Positions of the Feet
There are many ways to describe foot positioning. Some methods involve describing the angle or position of a single foot, while others describe the positions or angles of the feet relative to each other. The following article will give you a basic understanding of the most common methods for describing the various positions of the feet.
The most fundamental method is to refer to one of five basic foot positions:
Feet apart, side by side.
Feet together, heel to instep.
Feet apart, one foot in front
of the other.
Feet together, one foot in front of the other, toe to heel.
These five foot positions were originally established for the teaching of ballet, and as a result, are not always ideally suited for ballroom dancing. You are more likely to hear a ballroom dance teacher say “Step forward” than “Take fourth position”, simply because ballroom dancers prefer to speak in terms of directions of movement. Nonetheless, instructors will refer to these positions on occasion (especially 5th position), so you should get to know them.
Turning Out is the process of rotating the feet outward to an angle, so that the toes point away from each other. The angle that results between the feet is known as the degree of turnout. When the feet are held without any turnout, they are referred to as parallel.
Fig 1 – Feet parallel.
For Smooth and Standard style ballroom dancing, the feet are normally held parallel. Some turnout is used in very specific situations, as outlined in the technical breakdown of a figure. When turnout is not specified, it is assumed that feet are parallel.
Turnout in the Latin and Rhythm dances is recommended for the majority of situations. The desirable amount of turnout is somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees. Ballet dancers strive to achieve turnout entirely through the rotation of the legs so that the knees always point to the same angle as the toes. Latin dancers, on the other hand, will allow the feet to turn out at the ankles; Thus the knees, when bent, point straight forward (or even roll slightly inward) in spite of the turned-out angle of the feet.
Supanation and Pronation
The rolling of the foot toward the inside or outside edge is known as pronation and supination, respectively. It is very important to become aware of these positions, even if you don’t remember their names.
The image on the top shows the normal position of the foot. The image at center shows the pronated position of the foot, with the inside edge to the floor. This position is used quite frequently in the Latin and Rhythm styles of ballroom dancing. When the body weight is held over the outside edge, the foot has rolled out into a supinated position (more commonly referred to as “sickled”), as shown in the image on the bottom. A sickled position is undesirable, and should be avoided at all times.
Essential to comfortable and effective dancing is good posture, achieved through the proper alignment of the various body parts in correct relative position with one another. The various body parts, including the head, chest/torso, pelvis/hips, legs, and feet, are properly aligned when they are placed directly on top of one another in a natural and upright manner.
Head The head should be held upright with the chin parallel to the floor. The neck should stretch upward, but be careful not to lengthen any one side of the neck at the expense of the opposite side… all sides of the neck should stretch upward. Pay particular attention to the back of the neck, which is often shortened when the chin is held too high. Be careful not to thrust the head forward from the neck, as the vertebrate in the neck should continue upward as an extension of the spine.
Chest / Torso The chest and hips must always be in good, vertical alignment. The ribcage should feel as though it is being lifted off of the hips, in such a way as to lengthen the spine. Any lifting of the chest, however, should always be accomplished in such a way as to allow for normal, comfortable breathing. Never allow the chest to pitch forward or slouch back in relationship to the hips.
Pelvis / Hips The position of the hips must allow for a natural curve of the spine. The pelvis should therefore be held in a midway position, neither tucking excessively under, nor sticking out backward.
Legs When the legs are straight, the knees will be positioned directly between the hips and the feet. When the knees bend forward, the alignment of the hips and feet should remain constant, so that the body can remain upright. Always try to feel that you lengthen your torso as you bend your knees, so that your posture does not “deflate”. Never allow your pelvis to stick out backward, even slightly, as the knees bend.
Feet It is very important for a good dancer to become aware of the placement of the body weight over the feet. In a normal, standing position, the body weight should remain slightly forward of the middle of the feet, between the heel and the ball of the foot. In motion, this position is variable, based on the mechanics of the specific movement. It will range from the back of the heel to the front of the big toe, but this distribution of weight should not affect the alignment of the upper blocks of weight, from hips to head.
Exercise Lie down flat on your back, with your knees bent to approximately a 90 degree angle, and feet flat on the floor. Let your arms fall easily to your sides, or rest them on your stomach. Breathe normally, allowing all of the muscles is your body to relax. Feel your back flat against the floor, and try to minimize any spaces, particularly in the area of the small of the back. There will inevitably be a space at the neck, but this space will be reduced slightly when the neck is stretched longer. (This exercise can also be done against a wall, in a standing position. The feet should be held 6-12 inches away from the wall).
