Commit Fully to Each Step
& Sandi Finch
You can find “An Idiot’s Guide To....” almost every subject, so we
weren’t too surprised to find “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ballroom
Dancing.” After all, there is even an “Idiot’s Guide” to the Bible.
Not sure what to expect, we opened the book and immediately found flash
cards on how to choose an instructor and “common techniques and
strategies for dancing success.” Chapters followed on dance history,
some thoughts about music, timing, and why you should dance, and
finally some instruction in a dozen popular rhythms. The author brought
some credibility to the project, as an examiner for one professional
organization, so no surprise to find some gems among the many words.
He gave an 11th commandment that every beginner needs to memorize:
Never stop with both feet on the floor and weight distributed on them
equally. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but if you
remember it, you will never wonder what foot to move for the next step.
Beginners have a problem with this: They think having weight on both
feet is safe and balanced. They need to learn to commit fully to a
step. We have recently asked some beginner dancers and teachers of
beginner dancers what they saw as the biggest problem when learning to
dance. Changing weight from step to step was almost unanimously named
among the problems.
Half the problem is teaching the brain the feeling of being fully on a
foot. The Idiot’s author suggests thinking of your feet as empty
glasses and your body as a pitcher of water. The pitcher is lifted and
suspended over the “glass” and the water flows into the “glass.” The
step is not complete until the pitcher is empty, i.e., the body is over
the foot and the free foot has no weight.
Is it only a beginner’s problem? The Idiot’s author suggests not. Even
a good foundation needs to be checked and re-checked as you continue to
learn, he wrote. How much thought do you give to your feet? They aren’t
just a platform—how you move onto a foot determines what step and even
what rhythm you are doing. It takes practice until using your feet
correctly becomes automatic.
If you are executing a spin, you have to be over the ball of the foot,
with the heel up. Putting the heel down will stop the turn. Heel leads
give you impulsion moving forward. Rolling through the feet will give
you better timing in foxtrot. We want knee veer in tango, which means
in semi-closed position, the unweighted foot is poised with the inside
edge of the big toe on the floor. Occasionally test your “feel” for
using different parts of the feet. Stand erect, feeling you are
centered over the middle of the foot. Now shift yourself back slightly
until you feel balanced over the heel. Bring your weight forward until
you feel balanced over the ball of the foot. Your brain needs to
remember the feel of being in all those positions.
From a club
newsletter, April 2017,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, January 2020.