Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lesson on Quickstep Technique, Practice Routine

Quickstep practice routine:

Starting DC, middle of long wall (alignment is from Man's perspective)
Steps in this color can be skipped when dancing on a shorter wall.
  1. Chasse Reverse Turn (SQQ) (start on 1, not 8) -> BLOD
  2. Progressive Chasse (SQQS) -> DW
  3. Forward Lock (SQQS) -> DW
  4. Natural Turn with Back Lock (SQQS QQS) -> BLOD
  5. Running Finish (SQQ) -> DW New LOD
  6. 123 Natural Turn (SQQ) -> BLOD
  7. Closed Impetus (SSS) -> either DW (moving BDW) or facing Wall (moving center)
  8. Reverse Pivot (S) -> DC
  9. Double Reverse Spin (SSQQ) -> LOD
  10. Progressive Chasse to the Right (SQQS) -> BDW
  11. Back Lock (SQQS) -> BDW
  12. Tipple Chasse to the Right (SQQS QQS) -> DW New LOD
  13. Natural Pivot Turn (SQQS) -> LOD
  14. Natural Spin Turn (SQQ SSS) -> BDC
  15. Progressive Chasse (SQQS) -> DW
  16. Natural Spin Turn (SQQ SSS) -> BDC
  17. Heel Pivot - Quarter Turn to Left (SQQ) -> DW
  18. Cross Chasse (SQQ) -> DW
  19. Natural Turn (SQQ SSS) -> underturn ending LOD on New LOD
  20. Zig Zag, Back Lock & Running Finish (SS QQS SQQ) -> last "S" in previous Natural Turn is first "S" in Zig Zag, Running Finish ending DW New LOD
  21. Natural Turn with Hesitation (SQQ SSS) -> DC about in middle of long wall, start over from #1.

Some technique points:

Reverse Pivot
The man lowers down to his heel for the pivot, but keeps a straight leg, delaying the compression of the knee for collection until the pivot is complete. When the man steps, and begins to turn, he has the lady step with her left foot inside his right foot. It is because of this that he needs to keep his right knee straight, so that her left foot can switch between being inside and outside of his right foot without the partners bumping knees.
Double Reverse Spin
The man needs to rise at the end of 1, so that the lady can rise at the end of her heel turn. He also needs to take a big side step, and use some swing to get there. He uses the image of trying to spiral his head up to the ceiling.
Tipple Chassé to Right
Distinguish the shaping on the Running Finish and Tipple Chassé: On the Tipple Chassé, the man shape right at the end of the first step. On the fourth step step, S, the knee compresses for a change of direction, but the heel stays off the ground. Be careful to keep his head and center left through the second half of the Tipple Chassé.
This was characterized to be nearly identical to the Foxtrot Reverse Turn, but all slows, rise at the end of 3.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Class on Bronze Quickstep

Some points on technique:
  • Lady needs to maintain "a strong elbow", referring to her left elbow, otherwise she will be difficult for the man to lead.
  • Lady makes contact with the man below the rib cage, but not above, otherwise she is leaning against him, and cannot respond to his lead.
  • On the Tipple Chassé, on the first slow step, the man begins shaping, bending his spine to the right. After the check step, he returns his spine to the left. The degree to which the direction of movement changes determines how much checking is done on the check step. To continue in a line down the floor, there is hardly any check at all.
  • Keeping both feet in contact with the ground at all times is required for balance in the swing dances. Without this contact, there is a tendency, particularly when coming out of a rise, to come down abruptly and not smoothly.
  • One way that the lady may determine whether a figure requires a lock or a chassé: if the timing is QQ, the step is elevated, and moving forward or back, it is a lock, and if it moves to the side, it is a chassé.

Lesson on Quickstep Technique

It's good to have a ritual to get into frame. On social dance floor, this could be brief, but the elements are still there.  In competitions, the ritual is dramatized. The 10-point system is described in details on Standard Technique page.

Natural Turn: first step, step straight.

On the natural pivot, the man needs to leave enough space between his legs for the woman to be able to step between, and that space needs to be maintained through the pivot.

The importance of the woman driving through on her forward steps was emphasized. Without that drive, she is not able to get around the man on the second half of the natural turn.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Class on Bronze Quickstep

Quickstep practice routine:

  1. Natural Pivot Turn   
  2. Quarter Turn to Right   
  3. Progressive Chasse   
  4. Forward Lock   
  5. Natural Turn And Back Lock   
  6. Tipple Chasse To Right   
  7. Natural Spin Turn   
  8. Heel Pivot (Quarter Turn To Left)   
  9. Cross Chasse  

Three phases of movement in the swing dances. lower, move, and swing. We lower to gain speed, move on the slow step, and slow down as we rise and swing. The movement of the quickstep is like a roller coaster. We go down on the slow and pick up speed, and then go up on the quicks and slow down. The rise and swing is less than in waltz, as there isn't time for the full swing and rise of waltz.