Correct: Relaxed, straight back, neck stretched long.
Incorrect: Tense, arched back, kinked neck.
“Why Ballroom Dancing is Good For You:
Mentally and Physically”
At a weekly dance in the local senior citizens center, I was dancing with Jenny when she tripped and fell to the floor, landing softly on her behind and then on her back and pulling me down on top of her. As I helped her up, I asked if she was okay. “I know one thing for sure,” Jenny said. “We fell for each other.”
This 80-year old retired teacher dances three or four times every week. She is mentally and physically active. She knows dancing keeps her heart pumping. But she didn’t know dancing also keeps her brains active.
A recent study at the Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University in Bronx showed that dancing reduced the risk of dementia, a brain disorder that includes Alzheimer’s disease affecting 6 to 7 million Americans over the age of 60. The result of the research led by Dr. Joseph Verghese, assistant professor of neurology, was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in June 2003 (Vol. 348,pp 2508-16).
The research involved 469 men and women aged 75 and older, and the time span of 21 years that began in 1980. All participants were screened at the start to ensure that they were free of dementia. The researchers studied lifestyle of each participant to see if he or she engaged in some of the 6 cognitive activities (reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, taking part in group discussion, and playing board games) and 11 physical activities (dancing, numerous sports, housework, and baby-sitting).
They followed the activities of each for an average of 5.1 years. Among the participants were 130 who danced frequently (3 or 4 times a week), 83 who swam frequently, 26 who bicycled frequently, and 19 who played games frequently.
In the period of study, 124 participants developed dementia: 61 Alzheimer’s disease, 30 vascular dementia, 25 mixed dementia, and 8 other forms of dementia.
The results revealed that frequent cognitive activities reduced the risk of dementia. There was no big surprise there, for other earlier studies indicated that much. The most surprising result was that, of all the physical activities, dancing was the only activity that reduced the risk of dementia.
The frequency of activities was also an important factor. For example, those who danced 4 times a week showed 76 percent less incidence of dementia than those who did only once a week or not at all. Naturally, the more you dance the greater the benefit you reap–as far as dementia is concerned.
What is so special about ballroom dancing? “Dance is not purely physical in many ways. It also requires a lot of mental effort,” says Dr. Verghese. Dancers follow complex steps and figures. You have to think about them and remember them. Men have to think about what steps to do next and lead the women. And women have to follow the men, adapting to their movement and to the precise beat of the music. So, dancing keeps your feet and brains on the ball. Dancers do not just move on reflex. Dancing is a cognitive activity. It requires concentration and thus keeps your brain working harder and longer.
You cannot wear your brains out, scientists say. The more you use them the sharper they get. They are not like kitchen knives that get dull with use. So, if you learn a new step or figure, and struggle to remember it, that will keep your brains stimulated and working longer.
If you don’t use your brain, you will lose it. For example, if you sit in front of a TV all day, it will not help. A few years ago Dr. Robert Friedland reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that people who watch an excessive amount of TV in old age ran a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Watching TV or slumbering in front of it does not take much brainwork.
This does not mean the physical part of the dancing is unimportant. Maintaining physical activities becomes all the more important, as you get older.
Recent studies showed that physical and emotional benefits of dancing are countless. It is no secret that moderate exercise and sensible eating habits is the key to keeping you trim and fit. Besides being a fun social activity, dancing is also an ideal, low impact exercise and also a mild aerobic workout. It can reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and even depression. It increases your confidence in social and business situations, and sharpens your control, agility, speed, and balance. It also increases your flexibility and stamina, strengthens your bones and cardiovascular system, and helps you burn those excess calories.
Some studies indicated that a half hour of sustained dancing can burn as many as 200 to 400 calories. Twenty minutes of dancing can provide as much exercise as 20 minutes of swimming or biking. If you are not sure, try 20 minutes of jitterbug, samba, polka, quickstep or Viennese waltz.
The International Olympic Committee has recognized ballroom dancing as DanceSport, an athletic competitive sport. You may have noticed how athletic ballroom dance competitors look. Being a low impact activity, dancing is accessible to people of any age or fitness level-with more emphasis on having fun and less emphasis on going for the burn.
Friday, September 27, 2013
International Dance Studio Medical Breakthrough!
Amazing Medical Breakthrough Announced!
