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Using The Base to Turn

One very common mistake is to use the wrong parts of the body to produce the driving force (also known as the "impetus") for the turn. When the wrong parts of the body are used, the body is thrown out of its natural alignment, and is therefore pulled away from the axis of rotation.

The obvious question to ask, then, is: "What are the correct parts of the body to use?" The answer is: The lower half of the body, including the feet, legs, and hips. This is also known as your base.

Why the base?

Imagine for a second that your body is represented by a small table with a lamp on top. The lamp represents your upper body, and the table, with its legs, represents your base (see diagram).

If we move the lamp, it will slide around on the table, but the table itself will remain in place. So by pushing the lamp, we only move the lamp by itself. On the other hand, if we actually move the table, both the table and the lamp move around together as a single unit.

When you attempt to turn by swinging your arms or hurling your upper body ahead of your base, you are in effect knocking the lamp right off of the table. When your upper body turns ahead of the base, the whole body gets thrown out of alignment; You cannot turn straight up over the axis of rotation, and you fall off balance. So in order to produce a balanced turn, you will need to learn how to move the table instead of the lamp. In other words, the turn must be produced from the base.

You may be saying to yourself, "But I know that I've seen good dancers using their arms and upper body to aid in the rotation!". That may be true to a certain degree, but there's a big difference between aiding in and being the primary source of rotation. Any usage of arms that you observe is either purely aesthetic, or if it is functional, it never accounts for a very large percentage of the power behind the rotation. The top must always follow the base through the rotation, for if it overtakes the base, the stability of the turn is inevitably compromised.

For beginners, because there is such a strong temptation to use the arms, this usually means learning how to use the base by restricting the usage of the arms and top altogether. As long as you have the upper body rotation to use as a crutch, you will be less likely to learn how to find it elsewhere.

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