There was a question about how the lady knows that a lock step is being led. The amount of rise on the quicks is what leads the difference between a lock step and passing the feet.

Bronze class on Rumba

Figures covered at Rumba Bronze Level:

  1. Fan: The man step slightly forward on step 6, rather that straight to side, to put him a little closer to the lady.
  2. Alemana
  3. Hockey Stick
  4. Natural Top
  5. Opening Out to Right and Left
  6. Natural Opening Out Movement
  7. Closed Hip Twist

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lesson on Waltz and Foxtrot

Heel Turns
Do not lean into turns which throws off the balance of the partnership. Basically, it will knock the lady over. Secondly, soften legs, and roll across the feet. To review, using the closed impetus as an example,
  1. Man: step straight back with left foot. 
  2. Man: draw right foot back even with LF
  3. Man: turn on left heel, with weight distributed so that the ball of the foot still brushes the ground, a half turn.
  4. As Man rises on his right toe, Man corkscrew up, for up to another 3/8, before stepping back on his left foot, for a total of up to 7/8 of a turn
On the heel pull, Man needs to step the turn on 3 after 1/4 of a turn, and rolling onto the inside edge of the ball of the left foot, push off onto the right foot.

Foxtrot versus Waltz
A difference between waltz and foxtrot. In foxtrot, we only drive on the first step, and swing the leg on the second step. In waltz, we drive on the first and second step, and the swing is what brings our feet together to settle at the end of the third step. When practicing the difference in a waltz natural turn versus foxtrot, in the waltz, after the first step, Man puts his left foot forward on the ground, without weight, pointing it, and then pushes off the right foot. In foxtrot, after the first step, Man turns his body, bringing his left foot under me, before then swinging the left foot back. This is part of the difference between leading the lady to pass her feet or do a heel turn, respectively.

The mechanics of partnership and the axis of rotation on turns. There are three possible axes Man could be rotating around when he is on the outside of a turn. These are the lady's sternum, her outside shoulder (outside of the turn) and her elbow. The first two apply, respectively, to foxtrot natural turn, and a waltz natural turn, for example. The elbow would apply for turning into promenade position, for example. Paying attention to having the right axis of rotation for our turns. When Man is on the outside of the turn, he does not turn around his center, his body should swing like a door.

An exercise to practice: move from foot to foot, side to side, and forward and back, rolling across the foot, inside edge to flat, flat to inside edge, heel to toe, and toe to heel. Within this, when you bring your feet together, practice lowering the heels with different timings. Use this exercise to warm up and get a feel for using the whole foot on the floor.

Sway is a consequence of movement, it is not done for its own sake. It would be technically correct to dance with little or no sway at all, there is a school of thought that promotes this, but it would be most suited for very tall couples that could still travel effectively down the floor with, what is for them, small steps. But movement is required to be noticed by the judges in a competition, so for most couples they will be taking big enough steps to require sway.

Our coach's philosophy is that the lady's elbows are the determinant of proper frame. The man's role is more practical, and the point is to display the lady, so the man's frame should be such to allow the lady's elbows to be even with the shoulders. As a point of reference, when I practice by myself, I should hold my right arm so that if I close my right hand to me, it would come to the center of my chest for the swing dances, and to my sternum for tango. Practice holding one of those hourglass shaped carwash sponges between right hand and chest to simulate having a lady there and keeping my right side frame in the right place.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lesson on Cha Cha

Two key points of technique to work on: locks and spacing.
Most common problem is taking too big steps, in general, but specifically in locks. Backward locks are simpler. The legs remain straight at all times. On forward locks, footwork is ball-flat, ball, ball-flat. On 4, the front foot steps, pointing toe, and landing on a straight leg. Trailing foot crosses behind front foot on &, with feet turned out on ball, and knee bent. On 1, the trailing leg pops straight, lifting the trailing hip, and it is this motion that provides the impetus for the front leg to move forward, a little bit. When changing from left to right and right to left, as in the triple cha chas, a turning of the ribs should be used to effect the change. Do not swing the trailing leg around in a big arc, which is not very attractive.
How far apart the man and woman can and should get: The anchor of the partnership in open position is the hand hold, and so the man and woman should not step further away from the hands than would allows for upright body posture, waist high hands, with bent elbows. A critical element of making this work is small steps. The previous point talks about how small the steps are for locks, but small steps are the rule in general. This goes back to a previous post on hand hold in a private lesson, where the instructor recommended a firm grip in open hand hold. This is the only way the man can effectively communicate how much travel is appropriate. It seems easy for the lady to travel too far without this hold in getting into, for example, the fan position.

