assume this body position as you go forward on your first chasse.

Take your second chasse to get you the rest of the way around your partner to face the opposite way from where you started.

Repeat from the Rock Step at the beginning and do exactly the same thing - right side leading - to get you back around your partner to where you started.

Notes for Both the Leader and Follower:

- Ladies, let your gentleman do the work here... you are simply moving around him in a circle - always facing him. He will change your hand. He will do anything fancy. Make it easy for him!
- Gents, dont panic! You have more time than you think you do! Make sure you do all your steps (people tend to leave out some of the steps on the chasses which then puts you off time) and then you will be fine. Practice the hand movements until you can do them without needing to think too hard about them. The feet need to be consistent and just remember, the rhythm of the steps has not changed! (1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Waltz - Close Change and Combination of Turns

Having learned how to do both a turn in the Natural and Reverse directions, you now need to know how to change between them! The step that does this is called a Close Change. It is basically one half of the box step you learned originally, generally with the Man steping forward and the Lady stepping back. It can be done as many times as needed/desired in a row and can be used to travel or to negotiate a busy floor.

Once I have laid out the footwork for the Close Change I will suggest some combinations that of the turns and the close change that work nicely together. Feel free to use them when practicing or to play around with them as much as you feel. The steps are just the vehicle; it is what you do with them that means you are dancing!

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Begin by stepping forward on your Right Foot (no turn). Step side onto your Left Foot and close your Right Foot together to your Left. (Counts 1, 2, 3)

Begin your second Close Change by stepping forward again, but this time on your Left Foot. (This is the one big change between the turns/box step and the Close Change.) Step side onto your Right Foot and close your Left Foot to your Right making sure you transfer your weight. (Counts 1, 2, 3)

You can continue moving forward in this manner alternating feet with each new forward step.

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

Start by stepping back onto your Left Foot (there is no turn in this step so keep your shoulders parallel to your partner). Step side onto your Right Foot and close your Left Foot to the Right, changing the weight. (Counts 1, 2, 3)

The second Close Change will still require you to step backwards, but this time it is on your Left Foot. Step side onto your Right and then close your Left Foot together with your Right. (Counts 1, 2, 3)

As long as you change your starting foot with each new step, you can continue in this vein indefinitely.

Combinations of Steps

Try these combinations to get more comfortable putting the various turns together with a step that also moves.

Combination 1

1 Natural Turn (should take 4 x "1, 2, 3")

4 Close Changes moving down the line of dance (also 4 x "1, 2, 3") - these will start on your Right Foot forward for Guys, Left Foot back for Ladies.

Combination 2

1 Reverse Turn (should take 4 x "1, 2, 3")

4 Close Changes moving down the line of dance (also 4 x "1, 2, 3") - these will start on your Left Foot forward for Guys and Right Foot backwards for Ladies.

Combination 3

1 Natural Turn

3 Close Changes starting on the Right for Men and Left for Ladies

1 Reverse Turn

3 Close Changes starting on the Left for Men and Right for Ladies

Notes for Both the Leader and the Follower:

- For any of the steps we have covered so far in Waltz, it may be helpful to try to think "Right, 2, 3, Left, 2, 3, Right, 2, 3, etc" instead of just counting "1, 2, 3," or thinking "Right, Left, Right".

- When you come to a corner, simply try to adjust your turn to begin dancing down the line of your nearest wall. Sometimes this will mean turning a little bit more or a little bit less than you will do when going down the straight side of the room. There is no hard and fast rule about it at this point and you should get the hang of cornering after a few attempts. Men - whichever wall you are closest to is the one that you should be diagonally facing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jive - Change of Place

The Change of Place is a fancy way of saying that you turn the girl under your arm and out into an open position and then bring her back again. The rhythm of the footwork stays the same as in the basic movement ("back, step - 1,2,3 - 1,2,3")

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Here's where it gets easy guys... your footwork is Exactly The Same as the Basic! All you need to do is raise your Left arm as you go into your first Chasse (the one to the Left) and give a slight nudge with your Right hand on your lady's back. This will help her turn as you continue with your Chasse step away from her. Do your Rock Step as usual, your Chasse to the Left and your partner will be coming back in the same direction as you as you Chasse to the Right.

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

Unfortunately, this step is a little more difficult for you than it is for the guys - but that means you get the fun bit!

Begin with your Rock Step as usual.

Take your first Chasse to the Left as usual. Your partner will indicate you are about to turn by lifting your Right arm.

Pivot on your Right foot, towards your right shoulder, on the third step of your chasse.

Over the next Chasse (the the Left) continue turning to end up facing the wall that was originally to your Right. (perpendicular to your partner)

Take your Rock Step there

and then chasse forward/to the side with your Right Foot

beginning to turn and bringing your Right shoulder forward as you pass under the raised arms over the course of the three steps,

pivoting on the last step
and swinging your Left Foot underneath you in the same movement (but not putting it on the ground yet)

to enable you to take your Chasse to the Left facing your partner.

Notes for Both the Leader and the Follower:

- Make sure you both keep the arm that is connected to your partner slightly bent and think about keeping your elbow close to your waist. If you allow your arm to stretch too far, you wont be able to do your back step away from each other without losing contact. Guys, it is also much easier to lead your lady if you keep her on a "tight leash" so to speak by keeping your arm close to you... this means you will always be able to direct her movement as necessary.