Archive for February, 2008

A reader recently wrote and asked me if I would write about PIVOTS. Happy to oblige.

First, lets start with the formal definitions.

Alex Moore defines Pivot as:

A turn on the ball of one foot , the other foot being kept in front or behind in C.B.M.P.

The DVIDA manual defines Pivot as:

  1. A turn on the ball of the standing foot without changing weight. The free leg is held forward or backward in Contra Body Movement Position (CBMP).
  2. More generally used to describe a turn on the ball of one foot.

In addition, DVIDA defines a Pivot Action as:

The movement that occurs on a right foot forward pivot. Pivoting action is different than a pivot in that the left foot is not held in Contra Body Movement Position (CBMP).

It is possible to pivot turning either Right Face (Natural) or Left Face (Reverse), however, the technique of a natural pivot is significantly different from that of a reverse pivot. I will only be addressing the Right Face or Natural Pivot in this posting.

With the exception of footwork, the Leader and the Follower having identical technique when executing a pivot, however, from the point of view of following, once the Leader has initiated pivoting the Follower should continue to execute the pivot until clearly led to stop. If the Leader can rely on the Follower to continue to provide rotational energy he can focus on timing, amount of turn, and of course, floor craft.

It is best to learn the technique of Pivoting in isolation. Once you have drilled the fundamental actions into the body, taking a partner and attempting the movement as a couple is more likely to produce a meaningful result.

As an individual practice the following until you are secure in your ability to reliable produce the actions described:

  • Stand on the Left foot facing Diagonal Center (DC) with the Right leg held in front of you, knee high and the toes of the Right foot just touching the floor.
  • Swinging the Right leg to the side step Forward Right so that your Right foot points directly down the Line of Dance (LOD). The step would be ‘wide’ so that there is plenty of room between the tops of your thighs.
  • There is 1/8 of a turn to the right between where you were standing on the Left foot, and the placement of the Right foot. Body will have turned less at this point.
  • Make sure you transfer 100% of your weight to the Right foot, and at the moment of transfer, you should feel a slight Ride Side Lead.
  • Now, holding the Left leg behind you, ‘close’ your right hip, i.e. turn your center rightwards so that your belly button is pointing approximately Diagonal Wall (DW).
  • Take care that you do not pull backward with your right arm as you turn the body.
  • Spin 3/8 to the right on the ball of the Right foot to end backing DC. Remember that when you spin, the body is held stable in its current position. This will cause the Left leg to be carried along with the rotation and retain it same position relative to the body and the Right foot when you spin.
  • Releasing the Left leg from its held position, step Back and Slightly Side Left ACROSS THE LINE OF DANCE.
  • There is 1/8 of a turn to the right between where you ended the spin on the Right foot and where you place the Left foot. The body will have turned less at this point.
  • As you transfer weight onto the Left foot the toes of the Left foot should face directly Against the Line of Dance.
    • Imagine a clock face with 12 o’clock being facing LOD.
    • The Right foot step is taken exactly at 12 o’clock.
    • The Left foot step is taken backward at 1 o’clock.
  • The position of the Right leg relative to the Left leg at this moment is to the side and in front of the Left leg with plenty of room between your feet for your partner’s Right foot.
  • Now, holding the Right leg in front of you, ‘open’ your left hip, i.e. turn your center rightward to face approximately toward DC against the LOD.
  • Again, take care that you do not pull the right arm backward as you turn the body.
  • Spin 3/8 right on the ball of the Left foot to end facing DC with the Right leg held in the same position as when you started.
  • Repeat from the beginning.

Continue reading ‘Pivots’ »

As you recall basic sway is defined in the ISTD manual as follows:

Sway is normally the inclination of the body away from the moving foot and towards the inside of the turn – e.g. step 2 of Waltz Natural Turn.

And the definition I was taught is:

Sway is the natural inclination of the body from the ankle upwards away from the moving foot.

The differences are small enough that either definition will serve. It is the unsaid about Sway that makes it interesting, and complex.

Since Basic Sway actually occurs between two steps there are four specific instances to look at:

  1. From Back Left to Side Right
  2. From Forward Left to Side Right
  3. From Back Right to Side Left
  4. From Forward Right to Side Left

We looked at the first of those in the post THE FUNDAMENTALS OF SWAY, in the context of the back half of a Natural Turn in Waltz (from step 4 to 5 for the Leader, or from step 1 to 2 for the Follower.)

Now, let’s examine how Sway manifests from a forward step on the Left foot to a side step on the Right foot. The context is a Reverse Turn in Waltz, from step 1 to 2 for the Leader, or step 4 to 5 for the Follower.

  • Stand facing against the Diagonal Center (DC) with your weight on your LEFT foot, knee slightly flexed, and both arms extended at shoulder height.
  • Point your RIGHT foot back toward Diagonal Wall (DW), extending the leg fully.
  • Using your LEFT HIP turn the entire length of your spine leftward so that your center (belly button) is facing the Center of Hall (COH) and allow your gaze to be toward Diagonal Center Against the LOD. Do NOT allow your LEFT foot to swivel on the floor or your RIGHT foot to move (yet).
  • Now release the RIGHT foot and allow it to extend toward DC, with the toes pointing toward DC against the LOD, the LEFT knee still slightly bent, extending the RIGHT leg fully.
  • Take care that the LEFT knee does not push outwards but remains over the toes of the LEFT foot. The rotation should be in the HIP joint, not the knee.
  • Again, do NOT swivel on the LEFT foot. It should still be pointed toward DC.
  • There should be 1/4 difference between the alignment of your LEFT foot and pointing alignment of your RIGHT foot.
  • Unlike with the side step from the back step, you are now on the OUTSIDE of turn, as discussed in the posting THE MEANING OF BETWEEN IN TURN.
  • Make sure your head weight is well over your LEFT foot and that your head takes on the natural line of your spine.
  • Picture a straight vertical line up along these points:
    • The arch of your LEFT foot
    • Through your LEFT calf
    • Through your LEFT hip
    • Through the LEFT side of your rib cage
    • Over your heart
    • Through your chin, and
    • Past your RIGHT eye
  • Also picture a straight line:
    • Starting at your RIGHT big toe
    • Up the inside of the RIGHT leg
    • Connecting with the line of your spine
    • Through your chin at the angle of your spine
    • Past your nose, and
    • Past the top of your head at the angle of the crown of your head
  • Here is where a mirror really helps. Adjust the line through your arms and shoulders so that it is essentially parallel to the floor.
  • Try lifting the left shoulder blade inward and upward so that your left pectoral becomes very prominent.
  • At the same time allow the upper, very flexible part of your spine, to take on a slight curve so that as the sternum moves forward, the crown of your head moves slightly back.
  • It is important that the movement is the sternum coming forward and the position of the head responding to that alternation of the spine, rather than the head moving backward. The position of the head should be a result of the position of the body, and not an independent or isolated placement.

The angle of the line through the RIGHT side is determined by the amount of bend in your LEFT knee. The deeper you are into your LEFT knee, the greater the angle of the line of your right side.

The line does not occur all at once, but develops as the RIGHT leg moves into position. The full extent of the line is felt in the last moment before weight starts to transfer onto the RIGHT foot. In addition, weight should continue to move through the LEFT foot from back to front while maintaining its current alignment to achieve the maximum distance for the step, as well as the maximum amount of Sway.

Just like with the back step into the side step, as soon as weight starts to transfer, you have BROKEN SWAY, and the lines of the body start to become curves inclined leftward rather than straight lines.

And just like with the back step, you need to take care that the LEFT side does not drop making lines of the body look weak and collapsed. Like Alex Moore said, no sway is better than too much.