Latin Technique

International Latin Technique

Latin Basics - Understand the Mechanics of Latin Dancing

Posture and Hold

  • Basic position of body:
    • Head, shoulders, ribcage, hip, leg, stacked up and connected, not tight, legs moves like scissors.
    • Tummy muscle pulled in. Tall spine. Lengthen neck.
    • Shoulder is lowered: Really settle both shoulders down. ("Squeeze" shoulder blades down back center.)
    • Chest is release down to floor, lower chest muscle, no blown up chest, feeling of exhaling, let all air out
    • Look straight ahead
  • Hold your own frame up
    • The body (center) should be very "lifted" and "up", otherwise Lady is heavy on Man.
    • Upper body: light; feet: heavy, sticky. This is like stepping in water. Arms above water, light. Feet below water, heavy.
    • No drop-dead elbows. Imagine a balloon under arms. 
    • Try to create a large volume between Man and Lady, connected with partner with tone in arms.
  • Never break body in order to get more hip action. Have to keep basic fundamentals clear and then do as much hip action as you can.
  • In Latin dances, weight is held more forward on balls of the feet. This allows more free movement in the hips.
The hold in Latin dances are closer than that of Standard dances. 
  • Closed hold:
    • Man's L forearm to Lady's R forearm. Lady's L hand is higher on Man's R arm, around Man's R shoulder, rest on shoulder blade.
    • It's ok for forearms to touch (perpendicular to ground) or leave some space (forearm is forward), but never bend arm 'backward'. Keep tone in arm.
    • Fingers of man's left hand closed around lady's right hand.
    • Depending on height differences, Lady's upper arm is probably close to parallel  to floor.
    • Stand about 6in apart from partner.
  • Open hold:
    • Stand at about arms length from partner.
    • (Lady) keep tone in the arm, elbow "out" or "down" - different instructors have different preferences. But the important part is to keep tone in arm. Some find arms on the side with elbow down is more natural.
    • Man should hold the lady's hand with thumb on the back of her hand, the first two fingers on the palm of her hand, with just tight enough a grip to clearly lead and communicate his position.
    • Lead at lady's waist level.
Getting into position in Latin dances (basic way):
  • Man raises his energy and offers his left hand.
  • Lady: pause, see, and sense. Respond with right hand.

Foot Positions

  1. Flat foot, rooted into the ground solid no wobble
  2. Ball of the foot (demi-pointe), also rooted into the ground, need this position to be very defined, try to arch and extend to as much as possible to close to 90 degrees.
  3. Toe, point. It can be placed to the side, front, back or underneath the body.
Edges of foot: Outside edge, Inside edge (by rotating the shin bone) 

Spine positions

With one foot in front of another:
  1. Spine split between 2 feet. (Both feet flat.)
  2. Spine stacked over whole foot. (The other foot is "demi-pointe" position.)
  3. Spine over front of foot. (The other foot is in "pointe" position.)

A typical Latin movement will go through these spine positions.

Leg Actions

  1. Horizontal action: release back leg, track (drawling a straight line through), move to front horizontally, front ankle directly below knee.
  2. Vertical action: Contract thighs, pushing knee down and backwards to create lengthening of the leg. Common mistakes: reach from knee outwards.
Ladies: strive to keep legs together, minimize space between thighs.

