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What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by hesitation
5/27/2013  2:21:00 AM
Instructors sometimes say to "swing your leg" during waltz, foxtrot classes.

The only way I can swing my leg is to put the weight on the other leg and relax the swinging leg. And while swinging the leg, the foot traces out an arc in the air.

I thought in these dances I go forward by gliding the heel of the forward foot so the body weight is distributed on both feet. But if I glide forward, then I can't swing the leg.

And what is the difference between dancing with swinging legs and dancing with non swinging legs?

Could someone help explain?
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by Waltz123
5/27/2013  6:42:00 PM
"Swing" tends to be one of those terms treated in the dance industry like style or charisma -- We don't know exactly how to define it, but we know it when we see it.

But I get to differ.

We dancers are a touchy-feely bunch. It's what makes us great artists, but at the same time it tends to cost us in the teaching department. We tend to describe our impression of what is happening, rather than the physical reality. Our use of the word "swing" is the perfect example of this.

The action of swinging requires that an object (known as the "effort") be attached to a fulcrum, and move freely along the path of an arc centered around the fulcrum. Many things in dancing are typically described as "swinging", such as arms, legs, and even the body as a whole. But how often is it that we are truly seeing something swing?

Let's take the example of the whole body: The "swing" we speak of in the Waltz & Foxtrot is supposedly a whole body swing, but where's the fulcrum? The only thing out bodies are attached to is the floor. So it's safe to say that this is not in fact an actual swinging action at all; Rather, it's an action that *emulates* a swing, or gives us the impression of swinging in the way it looks and feels.

Don't get me wrong... I do think it's perfectly reasonable to use the term "swing" to describe that whole-body action in the teaching of ballroom dancing, but I also think we need to (1) define it as merely the emulation of the actual motion, and (2) set some criteria to help define what ballroom swing is. Here are mine (with regard to whole-body swing):

(1) The body must move along the path of an arc
(2) The angle of the body should incline toward the imaginary fulcrum
(3) It must accelerate and subsequently slow down
(4) The motion cannot be wholly controlled or bound throughout. It must release at some point and be allowed to move freely of its own momentum.

To my sensibilities, these 4 things are needed in order for a body to give the impression of swinging. If you eliminate any one of them, the resulting action would not be one that would make someone look at it and say, "Yeah, that's swinging".

Take the example of a child on a swing: Pull him back (and upward), then let him go, and he'll swing along that arc. But if you were to hold him the entire way, guiding him along that arc at a snail's pace, you can see how the arc is not the only relevant factor. Too much control cancels out the acceleration and free release of the motion (#'s 3 and 4), and he is no longer swinging.

Now where leg swing is concerned, the situation is different: Your free leg does indeed have a true fulcrum: The hip joint. (Theoretically you can also swing at the knee joint, but for now let's just take for granted that we don't). The actual fulcrum guarantees that we will meet criteria 1 and 2, assuming the path of the effort is an uninterrupted arc. Now if you assume the foot is the effort, you'll say the leg isn't swinging because it's moving along a straight path (the floor), which makes it an interrupted arc. The problem lies in your assumption: The foot is not the effort; The knee is. In other words, the swing is the action of the knee (effort) from the hip (fulcrum).

The knee and ankle joints of the free leg give you control to change the shape of the overall structure, essentially lengthening and shortening it, so that you can keep your foot on a straight path as the upper leg swings along its arc.

(continued next post)
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by Waltz123
5/27/2013  2:45:00 PM
The question of whether the upper portion of the leg, from the hip to the knee, is truly swinging. It certainly meets the first two criteria, but how about the acceleration and free release? I'm not exactly certain those apply to a dictionary definition, but again we're talking here about what would give you the impression of a swinging action, by either observing or experiencing it yourself. Are the muscles letting go and allowing it to move freely of its own momentum? The answer probably depends on the speed of the action.

The faster you move the leg, the freer the action will be, and the swingier it will seem. The slower and more bound by muscles, the lesser your impression of a swinging leg. The leg speed, in turn, will be determined by the length of stride in conjunction with the amount of time your have to take the step, as determined by the tempo and timing. A "quick" in Quickstep will therefore be released more freely; a "slow" in Foxtrot more controlled and bound.

All this to say that "swing" is often in the eye of the beholder. Not because it can't be defined, but because there's a considerable gray area, particularly when it comes to criteria 3 and 4. There isn't really a cutoff point, but only a criteria to compare one thing to the next, to be able to say "This is swinging more than that, and here's why..."

Regards,
Jonathan Atkinson
www.ballroomdancers.com
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by anymouse
5/28/2013  9:42:00 AM
"I thought in these dances I go forward by gliding the heel of the forward foot so the body weight is distributed on both feet. But if I glide forward, then I can't swing the leg."

That's an important point towards realizing why you should not have any body weight supported by your moving leg as long as it is still moving.

It is true that we will generally (except in tango, and a few places in quickstep) have the moving foot in contact with the floor (or near enough). But it's extremely important that we not have body weight resting on it while it is moving, as this does indeed impede its natural movement. (Sliding your weight will also make it difficult for you to dance on a floor stickier - or possibly even substantially slipperier - than you are used to).