Lesson on Waltz

Waltz technique, frame, and heel turns.
Each partner is responsible for the frame's topline on their left side. I had always heard before that the man needs to keep his right elbow high enough to make topline look right. The man's left arm and the lady's left arm should make a straight horizontal line across the top. The man's right arm cannot participate in that line, it needs to go down a bit so that the man can place his hand on the lady's back. The instructor stated that the lady keeps her own elbow high enough to make the line, and the man lifts his right elbow as necessary and appropriate to provide the points of contact for the lead. He also talked about the motion of the head. When the lady moves between promenade and closed position, her head should "go over the moon", i.e., the nose describes an upward arc, to prevent the chin from going down. To a lesser extent, this applies to the man as well, the main point being that the chin should stay up.
Heel turns
First, we talked about leading the lady into a heel turn, in the context of a double reverse spin. This pattern calls for a rise at the end of the first step. In particular, the instructor emphasized that the man should rise and wait until the lady's feet come together before moving into the next step. When the man is executing a heel turn, as he draws his trailing foot in, both legs should straighten, providing the rise for this step.The rise is also late in the step, as a result, as too early a rise will prevent the lady from getting past the man with her step.
The instructor emphasized that the settling on step 3 should occur at the end of the step, and should smoothly go into the next step. He demonstrated by lowering right on 3, which looked sort of like just plopping down on the step. The contrast was changing the count to 3&, where he would be up on 3, and not lower until the &.

Lesson in Samba

The most challenging aspect of samba for the beginner is the fact that the knees and the feet don't move at the same time.

Exercise with the volta, starting with left foot in front:
  • &--Rise on the left foot, straightening the leg, rising on the ball, lifting the right foot in the air to make sure weight is on the left foot.
  • a --Right foot to side
  • 1--Front foot crosses in front of the left.
A very common mistake would be to use the free leg to drive the motion, rather than the leg with weight. Hips should absorb the samba bounce, so the head remains level. It's important to first get the footwork right, or there will be nothing for the hips to absorb.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lesson on Cha Cha

Cha Cha technique points:
  • Hand hold--In open positions, man should hold the lady's hand with thumb on the back of her hand, the first two fingers on the palm of her hand, with just tight enough a grip to clearly lead and communicate my position. Our instructor says that while little emphasis is given to the hand-hold in most instruction, he finds that if there is any uncertainty about hand holds, including how they change during a figure, his figures will not work right. It is incorrect to hold the hand as if it were holding a cup, the lady's fingers down inside the cup. This is not adequate for anything beyond a basic.
  • Closed position--Fingers of man's left hand closed around lady's right hand. We try to create a large volume between us, slightly pushing away from each other. 
  • Footwork--Heel has to be on the ground on the beat on 1, 2, and 3, but no heel leads. Steps should be small. Remember to step straight back, and not turn, when leading an underarm turn.
  • Lead and follow--Man needs to lead where he wants lady to step. In open positions, he should try to keep his hand at the lady's waist level if possible. Hold the hand too high, and he will tend to tip her over at the top, rather than lead her feet to move.
  • Sharpness in movement.--Torquing the hips. The hips should never be flat, except between movements. It is the hip rotation driving the steps, and in the settling action on the 2, that will lend sharpness to the movements.
  • Natural Top--This happens in a closed position, shoulders square to each other, no hip action, the goal is to show off the amount of rotation. The man crosses behind, the lady has her feet pointing left relative to the shoulders, walking around the rim of the circle. The man and the lady have different footwork to avoid conflict in the feet.
  • Hockey Stick--The hand goes up on 1, but remains to the right side of the lady. On 3, the hand is brought across the lady's face, causing her to turn 1/8. On the & after 3, the lady is turned a half-turn. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lesson on Foxtrot

A Foxtrot practice routine:
  1. Preparation step, facing DC
  2. Feather Step  (SQQS)  
  3. Reverse Turn  (SQQ SQQS)  
  4. Three Step  (QQS)  
  5. Natural Turn  (SQQ SSS)  
  6. Repeat
The way we maintain connection is that our bodies never stop moving, at most they change speed and direction. If I carry through smoothly without stopping my body, it is easier for my partner to stay with me. From the followers side, the followers body should be moving out beyond her feet before she steps forward on her heel turns.

