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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.

Thanks.
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.

Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Serendipidy
8/21/2007  4:06:00 PM
Dancing is two people dancing as one. If you roll from the heel to the ball and your partner rolls from the toe to the heel what could be more together than that.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by anymouse
8/21/2007  4:17:00 PM
"Dancing is two people dancing as one. If you roll from the heel to the ball and your partner rolls from the toe to the heel what could be more together than that."

Yes, there's two phases in the position of the weight - heel, then ball.

But the placement of the foot is almost whole foot - it's heel, directly followed by the ball of foot contacting the floor, some would even opinion immediately so.

Needless to say this is not symmetric with the backwards action - probably because our knees only bend in one direction.

And the fundamental principle remains: delaying your arrival will not give you the right timing, instead it will just give you an artifical stuck-between-feet interlude. To get the right timing you have to learn to draw out the end of the preceding step, especially when we have a lowering step preceding a heel lead, we have to not finish the lowering step too fast.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Serendipidy
8/21/2007  5:07:00 PM
Jwlinson. If you roll onto your foot it will be impossible not to flex the knee and have the weight arrive at any other time than the correct time.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by anymouse
8/21/2007  7:00:00 PM
"Jwlinson. If you roll onto your foot it will be impossible not to flex the knee and have the weight arrive at any other time than the correct time."

If that were true, leading a heel turn would be extremely difficult.

Come to think of it, many people have a lot of difficulty leading heel turns effectively enough that they can reliably get either a heel turn or a waltz type turn as fits their momentary whim.

Maybe they never learned that a heel turn lead basically consists of greatly reducing the flex of the arriving knee? Wheras you create a waltz-type turn by letting the knee flex normally as you arrive.

As for timing, if you've departed the previous step too early as most do during their beginner and intermediate years, no natural action during the arrival is going to fix that.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Serendipidy
8/22/2007  8:14:00 PM
With the music count 1 and 2 and 3 and. This is according to Richard Gleave on his tape. Analyse this. Doing it that way we have more time on the first step than we do on the second. In actual fact we have the same amount of time on one as we do on the other two steps. The closing of the foot being on an and count. Leaving all of the third beat to be at the highest and the lowest with the count of three and. John Wood also teaches this way. Who can argue with these two gentlemen.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Doug
8/24/2007  7:31:00 AM
Serendipady. If we close our feet on twoand we will have to much time left to rise and fall as we are already rising as we close the foot.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by anymouse
8/24/2007  9:32:00 AM
"Serendipady. If we close our feet on twoand we will have to much time left to rise and fall as we are already rising as we close the foot."

Closing the foot takes time. It might be proper to say that the closing would start on two and, but it won't finish until just a bit before three, assuming that you want to put weight on the now closed foot right on beat 3.

There's not much point to have a big gap between when the foot arrives closed and when it takes the weight.

And yes, the rise will be contuing througout all of this - the rise ends only after the weight has changed feet, as the foot change is itself part of the rise.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Serendipidy
8/24/2007  10:29:00 PM
Of course we continue rising . We never actually stop. Each part blends with the other. Which is as the technique book says in the Waltz. Commence to rise at the end of one. Continue to rise on two and three. lower at the end of three. You would be suprised how couples are doing the most intricate steps, but ask them to quote and explain those three sentences above and they can`t. Then ask the same question on the Foxtrot Feather Step . And what is the difference between the two rise and falls in the Waltz and the Foxtrot.. I blame the teachers for not explaining this right at the beginning. That`s providing they know themselves. In the studio i go to there would not be one person from the youngest to the eldest who could not answer and demonstrate all of the above. P.S. I lower on the and count, 3 and.
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Doug
8/25/2007  1:13:00 PM
The timing of the NT in waltz is not as simple as you make it seem. In the passing natural you have a foot position on three followed by a body position on the (and)' an equal spacing on all the beats and half beats,this is not the case with the NT which does not have a foot position on three as the foot is already in place so this gives you an extra half beat that has to be used up somewhere?
Re: Heel Leads
Posted by Serendipidy
8/25/2007  6:05:00 PM
Doug. First who said we are talking about a Natural Turn. Get the basic Closed Change right first. This is the most misunderstood part and that is at the end of the first step on the count of and, the foot, in this case, the LF is under the body , The right knee is flexed and it flexed as the weight of the body arrived over that standing leg. Now we are ready to swing onto step two. This is our second drive. Now do it wrong to prove a point. After the RF is in position swing the LF from behind out to the side for step two. Once upon a time that would have been the way it was taught. Not any more. Anybody who has been to a Andrew Sinkinson class will bear me out that he will have you lift that left leg completely from the floor after it arrives along side the RF. Put it down and from a bent right knee send the LF onto step two. We are still rising and will continue to rise on step three. Which when you think about it is not a step. Take my word for it I have seen a group of some fourty couples tranformed in a few minutes from a blunt 1 2 3 to 1 and 2 and 3 and . And do you know it is most likely on any DVD you may have on the Modern Waltz. Just take a closer look and also listen to the instructions.
Whilst i am on this subject. why are people so obsessed with the moving foot which is the one in front. The important foot is the one you are standing on soon to be the rear . Every tape I have Modern or Latin says dance from foot to foot. Do that and let the moving foot look after itself. If the heel lead isn`t as good as it should be then let the teacher tell you. Ball flat in Latin. All of the about is as I have been insructed or told. Good luck when this technique is put into the Natural Turn.
One more most important thing is exactly at what time does the heel of the standing foot starts to leave the floor. Where is the moving foot at this time.
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