Many newer dancers fall into the mistake of sliding weight on their moving foot, because they cannot see any other way to create a smooth and sustained movement. But such movement is actually created with the body supported only by the drive from the standing foot. A skilled dancer is able to use this drive to support the body weight, even after the body has moved away from being directly over the standing foot. It's a skill that does take some practice time and strength-building to develop - but one that will only be learned by those who realize it is possible and work towards that goal.
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by O.K.
5/30/2013  9:14:00 PM
On the first step of a Waltz or Foxtrot to use the word Swing is wrong. If we were to Swing that step we woukd need a trent dug into the floor to be able to Swing the leg.. On a Disk that I have on the Waltz. The insructions are. Drive on 1.. Swing on 2... Sway on 3. Does that make sense
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by O.Z.
6/2/2013  11:32:00 PM
After all those years you would have thought that tha description of a Forward Walk would have been altered. It is in the Alex Moores Technique book Quote. Swing the leg forward from the hips. End of Quote. To swing the leg forward we would have to be on our toes to start with. That we are not. If this is Waltz we will have lowered to the floor on the count of 3 and. We are most definately not on our toes. If we do an introction step it would be Ball Flat before the moving leg passes. We must not blame Alex for this wrong iformation. He wrote the book from already in existance information and descriptions.
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by terence2
6/3/2013  3:48:00 AM
All good questions.. but, what you need isa teacher/coach who is able to breakdown the "path " of flight . It is complex, and to clearly understand all the principles involved, a physical demo.is really the only solution/answer, to your question .

( A former world Champ. dancer) was once asked " which part of the body do you move FIRST ?.. his reply " The Knee ".. heres another answer, from someone
of equal stature ,that says " The head ".
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by Waltz123
6/3/2013  7:48:00 PM
On the first step of a Waltz or Foxtrot to use the word Swing is wrong. If we were to Swing that step we woukd need a [sic] trench dug into the floor to be able to Swing the leg.

The error in this line of logic is one that I mentioned in my first post: Either (1) thinking of the swing as occurring from the knee joint rather than the hip joint, or (2) not accounting for the ability of the knee joint to adjust the shape of the entire leg independently of the swinging thigh.

If your supporting leg is straight, then as the moving leg swings at the hip joint, even if the knee were kept perfectly straight throughout, your moving foot would arrive at the same level when passing the supporting foot. In other words, it would be at the same level as the supporting foot, not below as though to "dig a trench". (I'm purposely not factoring in the shape of the foot from the ankle and toe joints to keep things simple).

When the supporting leg is bent, as would be the case at the bottom of a swinging figure, you would most certainly have to dig a trench if you wanted to keep the moving leg straight. However, at the moment the free foot passes the moving foot, the knee joint of the moving leg will be at least equally as bent as the supporting knee, meaning that there, too, the foot would be at the same level.

As for floor pressure from the moving foot, there are various schools of thought with respect to this topic -- some teachers believe in more, some less. I've already given my own opinion on the matter. But here's something to put in your pipe and smoke: If your goal is to maximize leg swing, floor pressure stands in the way of it... at least in the way I've defined swing. Criterion #4 states that it must move freely, not wholly controlled, in order to give the impression of swinging. The more resistance it faces, the more it will become bound and controlled by muscular force. So if you think about it, in order to reduce floor pressure, the knee joint of the moving leg should be ever-so-slightly more bent than that of the supporting leg during the moment of passing. However, this difference will probably not even be enough to be perceptible.

After all those years you would have thought that tha description of a Forward Walk would have been altered. It is in the Alex Moores Technique book Quote. Swing the leg forward from the hips. End of Quote.

You're assuming they're talking specifically about the narrow scope of a walk commenced from a static position. I realize they do begin by describing a starting position, however, I suspect the totality of their description is meant to encompass the action of walking in general. In all but the very rare walk from a stopped position, the legs are meant to swing on some level.

I do agree that starting a swinging action from the center position is not much of a swing at all -- like setting my son on a swing and pushing him from the bottom rather than pulling him to the top and releasing him. That first push is not much of a swing as I previously defined it. But likely they're thinking in more general terms. On most walks, especially those that continue one after the other, the legs do swing, and it's a good description of the free/unbound type of action you want from your leg, even when starting from zero (even if it doesn't exactly fit the pure definition).

Regards,
Jonathan
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by O.Z.
6/6/2013  7:14:00 PM
We have been refering to a Forward Walk. But the same mistake is printed for a Backward Walk. The book says . Take the weight on the Right Foot and Swing the left foot back from the hip. There is no mention that the right knee will bend towards the front as the left leg is extended to the rear. Swuing from the hip. I dont think it is physically possible
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by Waltz123
6/7/2013  12:37:00 AM
Actually, where the free leg is concerned, the situation is almost exactly the same for a backward walk, just in reverse. Same curved path, same fulcrum (the hip), same effort (the knee, not the foot). The only real difference is that it's swinging in the opposite direction. But it's still swinging.

On the forward walk as well as the back, the supporting leg causes the body to move through space. When the fulcrum itself moves through space in the same direction as that of the swing, it tends to increase the impression to the observer that the object is swinging. This could explain why people describe even fairly bound leg actions as a swing, when you consider that the legs are usually attached to a body that itself is moving through space.

Regards,
Jonathan
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by terence2
6/7/2013  5:47:00 AM


I believe its only fair to point out, that, ALL techn. books are only " guides ".
Originally designed for teachers doing prof. exams .

As to The " wordy " explanations given here,which are fine,but if ALL steps,actions, were described in this manner, it would take volumes !!.

Ya cant learn to dance from a book !!
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by O.z.
6/14/2013  10:11:00 PM
I have yet to see a competent lady dancer on a Backward Walk swing any part of the movement. What I do see is a bending of the knee of the standing foot to the front, with the body weight over that standing foo,t as the moving foot is sent to the rear on the toe Which does not lower untill the now moving foot passes.
Re: What it means to swing your leg?
Posted by anymouse
6/16/2013  6:19:00 AM
If you want to disqualify anything without a fixed radius from deserving the label "swing" then it might be reasonable to say that the foot does not swing in a movement where the knee articulates to shorten and lengthen the leg.

But the upper leg (femur) would still swing.
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