Regarding Foxtrot, waltz, and American versus International Styles: In International style foxtrot, the feet always pass each other, at least at the newcomer and bronze level, whereas waltz is characterized by the feet coming together and the weight settling. Because of that, foxtrot is characterized by a metronomic swing, and waltz by a pendulum swing. In other words, waltz has sway, while foxtrot emphasizes more leg swing. Contrasting American and International, our coach characterized American Slow Foxtrot as American Slow Waltz with Foxtrot timing. She also talked about a fundamental difference being that American Foxtrot allows for open holds. This came up in the context of Wrong Side Outside Partner Position, where my left foot is to the right of the lady's left foot. In American Foxtrot, in two-hand hold, it is possible to go directly from Outside Partner Position to Wrong Side Outside Partner Position. In closed hold, some intermediate positions are required.

The three step was described as feeling like tango in the first two steps. The footwork the coach gave me on the three step is H, HT, TH. This is different from the official syllabus, which says HT, TH, H. We stay flat through the beginning of the second step. The reason for this is that we need a right side lead to bring the lady back in line after a feather finish, which in turn prevents the leg swing that would naturally result in a rise. As we come out of that second step, with CBM for the third step. This understanding will probably have to evolve a bit. But needing to stay flat to bring the lady in line seems to make sense. My instructor says she hasn't yet gotten a satisfactory explanation from her coaches, but will keep asking.

Natural turn: the heel turn and the heel pull - just like on the heel turn, Man needs to turn on his left heel, and then step side with his right foot and settle weight on that foot.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ballet Blog

Swan Lake Samba Girl is a blog heavily focused on Ballet, although she does occasionally write about other things.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Newcomer lesson on Cha cha and Waltz

Cha  cha
  • On 'cha cha cha', stay on toes for first two cha's, leg doesn't straighten until last cha.
  • Afro-cuban dances break on two so that the hip action is emphasized on one.
  • On steps that break back, always point the front toe.
  • On basic in place, try to open as big a gap as possible between the front knee and the back leg, while keeping feet turned out. In order to do this, it will be necessary to extend with the hips, enhancing the latin action.
  • On each pattern, first step is driving step, third step is collection
  • Sway is used on second step to step much longer than one could stepping with flat hips. It is also used to slow down sideways momentum and to bring feet together.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More on Samba Technique

  • For voltas to the right, left foot steps in front of right. Feet are turned out, right knee touches back of left knee. Hips face 1/8 to right.
  • & - start with leg rise to begin the the next step, hips tilt back (arching the back), hips start to rotate flat
  • 'a'- continue with foot rise, stepping on ball of right foot, hips are flat
  • 1- left foot closes to right, at the last second, hips tilt foward to allow left foot to cross in front of right, hips rotate right
  • 1- step forward with left foot, turn out right foot, hips rotate right, ribs and shoulders move less, to emphasize hip rotation
  • 'a'- step forward with right foot, swinging leg in same direction of motion, place partial weight on foot
  • step forward with left foot, turning left 90 degrees
  • arms- on criss-cross boto-fogos, when Man is to right of lady, right arm extends straight out, when Man is to left of lady, extend right arm straight up

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lesson in Foxtrot and Samba

In Foxtrot,
  • Precision in footwork, it's something that one tends to forget. 
  • Feet need to point in direction you are moving. Do not turn out the feet.
  • Rule of 1/4. Feet shouldn't be turned out more than 90 degrees. 
  • Collect my feet on the appropriate steps.
  • Early rise when leading a heel turn. It is difficult for the lady to do a heel turn with bent knees, so Man needs to rise enough to allow her to have straight legs. In particular, this happens on the second step of the natural turn.
  • One way to practice technique is to do Man and Lady's parts separately. Man would take his steps, and Lady takes her steps to judge where she needs to step. And vice versa. Similarly we could step at the end of the figure, and check our positions.
  • Do CBM properly.
  • Do not lean forward (for Man), or lean back (for Lady). Leave some room between Man and Lady's feet. If they are too close, we would be forced to either lean forward or back. The correction to this possible cause is making sure our relative foot positions are correct.
  • On stationary samba walks, should bring the feet together, the slip step is very small. When the foot steps back, the hip turns with it, and can be exagerated to enhance the action.
  • Use the pendulum action of the hips.
  • On going from side samba walk to criss-cross boto fogos, Man needs to keep the forward motion, and get his partner to keep moving, while Man holds back, without stepping back.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Research on dimmable lighting for dance practice space

We are designing a space for dance practice, and one of the elements we are looking at is the lighting. We would like to have dimmable lighting, which is usually accomplished with incandescent lights and a dmmer switch. With snippets of news items in my head about the phasing out of incandescent lights, some research was in order for if and how we could have dimmable lighting in the long term.

As a quick experiment, we put in an LED light bulb, and a compact flourescent (CFL), into a socket controlled by a dimmer switch. Right down to the lowest setting, both bulbs stayed at full brightness.

A quick run to wikipedia: there was a full article on the phase-out of incandescent bulbs. In the US, 100W bulbs go away in 2012, and all incandescents between 40 and 150W go away by 2014.

