THE POISE, BALANCE AND GENERAL OUTLINE OF THE WALK
To be able to walk properly in a forward and backward direction is the basis of ballroom dancing, and with it are allied such important points as the Poise or Carriage of the body, the Balance, or correct distribution of weight, and the alignment of the feet.
The following notes should be studied very carefully.
The Forward Walk – Gentleman
Stand in an upright position as described in the notes on the hold. The knees should be slightly relaxed, but not definitely bent.
Now let the body incline forwards from the feet upwards, until the weight of the body is felt mainly on the balls of the feet, but not letting the heels leave the floor. In doing this take care not to alter the upright position of the body from the hips upwards. You are now in the correct position to commence the Walk.
Movement of the Legs and Feet.
Note. For the purpose of this description the Walk is being commenced with the Right foot. There is no rule on this point. The man may commence with either Right foot or Left foot but must indicate his intention to his partner. This is dealt with under the heading of “Leading and Following”.
Take the weight on to the Left foot only and proceed as follows. Swing the Right leg forward from the hips, first with the ball of the Right foot touching the floor, and then the heel skimming the floor with the toe slightly raised.
As the Right foot passes the toe of the Left foot, the Left heel will be released from the floor, so that at the full extent of the stride the ball of the Left foot and the heel of the Right foot will be touching the floor. Lower the Right toe immediately so that the foot is flat on the floor.
With the body still moving forward, bring the left foot forward with just a little pressure on the ball of the foot, and swing it past the Right foot to repeat the whole movement described above.
Distribution of the Weight in the walk.
When commencing a Walk from a closed position, the weight must always be brought forward over the balls of the feet before a foot is moved.
In the actual Walk the weight is first on the stationary foot, at the full extent of the stride it is divided for a moment between the heel of the front foot and the ball of the rear foot. It is taken immediately on to the front foot as this foot becomes flat.
Points to remember are:
From a stationary position, always feel that the body commences to move slightly before the foot. Remember that the speed of the foot is always greater than the speed of the body. If the foot is moved before the body, the weight will be kept too far back and a “sitting down” effect will result.
The KNEES should be easily and naturally relaxed throughout the Walk. The legs are only straight at the full extent of the stride, but even then the knees are not rigid. They are most relaxed as the moving foot passes the supporting foot.
The ANKLES and INSTEPS should be kept free to allow a slight downward “flick” of the foot as the toe is lowered at the end of each forward walk.
The FEET must be kept straight, the insides of the feet at both the toes and heels brushing past each other every time the feet pass.
Although standard technique demands that some part of the foot is kept in contact with the floor in all forward steps, the majority of advanced dancers do not adhere to this rule. When moving the back foot to a forward position the heel does not actually touch the floor until it reaches the full extent of the stride. The movement thus becomes softer and lighter than could be achieved with the heel in contact with the floor.
The Backward Walk – Lady
The Backward Walk for the lady is much more difficult than the Forward Walk of the man. The movement for the man is but little removed from a natural walking step, whilst the lady is using her legs and muscles in a manner that is not employed in any other sport or recreation. For this reason it is not always possible for a novice, especially the older novice, immediately to adopt the poise and balance of an accomplished dancer. In the following notes the correct poise and balance are given first; some useful advice to the beginner who has difficulty in maintaining this poise and balance in the early stages is given later.
Poise and Balance.
Stand in an upright position as described in the notes on the Hold. The knees should be slightly relaxed, but not definitely bent. The upper part of the body and the head should now be poised slightly backwards and to the left. This position in no way assists the balance, but certainly makes the couple look much more attractive. Care should be taken not to lean backwards too much, or an ugly arching of the back will result. Feel the weight mostly over the balls of the feet
Now let the body incline slightly backwards from the feet upwards, until some of the weight of the body is felt over the heels. At this point, the man’s body is commencing to incline forwards, and the backward inclining of the body by the lady must be taken from the man. Although the lady’s body is inclining backward she should endeavour to resist the man’s forward movement slightly, this resistance being felt at the lower part of the body. It should not be felt entirely at the hips as this will tend to impede the man’s forward movement and make outside steps very difficult. The lady should not lean forward, or endeavour to keep her weight forward over the balls of the feet when she is moving backward. If this is done the resistance to the man’s forward movement will be felt at the chest, and this will not only check the even flow of the walk but will make the lady feel heavy to her partner
This poise is the most difficult thing for the lady to acquire, and is only possible if she has such control over the muscles of her legs as to enable her to lower her back heel at an even speed. This is explained in the following notes on the “Movement of the Legs and Feet”. The beginner would be well advised to try to master this correct poise, but, as it is sometimes physically impossible with a middle-aged dancer, an alternative poise is given on page 14.