Feet Positions

  1. Whole foot (or Flat): feet lined up with knees (do not turn out foot, turn out is from hip socket).
  2. Demi-pointe position (arch) - common mistake is missing this step and go directly to pointe position. Foot is placed so that from toe to ball of foot is pressing into floor, with the arch flexed.
  3. Pointe: Feet are causing spine to move more. Foot is placed so that only tips of toes are pressing into floor, with the foot straight, feeling of the heel being drawn into the leg, arch flexed.
"Working from floor on and up" - it's the feet causing the spine to move (when doing demi-pointe and pointe, it will cause spine to move). Common mistake: gravity causing spine to move.
  • Turn out
    • Foot is naturally turned out on backward and side steps.
    • Turn out is also on forward step when it's checked and followed by weight change to back foot.
      • On forward step, tracking of moving foot is straighter.
      • As weight is taken on to the front foot, the back foot will turn out naturally. Back foot does not turn out before weight is on front of the front foot. (This helps stability.)
    • Amount of turn out: 1/16 to 1/8, depending on physique.
  • Keep energy from feet at all times. For basic movements, feet should not leave ground. Feet should maintain the energy you feel when you stand on balls of the feet.
    • Pressure on the ground is what creates the grounded, solid look (as opposed to light). Feet should not be "loose" without tone.
    • When feet are in side by side position, the pressure is not to push out, the feeling is squeezing to inside thigh of both legs.
    • Practice by placing a piece of paper under each foot. For every move, the feet should be taking the paper with it.
    • Hold the foot on floor as long as possible, then move foot quickly without missing stepping on beat. (Except for Jive). This may initially look robotic, but is a very necessary foundation. Later, add in body movement.
  • Footwork: mostly ball flat in Latin dances, a little more pressure on inside edge of ball of foot.
    • Part of foot is in contact with floor at all times.
    • Trailing foot: very important for the trailing foot to be turned out, also need to "wing the ankle" - there is downward pressure from inside of ball of foot. Create nice leg line.
    • When stepping forward or to side, the heel of the other foot is released with IE of ball of foot in contact with floor.
  • Track feet under body.
    • Moving foot from one position to another, the leg must track under the body.
    • All forward/backward open turns: start with step passing under body and then ending to front or back.
Terms used:
  • Transfer weight: foot has remained with pressure on the floor at the end of preceding step. (i.e. moving partial weight)
  • Replace weight: pressure is released from floor at the end of preceding step. (i.e. moving full weight)

CBMP is a foot position where the foot steps the center line. Strong CMBP takes the foot strongly across the line. This is also called Latin Cross, Cuban Cross, or 5th position.
  • Closed 5th: back toe right behind front heel
  • Open 5th: there is some space between back toe and front heel
CBM: Movement - taking opposite shoulder toward the moving leg. This is used in Shoulder to Shoulder and Spot Turn.

Body isolation and Figure 8

Whole body is working in figure 8 (not just hips). It creates the characteristics of the dance. It is about the internal state of the body. Anytime an external part is moved, think about how it's created using internal part of body. Core movements are connected to all external movements.

3 different isolation used in Figure 8:

  1. Twisting (Practice with feet together. Straight knees.) Twist left and right. This action is most important. A lot of power. Really stretch (on 41). Get deeper in the action. 
    • Twisting is when turn commences in hips only.
    • Rotational: hip rotates around spine.
    • Twisting in Latin dances is often associated with leg movement.
    • This is also the action for "settling" which happens on straight leg, on "&" beat. It commences hip movement, it often causes the other foot to move horizontally.
  2. Compression: (Practice with feet together.) Hip moves laterally. For this exercise, do not allow hip to twist and move back. Squeeze, compress sides.
    • You could isolate hips without bending knees. Or, you could allow knees to bend.
    • Compression creates a high hip on the compressed side.
    • When compressing one side, that side's energy should be going up (not down), think about "opposition".
    • Lateral: Hips move to left and right with minimal rotation. Some dancers dance ChaCha Chasse using lateral movement. 4&: the 2 steps have equal weight distribution.
  3. Pendulum swing action: proper compression will create the pendulum action. 
    • In practice, allow knee to bend, it creates more space.
    • In Latin dances, pendulum action is associated with weight/spinal transfer.
"Cuban motion is the result of bending and straightening the knees" - a simple way of describing it in some studios when teaching beginners. Use muscle in the core to develop proper figure 8 action as described in details below.

Figure 8 - Both Hip and Rib Cage 

The figure 8 action should be going on through out the dance. Body needs to be active at all times. It could be slowed down, but not stopped. Both hips and upper body (rib cage) has figure 8 actions. Rib cage figure 8 is layered with the hip figure 8 action.