That means we can replace lights on the dimmer switches with incandescents for the next two years. What about after that? Flood lights are not included in the legislation, but I wonder if that will hold, since we have a pack of CFL flood lamp bulbs in our garage. Also, according to the article, the energy efficiency standards will require lighting to meet the efficiency of halogen light bulbs, which are still a form of incandescent, and dimmable. Quick research on these puts halogen flood lamps at about $5 for 75W. We also found dimmable CFL floods.

Besides energy efficiency, the other reason to look at CFL and LED lighting is longevity. LED bulbs are typically offering 50k hours life, as compare to 750 hours for a standard incandescent, 2000 for a halogen, 5-10k hours for a CFL. LED dimmable lighting is now available from Lemnis, but at $50 per 60W equivalent bulb, we can wait until the price drops on those.

So it looks like we can go ahead and install dimmer switches without being concerned about the availability of dimmable light bulbs in the future.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Samba Lesson

Samba Basic Motion: Timing: 1 & a 2. Release the heels and 'bounce' up on &. The 'a' step only gets partial weight.
Samba walks: On the 'a' beat, the front leg is straightened, the thigh pulled back, weight is kept forward.

Voltas: The leg that crosses in front crosses just in front. The knees are together, and you 'sit. Then release the back leg to step to the side, this is the traveling step, not the crossing step.

Boto Fogos: The foot that steps to the side is turned out. It is the foot stepping forward that will swivel to change directions.

Benefits of Ballet

An insightful letter to the editor on the benefits of ballet.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Standard Dance, Tango, Rumba

Standard dances:
  • For the man, compress knees more to make it easier when partner is much shorter.
  • For the lady, do not think about tilting head back, just keep it straight, shift it over to the left a bit, so that head is not above sternum.
In Rumba,
  • New Yorker: A check is how we change direction from forwards to backward. On the check, the back foot is kept in place, the weight is split. Rather than an abrupt stop and reverse of direction, it is a circular redirection of momentum.
  • In the standard check, step on 2, check on &. The standard check is more difficult, and correct execution shows better control. 
  • In the syncopated check, the check happens immediately with the step.
  • On the Hand to Hand, however, the weight is fully committed to the back leg, since it is much easier to change direction from back to forwards than forwards to back.
The slow steps have three possible timings in Tango. The step takes two beats.
  1. Step on 1, hold on two. For example, stepping with the left foot in a Tango walk, the left foot steps on 1, and the right foot comes under the body with out weight. This timing is used for walks.
  2. Hold on the 1, and step on 2. This is the timing for closes.
  3. Step on 2, with the moving foot movings smoothly through the whole step, like in the waltz or foxtrot.
Make use of this idea of breaking down the beat into fractions for sharpening slow steps in Rumba and Cha Cha as well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beginner's Foxtrot

Steps are simpler in Foxtrot (in the sense that there are less number of steps), so focus on technique is important. The feet are always passing, so there is less rise and fall than in waltz. On the feather step, there is CBM on the first step, so the frame turns to the right. On the three step, CBM happens gradually across the three steps, so the frame is wound to the left by the end of the figure. The motion is likened to swinging like a monkey from vine to vine.

The feet stay in contact with the ground all the time. When stepping back, the leg needs to swing back like a pendulum. The tip of the toe touches first, and then one rolls back onto the foot. The heel does not touch the ground until the feet are even.

Posture, position, and frame: Position refers to the relative position of the man and woman. Because the man is normally taller and heavier, the lady needs to shape left and back much more than the man. In addition to shaping left, while keeping contact through the body, the lady also bends back at the 6th or 7th thoracic vertebra.

Beginner's Samba

In the Samba basic, the rhythm is 1 a 2. The 'a' is at the 3/4 point between the 1 and the 2. On the 'a' beat, the heels release from the floor, and the hips tilt up. The feeling is like doing an abdominal crunch. On the numbered beat the hip tilts back down.

Natural basic, the abs are crunched on 'a', step forward on the right foot on 1, while straightening the left leg and turning out the left foot. The hips twist, but the shoulders do not. More on Samba Technique.

