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Heel Leads
Posted by singndance
8/4/2007  5:35:00 PM
I would appreciate some advice. I have never been a dancer before, but I have been taking American smooth lessons for about a year now. My professional teacher/partner wants me to dance less 'flat-footed,' roll my feet much more, and develop stronger heel leads for smoother dancing. I have a tendency to stick my foot forward when I lead with my heel, leaning my upper body backwards. So my body doesn't stay over my feet properly, and I lose my balance, resulting in choppy dancing. Sometimes I lift my foot off the floor entirely and place it down, which I know is wrong.

Since I put in a lot of practice time by myself (as it is cost prohibitive to practice as much as I'd like with my instructor) I would like to know if anyone could suggest an exercise I could practice on my own that would help. I'd like to develop my muscle memory to do the right technique.

Re: Heel Leads
Posted by nigelgwee
8/4/2007  7:45:00 PM
I'm sure your instructor has given you the correct advice. To reinforce this, might I suggest you get Victor Veyrasset's Man's Technique, Leading & Styling video. On DanceVision's website, there's a video clip that addresses your very problem. All the best!
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by anymouse
8/4/2007  9:12:00 PM
Unless you wear high heels or other impractical shoes all of the time, you probably already have just fine muscle memory for taking well proportioned heel leads.

Specifically, when you walk around without trying to dance, you move your body and foot together. Your steps will be placed on the heel, but you foot doesn't "present" the heel until fairly late in the leg swing. Dancing works pretty much the same way - your feet are only the floor the whole time or nearly so, but the mechanics of the movement are basically the same.

Often when first trying to dance we basically try to hard. We are afraid to fall on our partner, so probe out with our free leg without actually moving your body into the step until we've placed the moving foot. And then we want to make sure we take a real heel lead so we present the heel far too early in the step. I won't say it's as simple as stop worrying and just walk, but basically what you are struggling to do is put the natural movement of the walking that you already know how to do, back into your dancing.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Serendipidy
8/5/2007  2:48:00 PM
Singndance.It is obvious from your writting that as the Right Foot passes the Left Foot you are not raising your Left Heel from the floor . Which you do when you walk naturally. Dancing is an exaggerated walk but with the feet in contact (skimming ) the floor. When you get more experienced you will flex the knees as the weight arrives over the supporting leg. If I were you I would go to The Learning Centre on this site and pick Forward Walks. Study where the body is carried verticlly by the legs. If the model was holding a spirit level in front held vertically where would the bubble be at all times..
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Ellen
8/5/2007  11:19:00 PM
One thing you can do is to focus more on moving from your standing leg rather than reaching out with the moving one. That's the foot you should worry about rolling through to begin with. And practice keeping your moving foot in contact with the floor.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by singndance
8/6/2007  3:04:00 PM
Thank you all for your help. The DanceVision clip is very good - I wasn't familiar with that site. I think I just need to relax more than anything!
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by danz4joy
8/19/2007  8:09:00 PM
Hi! This is a common problem in the beginning stages of dance. You've gotten excellent advice from other posts-I would like to add an exercise that may help as well. The famous 'putting a book on the head' I have found effective. Normally I have my students use something that will not hurt if it falls though-and old cd case works well. Just focus on walking normally with heel leads, but the cd case will prevent you from leaning back like you said you were doing. Also, if you have someone to practice with, ask your partner to place their hands on your center and then just walk at your partner. Think of using your center to push her hand, thus moving her. This will help you with not leaning back (be careful not to lean forward though) :) and it will also start teaching you to lead from your center not your feet
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by phil.samways
8/21/2007  4:47:00 AM
You asked for an exercise. This may sound silly but you could try pushing a very heavy wheelbarrow. This will help because the heavy wheelbarrow will make it impossible for you to move in a choppy way. you will get the feeling of your body moving continuously and smoothly forward while you legs and feet work underneath you
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by jwlinson
8/21/2007  9:19:00 AM
Our coaches told me I was "rushing the music" and explained the the idea of "breaking your foot in two pieces" for this. Place your heel, then roll to the ball. This confused the heck out of me at first, but after some practice I find it's easier than I first thought, and can be used effectively to soak up the music so I'm not rushing it as much as I was when I was placing my whole foot.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by anymouse
8/21/2007  2:50:00 PM
"Our coaches told me I was "rushing the music" and explained the the idea of "breaking your foot in two pieces" for this. Place your heel, then roll to the ball. This confused the heck out of me at first, but after some practice I find it's easier than I first thought, and can be used effectively to soak up the music so I'm not rushing it as much as I was when I was placing my whole foot."

This advice clearly comes from someone who fundamentally does not understand movement in the standard dances.

When the movement is done properly, the ball of the foot directly follows the heel - you very nearly are placing the whole foot, because the "just heel" time is very short.

If you delay your arrival in the proposed way in order to match the music, then what you are doing is getting your foot out ahead of you while failing to move your body.

Instead, the true secret to staying on time is to make sure to take enough time in the later part of the preceding step. If you rush the conclusion of a step, there is no proper fix that can now be applied to the next - anything you do will be an artifical slowing down.

Instead, take the full amount of time in finishing the previous step, and you will now have the luxury of driving just a touch in order to catch the music on the next one.

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