Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to choose a dance teacher?

It is not easy to find a dance teacher who is "just right" for you. As your dance level progresses, the "ideal" teacher would mostly likely change as well. Here are a few points to keep in mind when trying out new teachers.

Teacher's qualifications to teach the dance
A good teacher does not necessarily have certifications. A certification means the teacher has passed tests on their dancing knowledge. That knowledge does not necessarily translate into dancing and/or teaching well. Placing well in a significant competition is a much stronger indicator of dancing well. Having their students do well in competitions is an indicator of their skill in teaching. But there are also excellent teachers that haven't competed, and do not have students that compete.

An excellent way to evaluate a teacher is to watch them dance and see if you like how they dance. If you go to a local competition, you will have the opportunity to find out who the local teachers are that participate in Pro/Am events with their students, and see how well they and their students dance.

A lot of teachers could teach many different types of dances, they often have their "specialty" as well, being Standard, Latin, Smooth, Rhythm, Salsa, Swing, Argentine Tango, Hustle, etc. If you are looking to learn WC Swing, it's probably better to learn it from a really good WC Swing dancer who may not complete, instead of learning from a Smooth competitor.

Ability to teach - chemistry
Ability covers many areas. A great dancer may not necessarily be a great teacher. A good teacher is able to communicate with the student clearly and precisely and adjust his/her teaching method for different types of students. Some very basic check points:

  • Does the teacher make you feel comfortable?
  • Do you truly understand what he/she is trying to explain?
  • Do they adjust their way of explaining if seems like you are just not getting it?
  • Do they dance enough with you in the lesson?
  • Do they address your questions?

Some teachers just charge by hour and you pay each time. Other teachers have packaged deals that give you discount for more lessons. A lot of teachers have an "Intro package" which is discounted and it gives you an opportunity to check out a teacher in a real private lesson setting. Make sure the "Intro package" doesn't get you locked in too many lessons, in case you don't think it will work. Generally 2 or 3 lessons is good for an intro package.

A fine point is to check how long is "a lesson". It could mean 45 min, 50 min, or 1 hour. Also get an idea if a teacher really teaches that full length. It is very common that a teacher schedule lesson back to back 1 hour lesson with students, in those cases, it's not possible to have full hour lesson in those cases. Keep that in mind when you compare prices.

It is important for a teacher to be professional. If they constantly fail on the checks below, maybe it's time to switch teachers.
  • Arrive on time and ready to teach at scheduled time and finish on time?
  • Do they give you their undivided attention during the lesson? (After all, you are paying for it.)
  • Is there the right balance of chit-chat and real instruction? 
  • Do they show genuine interest in helping you improve your dancing? (or do they just say things to make you feel better and keep getting you signed up for more lessons?)
  • Do they respond to your emails/phone calls promptly?

It all boils down to: Are you comfortable and are you learning? And be prepared that as you go along, your standards of what you want out of your teacher may change, so if your teacher's interaction with you doesn't change to accommodate that, you may need to change teachers periodically. In that vein, you will want to test out the results of the teaching. If you are social dancing, are you improving and getting more comfortable with your lead or follow? If you are competing, are your results improving? When looking at videos of yourself dancing, is it getting better than before? (Ask someone who can be more objective.)

Have fun dancing!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Basic Latin Actions

Basic position of body: head, shoulders, ribcage, hip, leg, stacked up and connected, not tight, legs moves like scissors.

Spine transfers between positions:
  1. Spine split between 2 feet.
  2. Spine stacked over whole foot.
  3. Spine over front of foot.
Leg actions:
  1. Horizontal action: release back leg, track, move to front horizontally, front ankle directly below front knee.
  2. Vertical action: Contract thighs, pushing knee down and backwards to create lengthening of the leg. Common mistakes: reach from knee outwards.
  1. Whole foot (or Flat): feet lined up with knees (do not turn out foot, turn out is from hip socket).
  2. Demi-pointe position (arch) - common mistake is missing this step and go directly to pointe position. Also, note that feet causes spine to move.
  3. Pointe: Feet is causing spine to move more.
"Working from floor on and up" - it's the feet causing spine to move. Common mistake: gravity causing spine to move.

Practice: demi - pointe - demi - flat.

Combing Spine movement with leg and feet:
  1. Spine over whole front foot, back foot demi-pointe (not turned out, which will cause instability).
  2. Spine over front of foot, back foot pointe.
  3. Release leg, track, ankle below knee,
  4. Split, front leg straight (all same time), Demi-pointe position.
  5. Flat (both foot) 
Repeat: Demi, pointe, release, demi, flat, [demi, pointe, release, demi, flat...]

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What is Competitive Ballroom Really Like

Ballroom Dancing is Nothing like Strictly Come Dancing? This piece by a competitive amateur in the UK seems to do its level best to tell you how awful the world of competitive dance is. And it is certainly informative, but rather one-sided. The key point that is only alluded to is that not many people make their passion their career. If dancing weren't worth all the negative things she puts up with, she would likely have become a lawyer as her parents would have liked.

To save you the research effort, she is a competitive amateur, and has good results in England, but does not appear to have competed outside of England, and has indeed gone through a lot of partners, as she describes in the article.

I don't know what SCD is like, but at least some of what she complains about is in the American version, Dancing with the Stars.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Natural Turning Figures in Foxtrot

On the difference between Natural Turn, Natural Weave, and Hover Cross:
  • Natural Turn: On second step, hips and frame are square to line of dance. 
  • Natural Weave: On second step, hips stay square, frame continues to turn to left side leading so lady can step OP on step 4, hips stay square to LOD
  • Hover Cross: Between step 2 and 3, both hips and frame turn to face center. Then frame stays square to center, while hips turn to step OP wrongside  position, and then back to normal OP.

Competition, Costume, Makeup

Some interesting points (for Ladies) from a talk with a world class professional competitor:

  • As soon as a couple walks on to the floor, judge already started to put them into buckets, couple A and C are in 1st/2nd; couple B and D are in 3rd/4th; etc. (A lot of judges judge this way, of course, some don't.) 
  • At Bronze level, costume, makeup and hair are important. It tells judge if "you've done it before" and the commitment level.
  • Costume: it should fit and look good for that person. Something that looks good on one person does not necessarily look good on someone else.
  • Hair: general preference - bun shouldn't be flat, no bangs, pull hair back. Nothing on head should be moving.
  • Makeup: big and bold to make the face noticeable.
  • All is designed to catch judge's eyes. For 90 seconds, 6 couples, each couple probably just have about 10 seconds of judge's time.
  • After judge has initial buckets, the difference in footwork, technique etc will help the judge make the final mark. 
Of course, technique is ultimately most important. But, in competition, "looking good" will help your marks a lot. (Tall couples definitely have advantage here.) One coach thinks her student could gain 2 positions up simply by having better costume,  hairdo and makeup.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Heel Turn Exercise

Heel turns are found in Waltz, Quickstep, and Foxtrot

Heel Turn Exercise

Start facing diagonal wall, weight on RF
  1. Lower and drive back onto LF, dragging right heel (S)
  2. Straighten knees, and start turn 1/4 right on left heel (Q)
  3. Rise on feet, absorbing the rise with the knees (&)
  4. Drive off RF, straightening knees, step toe on LF (Q)
  5. Drive back onto RF, dragging LF (S)
  6. Straighten knees, and start 1/4 left on right heel (Q)
  7. Rise on feet, absorbing the rise with the knees (&)
  8. Drive off LF, straightening knees, step on toe of RF (Q)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jive syllabus figures on website

Finally, Jive Newcomer and Bronze figures are now available on web site. As with other dances, each dance figure is complete with timing, footwork, technique notes and a list of other steps that can precede or follow the figure.