Monday, September 28, 2009

More on Tango Technique

  • Feet are placed. It means one will often have his/her feet turned in when placing a foot.
  • 90 degree rule. When I place my feet, I should never place a foot so that they are turned out more than 90 degrees. It is OK to turn them in more than that, though.
  • In the manual, in the Back Corté, the first step has the left side leading. That is not how any competition dancers perform it, they always take that step in CBMP, winding it up a bit.
  • On the reverse turn, on steps 3 and 4, the shoulders stop rotating, giving the hips a chance to catch up. It was described as a hover in the orientation of the frame. When reverse turn is preceded by another reverse turning figure with many quick steps, some dancers even reverse the rotation of the shoulders a little on this step, to slow down enough for the close at the end of the pattern.
  • There was some discussion of how the trailing foot is lifted on the Back Corté. Mirko Gozzoli lifts the heel and then the toe last. Marcus Hilton lifts the whole foot. But Mirko, and contemporary dancers, take much longer steps than Marcus did.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tango Technique for Ladies

Tango (for the ladies):
  • Step 1 on progressive link: CBM is very important, don't worry too much about crossing the line (the book says "on the line"). If there is not enough CBM, lady's R leg is going to block Man's leg.
  • Step 1 on tango walk: CBM
  • Step 2 on tango walk: keep wider two tracks, to leave room for Man's R leg to step forward. Same for LF steps in rock turn. The position feels awkward, but that is correct.
The hold, how to create volume (for general standard dances):
  • Left curve: really need to curve more to left, don't lift R hip much (maybe a little bit), squeeze R side, extend L side to make shoulders level with Man. Head extend the curve to left, 45' degrees.
  • Frontal curve: slightly bend legs forward, don't bend back the neck, flex the upper back backward, head goes with it. keep middle frame straight and connected with Man.
  • Nothing that you do to create volume should disturb the center alignment. Man and Lady's center move together (L, R, up, down, forward, back).

Tango Technique

  • When man closes, he should close feet together, ball of right foot even with arch of left foot.
  • Progressive Link: when man steps on left foot, he should turn his frame when his weight is on his left foot, then put down right foot under shoulder, in promenade position.
  • Head should always be at the same level. Some people have a tendency to lower on awalk, and then rise back up on the side step on the progressive link, which causes the right side to go up relative to left side.
  • Turning frame on progressive link should be quick and short.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Boys can be interested in ballet....

A profile of Isaac Akiba, who was recruited by the Boston Ballet through a program offered in the public schools.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What ladies need to understand and practice

Per some coaches, a lady needs to understand and practice 4 things:
  1. Flexibility:
  2. Mobility: the quality of movement
  3. Selling: present and sell to audience/judges
  4. Collection: always collect your legs and ready to move in any direction man leads next.

Copellia in Bellevue, WA

MK Ballet to put on Copellia at Meydenbauer in Bellevue

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Over 35 standard championship to take place in Canada this year

And one of the judges is one of the hosts on Canada's version of "So You Think You Can Dance". Article here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tango Technique

International Standard Tango section of the web site has gone through some major updates including Tango Technique, as well as pages for syllabus figures.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dance shoes

The page on dance shoes has been updated to include dance shoe vendors in the Seattle area.

Syllabus Courses & Performance team in Kirkland, Washington

From a flyer at Seattle Star Ball:

United States National Champion Brian Jolly and Alison Epsom offers International Latin Syllabus Courses from beginning to silver level.

Pre-pay offer: $110 for 7.5 hours over 5 weeks
Student: $95 for 7.5 hours over 5 weeks

Location: 12305 120th Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98034

They also have a performance team looking for dancers (no partner is required).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Standard Technique: using whole foot, head balance

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Profile on Baryshnikov

On the occasion of a performance in Santa Monica, Los Angeles Times has this profile of Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Monday, August 24, 2009

DWTS Pairings Announced

See who is dancing with who. Mark Dacascos would be my favorite to win, except for Lacey's tendency to play fast and loose with the requirements of a particular dance.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Standard Dance Technique: Balance, Movement

Technique points:
  • It's important to be balanced over foot one is pivoting on.
  • Follower should be slow to put her foot down for step 6 of the natural spin turn, as setting her foot down too early will limit the amount of rotation possible. This is part of the general technique of waiting for the leader to commit his weight before the follower commits hers.
  • On Quickstep Lockstep, feet should be aligned with where you are going.
  • On backwards steps with settling, the heel should not touch the ground until both feet are together.
These are noted on the international standard techniques page.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Standard Technique Notes

Some new updates on Standard Technique:
  • When a pattern in the ISTD manual mentions "pointing" in a direction, rather than facing it, it is referring to foot alignment where it differs from body alignment. For example, the foot might "point diagonal center" where the body will still be aligned facing center. (See alignment diagram.)
  • It may appear sometimes looking at competition dancers that they wind up before making a turn. What is in fact happening is that they underturn their bodies in the preceding figure, to achieve essentially the effect of a windup. An actual windup would take too long, since it would have to be lead, and then followed, and then the turn led, and then followed.
  • On pivot turns, the leader keeps his legs in a line so that, for example, on a natural pivot turn, he ends with his right foot on the same track as his left foot (like he was on a balance beam). This prevents the leader from essentially crashing into the follower's legs as he turns. The follower, on the other hand, always maintains two tracks for the feet on a pivot turn, so that the leader can step between her feet for the next figure.
  • When stepping backwards, the follower does not put her heel down until feet are together to settle. She also starts stepping with the toe, rather than the ball of the foot. She should show someone behind her the whole sole of her shoe. This gives her a significantly longer stride and more power.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Dancing with the Stars" Gaining Weight

