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.