Hip Figure 8 Action

  • Start with feet apart, straight legs. Compress on the left side, which creates L hip high, R hip low.
  • Twisting: Keep the compression, then twist, still has L hip high, R hip low. Hips are on diagonal. This creates internal space. Do not allow rib cage to rotation with hip. When you twist and take left hip back, take left shoulder forward (not back) in opposition.
  • Pendulum diagonally forward to right. Fill the internal space with body action. Now, R hip is high, L hip is low. Don't clip this short and start twisting early. To make action full with more power, finish pendulum action to create more circumference.
    • The default movement is to not do ribcage displacement, pendulum and transfer weight at the same time, the spine and hip arrive on right foot together.
    • As a choice and for effect, one could choose to do ribcage displacement (moving ribcage first to right and delay pendulum action) - but do not use this as default movement.
  • Compress on the right side, just having R hip even higher. Transfer full weight on RF.
  • Twist to right and back.
  • Pendulum diagonally forward to left. (When there is a partner, the partners are working "in" toward each other. Keep body weight forward.) [Repeat]
Upper Body (Rib Cage, Torso) Figure 8 Action

For this exercise, keep hips still, only move rib cage.
  • Move left rib cage, diagonally forward, then to left side, then back. Then, immediately to the second half on right side next.
  • Move right rib cage, forward, side, back.
Combining Hip and Rib Cage Figure 8

Hip and rib cage figure 8 goes in opposition. Body works in diagonals - diagonal stretch, e.g when R hip to to R side, L rib cage to L side - opposition, diagonal.
  • When R hip rotates back and around, L rib cage expands and stretches forward
  • Then they meet in the middle.
  • Then L hip goes back and around in figure 8, R rib cage stretches forward
  • Repeat.
Apply all this in Rumba Cucarachas.

Latin Movements

Forward Walks - Putting Spine, Hips, Legs and Feet together

Every step commences with a slight flexed knee. Knee straightens just before it gets to its position.

  • Start: LF in front.
  • End of previous "41": 
    • RF from being on ball of foot to toe. Turn R hip to R even more, open up R hip, R hip high, push onto RF to do pendulum hip action to move hip diagonally fwd. There is still pressure on R toe, to keep more balanced. IE of RF, sticky, heavy feet.
  • "2": (Step on whole count.) LF is not turned out too much. Weight onto front LF, finish RF pushing.
    • previous '&': Hip pendulum action, L hip high, full weight on LF before twisting L hip to left, for bigger movement, use upper leg back muscle push forward. L hip really needs to go more fully fwd diagonal to highest point before twisting back (do not under dance this action). finish L hip
    • Do not slide back foot (RF), keep back foot in place, swivel and turn the foot out
    • Compress left side, shoulder down, which creates upper body movement, finish settling L hip forward and rotate to left and back, collect RF underneath body, RF next to LF (not going forward yet).  The left side compression is very important, it makes the R side rib cage to want to move forward.
    • L hip high, R hip low. hip is diagonal now. Do not attempt to increase hip motion by sticking head forward and butt back. Use compression, there is no break at hip. Do as much hip motion as you can while keeping body alignment.
    • Rotate L side around spine more, open L side, LF toe turns out, dancing R side fwd, really stretch diagonally. Slightly delay RF stepping fwd.
    • Push LF more to move spine forward, spine on whole R foot, in the meantime, hips are neutral, but diagonal.
      • Always dance body first, then strike RF under shoulder. Do not turn out the foot stepping forward, do not cross center line(shoulder flat at this time, think leg forward is relative to shoulder, not relative to rotated L hip.) stretch upper bodydancing body diagonally. 
      • Focus on connected movement, moving spine forward as the same time of pushing foot to demi-point, do not push foot and leaving hip back to attempt to create high hip in the back.
    • Pendulum action: Continue LF to pointe, spine on front of R foot, compress R side, this is reaching the maximum, R hip is high, L hip is low, still same diagonal.
      • At the same time, body should not bend backward. Keep body alignment. Do not isolate the upper body. 
      • From shoulder, there is downward pressure, compress. Create curve flared front leg, it's on the edge of moving/twisting.
      • At this time, the LF (back foot) could have slightly more turn out. (Turned out toe will end in line with heel of front foot.)
    • Finish with tail bone down. Use pressure on back foot, ankle downward. So there is good axis for swivel/direction change.
    • If it feels balance is off, first check alignment of body, shoulder should be square to front (there is the opposition to the hips, i.e. if left hip is back, left shoulder should feel forward, the opposition - this helps with the balance.)
    • Keep upper body calm. (When practicing, keep arm forward, it will keep help keep shoulder flat.)
    • Smooth the hip movement (hip diagonally forward and around), not choppy, when bringing back leg in and switch hip. 
  • "&": repeat on R side, twist to the right, release L leg.
  • 3: step RF fwd. When placing foot forward, that needs to be sharp. Sharp foot placement. but soft body and arm.
  • 41: At end of 1, really try to stretch back leg back, front knee forward, creating tension before striking front foot out, giving it a sharper look.
Repeat: RF: Demi, pointe, release, demi, flat, [LF: demi, pointe, release, demi, flat...]