ET reports that Dancing with the Stars will have 16 celebrities this season, with three weeks of double elimination rounds.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dance Video Social Site

In looking for dance clips on Google Video, I came across

It includes both social and competitive partner dancing, ballet, and many other styles. I don't think it will have as many dance clips as youtube, but it's all dance.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Technique on Standard Positions

Additional technique notes on standard dance positions has been added.

Starting a Dance - Getting Into Hold

10-point system when starting a standard dance - make this a ritual: (could be less dramatic for social occasions)
  1. Man assumes a dance posture, standing in upright position, lifting his ribs, weight toward the balls of the feet, rolling his shoulders back. He raises his energy.
  2. Lady responds in kind.
  3. Man raises his left arm forward in front of him just below the shoulders height, and his right arm to side, offering his left hand to invite the lady, particularly the space between the thumb and forefinger.
  4. Lady steps forward toward Man and places her right hand in the man's left hand, and they both close their fingers. Lady's hand has a slight twist to the right, such that the the thumb and arm form a line. Lady's R arm is in front of her body.
  5. Man draws his left elbow straight back, drawing the lady in, Left hand at eye level, elbow making slightly more than 90 degrees. Forearm is 45 degrees from floor.
    • The lady stops with some separation between her feet and the Man's. Do not get too closed. Let Lady decides her comfortable position before Man settle his R arm position.
    • Lady: be careful not to "draw Man in". Man draws Lady in, not the other way around. Lady "gives" and projects "forward" and "up",
    • Lady starts with R arm in front, keep that position when Man draws his L elbow back, i.e. lady should not move upper body forward making R shoulder/upper arm start going back. Keep upper body back and allow lower body to connect with partner, bend knees forward.
    • Per coach: 91 degrees for all dances, except for Tango: 89 degrees :) - this obviously depends on the height difference between partners.
    • The whole arm should not break at shoulder joint. It should make a smooth curve.
  6. Man places his right wrist under the place where the lady's arm meets the back of her shoulder.
  7. Man places his R hand under the lady's left shoulder blade, and the lady moves her trunk forward over her feet to meet the man's body, while maintaining enough arch in her back to keep her own balance without leaning on the man. (stretch abdominal muscle back to spine)
  8. Lady places her L hand on the man's bicep, just under the deltoid, with the thumb parallel to the man's upper arm. Man's right elbow rises to make contact between the follower's upper arm and his forearm.
    • Lady's L hand has slight twist to left, such that the left thumb making a smooth line with left arm.
    • If Lady is much shorter, Man should still keep elbow at reasonable height, while lowering R forearm put R hand around Lady's shoulder blade.
    • Man's frame should be such to allow the lady's elbows to be even with her shoulders.
    • Coach's opinion: The man's left arm and the lady's left arm should make a straight horizontal line across the top. The lady keeps her own elbow high enough to make the line, and the man lifts his right elbow as necessary and appropriate to provide the points of contact for the lead.
    • Lady's left hand: only thumb and middle finger touch Man's shoulder, index, ring finger and pinky are all "lifted up". Lady projects "forward".
    • Man's R hand: shouldn't need to curve his fingers. (Lady projects diagonally forward, spiral up - which will make Man's hand fit better without curving.)
    • Lady's upper arm should be quite "light" on the Man.
  9. Man steps to his left starting preparation step.
  10. Man steps to his right. Start.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Performance team in Seattle

While dancing at Impulse Ballroom in Bellevue, a lady recommended the Dance Team in which she's part of. This team aims to promote dance through performance.

There is formation team (more for beginners) and performance team (for more experienced dancers). They meet Wednesdays and Sundays at Dancesport International (Seattle). More info at

Review of "Burn the Floor"

A review of the Broadway ballroom dance production that seems to have been going on for an awful long time. This incarnation features Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, known for their "Dancing with the Stars" appearances.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dance Competition Divisions, Categories

Information about dance competitions has been posted on the website, including dance divisions, age categories, and competition levels.