Dance routines are on the choreography page. More routines will be added over time.

You can always build your own routine using the Connecting Figures page. Here's a quick start on how to use the page:

  • Click on "Routine: Start New" on Connecting Figures page.
  • Pick a starting figure name on left hand side. The figure name will appear on the right. If you want, add a custom note, then hit "Return" on your keyboard or click on "Add!". That figure is now in the routine list.
  • At this point, the left hand side will show your selected figure and what can follow it. Pick one of the patterns on the "Following figures" list, click on "Add!" (or hit "Return").  Keep building your routine.
  • If you changed your mind at any time, you can always either click "delete last step" or start over.
  • When you are done with the routine, copy/paste the routine to your own document or email.
Comments and suggestions for the website? Let us know!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Interview of Mirko and Edita

Very interesting interview of Mirko and Edita. Of particular interest is Mirko's perspective on floorcraft in competitions. In summary, even at professional championship levels, it appears there isn't much of it, at least from his point of view, and he takes pride in making his floorcraft look like it was choreographed in advance.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rumba Footwork

Keep pressing inside edge of ball of foot (IEBF) into floor. 
When taking a side step (to left, for example).
  1. Left foot starts with IEBF pressing into floor, left heel brushing right ankle, left knee up and crossing in front of right leg.
  2. Slide LF to side, keeping full weight on right leg, pressing IEBF into floor
  3. When left leg is straight, still with full weight on right leg, place left heel on floor
  4. With two straight legs, both heels on floor, pressure through IEBF on both feet, then press out of IEBF of RF to transfer weight to LF
  5. Extend RF by continuing to press with IEBF of RF, so that line of ankle breaks, and instep (top of foot, shoelaces) faces forward.
  6. Draw RF in, heel leads the rest of the foot, pressure of IEBF of RF on floor maintained, until right heel is brushing left ankle, right knee crossing in front of left leg.
While Cucarachas and Cuban Rocks are traditionally executed with both heels remaining on floor, it is now often seen in competitions, and acceptable, to create the line in step #5 above with the free foot.

Never begin to transfer weight until the stepping leg is straight, with heel on floor.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Foxtrot Technique (Lady's perspective)

Foxtrot technique (mostly from Lady's perspective):
  • This is all about the quality of movement.
  • For Foxtrot, don't think about rise and fall, it's all built-in the footwork already. If you do rise, that probably means you are popping up and doing too much rise.
  • Natural Weave: After heel turn, do not pop up, absorb rise in knee.
  • Going into Three StepNatural Turn, Natural Weave: really need to pay attention to:
    • The previous last step (RF back): completely settle, before moving "across" on LF stepping back. Otherwise, it appears to have "double lowering" problem. The lowering/settling need to be in sync with the Man.
    • Keep left. It's very easy to lean into Man's space during Natural turning figures. So really make sure to stay left.
  • Practice Feather Step and Three Step continuously:
    • Other than step 3 of Feather Step which is CBMP, all other steps are straight back in straight tracks (leave room for Man). The CBMP step makes the movement veering toward mans' left (lady's right), but other than that, everything else should be straight. Don't make waves (either to left or to right). 
    • Feather Step connecting to Three Step (step 4, Lady RF back): make sure knee is top of right toe, straight, knee should not be turned out.
  • Lady is on high heel and normally has smaller feet, so it's even more important to take the time to roll through the feet and not rush, as Man has bigger feet to roll through. Controlled rolling through feet, no wobbly feet.
  • Reverse Turn: the heel drag on LF should not be too quick, it should be in sync with Man.
  • Moving back: extend the thigh back to gain more length.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    NDCA Proficiency Point System


    1. A competitor is eligible to dance in the "Syllabus", "Novice" and/or "Pre-Championship" proficiency classifications until they accumulate three proficiency points. There is no limit to the number of proficiency points that may be accumulated in the "Open Amateur" level.
    2. A competitor receives one point when they either a) place first in their current classification when a semi-final was danced, or b) dance in the final of a higher proficiency event where a semi-final was danced.
    3. In the "Syllabus" categories proficiency points should be accumulated independently for each dance.
    4. The eligibility to compete in a classification is applied to individual amateur competitors and not the couple as an entity.
    5. An amateur couple is only eligible to compete in a classification if both members of the couple are eligible.
    6. An amateur competitor's eligibility is based on his/her accomplishments regardless of the number or length of partnerships they have had.
    7. It is the responsibility of all amateur competitors to ensure that they are eligible for the category in which they desire to dance.
    8. An amateur competitor may enter at most two consecutive proficiency classifications in any particular style and age group at a particular competition.
    9. An amateur competitor's ineligibility begins at the conclusion of the competition in which his/her third point was acquired. In this case the word "competition" refers to the entire event (generally a "weekend").
    10. An amateur competitor's proficiency level as a Pro/Am shall not be used in determining his/her amateur proficiency level.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Footwork: toe or heel?

    Dragging toe/ball of foot vs. dragging heel - when moving back: (example below is for Lady)
    • If a previous step's footwork is TH (say, in Quickstep, after the 1st step in Forward Lock, which is TH on LF), that LF is already lowered to heel, after stepping RF back on 2nd step, you will drag the heel of LF on the floor before crossing LF in front of RF.
    • If a previous step's footwork is T (say, in Quickstep, after 3rd step in Progressive Chasse which is T on LF, the chasse part), LF is on toe when stepping RF back/slightly side on 4th step, when settling on 4th step, you will drag the toe/ball of LF back to collect (not heel of LF).
    Footwork when moving forward:
    • If previous step is on toe, next step's footwork will be toe lead.
    • If previous step has lowered to heel, next step's footwork is most likely a heel lead when it's a driving step. (There are exceptions.)

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Standard Ballroom Technique: Foot Alignment

    Step relative to where you are now, not where you will be. For example, in the Waltz Natural Spin Turn the man's first step is forward, and then after placing his right foot he turns 1/4 to his right. 

    Some might be tempted to turn the body and hips before the step, so that it goes DW against LOD, or the foot is placed turned out. This would take the gentleman right into his partner, rather than stepping past her.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Waltz Closed Impetus and Reverse Pivot

    When first learning the Closed Impetus, the way it is typically executed is that the man will rise up on 2, as opposed to the end of 2. A smoother way to execute this figure has the man delaying any rise until 3. In other words, on 3, the man pushes off the ball of his right foot to go up on the toe of his left foot.

    When followed by the reverse pivot, blend it into the preceding step. Be sure that the man's right foot tracks under the body, and that the weight is fully committed to the right foot before the next step.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Beginning Cha Cha Technique Note

    It is common mistake when doing basics or cha chas in place to do a press walk, and then actually commit weight. The problem with this is it becomes too easy to forget to fully change weight, and you may easily end up on the wrong foot relative to your partner. On each step, do a full weight change, and avoid this confusion.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Leading Heel Turns

    Man leading heel turn:
    • It is very common for the lady to feel like the man is knocking her over. This is because he is turning his body too soon.
    • If he is pulling her down on the third step, it is because he did not brush his feet and collect his weight before taking his next step.
    • The man has to step around the lady, who has finite radius, before he turns her.
    • Early rise: some coaches say Man leads heel turn by rising early - though the ISTD Ballroom Technique has no mention of early rise. It is still "rise e/o 1".
    • More consistent with ISTD Ballroom technique, and recommended by other coaches, the man leads the heel turn by leading the lady to put her weight on her heels.
    When dancing, think about actions, rather than figures, such as Natural Spin Turn action, or Feather action, as the figures are composed of actions, and the actions should feel similar across the different figures that use them.