  • Long neck/spine, look forward. Always compress/squeeze the side on the standing leg.
  • Moving foot: pressure hard into the floor using IE of foot, sticky, heavy feet. Toe could be touching floor (for those open toe shoe that allows it).
  • Both feet: inside edge, never roll out flat or go outside edge. 
  • Two feet are on 2 lines, do not swivel on one foot and step cross lines. Maintain 2 lines.
  • Spine moves steadily over the foot and continue to move throughout the steps. Continuous hip movement (not choppy), also do not stop moving
    • Spine and hips movement could slow down or speed up, but never stops. Feet and leg movement could stop.
  • Do not turn out foot too much when stepping forward. Relax shoulder. Look forward.
  • Free arm: do complete, big circle. Small circle looks like paddling water.
  • Connected actions: Do not place the foot without moving the spine (except when it's intentional delayed walk). 
    • Pendulum action of hips is connected to transferring of the spine. When hips swings forward, spine moves forward.
    • Twisting action of the hips is connected with the movement of the legs.

Back Walks

For back walks, body and hip just have lateral, pendulum action (only for consecutive backward actions) - no twist. (If figure 8 were to be done, it would need to be "backward" figure 8 to make leg move the right direction - backward. Normal figure 8 is such that it moves legs forward, not backward.)

Keep body weight more forward.
  • Start with RF in front. Weight on LF. Imagine a string pulling from left side to R toe.
  • On "&", contract, squeeze left side (laterally), it pulls the string to move the R leg. (Upper body action: R rib cage forward, for fuller balanced look - a bit counter intuitive, but R rib cage is forward, R leg will release and step back.)
    • Quick release the R knee, do not drag toe/leg back. This actually allows for longer leg lines and faster/sharper leg action.
    • Connected movement (hip and leg).
    • It's important to release the foot ahead of the spine. Do not pull body back. Body is quite forward
    • Accelerate front foot, Squeeze thighs as scissors. Allow knee to drape over (cross). 
    • Track with inside edge of RF till it gets to the "spot" where the two knees are "locked together" (the bones on 2 knees fits perfectly together). This is as big a back step as it gets. Keep it small, if the step is too big, butt/hip will stick out when settling on it.
    • Upper thighs are very close and tight. The whole time - keep body forward, do not let it fall back, do not let gravity take the step.
  • At this spot (this is the marker for all backwards steps), RF is on ball of foot.
  • Then roll RF down flat (straightening back leg), going to split weight position. Maintain the forward pressure on front foot (like elder's cane). This is the point when you have both feet flat. Do not start releasing front heel until back foot is flat, i.e. do not go on balls of both feet at any one time. Back foot has controlled lowering. (Slight turn out, not too much, otherwise the other foot is going to click on it.)
  • Stretch the front leg, LF goes to demi-pointe, then pointe. At this time, hip is neutral, both legs are straight. (Always pointe front toe when stepping back.)
    • It's the pushing LF from flat to demi to pointe that made hips neutral.
    • Front foot (LF) should not slide on floor when RF receives weight. If that happens, it means momentum is dragging body back. Don't do that. Need to keep body in forward poise and use muscle to release LF and point it back.
    • There is no more settling, twisting in back walks. Though this is walking back, the energy is still toward your partner.
  • Contract right side, LF pushes the floor, quick release L knee, do not let body fall back on its own. (repeat)
The main difference in "41" between Forward and Back Walk 
  • Leg in Back Walk accelerates ahead of spine and slowly accepts weight.
  • In Forward Walk, spine moves and foot immediately accepts weight.
In Latin dancing, most often, spine moves steadily, but leg/foot moves faster and sharper.