The Hold (Lady’s Back View)
Movement of the Legs and Feet.
Note. For the purpose of this description the Walk is being commenced with the left foot. There is no rule on this point. It is always left to the man to determine and indicate to his partner the commencing foot.
Take the weight on to the Right foot only and proceed as follows:
Swing the left foot back from the hips, first with the ball of the foot and then the toe skimming the floor. When the left foot has passed the Right heel, the ball of the Right foot will be gradually released from the floor.
At the full extent of the stride, lower on to the ball of the Left foot, so that at this point the ball of the back foot and the heel of the front foot are touching the floor.
Continuing to move backward, move the Right foot back to the left foot, and at the same time slowly lower the Left heel to the floor, making sure that it does not touch the floor until the Right foot is level with it. The Right foot is moved back with the heel on the floor, the ball of the foot being lowered as it reaches the Left foot. Continue the Walk with the Right foot.
The most important feature of the Backward Walk is the gradual lowering of the back heel, and it is the careful control of this that ensures the lady keeping contact with the man whilst maintaining a backward poise.
Distribution of the Weight in the Walk.
When commencing a Walk from a closed position, the weight must always be taken back over the heels before a foot is moved.
In the actual Walk the weight is first on the stationary foot. At the full extent of the stride it is divided for a moment between the heel of the front foot and the ball of the back foot. It is then taken on to the back foot, with slight pressure retained on the heel of the front foot.
Points to remember are:
From a stationary position, always feel that the body commences to move slightly before the foot.
Do not cling to the floor with the ball of the front foot, but release it gradually as the moving leg goes back.
The KNEES should be easily and naturally relaxed throughout the Walk. The legs are only straight at the full extent of the stride, but even then the knees are not rigid. The greatest relaxation is when the moving foot passes the supporting foot.
The ANKLES and INSTEPS should be kept free. If the ankles are stiff when the foot moves back, the stride will be considerably curtailed.
The FEET must be kept straight, the insides of the feet at both the toes and heels brushing past each other every time the feet pass. The usual fault is for the lady to allow her Left foot to move slightly to the Left instead of straight back. This causes her weight to be thrown against the man’s Right arm and gives a definite feeling of heaviness.
Alternative Poise for the Lady and Hints to the Beginner
The Poise described on page 11 is not easy to acquire, and the novice would be well advised not to attempt to poise herself backward, unless the balance of the body can be controlled and kept in that position without the feeling of pulling away from the partner. A good method of practising the balance of the Walk is as follows:
Take a long step backward with the Left foot and stand balanced with the weight evenly divided between the heel of the front foot and the ball of the rear foot. Now slowly move the front foot back, and make sure that the heel of the back foot does not touch the floor until the Right foot closes. Keep the arms extended sideways and, if necessary, keep the fingers of one hand touching the wall to assist the balance at first. When this can be done with ease, try to move backwards round the room, making sure to check any tendency to topple backwards.
If difficulty is experienced it is advisable not to attempt a backward poise when dancing with a partner, but to stand upright, and endeavour to keep the weight forward as long as possible.
Although, danced in this way, the Walk will not feel so easy to the partner as when danced in the correct manner, it will feel much more comfortable than the heavy “pulling away” effect that must inevitably result when the weight is dropped back to the heel too quickly.
The Backward Walk – Man
Normally the man does not do a succession of Backward Walks except in the Foxtrot. Although the actions of the feet and legs are similar to those described for the Backward Walk of the lady, the man must remember to retain the same poise of the body as for a Forward Walk. The positions are not reversed when the man moves backward and it would be quite wrong for the lady to adopt a forward poise and take control over the man.
The Forward Walk – Lady
Although the actions of the feet and legs are similar to those described for the Forward Walk of the man, the lady must not alter the poise of her body. She can materially assist the man’s
backward movements by pressing forward on forward steps, but any attempt to do this with a forward poise of the body would completely upset the man’s balance. The man must retain control whether moving forward or backward.