8.8 On Leading Continuity Style Ballroom Figures

First, continuity style (‘silver’) differs from closed foot position style (‘bronze’) in that the feet pass and a forward or backward step is taken in place of the foot closure at the end of each figure. The overall movement is more continuous, thus ‘continuity’ style.

The momentum & balance that you carry into the figure determines whether or not you close your feet. For example, in the first half of a closed (bronze) left box turn in waltz or foxtrot, after the right foot has been placed on the side step (step 2), one’s center of mass stays over a track directly towards the toes of that foot. Meanwhile, the horizontal component of the force from the floor through the right leg exerts a deceleration oriented directly against that track. Ideally, the center of mass decelerates to a rest position above a point one foot width short of the toes of the right foot, permitting one to lower directly onto the toes of one’s immediately adjacent left foot.

In a continuity (silver) left turn, in contrast, the track of the center of mass is begins slightly clockwise from that for the closed left turn. As a result, the horizontal component of the floor force acts to curve the track to the right, rather than stopping it completely. This change in direction means that the gentleman starts moving less and less sideways and more and more backwards, eventually resulting in a backwards step in place of a foot closure. At the closest point, the track of the center of mass is perhaps two foot widths away from the toes of the right foot, rather than one.

But remember now that we want to control the lady’s movements, as well as our own. Can we lead her center of mass in a direction that differs from what she expects by only one foot width over the length of a step? And guarantee that she realizes that that small difference is a real lead and not just a mistake? When she doesn’t know continuity style and thus only knows of one possible step (not the one we’re trying to lead)? If we’re good enough, the answer should of course be yes, but in my case, I generally find I need a bit more help.

Enter the issue of foot rise.

Before going into how foot rise helps, let’s first clarify what it is. It is simply going up on one’s toes. When one goes up on one’s toes, one’s center of mass *rises*, as a result of a change in orientation of the *foot*, thus “foot rise”. This is in contrast to “body rise”, which results from a change in the orientation of the torso (it becomes vertical from an initial non-vertical position), and “leg rise”, which results from the extension of the knee using the thigh muscles (but not the calves, which are used for foot rise – I guess in ballroom dance, the calves are part of the feet rather than of the legs).

Now, the issue in continuity style is to prevent an early change of weight in the lady. With beginner ladies, this can be difficult because beginners generally don’t make clean weight changes – whenever their feet get close to each other, there’s a tendency to distribute the weight over both feet. The foot that moves next is often unpredictable, especially with unfamiliar step patterns. Those familiar with bronze step patterns may be even more difficult to deal with, as they may be actively trying to change weight in the wrong place for continuity style.

Using a high foot rise helps in two ways. First, it provides more space for the lady’s moving foot to pass the supporting foot, as is required for continuity style. The more ankle extension she has with the supporting foot, the lighter will be the other foot’s contact with the floor, and the less likely will be an early weight change. Second, it makes the lady plant her weight more firmly on the supporting foot, again lessening the chances of an early weight change. This is particularly true if the rise is not quite complete when the feet pass, so that the lady is still be pressing through the supporting foot to follow the rise.

How much foot rise is enough? Within one’s physical limits, the more the better. Try the following experiment: stand, dance shoes on, with one’s heels on a large metropolitan phone book (2-3 inches thick) and ones toe’s on the floor. Now, lift the heels clear of the phone book. That’s probably an adequate amount. It will feel like quite a lot, though it doesn’t sound like much from the description. Warren J. Dew