Archive for December, 2007

Like AMOUNT OF TURN, the specifications of RISE and FALL (or Lowering) given in the Figure Descriptions are intended to provide the reader with a complete description of that aspect of the technique. But like so much of the technique, without a clear understanding of the coded language used to provide those descriptions, understanding what they mean is a challenge.

I will attempt to provide an explanation of the language used to describe RISE so that you can better understand this aspect of the technique and, hopefully, improve your dancing.

First, what is RISE? The standard definition is:

Elevating the body through the use of the feet, ankles and legs.

I personally do not find this definition particularly useful. The technique already includes a separate description of what the feet are doing in the FOOTWORK specification. And since it is, in fact, possible to have RISE over a flat foot, as well as have no RISE when NOT on the flat of a foot, including the use of the feet in RISE is either redundant or confusing.

Since you can’t move the feet or bend the knees without using the ankles, and you can’t use the ankles independently of the feet, then including the use of the ankles as part of RISE is, likewise, redundant.

I prefer to think of RISE as simply:

The straightening of the legs.

Then lowering is simply:

The bending of the legs.

When we bend or straighten the legs, the ankle, knee and hip joints all work together naturally to elevate and lower the upper body. It is important to remember that as we bend and straighten the legs, the posture of the upper body must be maintained. I have a friend who likes to say that the man needs to stand erect, and it is important that he maintain his erection.

One quick note about straightening the legs: straight, yes; locked, NO. Any place you see me use the word ‘straight’ in reference to your knees, remind yourself, straight, but not locked. Exactly what straight means for your body is something you need to determine. People who can easily hyper-extend their knees need to be careful not to over-straighten. Even people who can’t do that need to take care that while straight, the legs retain a kind of softness, and remain ready for movement. I’ve heard the term ‘springy’ used, and I like that one to describe the feeling.

This simplified understanding of bending and straightening the legs is enough for describing the RISE itself. That said, RISE does interact with FOOTWORK and it is important to understand that interaction. But first ….

Here is a partial list of the language associated with the specification of RISE:

  • Commence to Rise end of (usually abbreviated as e/o)
  • Continue to Rise
  • Up
  • Lower e/o
  • Rise e/o
  • NFR (no foot rise)
  • Slight Rise
  • Rise slightly
  • Down

Each of these terms has a specific meaning. Understanding the physical action associated with each term goes a long way toward being able to understand what RISE is about.

Very often the specification of Turn starts with a description COMMENCE TO TURN. It is important to understand exactly what is meant when this term is used so that turns can be executed properly.

First and foremost, COMMENCE is a body action. When commencing to turn, there is NO change in (foot) alignment, and therefore no actual turn. This is because TURN is defined as a change of (foot) alignment (either from one foot to the next, or as a starting alignment and different ending alignment on one foot.)

The action COMMENCE TO TURN occurs in the hip joint. You might think of it as a folding of the hip. In most instances, the action of commence is in the ‘easy’ direction:

  • if stepping forward on the right foot, commence turning to the right by closing the right hip joint, i.e. your center turns to your right;
  • if stepping forward on the left foot, commence turning to the left by closing the left hip joint, i.e your center turns to your left;
  • if stepping backward on the right foot, commence turning to the LEFT by opening the right hip joint, i.e. your center turns to your left;
  • if stepping backward on the left foot, commence turning to the RIGHT by opening the left hip joint, i.e. your center turns to your right.

Forward = CLOSE the hip joint

Backward = OPEN the hip joint

One important question is HOW MUCH do you open or close the hip joint?

The answer in part depends on the amount of the turn that follows (and not the nature of the turn, since COMMENCE TO TURN is always followed by a specification of turn BETWEEN.)

The greater the amount of turn, the greater the folding in the hip joint that should take place for the action ‘commence’.

Another important thing to notice is that for a forward step that also is specified as commencing to turn, the footwork is always HEEL TOE, and never just HEEL.

(For backward steps which commence to turn the footwork is always TOE HEEL, but this is also true for any backward step taken as a (logical) ‘1’, i.e. the first step after a lowering.)

A forward step with COMMENCE TO TURN is where people get into the most trouble.

You should NOT alter the (foot) alignment of that forward step, either as you take it, or once you are ON it. Remember, COMMENCE TO TURN is a BODY action, not a foot action. And no actual turn is occurring. You are just getting ready to turn BETWEEN.

This means no ‘pre-turning’, and no foot swivel.