Archive for January 7th, 2008

Of all the aspects of Rise and Fall, LOWERING is perhaps the most difficult to truly master. And the written technique simply does not address at all the complexity of this topic.

Fundamentally, LOWERING is bending the knees while maintaining a clear vertical posture and consistent relationship with partner. But exactly what happens when you lower is determined by the step you are taking as well as the next step that you will take. The combinations create five (5) separate distinct ways in which you can lower:

  1. Moving Forward to continue Forward
  2. Moving Backward to continue Backward
  3. Moving Forward to change to Backward
  4. Moving Backward to change to Forward
  5. Closing

Probably the most common lowering action is the first listed: Moving Forward to continue Forward. This is because in Closed Position and Outside Partner, approximately half the time we will move forward into the next step, plus if we are in Promenade or Counter Promenade Position, our next step will also be forward. Thus mastering this technique will give us the most return for our investment of effort.

First, we need to understand our goal. We want to move smoothly from the end of one figure into the start of the next one. All lowering steps have a footwork of TOE HEEL. In addition, (virtually) all figures end with a LOWERING action at the end of the figure. (We are excluding Tango since it has no rise.)

We need to sequence the action of TOE HEEL with the transfer of weight onto the foot and with the bending of the knees to create the correct movement of body weight through the foot.

In the case of moving forward to continue forward, we need the hip weight to move from the back of the foot through the arch into the toes. In order for this to happen, the weight must actually transfer onto the foot starting at the heel, even though the footwork is given as TOE HEEL. Although this is the most common action, it is not the easiest to understand, so lets start with one that is a bit more simple to grasp: Forward to change to Backward.

When taking a forward step that lowers, and is followed by a backward step, we want the hip weight to actually CHANGE direction, i.e., it our weight was moving forward through the standing foot, and now we want it to move backward through the standing foot: from toe to heel.

Lets look very closely at this effect.

  • Stand high on the balls of both feet with the legs straight but not locked, and the heels well off the floor.
  • Point the LEFT foot forward, toes still in contact with the floor, but do NOT allow your body weight to shift (either forward or backward.)
  • Transfer the weight forward onto the ball of the LEFT foot, keeping the LEFT heel well off the floor. Make sure you transfer 100% of your weight onto the ball of the LEFT foot, keeping the RIGHT leg straight (but not locked) behind you.
  • Now start to bend BOTH knees while allowing the LEFT foot to lower to the floor so that the LEFT heel touches the floor, but the weight is still primarily over the ball of the foot.
  • The RIGHT knee should be pointing directly to the floor and the RIGHT foot should NOT collect forward.
  • Once the LEFT foot is flat continue to bend the knees allowing the hip weight to start to move backward from the ball to the arch and toward the heel.
  • Clearly at this point the next step wants to be BACKWARD. Our weight has changed from moving forward on when we took this step to moving backward into the next step.
  • Quite literally the spine moved forward, then down, then back.

Repeat this action several times until you have complete control over the speed of lowering and timing and direction of weight transfer. Once you are confident that you can do it well, switch to stepping from the LEFT foot onto the RIGHT foot and repeat until you have equal control.

We have created a specific sequence involving footwork, knee bend and weight transfer which causes the desired effect:

  1. Place the foot (TOE)
  2. Transfer weight forward onto the foot (still TOE)
  3. Start the knee bend (still TOE)
  4. Complete the footwork (HEEL touches floor, foot now FLAT)
  5. Complete the knee bend, weight transferring from ball toward heel

The nice thing about this particular step is that for most people it is fairly easy to feel the weight move forward, come down and then shift backward.

Now, lets look at a slightly more challenging weight transfer: Moving Forward to continue Forward: