Dancing Is Not Walking
by Harold & Meredith Sears
Do you ever feel that you are just
walking through your dance patterns -- a little plodding, less than
smoothly artistic? Two strategies to make your movements feel more
like dancing are anticipation/preparation and rise/fall.
In our classes, we are taught the
individual steps that make up a figure and the individual figures
that make up a routine. As we dance, the cuer names those steps and
figures in order -- Open Telemark; Maneuver Side Close; Back Passing
Change; Back Waltz . . . But we must not think in terms of
individual components. Instead of dancing this and then that,
individually, we need to dance this into that, flowing
In our usual walking steps, we
accelerate a little as we push with one foot and we decelerate as we
land on the next foot -- go, stop, go, stop. Walking has a regular
up-and-down motion to it, too, as we push off (and up a little),
swing a leg forward to catch ourselves, and then land on that foot --
up, down, up, down. When we dance, we don't want the "go, stop"
or the "up, down." We want our bodies to move across
the floor at a smooth rate, as if we were gliding on ice skates. Our
feet may be scooting about beneath us, but our bodies should be
floating in a dignified and stately way above it all. To do this,
instead of launching the body forward and then taking the step and
catching our weight, we want to reach out with the foot first, begin
to transfer weight, contact the floor, and only then fully transfer
Similarly, we must not see the end
figure as a goal -- "If I can only get to the end of this Double
Telespin!" We must look beyond that last step, prepare for it in
terms of position and alignment, and so maintain the smooth flow.
Consider the Open Telemark. If you only think of the individual steps
in this figure, you will likely take the third step with a little
jerk of arrival. The Open Telemark is a discrete figure, but
it is only a small part of the dance, so don't feel that you have
arrived or finished anything. If a Maneuver is coming up, begin a
little right-face body rotation on the last step of the Telemark.
Don't wait for the first step of the Maneuver. Get that trail foot
moving, push off and continue the body flow.
Second, dancing should not be
flatfooted, level locomotion around the floor. There are
rhythms that are mostly flat, without much rise and fall, but much of
our favorite dancing -- waltz, foxtrot, bolero -- includes
conspicuous up and down. The "dancing river" not only flows
counter-clockwise around the hall; it also crests and breaks in
smooth and regular wave-like patterns.
The general rule is that you lower
the end of one measure and into the beginning of the next. Soften the
supporting knee (bend it a little) and at least touch the heel to the
floor. Lowering accomplishes two things. It allows you to reach out
farther with the free foot, without bumping into your partner. She
feels the lowering and is ready to step back before you really start
to progress. Then from the lowered position, your first step will be
longer, smoother, and more gliding. From an up position, it is more
short and abrupt. Of course, the second thing that lowering does is
to set you up for graceful rise to the crest of the next wave. In
your up position, your knees are extended but not locked, you are
erect and stretched in your torso -- lungs full perhaps and back a
bit arched, head up -- and your weight is on the balls of your feet.
Here, you are poised for action, ready to move this way or that,
ready to turn easily, ready to respond and so dance with your
partner. If you stay flatfooted, you are rooted and heavy.
version of this
published in the Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association
(WASCA) Calls 'n' Cues, March, 2011.
If you would like to read other articles on dance
position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit
the article TOC.
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