I can still see it now, even after all of these years. The look of uncertainty and bewilderment as I would look at my old jazz shoes after about 3 months of practice. Suffice to say, I was rough around the edges when I first started dancing and just looking at the shape my shoes were in should have given me a clue as to what I was doing wrong. The thing is, I had no idea what I was looking at. Allow me to describe the scene: I take some dirty old shoes and see holes all along the outer edges of my feet and my heels were unevenly worn out. They used to actually slope outward so if you were looking at them from behind, they appeared slanted out. With the shoe situation I have described, the 2015 me sees things that the 2003 me just didn’t know to look for.
Without getting too nerdy, it’s pretty obvious that when I would attempt to spin, I would hold all of my weight on the outside edges of my feet thus causing me to loose balance. I never could figure this out until I was taught this from a great teacher later on in my dancing. Often times, as I teach private dance lessons, I see almost immediately what the problems are with people’s dancing simply from looking at their feet. It’s amazing how much we can learn from this and it’s something worth looking into.
Hopefully you can imagine the many situations I run into when assisting my amazing students. Some of them dance with ‘heavy feet’ while others have an almost ‘floaty’ way of moving, some struggle with balance while others just dance flat. Many times I use the analogy of a bridge in Yoga. Don’t know what a bridge is? Take a look!
If you can see the way she moves and almost rolls her vertebrae on and off the floor, it’s a great visual aid for the feeling we can develop with our feet when we dance. Our goal in partner dancing is to keep ourselves a little bit more forward when we dance so that we can hold our body weight and not rely on our partner for balance. That being said, we also want to make sure we have the three points of connection as illustrated in the diagram above as our ending goal.
I’ve seen so many students come in having been directed to be ‘on the balls of their feet’ and come in thinking they have to dance almost tippy-toed.
Use the floor, just keep your weight distribution more forward while keeping those points touching at the end of your step. There’s a term called “ball-flat” that describes the motion pretty spot-on and it’s a good thing to remember when you’re polishing up your feet. Take the time to go through something like a basic step and play around with the feeling of rolling through your foot and feeling the connection to the floor. Explore the way that you use your whole foot/feet when dancing and work on improving this fundamental skill to exponentially improve your ability as a Salsa/Latin dancer. Explore your feet especially during your dance classes where you are likely going over material which can allow you to apply your technique.
While some would argue that doing things like this take away from the ‘street feeling,’ I would counter with the idea that being off balance and out of control is never in fashion, especially when you’re attached to someone else. Remember that you dress up technique in a lot of different ways and that style is only surface level stuff. The main meat of your skill is going to come from technique and using your feet in a good way can only help.
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Until next time,
To your dancing….