Balance

Balance

The First Element – ” The Supporting Leg”
 
(Print this Tip so you can try this little walking exercise as you read it).
 
WALKING EXERCISE 1
Stand in a hallway or any other area where you can take several walking steps.
 
Stand with your weight on your right foot with your left foot free.  Take your first step, concentrating on your left foot as it moves forward.
 
As you transfer weight, your right foot becomes your free foot. This time concentrate on your right foot as it moves forward.
 
Keep moving forward repeating this process of walking and concentrating on the free leg.
 
What did you notice – It felt normal didn’t it? Well that is generally the way people walk; concentrating on the free foot as they move from one leg to the other.
 
WALKING EXERCISE 2
Now we want you to try the same walking exercise with a little spring. Stand again with your weight on the right foot with your left foot free.
 
To start the walk, compress your right leg a little by pressing downwards with your body, (allow the knee to flex some), then spring forward off of your right foot. Concentrate on your right leg until the weight is transferred to the other leg.
 
Repeat the same process on the left leg. Compress the left leg and spring forward from the left foot, concentrating on the left leg until the weight is transferred.
 
Keep moving forward repeating this process of walking and concentrating on the supporting leg.
 
What did you notice – it felt more powerful didn’t it? With a little practice you will discover two major things. Your walk becomes stronger and you are able to arrive on the other leg in complete balance and control ready for the next move. For better dancing, pay more attention to your source of power and balance – your supporting leg.
 

The essence of good balance lays on the premise of maintaining both a good straight vertical axis (where the spine is straight), and a good parallel alignment of the hips and shoulders with the dance floor.  It also requires an awareness of your supporting leg and body column (which will ultimately become the foundation of your source of power).

SOURCE OF POWER

Power is created by an awareness of your supporting leg and body column, and a body projection towards a clear destination. Depending on the style of dancing, there are three main ways to create power for your movement:

1) Compression.  This type of movement is used in dances like Samba, social six-count Foxtrot, and to some extent at the second half of the chasse in Waltz, Quickstep and Slow Foxtrot.  You start  by compressing  your supporting leg and forcing your knee to flex and spring back up (similar to the action of a pogo stick).  Your body will travel like the letter ”n” – it compresses down, goes back up, travels while up, and lowers at the arrival to the receiving leg.

 

  2) Body Swing.  This type of movement is used in dances like the Viennese Waltz, Waltz, Slow Foxtrot and Quickstep. Perfect example is the Hesitation step in the Waltz.   You start by swinging your hips straight down and allow your supporting knew to flex while directing the action forward (similar to the action of pushing a child in a swing at the park).  Your body will travel like the letter ”u” – it swings down, travels while down through the knees, and rises as it arrives to the receiving leg.

 

  3) Body Projection.  Variations of this type of movement are used in dances like Rumba, Cha-Cha, Swing and Argentine Tango. With your supporting leg straight, compress your hip down slightly as you project both, the rib cage and receiving leg forward (imagine you are walking against the current in a river).  You then, transfer the weight forward onto the projected receiving leg while holding onto the floor with the back trailing leg until the transfer is fully completed.  Repeat the same process of body projection and weight transfer for every step.

CONTROL As you improve your balance and develop more power in your dancing, you will find a need to control that power. Without the control to absorb your movement, you will constantly dance with your breaks on in order to keep your balance and timing.

The main key to controlling your power is to hold onto the floor with both feet as the body is moving.  As you move off of your supporting leg, allow that leg to stretch and hold onto the floor until the body has arrived to the receiving leg.  So, in essence the supporting leg has two jobs; it gives you the power to move when you are on it, and gives you the control to absorb that power after you move off of it.

Developing power in your dancing is a natural process and tends to grow as you practice and become familiar with your dance patterns.  However, you can only develop as much power as you can absorb. Become aware of your free leg, stretch it and use it to hang onto the floor while your body is moving.  Soon, power and control will be yours on the dance floor.