This compilation of posts on the ballroom walk has been collected by Mark Balzer m-balzer@uiuc.edu Subject: Re: Are there different styles or "schools" of ballroom? Date: 31 May 91 13:49:00 GMT From: Mark A. Sheldon <death@LCS.MIT.EDU> If you watch a world-class dancer (in slow motion on a video tape is nice:-) you'll see the following action on a heel lead: (the foot that will land on the heel is the moving or swinging leg, the other one is the standing leg) The toe of the moving leg remains on (or appears on) the floor as it catches up to the standing leg. The foot of the moving leg is flat as it passes the standing leg. After passing the standing leg, the toe (of the moving leg) is released and slightly off the floor. But just as the weight is about to come onto the heel of the moving leg, there is a flick of the toe off the floor (which enables a bit more movement). The idea here is to stay low and keep the forward moving partner's weight well-forward, making the movement look more powerful (and also to avoid the leggy feeling that will make the backward moving partner uncomfortable, to put it mildly). Alex Moore describes this in his book (_Ballroom Dancing_), but it's much better to see it. I have had two coaches (Bill Irvine and Lorraine Barry for the interested) work with me specifically on this flicking business. They both (which should surprise no one as Lorraine has studied quite a bit with Bill) compare it to kicking a football, by which they mean a soccer ball. In fact, after seeing my three-step, Bill came, put his arm on my shoulder and asked, ``You don't play football, do you?'' Newsgroup: rec.arts.dance From: Arthur Greenberg, aghberg@aol.com. Subject and Date lost. "reach and roll-down" for the back walk: To comprehend this skill you must first see a demonstration of reach and roll-down by someone who dances (it) at an advanced level. You will not master this skill in the first hour it is presented to you. You must start practicing slowly and with patience, to gradually acquire the skill as well as to develop the musculature in your ankles and legs. It could take you a period of days weeks and months. Avoid straining the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the feet and ankles by too much unfamiliar stress. If you already have any problems with your muscles, tendons or ligaments be very careful how you proceed with this learning drill. Allow yourself several weeks to gradually condition your muscles and to develop this technique. To commence to learn to execute the reach and roll-down technique get yourself in front of a mirror (of course on a dance floor). Ladies must wear shoes with the same heel height you normally wear "out dancing" and I recommend that ladies have some kind of T-Straps to help keep your shoes on your feet. (Loose pumps, flat shoes, or sneakers, will not suffice for this learning drill.) Stand so that you see your side view in the mirror. Just take a few backward slow steps to observe just how you currently take your back steps and then "we" (you) must work from there. You might want to have a helpful volunteer-partner hold your hands raised in "practice position" to help you keep your balance for the purpose of this drill. (He can practice his forward steps if he doesn't disturb your drill!) Standing perfectly still, stretch out your moving leg from the hip and point the toe, in contact with the floor, but do not put any weight on it. Let your supporting leg bend slightly at the knee. With the help of your assisting partner transfer the weight from your front foot to the backward reaching foot, concentrating on the very slow and controlled lowering of the weight from the toe to the ball of the foot and then to the heel. Then change to the other foot and try this exercise using the other foot. Test both feet alternately to see if you can transfer weight with a slow roll-down on each (left as well as right foot) of the backward stretching feet. Now let's go a step further. Try to take two steps backward in succession. As you pass one foot by the other do not let the heel of the supporting foot lower and take weight on it until it passes the supporting foot. Skim the toes and ball of the moving foot lightly along the floor. Keep your feet parallel and be sure to brush each foot closely by the other when they pass; All this while you are being assisted by your partner in practice dance hold. Now try to execute three or four of these backward walk movements in consecutive order. Swing the moving leg backward from the hip and extend your toe. Do not attempt to take such a giant step that you lose your balance or you are in pain from the unusual stretch and demand for control of the roll-down muscles of your feet, ankles and calves. Be sure to step off a slightly bent supporting leg. (Moving backward off a stiff supporting leg will yield grotesque results. It is a common error that one makes during this drill as well as on the dance floor. It inhibits smooth movement.) One of the reasons "reach and roll-down" is a challenge to learn is that one rarely has much call during one's daily life to walk backwards. The skill that must be incorporated in the backward walk is commonly referred to as the "reach and roll-down" due to the fact that you extend the toe backward from the ankle. At its fullest extent you must roll-down from the toe, on to the ball of the foot with even and slow control. (Do not allow the weight to drop down quickly or you are falling short of your goal. The product of a quick drop onto the heel instead of a controlled roll-down can only be described as a "klunk!" (Dancers who are missing the controlled roll-down might very well be referred to as "klunkers!") The first time you try this drill you may well conclude that it is an impossibility for you to perform this slow, even roll-down with control and you will be demotivated from further effort or pursuit of learning this technique. Hang in there. Executed properly in your backward walk it will accomplish an increase in the length of your back step of from 5 to 7 inches and if you develop your musculature in your feet, ankles and legs it could be the single most important factor that will add to the beauty and smoothness that "champions achieve" and "neophytes can only dream of" achieving for the (whipped cream smooth) movement in the Foxtrot, the Waltz and the Quickstep. By the time you are exposed to it you might very well discover that you have developed bad habits in taking the backward walk and that you might have to work twice as hard to to amend and eliminate them. When this skill is finally presented it is usually emphasized more for the lady since she is required to be moving backward a good deal more of the time while dancing than the men. The men however, should learn how to do this as well as the ladies since this technique is similar for the man but just seems to be a very neglected technical item in teaching men. I have found that learning this skill is usually not fun (for either the pupil or the teacher) but involves much brow wrinkling and teeth gritting. It is, however, quite well worth the effort. I recommend that the "keen dancer" read the sections devoted to these items by Alex Moore in his book "Ballroom Dancing". In addition there is an even more technical description that can be found in all of the editions (beginning with the 1927 edition) of "Modern Ballroom Dancing" by Victor Silvester