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.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Newcomer Samba and Foxtrot

Break down the samba walk in great detail:

  • Start with feet together.
  • Straighten the legs on 'and'. 
  • Step back with the right foot. 
  • Keep weight forward. On 'a', land with split weight, heel does not touch the floor.
  • On 2, in order for the weight to be returned completely to the left foot, the left foot needs to slip a little so that the left knee can bend.
  • Do this very slow. To help understand the motion, watch Joanna Leunis do a slow motion stationary samba walk in an exhibition. I found examples of it here and here. In particular, notice that the hip starts moving before the leg, because the bounce action precedes the foot movement.

On the basics, natural and reverse stepping forward, and on side basic, the trailing foot has the instep facing front, line of ankle bent, pushing off on ball of foot.

Some technical details on the balance and body position for the latin dances.

  • Rumba: weight is low, below the navel, and the body is pretty straight up and down.
  • Chacha, weight is held above the navel, same balance as rumba.
  • Samba, weight is held at the sternum, body leans forward, heels just "kiss" the ground.
  • Jive, weight is held high, in the chest, body leans forward until just short of the point where you fall forward. Then the hips go back to restore balance.
  • Paso, the weight is held up in the base of the neck, and the balance is far enough back so that you can lift your toes off the ground.
Our instructor also broke down the feet, for the purpose of dance, into the heel, the arch, the ball, the platform, and the toe. The platforn is what one is standing on in releve in ballet. The instructor said you could tell which Latin dance was to be performed just from the posture of the dancer, based on these principles.

In foxtrot reverse turn, the way a heel turn is led is that the man steps on a practically straight knee. This stops movement forward. This is what is meant by early rise.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lesson on Waltz (Bronze Level)

Bronze Level Waltz, including a routine for practice.

Some practice exercises:
  • Step toward mirror, soft knees, keeping shoulders and hips flat, with CBM. Our coach said one of his coaches wanted him to practice this 10000 times between sessions. (Well, he only sees his coach in English once every few months.)
  • In partnership, practicing all the possible leads, from man's perspective:

    1. Step forward straight, LF
    2. Step back straight, RF
    3. Step straight left
    4. Step straight right
    5. Lower on right leg
    6. Step forward, LF, turn frame right
    7. Step back, RF, turn frame back to straight
    8. Step Left
    9. Shape Left
    10. Shape Right
    11. Step Right
    12. Shape Left
    13. Straighten up
  • When stepping through a routine, step back and forth through the steps, particularly on steps that require CBMP.
Some points of technique that are called out:
  • The hips need to remain flat. Do not tilt the whole body forward, including the hips. This is as opposed to keeping hips in the right position, and bending forward at the waist. Through the hips and the lower spine the body is erect. This is especially important when turning the frame, as it is not possible to turn the frame properly at the same time it is tilted.
  • When stepping back into a turn, the instructor cautioned us that the step back should be straight, toe is only turned in a little if called for in the figure. When one tries to make room by stepping to side while turning, it defeats the purpose of CBM, and if the forward stepping partner does their step correctly, it will also result in losing connection between the partners as they drift apart.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How to walk and do heel turn

Today's class focuses on walking forward and back and how to do heel turn in international style standard dances. This would be the same for American style dances as well.

Walking: it's pretty much the same as walking normally, but make it bigger. But somehow, when people starts dancing, everything changes, they don't walk normally anymore. Learn how to walk forward and back again. Key points: Move center, keep body alignment, release toe (for walking back), track under body.

Heel turn: initiate by turning hips, leave upper body to partner, turn on moving/support foot, foot rise, push forward.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lesson on Samba and Foxtrot

Samba technique review:
  • Feet stay in contact with the floor
  • On the up part of the samba bounce, the bottom sticks out. This powers the slip step of the samba walk, and allows the back foot to pass around the front foot on Voltas.
Foxtrot practice routine:

  1. Preparation step LF, S, slightly left of LOD
  2. Feather Step   (SQQ)
  3. Three Step   (SQQ)
  4. Feather Step   (SQQ) 
  5. Reverse Turn   (SQQ S) checked, end BDW
  6. Basic Weave   (QQ  QQ QQ)
  7. Three Step   (SQQ)
  8. Natural Turn   (SQQ)
  9. Closed Impetus and Feather Finish   (SQQ SQQ) - changing LOD
  10. Three Step  (SQQ)  
  11. Natural Turn  (SQQ SSS)  

  • It's important to collect before a slow step. Slow steps are driving steps, we coast on the quick steps. 
  • Three Step footwork is special: as the second step is taken Heel-Toe (in the chart, it's listed as first step, the first Q. The previous S is the last step of Feather Step.), rolling up onto the toe. 
  • Caution on the Natural Turn: After a lady learns the Natural Weave, it is very easy to go outside partner after 1-3 of the Natural Turn, but she should be careful to do that only if it is lead. 
  • Where the Waltz is like being on a swing, the Foxtrot is like a monkey swinging from vine to vine, including the turning of the frame from left to right. Another way of describing it is that it's like rowing a boat. The need to collect and drive on the slow gives the image of the stroke of the oars in the water propelling the boat, and while the oars are out of the water, preparing for the next stroke, the boat coasts. Similarly, all the power to move across the floor comes on the slow step in foxtrot, and one coasts on the quick steps, until it is time for the next slow to drive further down the floor.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lesson on Rumba Technique (Bronze)

Timing and footwork:
To sharpen the look, one should wait to step until the last possible moment. The foot moves quickly. Without the appropriate accompanying movement in the body, this will look robotic, like stop motion filming, but it is a necessary foundation. This applies in Rumba, Cha Cha, Pasodoble, and Tango.
Lead and Follow for the Fan
 Starting from Open Basic, man facing LOD, the man turns 1/4 left between steps 2 and 3, allowing the lady to walk past him against LOD. As she walks past, even though she may feel some tension in the hand to walk diagonally toward the man, she continues straight, and may turn her ribs and shoulder 1/8 L, to avoid having her right arm tight against her body. Then, between step 5-6, the man lowers her right hand to lead her to turn on her feet. On step 6, the man steps diagonally forward, so that the couple form a V. This is the Fan shape.
Three endings for Alemana
 The Alemana, for the lady, consists of three steps. One toward the man, one way, and one back toward him. On each step, she brushes her feet with a half-circle motion of the stepping foot, which also aids in turning. The three endings are closed, open, and right side position. For the closed ending, the steps in front of the lady, forcing her to step side instead of forward. For open, on the last step, the man steps strongly forward with low right hand, forcing the lady to step back instead of forward. For right side position, he leads the lady to step forward on her last step, and he steps up so that she is on his right. This last is the only ending that allows the lady to complete a "true" alemana.
On the difference between Closed Hip Twist, Natural Opening Out, and Opening Out Left and Right
Man must remember to maintain a big frame, round arms. On closed hip twist, from closed position, the lady is lead to turn 1/2 to right and step back. The man needs to turn his frame, and allow his right hand to slide down the lady's arm a little to give her more room for the turn and step. First step of Natural Opening out is the same as the Closed Hip Twist. However, rather then stepping into press step on step 2, she will turn a quarter L on step 2, with feet underneath her, and then another quarter on step 3, to face the man again.
No open space between legs
The lady should strive to always keep her legs together. That means that in many steps that would call for a side step, the lady instead steps back, and turns her ribs and shoulder. This has a much more attractive look.
Strive to maintain a round, horizontal frame. Imagine having balloons under our arms. The big frame this creates will create space, particularly on a social dance floor, and make it easier to dance.