    More about Standard Technique.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Difference Kinds of Salsa, On1, On2, etc.

    This is addressed to salsa beginners. You will hear about Salsa On 1, Salsa On 2, Mambo, LA Style Salsa, NY Style, Miami Style. This is intended not to be an extensive treatise on the differences, but just an introduction to give you the minimum information necessary to avoid confusion when you hear these terms.

    The basic step, for most of these variations, is as follows for the leader:
    1. Step forward with the left foot, keeping RF in place. (forward break)
    2. Change weight back to right foot, keeping LF in place
    3. Bring left foot back next to right foot to a neutral position
    4. Step back with RF, keeping LF in place (back break)
    5. Change weight back to LF, keeping RF in place.
    6. Bring RF next to LF. (neutral position)
    The other piece we need for this discussion is music and timing. Salsa music has four beats to the measure, and a phrase lasts two measures. The single most important rhythm in Salsa is the clave rhythm. If we consider an 8 beat phrase, the clave hits on 2, 3, 5, 6 1/2, and 8. The clave as an instrument is a pair of wooden sticks hitting each other. You can hear the clave and other important salsa rhythms broken down in this video. There is often no explicit clave being played in the music, but clave is the rhythmic anchor of salsa, and the other rhythms will build around that. It's a good idea to get some salsa music and practice counting out the beats on different songs.

    So, now that we've introduced the basic steps, and a little about the music, we can talk about these different kinds of Salsa. When we hear Mambo mentioned in the US, we usually refer to the partner dance forms. If we combine steps with beats, in Mambo the first step happens on beat 2, and we step on beats 2 3 4 6 7 8. We hold, kick, or tap on beats 1 and 5. This is the Mambo basic.

    Mambo and Salsa have stylistic differences, they are somewhat different dances, but the basic step looks the same. Salsa On 1 uses this same basic, but now we step on beats 1 2 3 5 6 7, and hold, kick, or tap on beats 4 and 8. Salsa On 2 uses the same timing for the basic as Mambo does.

    Some of the different styles of Salsa in the US include Los Angeles style, Miami style, and New York style. LA and Miami style are danced on 1, and as far as we know are the prevalent dance styles in the US.

    NY style is a bit different than mambo, on 1, and on 2. In NY salsa, rather than the hold coming in the neutral position, it becomes an 'air' step. In the above steps, we do step (iii) on beat 1, and proceed to step on beats 1 2 3 5 6 7, with the foot 'in transit' on beats 4 and 8. So, while the steps still happen on 123567, the breaks are on 2 and 6, making NY salsa an On2 salsa.

    There is also the notion of dancing 'on clave' or 'en clave' if you want to be strict about it. This means that you break on the clave beat. (It can also mean doing five steps per phrase, but that is pretty advanced stuff.) Typically, this will mean breaking on 2, but can mean breaking on 2 1/2 (6 1/2), adding a further syncopation to the dance.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Foxtrot Natural Turn, Natural Weave, and Hover Cross

    The Foxtrot Natural Turn, Natural Weave, and Hover Cross have the same steps for the first two steps, and it is after that they differentiate. For the leader,
    • Step 1: RF forward, with CBM
    • Step 2: LF forward, and then when transferring weight, turn hips
    • Brush RF to LF before taking next step on RF.
    • On Natural Turn, after turning feet and hips to face may partner on step 2, hips and shoulders stay flat, as  lady steps between leader's feet.
    • On Natural Weave, on third step turn shoulders and ribs right, to lead lady outside partner
    • On Hover Cross, on third step turn both shoulders and hips to allow lady to pass.

      Thursday, June 17, 2010

      Latin: ribcage isolation exercises

      Keep hips still and only move ribcage. (To help to make sure hips don't move, the exercise can also be done when sitting on the edge of the chair.)
      • arms:
        • R arm reach to floor on the side (make sure chest don't collapse forward or bend backward)
        • repeat for L arm
        • R arm reach up above head on the side
        • repeat for L arm
      • ribcage: Left, Right (with arms extends to both sides)
      • ribcage: Left with L shoulder diagonally up, Right with Right shoulder diagonally up
      • ribcage: Front, Back
      • ribcage: Front, stop middle, Back, stop middle, Front (repeat)
      • ribcage: L, F, R, B - separate distinct positions first, then smooth circular movement
      • ribcage: L, B, R, F - separate distinct positions first, then smooth circular movement
      Keep upper body still and only move hips:
      • Hip to left and right side: first slow, then faster
      • Hip: Left, Front, Right, Back; then, Left Back, Right, Front; (first stop at distinct point, then try circular continuous movement)

      International Samba: Boto Fogo technique

      Samba Traveling Boto Fogo technique break down:

      Going forward (diagonal)
      • "&": pendulum action forward. bounce, lift heel. There should be a moment when both heels are off the floor.
      • "a": hip rotation to step the other foot forward, emphasize hip rotation. Ribs, shoulders move less.
      • "1": step front foot, back leg straight, hip turn out. swivel back foot, break ankle. The heel of the front foot should drop to floor.
      • "&": pendulum action forward, raise the heel of front foot, it is not flat-footed movement.
      • "a": hip rotation to step other foot forward, in the same direction as the motion (not to the side), place partial weight, then hips turn 90 degrees.
      • "1": step the other foot. back foot is turned out, break ankle.

      Wednesday, June 9, 2010

      ISTD Waltz Syllabus: descriptions, step by step diagrams, videos

      There has been a lot of updates on the website! For the International Waltz Newcomer and Bronze Syllabus figures listed below, in addition to timing, step by step descriptions, alignment, footwork, technique notes, we've also added step-by-step diagrams, including all the official variations, preceding and following figures and instructional videos that demonstrated the patterns.

      Newcomer level:
      1. Closed Changes
      2. Natural Turn
      3. Reverse Turn
      4. Natural Spin Turn
      5. Whisk
      6. Chasse from Promenade Position
      Bronze level:
      1. Closed Impetus
      2. Hesitation Change
      3. Outside Change
      4. Reverse Corté
      5. Back Whisk
      6. Basic Weave
      7. Double Reverse Spin
      8. Reverse Pivot
      9. Back Lock
      10. Progressive Chassé to R
      Happy Dancing!

      Tuesday, June 1, 2010

      Standard Technique: CBM versus CBMP

      CBM, or Contra-body Movement, is a rotation of the body. It is used to set up body position subsequent steps. CBMP, or Contra-Body Movement Position, is a step. In a figure such as the Feather Step in Foxtrot, CBM on the first step on the right foot sets up the correct relative position of leader and follower so that the followers steps in CBMP on the second step, and the leader steps in CBMP on the third step.

      Tango Technique

      Tango Silver practice routine:

      1. Walk  (S) starting Man DW
      2. Walk  (S)
      3. Progressive Link  (QQ) ending traveling DC
      4. Promenade Link  (SQQ)
      5. Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside  (QQS QQS) Open Finish
      6. Four Step  (QQQQ) ending traveling DC in PP on new LOD
      7. Open Promenade  (SQQS)
      8. Outside Swivel  (SQQ)
      9. Progressive Side Step Reverse Turn  (QQSS QQS QQS)
      10. Progressive Link  (QQ)
      11. Natural Promenade Turn  (S QQS)
      12. Rock Turn  (QQS QQS) 2-7 Closed Finish
      13. Progressive Link  (QQ)
      14. Natural Twist Turn  (S QQS QQ) underturned, ending traveling on new LOD
      15. Promenade Link  (SQQ)
      16. Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside  (QQS QQS)
      17. Progressive Link  (QQ) toward corner
      18. Back Open Promenade  (SQQS)

      A couple of technique points on Tango:

      • On Progressive link: Man: step diagonally forward with left foot, pushing follower's right leg out of the way. step 1 is very strong CBMP. Man should turn his frame when his weight is on his left foot, then put down right foot under shoulder, in promenade position.
      • On Promenade link: when in PP, lady has to stay behind Man. on second step, when Lady steps LF forward and across in CBMP, it needs to stay behind Man, so after turning to face Man, the left leg can be in the right position.
      • On Four Step: The first part is like Open Reverse Turn, it ends with Lady's LF closes to RF, but slightly back to give room for Man), in PP. This is different from the ending position in Progressive Link (where LF steps to the side.)
      • On Open promenade, when this is followed by Outside Swivel, as Lady is quickly back into closed position, the Lady can keep her head position in Open Promenade all the way through Outside Swivel.
      • Both Man and Lay should pay close attention to correct footwork and alignment.

      Saturday, May 29, 2010

      Buiding a ballet dancer's foot

      The Salt Lake Tribune has a fascinating article talking about what it takes for a ballerina to be able to dance en pointe. There is emphasis on how ballet has become more athletic with time, and the cross-training that both men and women need to withstand the rigors of their art. This applies not just to ballet, but to ballroom dance as well, as champion ballroom dancers are world class athletes in their own right.

      Thursday, May 13, 2010

      Dance performance: entering and exiting floor

      Generally, the lady puts her left hand on top of Man's right hand as
      they enter the floor. Quickly find a spot that fits your routine's and
      with less crowd. When you get there, do not get into frame until
      the music starts, because you don't want to be standing there in frame
      if for some reason the music does not start as planned.

      When the music ends, Man guides the lady to turn out to his right
      side, both facing the audience closest to you. Man extends his left
      hand to the lady, thumb down, and she takes it with her right hand and
      twirls off to Man's left. At that point, she curtseys, and Man steps
      forward with his left foot and place his right hand behind his back.

      Wednesday, April 28, 2010

      Rumba Technique

      In Rumba, as in Cha Cha, always have your weight on one foot. Split weight happens only for a brief moment as you transfer weight from foot to foot. This is evidenced by always having at least one heel off the floor. As you transfer weight, you push off the inside edge of the ball of the foot you are leaving, maintaining pressure into the floor.
      In International Rumba, we settle into the hips on beat 1, which matches the downbeat of the music. This settling is to the extent that you feel your center of mass lower.
      Your balance is such that standing still you should feel the pressure from your weight primarily on the balls of your feet. Without any adjustment, this would make you look like you are pitched forward. So, once you have the right poise, you lift your chin so that you face forward, and you compress your core so that you don't have your ribs sticking out in front.

      Monday, April 26, 2010

      Basic Rumba Arm Styling: Cucarachas

      When dancing Rumba, you want to keep the arms moving. This is some basic arm styling for Cucarachas and other side to side Rumba figures.

      Starting with weight on left foot, settled on left hip, left arm is extended to side, left hand facing down and extended out, right hand is in front of chest, facing body, elbow down.
      On beat 2
      As you step to the right, the right elbow first extends straight to the side, followed by the arm from the forearm to the hand swinging down and out, the whole motion smooth, until the full extension of the right hand to the right, with the hand facing down, coincides with the settling of the right hip. As this is happening, the left hand turns up, accompanied by the bending of the left elbow down, the hand continues to rotate and the hand comes in, with the elbow going down, until the left hand is in front of and facing the chest, with the left elbow down. The end of this motion coincides with the full extension of the right arm.
      On beat 3
      As you return your weight to the left foot, the right hand comes in, turning up, elbow going down, and the left hand extends out, elbow first, then forearm swinging down and out, left hand ends facing down, fully extended to the left, at the same time as you settle on the left hip.
      As you change weight to the right foot, and settle on the right hip, the right arm goes out to the right, and the left arm comes in.
      Repeat the motions switching right for left. 

      The image is of the two hands making circles, and the motion of the hands match and accentuate the motion of the hips, while the ribs are in opposition.

      Saturday, April 24, 2010

      Video interview of Olga Foraponova

      KING5 has a video interview of Olga Foraponova. Her studio, Oly's, is in Everett, WA. It would appear she trains youth competitors, as the video featured mostly children dancing in competition outfits.The video is in celebration of National Dance Week, I'm hoping more such features show up on the net.

      Tuesday, April 20, 2010

      Breakdown of Rumba Switch Turns

      Turning and settling in the Rumba Switch Turn
      In the following, numbers are the whole beats, '&'  is the half beat, and 'a' is the 3/4 beat.
      Breaking it down really slow...
      1. RF step side
      &. Draw LF to RF, turn 1/4 right
      a. Settle into right hip
      2. LF forward
      &. Keeping feet in place, swiveling on balls of feet, turn 1/2 to right
      a. Settle into left hip
      3. Transfer weight to RF
      &. Draw LF to RF, turn 1/4 to right
      a. Settle into right hip.

      After holding on 4, repeat, swapping left for right.

      What is shaping in ballroom dance? And how is it different from sway?

      Shaping is a body posture that is assumed in the course of dancing to assist in dance partnership and to provide emphasis to certain movements. When shaping, one is still balanced. For example, if I am shaping left, stepping on my right foot, as the man would do on the second step of the quickstep running finish, he could stop on that foot and still be balanced. That balanced is achieved by shifting the hips to the right over the leg, while the spine tilts left. The tilt of the spine is counterbalanced by the hips.

      This same idea applies to the standard frame in closed position. The knees bend, and the hips come forward. The hips coming forward is counterbalanced by the spine tilting back, creating a bigger frame. The spine tilts left, and the hips move to the right over the legs, counterbalancing each other, and creating the shaping to the left, and the big topline.

      What's sway, then, and how is it different from shape? Instead of counterbalancing body parts against each other, the tilt of the whole body is used to counterbalance against a change of momentum. If you are walking along, and something like a curb stops the motion of your feet, the rest of your body still has momentum, and keeps going. You fall down, a victim of gravity and  Newton's first law of motion. If you see the curb is there, and you want to stop your motion before you trip, you lean in the direction opposite of your motion. If you are a pretty well balanced person (if you can walk unassisted you are pretty well balanced), you will lean back just enough that gravity and your momentum will balance each other out, and you will come to a stop.

      The greater the change in momentum, the greater the lean you will need to change your momentum. That's why bicyclists, motorcyclists, runners, skaters, etc, lean so far into a turn, they are making big changes to the direction of their momentum.

      Now, what's all that got to do with dance? If you are doing, for example, a natural turn in waltz, your first two steps are in a straight line. On the third step, you are bringing your feet together, and coming to a stop. You have also turned your body, so as you are bringing your feet together, you are moving to your side. If you have little momentum, you will lean away from the movement a little bit, to help you come to a stop. For example, in the natural turn, the man will be leaning a little to his right as he is bringing his feet together. If there is not much momentum, the lean may be unnoticeable to anyone watching, but it is still there, or the couple would start to fall over a bit to the man's left. If the couple has a lot of momentum coming into the third step, they will need to lean much more to the man's right to counter the couple's momentum. That's why competitve ballroom dancers have so much sway, because they are moving so fast across the floor, and need to make much bigger changes in their momentum.