Side Steps

Side step size: stand on one foot, point the other foot to the side (without moving spine). Step the other foot down, generally it's right under the shoulder. That's how much the feet are apart from each other.

Keep pressing inside edge of ball of foot (IEBF) into floor. Rotate ankle downward "breaking ankle". The feet moves the spine. Never begin to transfer weight until the stepping leg is straight.

Example: stepping RF to right side (using Rumba timing):
  • "2": L side twist, RF track with inside edge to side directly to the spot. Fast foot placement.
    • (Not like other dances, if RF starts in the back, it does not go in to LF first and then out, do not do 90 degree angle.)
    • At this time, full weight is still on left leg, RF IEBF is pressed into floor. (Leading with ribs to right for greater effect.)
    • Allow R leg to straighten at the same time moving spine to a split weight position. Straight, split weight on flat foot.
    • With two straight legs, both heels on floor, roll using inside edge of the feet. Roll onto RF, feet moves spine. Outside of LF peel off floor, till it can't peel anymore, go to demi-pointe, and then to pointe when it's appropriate. Pendulum action to diagonal right.
    • R hip is high, L hip is low.
  • "&": R hip twist to draw inside edge of toe close to the other foot. heel leads the rest of the foot, pressure IEBF of LF on floor maintained until left heel is brushing right ankle, left knee crossing in front of right leg.
    • Two feet are closed now.
    • No artificial "tick" tilting pelvis forward. center/spine moving is a result of figure 8.
  • "3"Pendulum to left, moving spine to straight L leg. Compress L side to get high L hip, low R hip.
  • "&": L hip twistconnected action sending R leg out to side, slightly diagonally forward. Opposition.
  • "41": repeat similar to count "2". Spine shifts to right.
    • on "1", hips should not move beyond the leg line, i.e. do not break body alignment.
Really good practice: Rumba Cucarachas (feet to the side, then closes, details see Rumba Technique) and Cuban Rocks (feet are kept apart).

Forward Checked Walk

This is the action used in Rumba basic.
  • 2: LF fwd, basic Rumba Walk Technique. Ends L hip diagonally high.
  • &: L side twists. Twisting causes R leg checking action, with R knee goes to the spot. start preparing moving back.
    • RF in demi-pointe, arch perpendicular to floor (as much as possible). ("broken ankle").
    • Back foot (RF) does not move, it stays in same spot.
    • In Rumba, weight is over whole foot - which is Forward Checked Walk. (Some instructors say it's 70-30 weight split.) In Cha Cha, it will be Forward Check Action and weight is more back.
    • Finish L side twisting to back.
  • 3: Push LF to transfer weight to whole foot on RF, R hip diagonally fwd right (yes, RF is back, R hip forward)
  • &: R hip twist, connected movement - L leg to side. L hip diagonally fwd.

Two Types of Direction Changes: Swivel and Forward Walk Turn

There are really just 2 types of direction changes (though the amount of turn could vary). Tap in the power of standing leg - standing side. Tighten the core. Body weight/spine lined up.
  1. Swivel to outside: Rotate to outside of your standing leg. e.g. turn to Right when RF in front.
    • Whole spine over whole foot.
      • Key: as part of previous forward walk, make sure spine keeps moving forward till it's completely over the foot, finish the hip pendulum action to swing diagonally up (without disturbing the body shape). (With hip up, the twisting has larger circumference.)
      • Leg and upper body is on straight line, no bending line at hip joint. (Think about level fruit basket.)
      • Test - completely over the foot. Lift the other foot (do ballet passe) to test that weight is over the foot. Should be able to stand on the foot without adjustment.
      • Hips are locked down, rib cage sits right on top - whole solid axis
    • Pull the right side back (twisting R hip), swivel on axis.
      • Twist the core, not using shoulder force to whip the body. (Can apply Flexible Turn technique - rotating body first.)
      • To stop the turn and not throw off balance, use opposition - after twisting to R, keep R side of body/shoulder (while R hip continuing turning to R)
    • After the swivel, body should be balanced and not falling off the foot. e.g balance on RF, then twist R hip even more when stepping LF out.
  2. Forward Walk Turn: turn to the inside of the standing leg. e.g. turn left, starting from RF in front, split weight position.
    • Axis to rotate around is not completely over the foot. It is in the middle/center of the two feet.
    • There is pressure on the back toe.
    • From split weight position, feet flat. When rotating, energy comes from the back foot and leg. apply pressure on ball of the back foot, rotate around the center axis. The pressing causes the turning.
    • Turn is made on ball of foot while keeping foot flat. (not heel turn)
      • The other foot (e.g. RF, the one originally in front) stays flat while turning on ball.
      • Keep pressure on ball of LF foot.
      • Do not rise and turn on ball of both feet which will make body "pop up". Body height stays flat.
    • Ending with LF on demi-pointe, proping cane, straight legs. Body is still forward. 
    • Make sure spine does not keep on moving back during the turn. This allows either forward, backward, side movement. Compress on right side to continue.
      • To continue moving backward, point the foot, release knee and move back.
      • To continue moving forward, continue to twist hip, lower left heel and press to flat and continue.
    • In some figures, "Forward Walk Turn Action" is used, it is referring to the use of  pressure in the back toe to rotate and turn. The back toe will keep pressure. In some dances (Rumba, slower), sometimes, you'd want to emphasize the full transfer of the weight to standing leg (for brush action in Alemana). For Switch Turn, do the normal Forward Walk turn because it's much quicker.
  • When practicing these specific points, eliminate all other extra little things that the body (arms, hands) tends to want to do.
  • Turns can be either sharp, quick, sudden OR steady, slow sustained - two contrasting energies.
  • A turn made on supporting foot before next step is placed starts at the end of preceding step (previous '&' or 'a' beat).
  • The amount of turn in Latin dances is not so exact. Express yourself.
  • Direct turns (as discussed in Common Movements): this is basic technique, everything move in one piece.  Switching actions is direct turns.
  • Flexible turns are more advanced: upper half is going to go first, then the lower half. This helps to create the sharp look.
    • Swivel: twist upper body as much as you can, creates torque, delay foot, and then at the very end (before the beat), very quickly unwind and places the foot.
    • Forward Walk Turn: similarly, turn upper body first, then whip the hips sharp.
    • Turns can be sharp even when music is slow.
    • Examples:
      • Use flexible turn on Cha Cha Alemana's last "4&1" to detect whether Man is leading side chasse or forward (lock) step.
      • Hockey Stick "23" turning 1/8.

Spins and Turns

Elements for good turns: 
  • Good posture and stand correctly first:
    • tummy pulled in, tummy muscle high.
    • sternum picked up, but chest muscle pulling toward floor, exhale to have chest down to floor, no blown up chest which pulls body out of floor
    • head up, look straight ahead, in straight line with spine.
    • shoulders down, no slouching
    • keep thighs tight, butt muscle and center strong, especially when there are fast turns.
  • Understand which part of the foot to turn on: turn on ball of the foot or flat foot, turn with feet together or apart.
  • Arm movement:
    • Wind up arm to L when preparing to turn R. But do not use force to throw arm to help with turn.
    • Close arms to body during the turn to speed up the turn.
  • Head spotting, while keeping body posture. Critical for fast and sharp turns.
    • Pick a spot for eyes to focus on. When practicing, pick a small point, not a general big area to spot on. Small point help to keep focus.
    • Keep head in place for as long as possible, keep spine very vertical (no bending to side, or shaping head), and starting turning shoulder/body to L (or R), still keeping same focus spot. When head can no longer keep its position, whip head around to the other side to try to find and focus on the same spot again and let body catch up with head.
    • When whipping head around, it is fast, but it does not need too much force, if it's too aggressive, it will throw body off balance.
    • Nose is the last to leave and first to arrive. 
    • Do not bend upper body in any way. Tighten core, suck tummy, use center. Keep posture and balance. 
  • 3 parts of body during a turn: head, torso and hips. 3 parts don't turn at the same time. 
    • Option 1 (quick turn): start with rotating torso first (think about closing the opposite shoulder), then head and hips finish by closing the opposite hip.
      • hips - if turning to R, don't think about whipping R hip to R, instead, think about "closing" the L hip. Similar for shoulder/torso.
    • Option 2 (slower, swivels): move hip more fwd onto the foot (flatten hip crease), turn hip and head first, then turn torso.
  • Stopping a turn: a stop is never an all body full stop. Feet stopped, but body continues to stretch out hips settles. During the turn, arms are close to body. When stopping turn, arms can stretch out.
Turns and spins:
  • Three-step-turn:
    • RF step to side (with full weight on straight leg, flat foot) - LF closes to RF, turn - RF step to side
    • Do not make step too big. Commit weight fully on standing foot, otherwise, you'll fall during turn.
    • Head spotting either forward or along down the line.
  • Full spin on one foot to left or right. Start with shoulder parallel to the line you are turning on.
    • Start with good posture (center collected, spine alighted), weight is on one foot, stand completely over a straight leg, point the other foot to the side, tummy muscle up, arms winds to right when turning left.
    • Head spot forward (direction you are turning on). Turning shoulder first. Turn on ball of the the foot (not on edge), heel slightly off floor, both legs straight (but knees are not locked).
    • During the turn, the other foot closes to turning foot, arms close to body.
    • Stopping the turn: shoulder opposition (shoulder stopped turning before hip, so it creates opposition)
    • Do not over swing the upper body in order to gain speed, that will throw body off balance. One full turn really doesn't require too much force.
    • Example: Lady's turn on LF when finishing Fencing or in Three Threes
  • Spiral Turns:
    • Check posture, tighten tummy, very strong center.
    • Rumba Timing: start with RF back break, LF replace, RF small step forward track underneath the body, slightly across LF. There is a bit of wind up.
    • Use head spotting - it will make turn look a lot sharper. Keep head looking forward, turning body and hips left to unwind, turn head sharply and continue to turn body and wrap the free foot in figure 4 position.
    • Turning after weight has been transferred. Turn upper body first, leave head behind. Then, head arrives first. Turn on ball of foot. 
    • There are a few different styles of Spiral Turns:
      • High Spiral: Forward Walk turn and continue to turn while keeping the other non-weight bearing leg straight.
        • Example: for Left Spiral - step RF forward, forward walk turn 1/2 turn, continue to turn left with L leg straight (with toe almost on floor); then twist R hip back more to put LF down.
      • Locking on ankles.
        • For Left Spiral: after forward walk turn, ballet Sous-us, lift leg and body upward, having two straight legs, LF cross in front RF, locking ankles. Step twist R hip back to step LF forward.
      • Figure 4 wrapping turning leg:
        • For Left Spiral: after forward walk turn, continue to turn, L knee bent, L leg wraps around R leg.
    • For Spiral Turns, turn 1/8 less than the direction one will be traveling, then allowing hip to settle (and turn more). Use torque (the opposite direction) to stop the turn.
  • Practice continuous spinning forward:
    • Head turn to right, head spotting forward (down line of dance), step RF forward, weight on RF, turn right with LF closes to RF
    • After a full turn, RF step forward and turn again.
    • Arms: wind to left when turning right, while turning, arms close to body.
    • Apply head spotting.
  • Turns with different timing: 
    • Divide beat in multiples: se-ven-&-8, se-ven-&-a-8.  