Dramatic Cure for Mysteriously Debilitating Condition!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Researchers at the International Dance Studio, Miami, Florida, today announced the successful completion of testing on a new treatment for that mysteriously debilitating condition known as “2 Left Feet”. Review of the tests by the FDA (Federal Dance Administration) reveal that this new method is 120% effective in clinical trials.
“2 Left Feet” has most commonly been encountered in males, manifesting itself when they are asked about dancing, although it is known to afflict women also. The most common symptom of this ailment is the victim saying, “I can’t dance – I have 2 left feet”.
Tests, until now kept tightly under wraps, show that after just one night of Swing, Foxtrot or Salsa, at International Dance Studio, Miami, Florida, all symptoms of “2 left feet” disappear. This condition is frequently replaced with:
“Wow that was fun, let’s do it again”
“Gee, I didn’t know dancing was so easy”
“What a nice way to meet new people”.
The studies reveal that once the treatment is applied the symptoms never recur. Dancers report repeated instances of smiling and feeling happy, much livelier social lives, and a dramatically improved sense of well- being from the vigorous (but gentle) exercise provided by dancing.
Those taking the treatment for extended periods have been observed dancing in their living rooms when they think no one is watching, and showing off their dance steps at friends’ weddings.
Studies have shown that additional benefits include elimination of complaints about “nothing to do” and disappearance of the words “there is no place around here to meet anyone nice” and “how come you never take me anywhere romantic”.
The tests have been conducted Monday through Saturday since January 1991, with lessons from 11AM to 9 PM, and VIP Dance Parties from 9PM to 11 PM at least twice a month. The treatment center, International Dance Studio, is located at 8080 SW 81 Dr., Miami, Florida, in the Kings Creek Shopping Center. Isaac Altman, head of clinical dance research, can be reached at (305) 271-0606 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experts caution that left untreated, “2 left feet” can lead to uncontrolled bouts of television watching, whining and aimless mall shopping. It may even cause those experiencing this ailment to fall victim to the dreaded condition, “couch potato”. Experts advise immediate treatment.
I have been observing that the ability to use and manage high energy while dancing is a giant divider between the less accomplished and the elite dancers on the floor. Coming from a dance background, it’s been an interesting journey to see just how much has to evolve before high energy can even enter the equation. The biggest piece that you can feel in your body driving this readiness for “more” isn’t the acquisition of necessary strength & technical knowledge, but a decrease in tension throughout ones body. The diminishing tension in your lower thighs will enable more power thru your quads and thus better connection thru your feet to the floor, and the diminishing tension in your shoulders & shoulder blades will make you crave more energetic shaping and expression. When the tension is there, it’s an awful feeling of the opposite… wanting to move but feeling bound & unable.
So clearly, unlocking the bodys skeletal & muscular components seems directly related to the amount of energy one can put into one’s dancing. Of course, that by definition is called youthfulness, and says a lot about the difference between young people’s dancing vs. the senior crowd.
Isaac Altman, Former Undisputed, Undefeated World Salsa Champion
The Principles of Communication
The skills involved in leading and following center around principles of communication. The best leaders are those who communicate their intentions, while the best followers are those who respond well to the leader’s intentions. This is facilitated when both leader and follower do their part to maintain open lines of communication.
At some point or another, we’ve all been frustrated by a poor telephone connection. Nothing makes having a conversation more difficult or miserable than when you’re trying to talk over static, pops, clicks, and other general interference resulting from a poor connection. It sure makes you appreciate the times when you do have a clear signal!
The lead-and-follow process can be likened to a telephone conversation: The better your connection, the easier it is to have a conversation. So in the coming sections, we will explore some ways to improve your connection, so that you can lead and follow through “fiber optics”, rather than two tin cans and a string!
A connection is any physical point of contact between two partners in a dance position.
According to this definition, a connection can be any point where you actually touch your partner. While this is technically correct, it’s not entirely accurate. Normally, when we think of a connection, we think of a point through which you lead or follow your partner. So it’s not enough to simply touch your partner or hold their hand. In order to lead or follow, your connections must do more. For example:
A connection must have TONE. In order to function properly as a transmitter of signals, the connected body parts should maintain a certain degree of muscle tone. If the connection is limp or weak, the lead-and-follow signals will not run through it.
A connection must be ACTIVE. A working connection is a living, breathing thing. It must be alive, responsive to the situation, and ready to transmit and receive signals. In addition to being toned, it must also be flexible, and ready to change to accommodate any situation.
A connection must be MUTUAL. It takes two to have a conversation. Both parties must do their part to maintain the connection. When one person falls short, the conversation dies, no matter how much the other may try to compensate.