      In short, you don't need to try to sway. Sway is a natural consequence of staying in balance as you change your momentum.

      Monday, April 19, 2010

      Reverse Turns and Getting Kicked

      You may find that sometimes the lady's left heel kicks the man's left heel in figures like the Reverse Turn in Viennese Waltz, and the Double Reverse Spin in Waltz and Quickstep. There are multiple factors that may contribute to this situation. The first is that the man's left foot is stepping inside the lady's right foot. This may be because the man is cheating a little to get around the lady on the turn, or the lady is stepping back and to her right to get out of her partner's way while the man is stepping straight. Then, on the lady's second step, the man's left foot is between her feet, and as she closes she catches his heel. This is exacerbated if the man's left foot is also turned out, making it more difficult for the lady to get her foot around his.

      The first step in these figures is straightforward. Straight, and forward, with no turn out. Turn does not happen until the man's right foot passes his left foot.

      Thursday, April 15, 2010

      Standard Technique: Stretch Left Up and Forward

      Here are a couple of things to review - mostly for the Lady:
      • Getting into frame: Use the 10-point system described in Standard Technique. Note that Lady put her left hand on Man's right arm last, it is after Man put his wrist under Lady's left shoulder blade.
      • Lady's shoulder: do not drop left shoulder, really stretch left side forward and upward, and counter balance with muscle under shoulder blade crunching diagonally.
      • Head: do not wrinkle back of neck in order to appear looking up. Start standing straight, turn head 1/8 left without creating wrinkles in the back (elongate back of neck), bend left knee forward, pull 2 shoulder blades together to center of your back, counter balance the forward bending knee by leaving head, upper body as one unit behind (bend 'back' if you can, but as one unit and without gapping with Man), think about presenting your collar bones.
      • Though step 4 is listed as "side, slightly back" in the Ballroom Technique book, the Lady should step to the step, and because of changing direction to BDW, it will become a "slightly back" step. If Lady really steps back, it will gap with Man.
      • Step 4: Lady be careful not to dip left shoulder. Keep left shoulder flat.
      • Step 5: LF to side, some leaders like to shape a lot, by turning shoulder to right to wind up and connect with Zig-Zag.

      Tuesday, April 13, 2010

      Quickstep Fishtail Figure

      In reviewing the entry for the Quickstep Fishtail in The Ballroom Technique, we find what may very well be a typo. The notes for this figure state that the man's 3rd step should be slightly outside the lady's left foot. To set context, the first two steps are RF in CBMP, outside partner, and LF crosses behind RF. So we are in outside partner position going into step 3.

      At this point, if we have good connection, and we are in outside partner position, stepping outside the lady's LF requires at minimum that the man swing his leg out and around the lady's right foot.

      However, if we read that note to state that the man's 3rd step is slightly outside the lady's RF, then the movement is natural.

      Monday, April 12, 2010

      Rumba Practice Exercises

      This is one of the two actions for in-place weight change on beats 4 and 1. Bringing the hips flat before using the twist of the hips to move the foot is needed to create the right action.

      Start the exercise with right foot forward hips flat.
      1) Twist back left hip to start pulling back right foot.
      2) Settle left hip, and bring right foot with bent leg even with left foot
      3) Keep head level, up on both toes,  rotate hips, straighten right leg, and transfer weight
      4) Extend left foot forward.

      Points to remember:
      • Maintain pressure of inside edge of ball of foot with ground.
      • On 2 and 3 create maximum forward separation between knees by rotating hips
      • On 3, use core to lift hips to keep head level
      • Keep shoulders flat, unrotated
      • Use back muscles to create opposition between hips and shoulders
      Alternate action for weight change:
      Pull right foot in with straight leg, use hips and core to change weight, put left leg forward with knee straight.

      The alternate action is slower, and emphasizes the hip action, while the other action emphasizes the leg. Different body types may look better doing one or the other action for in place weight changes, and what looks better may not be what feels better.

      Rumba walks, in four parts:
      Start with right foot back, 30% weight on ball of right foot with straight leg, feet turned out, hips flat. 
      1) Turn left hip forward, this turns out right foot more
      2) Settle left hip, bring right foot even with left foot, right knee bent, knees together
      3) Push right foot forward, keeping weight on straight left leg
      4) Push off from left foot to transfer weight to right foot.

      Rumba walk back.
      Start with RF forward, no weight
      1) Left hip goes back, to the point of losing balance backwards
      2) Right foot with bent knee quickly passes left foot
      3) Catch falling weight on straight right leg back with weight on inside edge of ball of foot.
      4) With straight legs, push of left ball of foot to transfer weight to right foot.

      The size of a backwalk step is as big as the ball of foot can reach when the knees are together and moving leg's knee flex. If the step is too big, when settling the front foot will slide, which is not correct (except for some cases for styling).

      Quickstep Silver Practice Routine

      1. Running Right Turn  (SQQ S SSS SQQ) start on the short wall, ending new LOD
      2. Natural Turn With Hesitation  (SQQ SS hold S)
      3. Chasse Reverse Turn  (SQQ)
      4. Reverse Pivot  (S)
      5. Double Reverse Spin  (SSQQ)
      6. Chasse Reverse Turn  (SQQ)
      7. Reverse Pivot  (S)
      8. Closed Telemark  (SSS)
      9. Fish Tail  (SQQQQS)
      10. Natural Turn And Back Lock  (SQQ SQQS) cut across corner along short wall
      11. Running Finish  (SQQ)
      12. Forward Lock  (SQQS) to corner
      13. Natural Spin Turn  (SQQ underturned to BDC, then SSS ending BDC on new LOD)
      14. Progressive Chasse  (SQQS S) overturned to LOD, moving DC
      15. Quick Open Reverse  (SQQ)
      16. Four Quick Run  (SQQQQS)
      17. Natural Turn  (SQQ) half natural
      18. Tipple Chasse To Right  (SQQ SQQS) corner
        CONTINUE WITH #1

        Results for 2010 USA Dance National DanceSport Championships

        2010 USA Dance National DanceSport Championships took place April 9-11, 2010. Results are here:

        Amateur Adult Championship Standard:
        1. 443 Ronen Zinshtein, Mariam Izmaylova - NJ
        2. 477 Igor Mikushov, Margaret Midura - NJ
        3. 105 Janis Kukainis, Samantha Mang - NJ
        4. 116 Vladislav Shahov, Milena Jasionek - NY
        5. 438 Pasha Pashkov, Daniella Karagach - NY
        6. 403 Oskar Wojciechowski, Katarzyna Szymanska - NY
        Amateur Adult Championship Latin:
          1. 110 Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Daria Chesnokova - NJ
          2. 302 Ruslan Aydaev, Valeriya Kozharinova - NJ
          3. 474 Andrei Kazlovski, Kathleen Kapshandy - IN
          4. 307 Andrey Tarasov, Laura Kveladze - CA
          5. 312 Vitalii Proskurin, Natia Kuprava - CA
          6. 438 Pasha Pashkov, Daniella Karagach - NY
          7. 406 Tal Livshitz, Vlada Semenova - NJ
          Amateur Adult Championship Ten Dance:
              1. 438 Pasha Pashkov, Daniella Karagach - NY
              2. 447 Alexandre Tchernossitov, Regina Maziarz - NJ
              3. 406 Tal Livshitz, Vlada Semenova - NJ
              4. 380 Simeon Stoynov, Kora A. Stoynova - WA
              5. 413 Yuriy Nartov, Khyrstyne Barton - NY
              6. 190 Daniil Vesnovskiy, Anna Oblakova - NY

              Sunday, April 11, 2010

              Dancesport Competition Results

              When we want to find out the results of a particular competition, we can often find them on O2CM, and click on "Results" to find the comp we are looking for. When we are looking to see how our favorite couples are doing over all, we go to, and type the couple's names in the search box. The results for this weekend's Dance Nationals in LA are already up.