As to what constitutes an amateur in competition, it seems that as long as you never call yourself a professional, or compete as one, you qualify as an amateur.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cha Cha Bronze Level Practice Routine

Bronze Level International Cha Cha practice choreography:
  1. Basic Movement In Place (234&1 23)
  2. Open Basic Movement (4&1 234&1) lock step
  3. Closed Basic Movement (234&1) quarter turn to L
  4. New York LSP (234&1)
  5. Underarm Turn To R (234&1)
  6. Fan (234&1 234&1)
  7. Hockey Stick (234&1 23)
  8. Three Cha Cha Chas Forward (4&1 2&3 4&1)
  9. Open Basic Movement (234&1)
  10. Natural Top (234&1 234&1 234&1)
  11. Natural Opening Out Movement (234&1)
  12. Closed Basic Movement (234&1 234&1)
  13. New York LSP (234&1)
  14. Three Cha Cha Chas Forward (2&3 4&1)
  15. New York RSP (234&1)
  16. Three Cha Cha Chas Forward (2&3 4&1)
  17. Spot or Switch Turn To R (Lady to L) (234&1) Lady timestep
  18. Spot or Switch Turn To L (Lady to R) (234&1) Man does time step
  19. There And Back (234&1 234&1)
  20. Closed Basic Movement (234&1)
  21. Underarm Turn To R (234&1)
  22. Side Step To Right commenced with LF (234&1)
  23. Fan (234&1)
  24. Alemana (234&1 234&1)
  25. Closed Hip Twist (234&1 234&1) end in open position
  26. Open Basic Movement (234&1)

Cha Cha Technique, Newcomer Figures

General Technique:
  • Legs are straight except when moving/turning.
  • Turn the body between beats, on '&'.
Basic: when stepping forward on 2:
  • body is lifted on 2: weight on front leg, pushing off ball of back foot to extend higher
  • check step on &: bend knee of back leg, as if some poked the back of the knee with a stick, back hip comes even, weight settles on front leg. Keep knees close together.
  • 3: push off front leg, move hip back, straighten back leg before placing weight on it
New Yorker:
  1. (previous beat) &: turn body 90 degree
  2. 2: forward step
  3. & check step, see above
  4. 3: weight on back foot
  5. &: turn 90 to face
  6. 4 (side) - & (together) -1 (side) - & (turn 90) [repeat #2]
Hand to Hand: it's like "reverse" New Yorker, don't over turn, be precise.

Should-to-shoulder: don't think of it as a turning step. face your partner, body slight turn, step outside partner.

Some international style coaches consider American rhythm dances are the lazy version of the international dances, because the knees are always bent.

Cha Cha Newcomer Practice Routine

Newcomer Level International Cha Cha practice routine:

  1. Basic Movement In Place (234&1 234&1)
  2. Open Basic Movement (23)
  3. Three Cha Cha Chas Back (4&1 2&3 4&1)
  4. Closed Basic Movement (234&1) w/ quarter turn
  5. New York LSP (234&1)
  6. New York RSP (234&1)
  7. Spot Turn To R (Lady to L) (234&1)
  8. Hand To Hand LSP (234&1)
  9. Hand To Hand RSP (234&1)
  10. Underarm Turn To R (234&1)
  11. Shoulder To Shoulder Left Side (234&1)
  12. Shoulder To Shoulder Right Side (234&1)
  13. Spot Turn To R (234&1) Lady: does time step.
  14. Spot Turn To L (Lady to R) (234&1) Man: does time step
  15. There And Back (234&1 234&1)
  16. Closed Basic Movement (234&1 234&1) last measure do quarter turn.
  17. Open Basic Movement (234&1 23)
  18. Three Cha Cha Chas Forward (4&1 2&3 4&1)
It uses all the ISTD Cha Cha Newcomer Syllabus steps.

Waltz frame, Posture, Position, Footwork

Some technique points on Waltz (also applicable to other Standard dances):
  • Maintain good posture. That means Man's head should not be leading the feet in forward motion.
  • Maintain good position. Our shoulders should be parallel to each other (not wrapped around). The right side of Lady's body should come to about Man's sternum, and vice versa.
  • Maintain a big top-line (arms and elbows out wide) with head tilting 1/8 to the left in closed position. Man and Lady balance against each other. This is why practicing by yourself doesn't quite cover it. The keyword here is to "maintain" the position.
  • Footwork is very important. has very detailed information on steps, timing, diagrams and footwork. Study!
  • Follow through on the steps. Sometimes Man and Lady gaps in between (this is obvious when the partners start dancing in contact). Man: avoid stopping abruptly at the end of a change, that would cause the separation.
  • Natural Turn and Reverse Turn: whoever is moving forward, drive it (bigger step, as this person is on the outside of the turn).
  • Closed Changes: When connecting Natural Turn and Reverse Turn, there is no turns on change steps. Don't cheat.

A new start: web site

Finally, we started our new website This is partly originated from our frustration at finding dance related information including dance steps, technique, etc. on the internet. We couldn't find any decent online calendars for any local dance studios either in the Seattle area. So we decided to build a web site and hopefully others will find it useful as well.