Atlanta Dance Overall Ballroom Dance Technique

Legs Move the Body      November 2011     Martin Reinbold
Week I -- We naturally walk leg to leg. In dancing, the standing leg provides the forward power for the Moving Leg to move. When the Moving Leg stops its movement, the Moving Leg becomes the Standing Leg and pulls the previous foot and leg closed.
Move, shift weight, pull, close, push move. The standing leg pushes in to the floor. Since the floor does not move then the leg and body must move instead.
Coffee Walks are practiced to isolate the the movement from the knees down and eliminate hip movement. They are done with a piece of paper between your thighs. The piece of paper is not allowed to fall and if the paper falls, you opened your thighs and you owe the instructor a cup of coffee.
An exercise is to split weight your weight standing side to side and simultaneously pull both legs and feet together evenly and at the same time. Conversely, you can push both legs outwardevenly and at the same time.
Do a Foxtrot Basic then a Foxtrot Box concentrating on the pushing and pulling of the feet and legs.
Week II ---- Leg Drills
Balance and control of movement are essential in higher level dance. These skills can be developed by controled balance drills as follows:
Use your right leg as your standing leg. Raise your left leg and swing your left leg forward and backward rythymicly. Next, again using your left leg as your moving leg, swing your left leg side to side in front of you. Finally, again using your left leg as your moving leg, swing your left leg diagonally from right forward diagonal position to left backward diagonal position.
Your are exercising a range of motion using your hip, leg and abdominal muscles. These muscles will develop strength with time and hopefully, coordination and control concurrently. A bent knee with the moving leg offers more control and balance. A straight locked leg uses totally contracted muscles that can not respond to weight changes and therefore do not help with balancing.
Walking Drills
Walk forward and then backward with controlled movement. The torso should be moving continuously and smoothly. As the left leg (initiating leg with prep step) moves forward the body weight begins shifting forward. The left heel touches the floor and the foot rolls forward until the point of complete weight change when the feet close and the leg moving leg now becomes the standing leg and the right leg becomes the moving leg. At the closed position the weight is centered vertically. This closed vertically centered weight position is achieved continually between leg movements. In the exact center of movement from one closed position to the next there is a position of split weight. In this split weight position on foot is on toe with the heel raised and the other foot is on heel with the toe raised. The feet should slide as closely to the floor as possible in smooth dancing.
Week IV --   Continued walking drills with emphasis of having your shoulder and head over the standing leg.
Pivots: Pivots are done on the ball of the foot and the body must be balanced over the ball of the foot. The shoulder, ribcage, hip, leg and foot must be aligned vertically during the whole turn. Balance is essential. The moving foot is slightly above the floor with the toe upward and the foot does not step on the floor until after the turning/pivoting action has ended. You can practice/drill pivots several ways. When the pivoting foot/moving foot touches the floor, it is counted as a step.
1. Repeated continuous pivots
2. Pivot followed by a rock repeated continuously.
3. Pivot followed by a box followed by another pivot.
The essential nature of drilling is becoming more and more evident to me. Ballroom figure involve precise balanced and controlled movements. These skills are usually not inherent and must be practiced as with ballet.
Begin Diagonal Wall (DW) Look Right
Left Foot Forward to the side open
Close Together with shifting weight
She creates the first turn and there should not be any muscling by the man. He goes, she goes.
First move Look Right Chin over middle
Look right take shoulder with it spotting
Make sure she's there and then go.
Drill: and one point shift no shoulder shape shifting
It's a horizontal rotation with flat feet.

Martin's Dance Positions Class
Note on Drills: Drills help dancers perfect the footwork and bodywork associated with higher level dancing. Judges and instructors have a keen awareness of footwork and bodywork and the correct execution of these techniques differentiates higher level dancers from beginners and social dancers. Drills are a necessary part of a competitive dancer's life and are required to achieve the beautful movements that we all aspire to achieve.
Drill #1A Finger tips to finger tips
The man and woman face each other and extend their ten finger tips out to each other. This is not in a closed position. They then do a Waltz Box keeping their fingers in contact. This teaches coordinated movement with arms extended. Note: All of these drills can be done either with Bronze closing or Silver rocking movements. It's the student's choice.
Drill #1B Forward and Back Straight
The man and woman assume a correctly positioned and postured closed dance position. The then take straight forward and backward steps. The first set of drills begins with the left foot. The second set of drills begins with the right foot. The leg movements must be big enough to go between the lady's legs to help insure proper leg movements.
Drill #1C Forward and Back Diagonal
The man and woman assume a correctly positioned and postured closed dance position. The then take diagonal forward and diagonal backward steps with Outside Partner positioning.
Drill #1D Figure Eight (8) Forward and Back
The man and woman assume a correctly positioned and postured closed dance position. The then take figure 8 steps together.
Drill #2 Maintaining Upper Frame
Extend arms and forearms outward spread apart in dance position. Elbows sightly forward. Move your shoulders and arms left and then right keeping your arms and head correctly connected. Do not move the hips. This isolates the upper body movement and teaches you to coordinate your movements.
Drill #2B Upper Chest Positioning
Place your right and left fingers on your breast bone (sternum) and then rotate your upper body and not your hips while maintain the hand and arm positions on your sternum.
Drill #3 Lower Body Swivels
Assume a closed dance position and then swivel/rotate your hips and balls of your feet without moving your stomach, chest or head.
Drill #3A Promenade Swivels
Assume a closed dance position and then swivel your hips and balls of you feet without moving your stomach or chest. However, in this drill you turn your head to the left when you swivel left into Promenade Postion.
Drill #4 Twinkle and Close
On all the drills you alternate feet as in dance. You close at the end of each forward or backward movement, settle and change feet for the next movement.
Drill #5 Shoulder Positioning for dance frame
Stand in front of a mirror with your arms down to your side and shoulders relaxed. Place the index finger on the left Deltoid to remind you to keep this position and then raise your left arm. This is the relaxed natural position of the left shoulder while dancing. You should look natural and not shrugging. Repeat on the right side and then with both shoulders relaxed. All drills should be in this position.
Correct frame is important to properly maintain both the woman's and the man's forward and backward leg positions. The frame maintains the side to side alignment needed to coordinate leg movements.
Extend your arms outward to the side. The shoulder blades shoulder extend upward. Tree hugging. The fingers of the man's right hand are closed and straight down. No banana fingers are allowed. The wrist of the man's right hand is nestled under the woman's left arm, not pressed into her side. This position one to two inches away from the woman's arm pit allows greater extension of the arms and a prettier frame. The head position is at 11 O'clock. If during dancing the woman draws into the man, the man should draw his arm in under the elbow, not cup his hands.
Tea or Coffee Walks Moving the legs from the knee downward only. No thigh separation. If you drop a piece of paper which you squeeze between your legs, you have to buy the dance instructor coffee or tea.
Martin wants us as a homework assignment to use the above drills in actual dancing. The idea is to improve our dancing through the use of the drills since this is the ultimate purpose of drilling.
Promenade - Keep your core facing the woman's core. Turn your head left and your legs and hip left. See Promenade Swivel Drill #3A. The body open minimally to the left. It is more a stretch than an opening. The woman is positioned slightly behind the man.
Posture can be practiced.
Practice Routine #1
Natural Turn
Backward Change Step
Reverse Turn
Change Step
Weave
Practice Routine #2
Natural Turn
Back Whisk
Forward Chasse (Repeat)
Natural Turn
Back Whisk
Begin Diagonal Wall - Right foot forward, left foot to the side and right foot closes to left ending Backing Diagonal Wall. Woman is Outside Partner. Repeat.
Martin's International Waltz I
Forward and Backward Drills
1. Begin with right foot
2. Begin with left foot
3. Begin with right foot but do not close
4. Begin with left foot but do not close
Take long steps and create a type of rocking motion for drills 3 and 4. During the drill watch your upper body posture and positioning. Learn to control your feet and legs precisely. Take a longer step on 1.
The length of the steps are NOT all equal. 1 is generally longer. 2 is equal of slighly shorter and 3 is for closing and lowering. However, there is no stopping. The movement is continous. You moving leg's foot stays in contact with the floor at all times for balance. Essentially you drag the moving foot with some pressure. [ however, some international champions do indeed pick up their feet slightly]
Timing. Do not be afraid to modify the movements and change the timing so that it is different from the beats. You really place an "AND" /"&" at the end of the 3 for lowering purposes.
He really emphasizes the continous movement concept.
We did a weave with Outside Partner Positioning and again with continous movement and open foot positioning without closing the feet.
I did have a cognition that there are silent periods between beats and these periods can be used for effect, not just simple movement.
There is more power and speed in the first movement with impetus energy which highlights the fact that we are NOT moving metronomically. Our movements are not the same speed, not the same distance and do not all have the same power.

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