              Saturday, April 10, 2010

              What is a preparation step?

              You may have observed standard ballroom dancers swaying from side to side for a measure before starting. If you started learning American style smooth before international standard, you would have learned that the man always starts dancing stepping forward on the left foot.

              In international standard, we have a preparation step. It's a bit of movement to get the couple started moving and in sync before they start dancing. From the man's perspective it consists of a step to the left, a step to the right, and then forward on the left foot before starting a figure. For Waltz, the timing would be:
              1. Step left
              2 & 3: Hold
              4: Step right
              5: Hold
              6: Step forward on left foot.

              For Foxtrot and Quickstep, the timing would be.
              1: Step left
              2, 3, and 4: Hold
              5: Step right
              6 and 7: Hold
              8: Step forward on the LF

              If your first figure will start on the man's left foot, then hold for one more beat before stepping forward with the left foot.

              Wednesday, April 7, 2010

              Standard (Waltz) Basic Technique Points

              Weight distribution in standard dances: the center is 'heavy', it has half of Man's and half of Lady's weight. So it is especially important to not lean to right and becomes 'right heavy'. Example:

              • Step 1: Lady LF back, CBM - upper body turning to R to open up for Man to pass. Hip is pretty straight, stays with Man. Head stays left.
              • Step 2: Lady RF to side - this "side step" is actually more forward to "keep up" with Man, otherwise, Man and Lay will gap. Hip turns, but upper frame stays as previous, This is where "body turns less" comes in.
              • Step 3: settle, collect.
              • Step 4: Lady RF forward (hips forward Man, so it doesn't gap), CBM - upper body turning to R, really keep left side up and forward. Think about following left elbow. This is a pivot step, the LF doesn't track to RF, it stays where it is and pivot.
              • Step 5: Lady LF back, slightly to the side and give enough room for Man to step forward in between Lady's legs. RF brushes to LF as a result of rising.
              • Step 6: Lady pushes off LF, RF forward. Hip follows the Man, don't gap here.
              • These are all reverse turning figures. Step 1: Lady RF back, rotate upper frame to L (CBM), keep spine to left and avoid leaning to right and become 'right heavy'. It's very easy to tip toward center. Avoid that. Think about head following L elbow.
              Top frame: 
              • A lot of how it looks at the top is driven by what the legs are doing.
              • If we are standing straight at each other, the top will be close. Now, bend the legs, top will appear to be bigger.
              • Lady: stand more to the left which will give even more room. (Don't turn foot to avoid bumping knee. Move to left.)
              • Lady: the right side should not "crunch up". As a matter of fact, it should stretch with the right arm that's connected to Man.
              • Lady: tight up diagonally from left shoulder to lower right side, this makes the left shoulder forward toward Man. But pay attention to keep hip position and not have R hip rotate away from partner.
              • Neck: no wrinkles in all directions. Think about long neck.

              Monday, April 5, 2010

              Rumba Technique Practice Routine

              Practice the Rumba routine below with a piece of paper under both feet. A couple of technique points to remember:
              • Try to keep paper moving with feet at all times. It's difficult to do, but it trains the feet to be 'sticky' (have pressure) on the floor.
              • Keep upper body 'lifted' at the same time.
              • Use inside edge of feet, "break the ankle inward"
              Practice Routine:
              1. Start with LF in front, weight on RF.
              2. '2': rotate left hip forward
              3. '3': rotate right hip back
              4. '4': point LF back, left toe behind right heel, hold position
              5. '1' (half beat): hold position
              6. '&' (half beat): put weight on LF
              7. '2': move RF back, settle
              8. '3': replace weight on LF,
              9. '41: RF forward, settle
              10. '2': Cucaracha, LF to left side
              11. '3' (half beat): replace weight to RF
              12. '&' (half beat): LF closes to RF
              13. '41': RF to side, settle
              14. '2341 (half beat)': Alemana
              15. '&' (half beat): spiral to R (lift up, tighten inside muscle)
              16. '2341': RF forward Rumba walk
              17. '2': Rumba walk LF fwd
              18. '3' (half beat): RF fwd, slightly cross LF
              19. '&;': 1/2/ turn to L, ending LF in front
              20. '41': LF back, settle
              21. '2': RF closes to LF (like starting Hockey Stick step 4)
              22. '3': LF forward
              23. '41': RF forward
              24. '2': LF forward walk
              25. '3' (half beat): RF forward
              26. '&' (half beat): full turn to R
              27. '41(half beat)': LF forward (traveling same direction as before the full turn)
              28. '&': 1/2 turn to R

              Friday, April 2, 2010

              Dance Alignments

              In Standard dances, it's very important to have proper alignment of the feet and body. The alignments page has been updated to address some potential confusion when reading descriptions of international figures.

              Two alignments that could cause some confusion are diagonal center against line of dance (DC against LOD), and diagonal wall against line of dance (DW against LOD). DC against LOD is the direction opposite diagonal wall, and DW against LOD is the direction opposite diagonal center. Or, another way to describe it, if LOD is north, then DC against LOD is southwest, and DW against LOD is southeast.

              Wednesday, March 31, 2010

              Thursday, March 25, 2010

              Waltz Technique Notes

              Tips for today:
              • [Waltz, Lady] Double Reverse Spin: step 1, straight back, don't turn hip either or turning foot to side which will be in partner's way.
              • [Waltz, Lady] Chasse From PP: pay special attention to stay on Man's R side, not drift to center or R side.
              • [Waltz, Lady] Lady's left hand should stay at the same place on Man's R arm, especially after whisk.
              • [Waltz, Lady] Back Whisk: Step 1 and 2, really drive, as Lady is on the outside.
              • [Waltz, Lady] Natural figures: after step 1, the shoulder should not stop, it needs to keep rotating and continue the flow.
              • [Waltz, Lady] Whisk: Promenade Position: lady should not pull her R arm back, leave it to Man, tuck R shoulder under and in.
              • [Waltz] CBM/Torque: when hips turn with body, it's not CBM anymore.

              Monday, March 22, 2010

              Waltz technique: Frame and Movement

              • Instead of putting arms strictly to the side to make frame wide, think of making it round, holding a big ball in front of you using the arm and body. Keep it that way throughout the figures.
              • Coming into frame: 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.
              • Be light on Man's arms: think of dancing holding a cup of water, hold your own arm/weight, body absorbs bounces.
              • Counter balance: 
                • In order to go more left (left arm), the muscle on left side of the body is crunching sort of diagonally to the right. "counter arms going left"
                • To go up, let free the lower body, bent the knees and stretch upper body up.
                • To "bend back" more, counter balance by moving knee, lower body forward.
              • Head:
                • Look 1/8 to left, do not overturn, that won't look natural. The eyes should be able to see the tip of the right fingers. Otherwise, either R arm is too far behind, or head is turning too much to left.
                • Because the upper body is bending back, the head should follow that bent line to create more volume, (neck straight with the line, don' break/bend neck, don't do straight upright either.)
              • Leg: Lady's R leg should be more close to Man's R leg (than to Man's L leg) - in general, move to left to allow more free movement.
              • CBM (i.e. Torque): for turns, shaping: when hips turn with the body, it's not CBM anymore. 
              • Whisk, ending promenade position: Lady: pay attention not to pull R arm back, leave it to Man, tuck R shoulder in.
              • Natural Turn: 2nd half, step 4: CBM; step 5: really drive, big step.
              • Double Reverse Spin: keep body contact with Man throughout the figure, stay left.
              • Back whisk: count "2": need to really drive, big step, otherwise, the ending alignment will be funny and Man needs to use Chasse from PP to adjust alignment. Preceding half of Natural Turn could over turn, ending Man backing DW.