Body Wave

Key is body isolation and flexibility - moving each part separately and connecting them together smoothly.

Practice body wave by standing close to a wall with a small gap between wall and body, facing away from wall. Focus on isolation of each part.
  • Shoulder going back touch wall (not just shoulder joint, but the whole top shoulder across neck goes back). It feels like chest is really sticking out
  • Pull chest back (feels like tummy sticks out)
  • Pull tummy (feels like hips are forward)
  • Lastly, pull hip back (like sitting).
Coming out of this in reverse order.

    Lead and Follow

    About partnering:
    • Appropriate weight: always the minimal amount necessary to do the job.
    • Lead:
      • Physical: good physical lead, connection between partners - not tight, heavy, but with tone, connected. Lady sense it, do not resist, relate to Man's movement. Maintain chosen body design.
      • Visual: be very aware what partner is doing.
      • Verbal: not used very much in ballroom and Latin dancing. But there are some auditory cues - sound of breath, stomping feet on floor - are used slightly, sometimes by advanced dancers.
    • Follow:  Always follow the spine. Relate to what Man does.
      • Lady could be too early - don't do that. do not go ahead of Man, always commit fully and transfer weight, solid steps.
      • Be very aware of partner's transfer of weight. Make conscious choice.
      • Lady is "echoing" Man. Delay action: seeing, sensing and then doing. This could be mirroring Man's movement, or doing something different.
      • Lady needs to keep the rhythm she is put in till she sense the change of timing. 
    • Connection:
      • Maintain tone in connection.
      • Remember opposition: e.g. when Lady steps RF back, her right hand connects to Man's left hand in open position, do not pull Man back, when RF steps back, the energy in Lady's right hand should be forward to Man. 


    1. Closed position
      • Normal Closed Hold: 6 inches (15cm) apart from partner
      • No hold, L-to-R hand, or R-to-L hand hold.
    2. Open position (Bronze, Silver & Gold)
      • Facing and away from partner, about arms length.
      • L-to-R hand, R-to-R hand, no hold, or double hold.
    3. Fan Position (Bronze, Silver Gold)
      • Lady at 90 angle to Man on his L side on an imaginary line about 6 inches in front of him.
      • Man's L hand hold Lady's R hand.
      • Man feet apart, weight on RF; Lady LF back, weight on LF.
    4. Open Counter Promenade Position
      • V shape with Lady's R side close to Man's L side. Distance may vary.
      • L-to-R hold,  R-to-L hold, or no hold.
    5. Open Promenade Position
      • V shape with Lady's L side close to Man's R side. Distance may vary.
      • L-to-R, or no hold.
    6. Right Side Position
      • Lady is on Man's R side, both facing same way
    7. Left Side Position
      • Lady is on Man's L side, both facing same way
    8. Contact position (Silver/Gold)
      • Facing partner with light body contact and normal hold.
    9. Promenade position (Silver & Gold)
      • Lady on Man's R side and Man's R and Lady's L side towards each other, slightly apart.
      • The opposite side of the body turned outwards to form "V".
      • Normal hold
    10. Right Shadow Position (Gold)
      • Lady on Man's R side slightly in advance, both facing same direction.
      • Three different holds:
        • Hold 1: Man's RH on or below Lady's R shoulder blade, LH holding Lady's LH, wrist or lower arm.
        • Hold 2: ("Cuddle Hold") Lady's arms across front of her body below chest level with her R arm above her L arm. Man's R arm is behind lady's back, RH holding her LH and his LH holding her RH. 
        • Hold 3: Man's RH on or below Lady's R shoulder blade, LH holding her RH in front of the bodies just below chest level. Lady's L arm is held across front of her body, just below or above the joined hands.
    11. Tandem Position (Gold)
      • Lady directly in front of Man, both facing same way.


    Latin Styling describes Latin dynamics, body design, the use of space, hands, arms and other points on styling.