by Dwain & Judy
As we watch a highly accomplished
couple dance the Rumba, we're usually so thoroughly impressed by
their appearance that we're not able to analyze what it is that makes
the couple look so good. For most of us, it would take the playback
of a video, again and again, in order to see the many things that are
involved to "fill out" the whole picture.
Rumba has a character all its own.
romantic, it's sensual, it's a "body" dance, it's even
referred to as "earthy." It's all these things and then
some! What does it all mean? Well, the "romantic and sensual"
experience is seen as the couple work to each other as if to embrace
but then move on. Or as they appear to wrap their arms about each
other before continuing to the next movement; even as they look at
each other as they progress through the routine. We see the "body"
dance aspect as the hips move either to the left or to the right on
each of the slow beats and to a lesser degree on each of the quick
beats. We also see the body curves or shaping (generally performed by
the man), which occur in many figures as the lady continues to
perform her steps. The combined picture is a continual movement of
the hips throughout most of the dance combined with body shaping to
accommodate or even accentuate the figures being performed. The
"earthy" aspect generally refers to the fact that the Rumba
is danced "into the floor," i.e., a moving foot appears to
have an affinity for the floor -- hesitating to leave the floor
before taking a step -- and when the step is taken, the weight is
transferred fully onto the stepping foot.
Following are a few of the more
"ailments" that may be preventing many of us from achieving
this desired "picture" and some cures for these ailments.
Ailment 1: Steps are too large
One of the most commonly seen
is taking too large a step. The result will be a step taken too flat
-- in its most severe case, on the heel. Evidence of having taken too
large a step will be that the heel of the un-weighted foot is forced
to leave the floor prematurely, i.e., as the step is taken. Other
evidence of having taken too large a step will be the inability to
achieve full weight transfer to the stepping foot. The couple may
even lose the connection in their joined hands or have to over-extend
the joined hands in order to retain the connection.
Cure: Take smaller steps --
Although the cure sounds only too
obvious, smaller steps will be achieved naturally only by practicing
a proper forward or backward walk technique.
The Forward Walk --
Prior to taking a forward step, take full weight onto the supporting
foot and allow the body to settle (as if waiting impatiently).
Initiate the step by moving
the upper body forward. Just before the point of imbalance, flex the
knee to pull the toe of the stepping foot forward until the ball of the
foot is in contact with the floor with some pressure (toed out
slightly). The heel of the trailing foot remains in contact with the
To complete the step, move the
body fully over the stepping foot as the leg is straightened. At the
end of the step, the leg of the trailing foot should be straight with
the toe turned out slightly (the heel may be released from the floor.
To initiate the next step, the
knee of the trailing foot will flex as the heel is lifted to pull the
toe forward and the action is repeated as described previously. The
rate at which weight is transferred to the stepping foot is strictly
dependent upon whether a quick or slow step is being taken.
The Backward Walk --
Prior to taking a backward step, take full weight onto the supporting
foot and allow the body to settle (again, as if waiting impatiently).
Initiate the step by flexing
the knee in order to push the ball of the stepping foot back until only
the toe of the foot is in contact with the floor with some pressure
(toed out slightly). The initial body poise remains unaffected until
full weight is transferred.
To complete the step,
immediately straighten the leg of the stepping foot, lowering the heel,
and transfer full weight. There should be the sensation of slightly
more pressure on the heel in order that the upper part of the body is
fully "back," that is, no forward poise! At the end of the step, the
leg of the forward foot will be straight, the heel may be released
slightly from the floor.
To initiate the next step, the
knee of the forward foot will flex as the heel is lifted in order to
push the ball of the foot back and the action is continued as described
above. The rate of weight transfer is dependent upon whether a quick or
slow step is being taken, to end with the body fully over the weighted
It can be seen, if you count the
necessary to describe but a single step, that comfortable forward and
backward steps can only be achieved by repeated practice. Through
repetition, the many nuances will begin to occur automatically,
without hesitation, and in time, with the tempo of the music. A good
practice package would be six progressive forward walks and then six
progressive backward walks.
Ailment 2: Turns are out of
(possibly even forced to take the next step early) --
Generally speaking, the only turns
cause most of us to have problems involve 3/8 or more turn on a
single beat. Examples of typical problem turns are: (1) a forward
step ending back as in the Fan, (2) a forward step ending back as in
the Hockey Stick, and (3) the Spiral.
Cure: Make sure that the weight
over the ball of the foot that is to execute the turn, lowering to
the heel (flat) only at the end of the turn --
It is important to keep in mind
all turns that are not accomplished through the turning of the body
will be accomplished on the weighted foot, i.e., weight must have
been taken to the foot that is to execute the turn.
The Fan -- When
preceded by steps 1 - 3 of an Open or Closed Hip Twist to Fan, the
lady's most common turning problem is on the fifth step, a forward step
on the right foot turning left-face to end right foot back and to the
side. Again, it is important that the lady's weight be over the ball of
the right foot before attempting the left-face turn. The turn to the
left will be assisted through tension in the joined hands (man's left
and lady's right) only if danced to a reasonable extension of the
joined hands. Too great a distance between the couple on this step will
cause the turn to be initiated early, i.e., before weight is taken well
onto the right foot. To avoid this problem, the couple should ensure
that the lady's first step to the left side of the man (the fourth step
of the figure) is a small step forward on the left foot.
The Hockey Stick -- When preceded by steps 1 - 3 of a
basic movement from Fan position, the lady's most common turning
problem is again on the fifth step, a forward step on the right foot
turning left-face to end right foot back and to the side. If danced to
a reasonable extension of the joined hands (in this case raised over
the lady's right shoulder) as the lady's fifth step is taken the lead
hand is brought down briefly in front of the lady, and the turn to the
left is assisted through tension in the joined hands. As in the
previous case, it is important that the lady's weight be over the ball
of the right foot before attempting the left-face turn. Too great a
distance between the couple on this step will cause the turn to be
initiated early, before weight is taken to the right foot. Again, to
avoid this problem, the couple should make it a point to assure that
the lady's fourth step of the figure (turning 1/8 left-face under the
raised hands) is a small step forward on the left foot.
The Spiral -- The standard spiral will be executed
by the lady on the right foot stepping forward on the slow count (QQS -
RLR). On the first beat of the slow count, the initial step is taken to
the right foot; the spiral is executed on the second beat of the slow
count. The spiral action is performed on the ball of the right foot
using a quick swivel action turning strongly to the left (up to 7/8
turn) ending with the left foot crossed (without weight) in front of
the right foot. In order to execute the spiral comfortably, the weight
should be well onto the ball of the right foot (heel pressed down and
nearly on the floor) with the body directly over the foot.
The Spiral entry to a Rope
Spin -- Unlike the standard
spiral, this spiral will be executed by the lady on the left foot
stepping forward on the slow count (QQS - LRL). On the first beat of
the slow count, the initial step is taken to the left foot; the spiral
is executed on the second beat of the slow count. The spiral action is
performed on the ball of the left foot using a quick swivel action
turning strongly to the right (up to 7/8 turn) ending with the right
foot crossed (without weight) in front of the left foot. In order to
execute the spiral comfortably, the wight should be well onto the ball
of the left foot (heel pressed down and nearly on the floor) with the
body directly over the foot.
should take care that the lead hand is well above and slightly forward
of the lady's right shoulder as the spiral is executed. If necessary,
the man may need to add an upper body sway toward the lady to aid in
the proper positioning of the raised lead hands. The lead could be
described as quickly circling the man's left hand clockwise over the
lady's right shoulder.
be noted that a Spiral may be performed as a solo action by either the
man or the lady or both. The spiral action may be performed on the left
foot turning right-face or on the right foot turning left-face.
Regardless, the technique remains the same. If performed on a single
quick count, take care not to overturn the figure -- 3/4 to 7/8 turn is
sufficient. The remainder of any turn, as necessitated by the figure
being danced, should be accomplished on the following step.
At this point, the ladies may reasonably
ask, what's the difference between a Spiral and a Curl? Simply put, the only difference is that
the Curl is a slow Spiral. The Curl (in its standard form) is also
executed on the right foot on the slow count. The only difference is
that the turn takes the full two counts rather than the single count as
is the case for the Spiral. The left foot ends in the Spiral Cross
position, and the degree of turn is also 3/4 to 7/8, as in the Spiral.
These have been just a few
many that could be chosen. We hope that they will help you to develop
a better feel for the "character" of the Rumba.
clinic notes prepared for the URDC annual convention, Denver, 1996; published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, December 2012.