              Friday, March 19, 2010

              US National Amateur Dancesport Championship results

              The US National Amateur Dancesport Championship (March 11-13, 2010) has just completed in Utah. Results are posted at

              U.S. National - Amateur Standard Championship - (W/T/VW/F/Q) 
              Number Couples = 41 Number Rounds = 4

              1 757 Ronen Zinshtein Miriam Ismaylova Brooklyn, NY
              2 503 Igor Mikushov Margaret Midura
              3 556 Pasha Pashkov Daniella Karagach Staten Island, NY
              4 455 Tal Livshits Vlada Semenova Fair Lawn, NJ
              5 183 Leonid Burlo Sasha Alekseyeva
              6 667 Simeon Stoynov Kora Stoynova Bellevue, WA

              U.S. National - Amateur Latin Championship - (CC/S/R/PD/J) 
              Number Couples = 51 Number Rounds = 4

              1 770 Valentin Chmerkovskiy Daria Chesnokova Saddle Brook, NJ
              2 769 Ruslan Aydaev Valeriya Kozharinova Tabernacle, NJ
              3 830 Oleksandr Altukhov Oksana Dmytrenko Dedham, MA
              4 556 Pasha Pashkov Daniella Karagach Staten Island, NY
              5 423 Andrei Kazlouski Kate Kapshandy Schererville, IN
              6 455 Tal Livshits Vlada Semenova Fair Lawn, NJ
              7 421 Alexey Karaulov Sasha Wissengolts Brooklyn, NY

              Wednesday, March 17, 2010

              International Standard Waltz Tips: Rise and Fall

              Waltz rise and fall: While the book, and beginning classes, instruct one to begin to rise at the end of 1 in many waltz figures, the rise should be delayed until step 2. That is, when the weight has been transferred on the second step, then rise. 

              Standard Ballroom Practice Exercises

              Exercise to improve the use of legs and feet. This is the basic movement for Waltz, slowed down and detailed.
              1. Start with feet together.
              2. Extend the right foot forward, pushing the heel along the ground, by bending the left knee, keeping body straight.
              3. Push off left leg to transfer weight to a bent right leg.
              4. Press up through the right knee to bring the feet together.
              5. Repeat 2-4, switching right and left feet.
              6. With feet together, after pressing up through the knee, continue pressing up through the feet, getting the heels as high up over the balls of the feet as possible.
              7. Step forward with the right foot, landing on the ball of the foot, keeping the heel off the ground.
              8. Bring the left foot to the right foot, and do not let the heel of the right foot touch the ground until the left foot is even with it.
              9. Repeat steps 1-8, switching right and left.
              The same exercise going back.

              1. Start with feet together
              2. Bend the left knee forward over the foot. Imagine that the knee is trying to touch a spot on the floor a couple of body lengths in front of you. As you do so, extend the right foot backward.
              3. Transfer partial weight to the right foot, keeping the body poised forward, and pull back the left foot, dragging the heel along the ground, keeping the heel of the right foot and the toe of the left foot off the ground until the feet are together. The forward poise of the body is required to keep the heel of the right foot off the ground.
              4. Repeat 2-3 switching right and left.
              5. Rise up as high as you can on the toes, and step back with the right foot. 
              6. Bring the feet together, pulling the left foot back, keeping the right heel off the floor until the feet are together.
              7. Repeat 2-6, switching right and left.

              Monday, March 15, 2010

              Dance tips: Waltz

              • Always think of moving past your partner.
              • When turning into promenade, the lady's head is the last thing to turn.
              • Always think of counterbalancing your partner.

                Thursday, March 11, 2010

                Daily exercises that will improve your dance

                Dance exercises: 
                1. [Practice, Standard] The 13-step position and shaping practice is a good warmup routine.
                2. [Practice, Standard] CBM: Step toward mirror with CBM, soft knees, shoulders and hips flat. Do not turn foot.
                3. [Practice] Using WF: Step back with tip toe, slip weight, roll down onto ball of back foot till two feet are even, lower heel.
                4. [Practice] Using WF: Step forward, slide heel fwd, split weight, roll fwd onto front foot, bring back foot fwd, settle, repeat.
                5. [Practice] Lead and follow with only body contact, shoulders parallel. Move around room and change body orientation.
                6. [Practice, Lady] Lie face down on floor, lift head and bend back.
                7. [Practice] Stand in front of wall with some space, then try to fill the space, make contact with wall, while keeping head and foot position.
                8. [Latin, Practice] Do rib cage exercise everyday.
                9. [Latin, Practice] Practice by stepping on paper and moving paper under foot.
                10. [Latin, Practice] Squat on toes, keeping upper leg parrallel to floor.
                More tips at

                Wednesday, March 10, 2010

                Standard Waltz: Bronze Level Practice Routine

                Bronze level practice routine:

                1. Natural Spin Turn  (123 123)  
                2. Reverse Turn  4-6 (123)  
                3. Double Reverse Spin  (1 2& 3 )  
                4. Whisk  (123)  
                5. Chasse From Promenade Position  (1 2& 3)  
                6. Natural Turn  1-3 (123)  

                Cha Cha Cha: Basics, Turns, Alemana, Hockey Stick

                Back basic step on count "2": ack step on count '2': put body weight on LF and settle, which pulls the RF in and back to 'catch' the body.

                Switch Turn (Left or Right): 1/4, 1/2, then 1/4 

                Spot Turn (Left or Right): the difference from Switch Turn is all in the amount of turn.
                • "2" - almost 3/8 turn to R, LF cross RF tight
                • "3" - over 1/2 turn to R to almost face partner, feet positions are not changed. Think of pulling up the body, 2 thighs tight together
                • "4&1" - side chasse to L side.
                Underarm Turn (Left or Right): like Switch Turn, but done under Man's raised arm.

                Alemana - turn to R. This is a 3-point turn. 1/8 to partner's side, then 1/2, brush RF to LF, away from partner, then LF brushes RF, 1/2 turn to R toward partner's R, LRL lock step.

                Hockey Stick - turn to L. On count "3" put Man's hand on Lady's Left shoulder and then turn.

                Shoulder to Shoulder - do not turn upper body much, just step foot behind the other.

                Ballroom Tip: Going through your partner

                In many turning figures, instead of thinking of going around, the technique will improve if one thinks of going through one's partner. On a natural turn, for example, the man steps straight through, stepping toward the lady's right shoulder, while using CBM to make room to get past her. Similarly, on step 5 of the natural turn, the lady steps straight at the man's right shoulder, where CBM creates room for her to get past. He goes, then she goes.

                More notes on standard technique.

                Tuesday, March 9, 2010

                Cha Cha Cha: Basic, Alemana, Closed Hip Twist

                Cha Cha Basic Movement: when stepping back, the size of the step is just as big as what the ball of foot can reach when 2 knees are together. Then, straighten back leg first, before putting weight on it. (This is different from American style which is more like "pressed walk".) More technique on backward step in Latin dances.

