Now that we have looked at CONTINUE TO RISE for steps taken SIDE & SLIGHTLY FORWARD, we can move on to steps taken SIDE & SLIGHTLY BACK.
Aside from the obvious difference in direction, there are some important differences that make these actions a bit more challenging.
First, moving backward onto the ball of the foot and achieving a clear point of balance tends to be more difficult for most people. The problem is that we want a smooth, easy transfer of weight, but must at the same time make sure that the weight does not shift too far backward, causing the heel to lower or our balance to tip backward pulling our partner over on top of us.
Second, in most instances the technique that a Leader employs on a step with a backward component, to the ball of foot and with RISE, is different than the technique used by the Follower (at least, in most circumstances.) As I describe the physical action, I will point out the differences so that you can practice the appropriate one.
We will start with CONTINUE TO RISE ON 2:
- Stand on the flat of your LEFT foot with your RIGHT foot free.
- Your LEFT knee should be bent a comfortable amount.
- Place the ball of your RIGHT foot about 24 inches (60 cm) to the side AND enough backward so that the toes of the RIGHT foot line up with the arch of the LEFT foot. NO WEIGHT and the RIGHT heel as high off the floor as you can.
- As you place the foot say out loud “ONE THOUSAND”.
- You want the step to be wide enough that the placement of your RIGHT foot is outside the line of your RIGHT side, and when weight is transferred your spine will have to shift sideways (and slightly backward) in order to fully place weight on that foot.
- Transfer weight to the RIGHT foot, keep the RIGHT heel high and fully straighten BOTH legs. (Straight, but not locked.)
- Because of the sidewards action of the step, the heel of the LEFT foot will release from the floor while the TOES of the LEFT foot remain in contact with the floor.
- Make sure the heel does not lower and your balance should be slightly forward, clearly over the ball of your foot.
- Leave the LEFT leg extended side and in front of you. The LEFT foot may draw slightly toward the RIGHT foot.
- Allow the LEFT foot to draw up to the RIGHT foot, NO WEIGHT (A BRUSH).
- As you transfer and straighten say “TWO THOUSAND”.
- By the time 100% of your weight is on your RIGHT foot both legs should be straight (but not locked).
- the free leg is extended
- the free foot has brushed to the touch the standing foot
- Make sure that your RIGHT hip is ‘square’ once the weight is on it.
- Hold this position of balance for a couple of seconds (say “THREE THOUSAND.”)
You have executed a step that is SIDE & SLIGHTLY BACKWARD, no turn, and CONTINUE TO RISE ON 2.
Return to the starting position and repeat this action several times. It is important that you learn to balance high on the ball of the foot with both legs straight and the free leg in the appropriate position depending whether your are practicing the Leader’s part, or the Follower’s part. Try ‘bouncing’ in the knees to test your balance and maintain availability to movement.
Now, let’s practice the action starting with the weight on the RIGHT foot and stepping up to the ball of the LEFT foot. Repeat this action several times, concentrating on making sure that both legs straighten and that you achieve a position of clear balance which you can maintain for a couple of seconds.