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:
- From Back Left to Side Right
- From Forward Left to Side Right
- From Back Right to Side Left
- 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.