by Chris & Terri Cantrell
First, the Latin Body Frame & Hold
The Latin dance hold is more compact
than in the smooth rhythms (waltz, foxtrot, quickstep . . . ). Stand
6”-12” apart with the body and head upright. A simple rule of
thumb for the distance between the couple -- if the woman is much
shorter than you, stand farther away from her. If she is much taller
than you, stand closer. Maintain a slight forward poise with your
body toward one another, centered over the balls of the feet, not
back on the heels. The man’s arms and upper body should create a
firm frame in which the woman is gently held. Both partners need to
keep some tension (pressure) in the arms.
Each part of the body (toes, legs,
knees, tush, tummy, hips, chest, shoulders, arms, fingers, head) has
a role to play in figure execution and musicality. Some of these
roles may include being as still as possible or moving independently
for effect (isolation type movements) -- the shoulders, chest, and
the head. Other roles work at tensing muscles -- tightening the tummy
and tush muscles. Body parts can also linger -- feet, toes, and legs.
Some parts are almost forcefully dragged into action -- toes. Other
parts are influenced by another body part -- weight change affecting
Four Points of Contact in the Latin Closed Position:
Latin Foot & Leg Work
On your next visit to the zoo or a farm, check out the deer, camel, and/or horse -- they have a nice Latin walk. For humans though it is not natural and our knees hopefully do not bend like theirs:
Imagine yourself barefooted on a dirt
path full of potholes and strewn with many rocks of all sizes. Your
job is to carry a bucket of water balanced on the top of your head
down this path. Got the picture, now here's the drill:
Since the bucket is on our head, we
cannot look down. However, with the threat of stumbling into a
pothole or tripping over a rock, we cannot confidently take a step.
For this exercise put all your weight on the right foot/leg. To move,
first bend the left knee. Slide the pointed left toe forward in front
of the right leg to feel the path and the place where you want to
step, no weight. Once you have determined that the path is clear,
test the ground to ensure it will support your weight by applying
slight pressure to the left toe. Slowly lower the left foot, with
toes pointed slightly out for balance, until the heel touches the
ground, but still with only minimal pressure to ensure the ground is
solid. Begin the transfer of weight from the standing/supporting
right leg forward onto the stepping left foot and straighten the left
knee. Then let the hip "settle" to a relaxed position (like
‘waiting for a bus’ type of stance). As the hip settles, the knee
of the free leg should be allowed to naturally bend and the heel of
the right foot should slightly leave the ground. Repeat with the
right foot - first drag and place the toe (knee bent), press your
heel to the floor (still bent knee), stand up on the foot (straighten
the leg), and finally let your hip settle.
We do this subconsciously when walking backwards. We feel for the first back step with our toe, roll onto the ball of our foot, lower into the heel, and then place our weight onto the leg. Now that you have mastered that, let us work on ‘fast feet’. Allow the unweighted foot to linger and remain in the ending position of the previous step for as long as possible. At the beginning of the next step the foot moves quickly into position, ready to begin testing the ground. This does not mean that the entire body comes to a complete stop/freeze between each step and/or figure. There is continual motion of the knees and hips. The "freeze frame" makes a nice picture, but only when it is used occasionally.
Yes men, this includes your hips also.
While the ‘party line’ states that the movement of the hips is
only a result of the foot and leg action, the dancer can act to
direct this action to make it less chaotic, feel better, and make it
more pleasing to the eye.
There are mainly two types of hip
movement that are not associated with the rotation of the body in the
course of a figure: Settling into the hip at the end of a measure or
figure and the Figure Eight hip motion. The hip movement in cha and
the faster rhythms is generally less pronounced than in rumba due to
the speed of the dance, but the hips still do move.
Settling Into the Hip: At the
end of the measure or the figure, settle the supported/weighted hip
gently towards the floor. It is like allowing the weighted hip to
take a deep breath and then relax down on top of the supporting leg
Figure Eight: Gently guide your
hip motion into a figure eight. For each step taken, the same hip
does a circular motion as weight it taken onto that foot, the left
hip moves in a counterclockwise direction and the right hip will move
in a clockwise direction. As an example, in more detail: Step forward
with your left foot while moving the left hip forward as weight is
transferred onto the left foot, the left hip continues to move in a
counterclockwise direction. Recover back onto the right foot and the
right hip moves forward as weight is transferred onto the right foot,
the right hip continues to move in a clockwise direction.
Isolation Exercise: Practice separating the body above from the body below the waist. The following exercise works the abdominals, diaphragm, and hip muscles. Begin by planting your feet firmly on the floor a hip distance apart. Tighten your tush (buttocks) muscles slightly, place your hands lightly on the hips, and then slide your rib cage to the left and then to the right. There should be no sagging or tilting of the shoulders. You should feel a pulling sensation of the muscles around the waist while keeping your hips and legs in place, immobile. Practice 1-10+ minutes/day will also have the added benefit of improving your muscle tone, strength, and trimming your waistline.
Copyright 2004©, 2005© Chris & Terri Cantrell www.ctkr.com/