                In International style, the feet are a lot more "grounded" (constant pressure) than in American style. It's not good to see feet "loose" without tone under the knee.

                Cha Cha Alemana to Closed Hip Twist
                • Alemana
                  • step 8, count "4", Lady's LF fwd step, this is already facing Man.
                  • count "&", lock step (with ball of RF, not just toes, L leg should still be straight, a bit awkard feeling)
                  • count "1": LF fwd, small step - don't start turning to Man at this step yet, step fwd, not toward Man. 
                  • count "&": Wait for Man's signal to turn on count "&". 
                • Turn should always be sharp (even when music is slow).
                • Closed Hip Twist:
                  • count "4": This is pressed with RF fwd (it's really a fwd step, throw L hip back. hip should not be flat), knee bent.
                  • count "&": LF closed to RF, both knees bent.
                  • count "1": RF to side, slightly back, still facing Man at this moment.
                  • count "&": turn 1/2 to R.
                Cha Cha  Closed Hip Twist to Alemana:
                • Alemana step 3-5 is a lock step passing Man, then a sharp turn to do step 6, LF fwd to Man's L side.
                • Lady's steps are the whether the follow is cHockey Stick or Alemana. The way Man can give hint it how his LH holds Lady's RH.

                  Monday, March 8, 2010

                  International Standard: Contra Body Movement (CBM)

                  Contra Body Movement (CBM) is usually used to initiate turns. Here are some technique that would help to dance CBM correctly:
                  • CBM on a forward step: the person (either Man or Lady) that does the forward step is on the outside of the turn and travels more. The step itself should be straight on the line. The opposite shoulder would be turning toward the moving foot (remember to keep shoulder level, no dipping).
                  • CBM on a back step: the person would be on the inside of a turn. Instructor often says "toe slightly turned in" - in fact, the hip and foot are "connected" together. The hip should also turn. Foot is always perpendicular to the hip. Man should always do a straight back step on the line. Lady follows the Man. (If Man does his forward step correctly, Lady would step back straight with CBM.)

                  Different types of cha cha chassés, checks and cuban crosses.

                  The routine we were working with consisted of
                  1. Forward break to back lock.
                  2. Three cha chas forward.
                  3. Split cuban breaks
                  4. Cuban break to the right
                  5. Cuban break to the left.
                  6. Forward break to Rondé Chassé
                  7. Back break to Hip Twist Chassé
                  Points of Chasse technique:
                  • Feet always have pressure into the floor.
                  • On a check step, go to split weight, back foot has ball pressing into floor. Back knee bends, knees touch, as weight transfers to back leg, heel stays up, ball pressing into floor. Back leg straightens, hips go back over leg. Step on 2, knee bends on &, back leg straightens on 3. The ball of the back foot does not move. This was emphasized repeatedly, whether for forward breaks, New Yorks, Cuban Breaks, the ball of the back foot on the checked step stays in the same spot. The instructor said she began to appreciate over the last few months how "sticky" the feet of the best pros are.
                  • On Rondé Chassé, when left foot releases on 3, momentum is used to propel the left leg into the rondé. On 4, the foot lands under the body, straight leg, on the ball of the foot. On &, RF moves to bring feet together, on balls of both feet, knees bent, height of head hasn't changed. On 1, push off RF, straighten both legs, pushing off inside edge of ball of RF.
                  • On Hip Twist Chassé, on 4, hips rotate around spine, so RF is forward in a pressed walk. On &, bring LF together with RF, on balls of feet, knees bent. On 1, push off LF to step back on RF.
                  Exercise to develop flexibility of the foot: Stand on balls of feet, shoulder width apart, and then bend knees, and squat, keeping heels elevated.

                  Upper body is light, feet are heavy. Feet press into the floor, body is light.

                  Friday, March 5, 2010

                  Why some people won't dance

                  An interesting article by a dancing psychologist. The self consciousness he talks about is very understandable. This is just more obvious with dance, since it is a social setting, but having people see how uncoordinated we are is uncomfortable to consider. How many people would abandon playing tennis, or even jogging, if they knew they had an audience?

                  There are relatively simple ways to improve how you move, without surgery. Perhaps we can't all be as graceful as Fonteyne or Barishnikov, but through regular dancing we can all become more graceful than before we started dancing. Training is good, but even just doing it, getting your body used to moving rythmically, finding joy in movement, will improve your physical grace. And isn't that what we most enjoy seeing in a graceful adult, or in a child--their apparent joy in movement.

                  Thursday, February 25, 2010

                  Newcomer Samba and Foxtrot

                  Some points of Foxtrot technique:
                  • We've become accustomed to trying to fix our frame into position. Actually, the frame has to be flexible. The most important thing is that the body contact is good, so if the man moves his arm out of good frame, for example, it doesn't cause the lady to lose contact, and thus the lead. There are some ladies who get into a beautiful frame at the start, wide elbows, shaping left. But then, as the dance progresses, they can't make adjustments as needed during the dance, so that when things start to go wrong, they just keep getting worse. On the other side, there are ladies who are able to adjust, sometimes the feet are not doing the right thing at times, such as passing the feet when she should be locking, but it doesn't matter, it could still feed very good to dance with the lady, because the connection is always there and is always good. If the frame and the connection look good, the audience could hardly tell what's wrong.
                  • When the lady steps out of a heel turn, the rise and fall should be gradual. She rises as she steps forward, and lowers as she completes the step.
                  • When a man makes a heel turn, he does not rise until the end of the second step, in contrast to most figures in waltz and foxtrot where the rise begins at the end of the first step.
                  Samba practice routine:
                  It includes an "alternative side basic" step: start on the right foot, step in place on right foot on 1, step side left with partial weight on 'a', replace weight on RF on 2.

                  Natural phrasing of Samba is 8 beats, indicated with (8) below.
                  1. 2 complete reverse basics (8)
                  2. Side basic to left and to right
                  3. Whisk to left and right (8)
                  4. Whisk to left
                  5. Lady's left turn to PP
                  6. Two samba walks in PP (8)
                  7. Forward Samba Walk in PP
                  8. Side Samba Walk
                  9. Turn to face partner for Two Stationary Samba Walks (8)
                  10. 2 Alternate Side Basics
                  11. 2 Boto Fogos, hand to hand (8)
                  12. Boto Fogo, man stepping with left foot first
                  13. Five Voltas to mans' left, with Boto Fogo ending. (8)
                  14. Two complete natural basics, a quarter turn on each, to complete a half turn. (8)
                  15. Alternate Side Basic
                  16. One Boto Fogo
                  17. Five Volta's to man's right, with Boto Fogo Ending. (8)
                  18. Alternate Side Basic
                  19. One full reverse basic, turning 1/4
                  20. Forward Half of reverse basic, turning 1/8 (8)
                  21. Back Half of reverse basic, turn 1/8
                  22. Samba bounce in place to complete count of (8)

                  Interestingly, both of coaches talked about Phyllis Haylor, who apparently had a large part in creating modern ballroom dance. As a little bit of history, our coach mentioned that all turns were to the right, and the standard dances were all fairly linear down the floor. Phyllis Haylor introduced the idea of dancing diagonally across the floor in the 1920's, and introduced turns to the left, or reverse turns. Other patterns, such as the Telemark and Telespin, were introduced when Haylor's partner made a mistake, such as overturning. The resulting mistake was attractive, and so was done intentionally after that. Our instructor says that she and her partner are one of the few couples that do the Telespin as originally done by mistake, and it has become one of their trademarks.